7 Questions With author Marie McKinney | Esther Rabbit
Former professional counselor turned ghost-writer turned romance novelist, Marie McKinney is a firm believer that the relationships we forge through life are what make us who we are. Also, there’s no such thing as too much of a good thing.
She likes coffee in her sugar and Heart, Heat, and Humor in her romance. She writes contemporary and paranormal romance filled with a healthy dose of realism and the many bonds we build on the way to finding ourselves.
For the ones of you who are new to my blog, I’m Esther Rabbit, writer, content creator for authors and massive nerd. If you’re interested to know all the tips & tricks surrounding the process From Writing To Publishing Your Novel, you’re only a click away. For writing and marketing tips consider subscribing to my YouTube Channel.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a pantser who plots. Lol. My writing imitates my actual life. I have plans for the next five years, five days, five minutes …but it never goes to plan. Something always comes along and changes things up and, fortunately, I’m ready and willing to go along for the ride. Which is probably why I’m a writer now and not at a hospital delivering somebody’s baby.
My books start off as a concept – maybe a trope, or a character, or a sentence I can’t shake. Once it was an entire conversation without names or any real idea who the characters were. That book is still sitting patiently in my notebook, waiting its turn. Then comes the detailed outline – how many chapters, word-count per chapter, what’s in each chapter, the inciting moments, the grand gestures, all of it.
It’s like I swallowed a creative writing course and vomited it back out with my story aligning itself by each applicable tenet. Does it stay like that though? Never. Not a single book ends up how I initially envisioned. And I think they’re all the better for it. I stop writing when the chapter feels complete and never stuff, and never short-change, though the temptation to do either is very real when you’re like me and adore round numbers. There’s just something about 2,700 words that makes me want to say ‘ew’ and add three hundred more. Lol.
But there comes a certain point where the characters start carrying the book and makes it their own. Weird to say but it is true that they “come to life” as the story progresses. From a purely technical standpoint, it has more to do with the familiarity I have with the storyline and the personalities of each character. After a certain point, if I’ve done my job and know them like I should, I can anticipate what they’ll next say or do simply because it’s the only thing that makes sense. But the notion that they start taking on a life of their own is more romantic, isn’t it?
How does a day in your author life look?
My author day is very much determined by my parenting day. I’m raising a six year old neuro-typical girl and an eight year old boy who’s on the autism spectrum. Alone. Well, no, not alone, I have tons of help from my crew – family, therapists, and so forth. But I’m the one whose daily schedule has to be the most flexible.
So there’s the ideal day and then there’s every other real day. I write when and where I can and when I get a few hours back to back, I call that a miracle and thank my lucky stars. I write before they wake up and while they’re doing school work. I write during dance class and biofeedback, I write during chiropractic sessions and ABA. I jot down a line here on my phone, while waiting to checkout at the grocery story, and a line there while they play in the yard.
I sit on the closed toilet and write while they play in the tub, and if I have a good flow, I toss in more bubbles and buy myself an extra fifteen minutes. I’d like to say I write after they’ve fallen asleep but let’s be honest, by then I’ve fallen asleep. In that way I try for six thousand words a day, but there are some days I get in nothing at all and some days I only get in a couple thousand. Once, in a crunch, I barricaded myself in a room for two days and through the help of my amazing mother, wrote twenty-thousand words by the time I came up for air. It was as awful as it sounds and I went around dazed for the next few days, but you do what you have to do, and sometimes you have to bleed for the life you want.
What’s your definition of the first draft?
My process goes something like this: I flesh out a story, maybe from a dream, maybe from a trope I want to explore, maybe from a throw-away line or a character I really want to develop. Then, I outline that story, chapter by chapter. Do you remember those lines of description the tv guide would post for upcoming episodes? Do you remember the tv guide? Is that still around? Have I just dated myself? Anyway, that’s what my outline entails.
