Author Interview: Sinead MacDughlas
Hi, Sinead. Welcome to my blog. Thank you for allowing me to interview you. It’s a pleasure to have you here with us.
Sinead: A pleasure to be here! I’m nervous and excited. Thank you so much for having me!
Would you take a moment and introduce yourself to us?
Well, let’s see. I’m forty-one years old, Canadian and I live in a small town North of Toronto, Ontario. I have two children – my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter and my two-and-a-half-year-old son. My husband works two jobs so I can stay home with the kiddies. I have an eleven-year-old black, medium haired cat who thinks I’m his pet.
My addictive personality is appeased by coffee, cheese, chocolate, books, music, the internet . . . and nicotine, which I’m trying to give up. I used to have serious shoe and make-up addictions, but I’m recovering. I’m also a recovering gypsy, having married, bought a house, and given birth to two adorable little monsters.
I have an ongoing love affair with semi-colons, commas, and ellipses. Punctuation, self-doubt, and moths are my personal nemeses. People have called me an encyclopedia of useless information and I talk . . . Way. Too. Much.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing when I was about eight-years-old. I wasn’t a sports or organized activities kid. Most of the time, at school recess, you’d find me sitting on the roots of the maple tree in the schoolyard, humming to myself and reading a book. We had a daily journal and I got tired of writing, “I walked home, ate (this) for supper, did the dishes, made my lunch, did my homework, read some of (this) book, watched (this) on T.V. and went to bed.” The teacher gave me permission to write fictional stories instead. I was rather enamoured of the Benji movies and the T.V. show, The Littlest Hobo, at the time. My journal became a series of chapters about Peaches the Wonder Dog, based on my Grandparent’s Pomeranian. I think my Mom still has it in a box somewhere. Most of my early writing was short stories, poetry, and when I took a Co-operative Education placement with the local newspaper, feature articles.
Life got in the way of writing for a while when I was going through my divorce. It was eight years before I did any serious writing again, but once I resumed I couldn’t stop. It was like coming back from the dead, or the undead. Before I really knew what I was doing, I’d started a novel.
You’ve recently made your transition from writer to author with the debut of your poetry and short story anthology called The Unscheduled Stops. Can you tell us a little more about it?
I can tell you it’s exciting and terrifying all at once. I chose to self-publish my writing. With the recent changes in the publishing industry, it feels like the right fit for me. With self-publishing, though, you don’t have the industry “stamp of approval” that says your work is worthy of publication. It’s a bit like jumping out of a plane without having the skydiving instructor check your parachute first. Not that I’ve done it all alone. I’ve had so much support from the writing community. There were several wonderful beta-readers and I had a fantastic editor in Ashley’s Freelance Editing, so I know what I’ve produced is technically up to standard. Now it’s a matter of praying the readers like it.
I have to say, each step on the road to publication has been a cause for celebration. Every beta-report, the editor’s reports, getting the copyright registered, the ISBN number, the “thumbs up” from Smashwords on the formatting – each one had me dancing around my house like a lunatic. My poor children don’t know what to think when Mommy starts spinning around the kitchen squealing like a kid on Christmas morning.
The stories in the book are what I like to call “literary snapshots”. They’re mostly character driven shorts; a peek into a defining moment, (or moments), in the life of a random person, captured in words instead of on film. The poetry and prose are more of a peek into my mind and heart.
How did you come about in gathering the short stories and poetry that you feature in your book?
This anthology is all my own work, most of it fairly recent. I’ve been concentrating on writing a novel for the past year. When I’d hit stumbling blocks, I found it helped to step away and do a little free-writing. I found some wonderful writer sites that offered prompts and jumped in with my own offerings. Some of my pieces were well-received, which does wonders for the ego.
The poetry and prose in the book come from various stages in my life. I’m a bit of a pack-rat when it comes to my writing. I keep everything I write, good or bad. The pieces I’m happy with go in one file: those I’m not happy with go in another, titled “Rescue”, for possible re-writing in the future. I even keep a file called “Scraps” where I put prompts, ideas, basic outlines, and stray sentences or phrases.
I’ve been so honoured to have the support of family, friends, and fellow writers while I’ve been working on the book. I’ve been feeling a bit guilty for teasing them with the first two chapters and the odd excerpt while I write.
Near the end of the writing, I ran into the worst case of writer’s block I’ve ever suffered. It was like I was petrified I wouldn’t finish the novel and just as petrified I would. To work my way through it, and boost my own confidence, I jumped feet-first into my first writing contest in nearly twenty years, (the contest entry is included in the anthology). After I’d submitted, I browsed through my file of recently finished pieces. It came to me, then, that I had the makings of a short-story collection and it took off from there.
I thought the anthology would be a way to thank my supporters with a sample of my writing, while they’re waiting for the book to get to publication.
What type of research did you do for the book itself?
Google is my friend. For the stories I had to research a W.W.II Polish P.O.W. camp, rankings in the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Army, the do’s and don’ts of erotic-romance, and a smattering of information on trains.
The publication process required far more research than the stories. There are so many options available to self-publishing writers now, it’s overwhelming. Again, the writing community has been invaluable with advice, warnings, and suggestions. Having barely heard the term “blog” a year ago, I’ve probably read thousands of them in the past four months.
You have another book, a full-length novel, set to release in the near future called Learn To Love Me. Can you tell us a little bit about it, as well?
Learn to Love Me is a mystery-lit. novel that actually began as a women’s lit. It began with Emily, this great character who’s kind of lived in my head for a couple of decades. She’s been in several pieces I’ve written over the years, growing and learning along with me.
