7 Questions With Author Nicole MacCarron
Nicole MacCarron is the clumsiest person on the planet. She was born and raised in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, Canada, where all this clumsiness started with a broken arm. She has two degrees, one in Education and one in English.
In the course of her studies she nearly broke her back and neck. When she is not reading, writing, or teaching her 5 to 7 year-old students how to read and write, she inevitably ends up traveling to Ireland (where she broke her cheekbone in two places).
Her debut novel, “Hazel’s Shadow” is a fast-paced, young adult thriller. It is about Hazel Conners, a high school student who unknowingly hides in a haunted house during a zombie attack. Any physical pain depicted in the novel comes from a place of experience, and made it all worth it.
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 am both a plotter and a pantser. I start off with plotting. I usually take a ‘what if’ scenario and let my imagination explore the answer. Then the main characters start to materialize as I imagine dealing with the ‘what if.’ After that, it’s time to jot a few of those plot points down in order. With “Hazel’s Shadow” I did a larger brainstorm than I typically do, and I think it worked well.
I even jotted down what each of the main characters looked like and what motivated them, in a sentence or two. From that page or so of ideas, the pantser took over. I do need those first few aspects of the story written down, though. It helps me stay organized and able to see the bigger picture when I’m in the messy middle.
What’s your definition of the first draft?
The first draft is my absolute favorite part. I get so wrapped up in the creativity and excitement! Don’t get me wrong, I do falter and get stuck, but the joy makes up for it. The first draft is unbridled imagination, and we live in a world where we so rarely let out imaginations run and play.
I think that’s the core of it; the first draft is play, and there are no rules except the ones you make. You get to live in a world you designed, with people you made up, experiencing situations you threw at them! It’s a reprieve from all the chores, responsibilities, and ‘shoulds’ that hang heavy on us the rest of the time. Plus, it’s cathartic.
When the story gets heavy, you cry. When a character gets revenge, you feel a juicy sort of vindication. You get to experience events and actions you would never experience in real life. That kind of catharsis can be so good for your mental health!
Looking back, what advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your journey?
My journey began a long, long time ago. I had no idea at the start that I would have to be so patient and stubborn. I wrote my first novel when I was 12, and I thought I would simply get it published. No problem! For years I wondered what on earth the next step was. I couldn’t seem to find an answer no matter where I looked.
In university, I tried again. The same thing happened! I couldn’t find a step-by-step guide, or someone who could help. The only options seemed to be forking over money I didn’t have. Then the self-publishing industry took off. I found my answers online, but I wasn’t willing to see them.
I wanted someone, a traditional publisher or an agent, to tell me that what I had written was good enough. I wanted them to take care of the marketing because there was so much to learn, and I already had two jobs. By the time I had written my fifth novel, “Hazel’s Shadow,” and completed all the editing (and dealt with life situations both good and bad), years had gone by. I was frustrated.
That’s when I realized the problem was not the industry. The problem was my confidence. It was time to say, “This is good enough. I am good enough.” It was time to accept that my fear was masquerading as perfectionism. I had done the work. So my advice to my former self would be this: you don’t need to wait for someone else’s approval. You might wait your whole life for that. Do the work. Then have the guts to approve of yourself.
How do you manage to juggle life and writing?
National Novel Writing Month has been a huge help for me. Apart from my childhood first novel, I have completed five first drafts thanks to NaNoWriMo. Granted, those first drafts were a whirlwind of typing and pushing myself, so they needed plenty of editing.
However, it was a fantastic way to stay immersed in my stories and just get them on paper. I was able to remind myself, “It’s just one month, you can do this.” I generally announce that I am participating in NaNoWriMo to my close family so they know not to bother me in November. I am also really motivated by the bar graph NaNoWriMo provides.
You enter how many words you have completed each day and you can watch the little graph grow. As a visual person, it is so helpful to see that even if I write 20 words, I am still moving towards my goal. Editing is harder for me to juggle. I can be very hard on myself, so if I don’t get to work after my teaching job, I often berate myself.
I’m getting better at recognizing when I am too exhausted or overwhelmed to be productive, and then giving myself permission to rest. I find setting realistic goals is the key here, as well as scheduling time off. A lack of balance results in dread of the things we love.
How do you imagine your target reader?
It may be because I am a primary teacher, but I believe books are for everyone. I hate to see books touted as ‘for girls,’ or, ‘for boys.’ Author Shannon Hale speaks about this topic so articulately, I highly recommend checking her out. The truth is, reading is a wonderful way to develop empathy.
How can you show compassion for someone else if you aren’t willing to step into their shoes? Reading books allows us to become someone else. A boy can see what life is like for a girl, a cisgendered person can see what life is like for someone who is transgendered, and so on.
The easy answer? My target audience matches my characters: teen girls who kick ass. However, I intentionally wrote my story to be accessible to anyone because that’s what I believe in. If you like scary, exciting books, then “Hazel’s Shadow” is for you, my friend. It is a thrilling ride, trust me.
We all know this industry is full of surprises. Can you share an unexpected experience?
You can plan and plan to release your novel on the best day possible, but you cannot control world events! I had to cancel my long-awaited Book Launch Party because of the Coronavirus. Due to living in Canada and Amazon shipping from the States, I also will not get to hold my book in my hands for months. It breaks my heart a little.
I had to remind myself that these measures are the best decisions to preserve the health of my loved ones, my community, and the world as a whole. I went back and forth on whether or not I should postpone my launch entirely, but in the end I went ahead with the same mentality that drove me to Indie publishing: enough is enough, get it out there in the world.
If I was supposed to learn something from all of this, I’m sure it would be that life and art are never going to be perfect. At some point you have to let go. Before long, I got a great idea from another new author, Mindy Schoeneman, which was to do a virtual launch party using Facebook Live. It was so wonderful to laugh with my family and friends, and answer questions about “Hazel’s Shadow” and writing.
I received so much love from afar. It made my launch day unique in every way. Human creativity and problem-solving never ceases to amaze me, and I owe Mindy a thank you for putting me onto that. The writing community has been amazingly supportive. If you would like to watch the Live Launch Party, you can find it on my Facebook page.
Does the genre you normally read have a direct influence on your writing?
I am a genre-hopper. I have always enjoyed a well-written piece of YA, which is probably why I chose to write about 17 year-old Hazel. What I love about YA is that the pace is usually fast enough to sweep you up and make you forget about the real world. I want action and adventure! I also enjoy the dark side of action and adventure, such as an intense thriller.
I have been reading Stephen King in recent years. “Hazel’s Shadow” is a YA Supernatural Thriller, so it looks like my reading preferences are definitely reflected in my writing. However, I also read classics like Jane Austen and Edgar Allan Poe, or historical fiction like Kristin Hannah and Ken Follett. It’s like I wrote above, how can you learn to empathize with someone different from yourself if you never branch out?
How can you learn and improve, if you always read the same things? That’s why my Instagram handle is @writersarereaders. I do feel that my genre-hopping has given me an edge and enhanced my work. Writers are incredibly lucky. We get to improve our craft by doing what we love: reading!
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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.