Each chapter is the next episode and each blurb succinctly states what shenanigans is going on this week. Then I go – boom like an 808 – I write and write and write with no regard for punctuation, no respect for correct spelling, no interest in the difference between ‘effect’ and ‘affect.’ Although, honestly, habit alone usually lets me choose the correct option of all of those. Like any other job, the longer you do it, the more instinctually you’ll be operating.
I keep writing until I’m done. That’s the first draft. I immediately re-read and make corrections, researching what I need to, along the way. That’s the second draft. The second draft it what’s sent out to my editors. The third draft (editor corrections) is sent out to ARC readers. So a fully completed book doesn’t get the go ahead until draft number four, at least. The first draft, is as raw as it can get, and no-one but me peeks at that version.
Tell us how you’d spend your time if you went on a date/adventure/meeting with your favorite fictional character.
I have SO MANY favorite fictional characters. Nick Andros from “The Stand”, Inigo Montoya from “The Princess Bride”, Odd Thomas from the self-titled “Odd Thomas” by Dean Koontz, Thorin Durin from “The Hobbit”. There’s a pattern here. The penultimate hero is what makes my eyes start shooting stars. And the penultimate hero always ends up having tragic backstories or futures or both.
I think a lot of my day would be spent telling them, “okay, so here’s what happens. Let’s try to avoid it, m’kay?” Then we’d just chill. In no way would I want to live their actual stories, ever. We’ll just have to make due with my world, a trip to Bruster’s and a notebook full of “wrong turns to avoid and people not to trust.”
What should readers expect from your next novel?
DRAMA. Good, upstanding, heroic people, making the best of the bad the life has thrown at them and finding their way to their happily ever after. People who love their families and their friends, who have become family, and though the shine of love has been dulled, fight through and form partnerships that make that add to the whole. Heart, Heat, Humor and Realism. That’s what I try and put in all my novels whether I’m writing contemporary romance or paranormal, romantic suspense or romcoms.
Heroes who are masculine AND caring, dominant AND consensual. Heroines who are strong and smart and can still make bad decisions without becoming the bad decision. I’m currently in the middle of a series about the Wilde Men: five brothers who find their own wildly (pun intended) unique ways towards their other halves. So you’ll get to meet the rest of them and get to dig deeper in their familial lives with the next book. This is a romantic suspense series.
Is there anything you learned from reader reviews?
I’ve learned so much from reviewers. From framing and describing my works, to truly understanding what works, and what needs work. A reviewer helped me realize the word I was looking for to sum up what I write: Realistic Love. I’m one of those people who watch a movie or read a book and start screaming in the middle: “Don’t do it! That’s so out of character! Whyyyyy that makes NO sense!”
So when I started writing my self, first as a ghost-writer and then later under my own name, I wanted to exclude those moments that jammed down on my Rage-Despair-Anger-Pain instincts. What I wanted, without realizing, it was realism in my work. I wanted everything to make sense, everything to flow, all the characters to do what was within their realm of actual behavioral tactics to do. Probably a bit of the ex-counselor in me, but what’s a story if it doesn’t make sense?
Just how much research is there behind a novel? Tell us how it looks behind the scenes.
It depends what I’m writing and how familiar I am with the bits and pieces. Weeks and weeks of research went into “The Arrangement” – but I’d expected that, because I was delving into a whole new fictional world, with its own language and customs. More research went into that book than made it into the book.
With “Stay,” I researched a bit for Sloan Wilde’s military career and what it would entail, but because my father is a former Marine, a few conversations was the extent of the research needed for that one. Usually, I can get a sense of what I’ll need to look up, or look into, by the time I’m putting together the outline. By the time the actual writing happens, I have all my t’s crossed and my I’s dotted.
Find Marie McKinney here:
Are you in the Writing Industry?
Shoot me an email, I’d love to interview you!
And check out Lost in Amber: An Out Of This World Paranormal Romance if enjoy girl power, adventure & a toe-curling love story.
She just wanted to mope over her breakup but the universe had other plans for Zoey Mills.
Read the full blurb here.