About a year ago I began writing a story about love, loss, divorce, and coming to terms with herself. Three quarters of the way through the novel I hit a brick wall. Emily was great, and so were many of the other characters in the book, but the storyline petered out. I was chatting with a good friend, artist Dave J. Ford, who had graciously agreed to read along as I was writing and he gave me the inspiration to take Emily out of the novel and put her in a different kind of situation altogether. So Learn to Love Me became a mystery-lit. instead.
Now, poor Emily has two weeks to deal with a failing marriage, a friend’s abduction, her childhood demon resurfacing, the threatened exposure of her secret past, a telephone stalker, a serial killer, and an ex-lover she’s not quite over. It’s quite a ride, all in all.
When is Learn To Love Me scheduled for release?
I’d originally decided to release the novel in early March, but I really can’t say that’s a realistic deadline. Right now, the novel has just begun its first journey through beta-reading.
It has two rounds of beta-reading and subsequent edits before it goes to an editor for review. I’m hoping to have the e-pub of the novel available by early summer 2012, but that will really depend on how much editing I have to do.
I have a link on the website, though, for anyone who wants to be notified as soon as the release date is decided.
Have you experimented with other genres besides Short Stories, Romance, and Poetry? If so, what kind?
Definitely. I have a Fantasy Fiction novelette collecting dust under my bed. I’m hoping to drag it out one day and expand it to a full-length novel. I’ve dabbled in paranormal fiction and sci-fi as well. The erotica story in the anthology was another attempt to challenge myself and stretch my boundaries as a writer. I think it’s important to try new genres and formats. It keeps the creativity flexible and keeps the writing from getting stale.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
I do have a story I’ve begun about a woman who finds herself between lives. She finds herself in the unenviable position of negotiating with immortal beings for her next incarnation. I’m not sure if this will be a short story, a novella, or a novel yet, but it’s a lot of fun to research and write.
I’m also working on a short story for submission to a charity anthology, but I’ll have to see how that goes. There are an even a half-dozen stories waiting in a file for me to write them and several dozen prompts and pieces in the “Scraps” file. I’m always working at something now.
How do you find inspiration when writing?
I’m a character driven writer. I find inspiration every time I leave the house. People are endlessly fascinating to me, but I can be inspired by nearly anything. If I’m stuck, I often use music to get me going again. The right song can help me slide back into character and capture their feelings in nearly any situation.
What, or who, has influenced you the most?
People. Human emotion, action and reaction, strength and weakness, creativity and constraint. We are a world of diverse cultures and beliefs. Our interactions with each other are in a state of constant fluctuation and conflict. We can be apathetic or passionate, violent or gentle, hateful or loving. There are even times when we are all of them at once. The range of human emotion and intelligence is infinite. That is what makes life worth writing about.
If I had to choose just one person, I’d pick the strongest woman I know, my Mom. Even in her weakness, she is strong. When I grow up, I want to be half as strong as she is.
What’s your favorite book or movie?
That’s a tough one. I can’t say I have one favourite of anything, really. I’m very eclectic in my tastes, books, art, music, movies; I like to dabble in a little of everything. If I HAD to choose a book, I guess I’d have to say a blank notebook. I know that’s not what you meant, but it really is my favourite book. It has the potential to be anything the mind can create.
Do you have any recommendations for books that you think the blog’s readers may enjoy?
I’m a big fan of fantasy fiction. I’ve been enthralled by Jennifer Fallon’s “Chronicles of the Harshini”, recently. Unfortunately, I put myself on a strict reading “diet” while I was writing, so I’m waaaay behind the times. I have a “To Be Read” pile over twenty books deep and growing.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love to bake and cook. I sew, crochet, and do crafts. I love browsing the internet for new things. I may not physically be a gypsy anymore, but my brain still is. I’m always looking for something new to learn about. When I’m reading, I devour books. I have a soft spot for Sudoku and logic puzzles, and I’m very fond of leisurely walks in wooded areas.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a recovering pantser. Learn To Love Me is the first novel I’ve written from an outline, though I kept the outline very flexible. Coincidentally, it’s the first full-length novel I’ve ever completed. My short stories are rarely, if ever planned.
Do you have any tips, or thoughts, that you would like to offer to the blog’s readers?
For writers: Never stop writing. Giving up writing was probably one of the three worst things I’ve ever done to myself. The other two were starting smoking and dropping out of high-school.
Whenever your mind gives you a particularly lovely turn of phrase, or observation, (no matter how silly it may seem at the time), write it down. You never know when a few words could become the best piece you’ve ever written.
Finally, don’t stop challenging yourself. I’d have never guessed I could write an erotica story or a mystery novel. Not in a million years. If you don’t try something outside of your normal comfort zone, you’ll never know what you’re capable of achieving. Besides, if you never expand your horizons, you’ll find yourself in a rut too deep to crawl out of.
There you have it, Everyone. A lovely interview with the up and coming author, Sinead MacDughlas. I hope you’ve all enjoyed learning more about her. Thank you so much for the interview, Sinead. I look forward to more of your work and wish you the best of success.
Available for purchase via the following retailers: Smashwords
Synopsis: The Unscheduled Stops is a transitory journey into the mind of author Sinead MacDughlas. Six short stories and five poems long, this is a trip you won’t soon forget.
About The Author:
Sinead MacDughlas is a Canadian writer living in Southern Ontario. She is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and cat-owner. She’s a bit of a gypsy, a jane of all trades/master of none; an encyclopedia of mostly useless information. Her official occupation is a stay-at-home Mom. She’s chosen to self-publish her debut, an anthology titled The Unscheduled Stops. Sinead is currently preparing her first novel, a mystery-lit. titled Learn To Love Me, for publication in 2012.