Inky Inspiration – Liz McMullen
As an author, inspiration can come from all things. It could be the line in a song on the radio, a snippet of conversation on the bus, a dream at night but one of the most important sources of inspiration are other authors.
Just like a budding sports star in the academy has that legend they look up to, I think it’s equally relevant to anyone who writes that they have heroes to look up to and learn from.
In this segment, I am going to interview fellow authors who have inspired me, those I have learned from and those who have helped me on my writing journey so far.
***** Don’t forget at the bottom of the interview Liz is offering a chance for you to win a copy of either of her books. Leave her a comment and we’ll draw a winner in July!*****
Liz runs the popular online show ‘The Liz McMullen Show’ where she interviews authors and other creative sorts. There is also a segment called Lizzie’s Bedtime Stories and JD and Liz Talk … If you would think that was enough to keep her busy, you’d be wrong. Liz also is actively involved in the GCLS (Golden Crown Literary Society) and, if she wasn’t busy enough, she’s an author too!
Hey there Liz! Thank you for letting me grill you. Could you start by telling us a little bit about when, why, and how you started your love of the written word?
I started writing If I Die Before I Wake six years ago. I was tutoring a child at the time who had a really hard time with creative writing, he could stare at a blank page like nobody’s business. I was desperate, we did graphic organizers like webbings, free writes, word association, lists, etc. Eventually, over the course of the years he finally got past his epic writer’s block. I figured, if I was able to teach him out to nurture his inner writer, then I could learn to write as well.
I started with the concept of daydreams, indulging in guilty pleasures, things that my lead character Charlie would never do in real life and thoughts though extreme were harmless. Only, as the novel progresses, the imagined becomes real. My best friend Jakki was my cheerleader that November when I wrote the first draft, each day pressing me for more, and what happened next.
I liked my story, but I worried that it was too dark, and would not set the right tone for a debut novel. Horror isn’t for everyone and I was consumed with doubts. Once I got feedback from some betas I knew my fears were based in reality. I put the novel on the shelf, and let it sit there.
A year went by and I dug it off the shelf and decided to work on it. I was stuck, not as much as my student was, but I knew my writing skills just weren’t there yet. So I hired an editor. I choose one from my alumnae association because I thought she would mentor me. Helping a sister out was the whole philosophy of Mount Holyoke, a women’s college. But on the eleventh hour, the day her comprehensive edit was due, she sent me a Dear John letter, telling me my book was such a mess that it wasn’t ready for a comprehensive edit. She criticized me for all the things that I told her on the outset I needed help with. My feeling is she probably got a better paying gig and left my book to the last minute.
I was CRUSHED! Back on the shelf for my novel. I tried again, and got some beta feedback, but I was so intimidated by all the comments and corrections in track changes, I didn’t have the courage to delve in and revise. Then one day I decided to publish a short story, getting “Hard Rock Candy” publisher ready was a journey, but I had plenty of help. I was in a time crunch so I didn’t have time to fret about the edits, I just had to revise and polish.
Finishing that project gave me the confidence to pick up If I Die Before I Wake and finish it. With the help of many betas, brainstorming buddies and my really patient editor, I finally did it. It feels amazing. The past six years have been filled with doubt, lack of faith and despair…then a glimmer of hope, a tall glass of determination, and getting the story right, one paragraph at a time.
My novel went on sale last night and I already have two really thoughtful reviews. The details they touch upon showed me I met my goals for the novel and then some. I finally did Charlie justice and made my dream of being a published author come true.
If I Die Before I Wake is available on amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Die-Before-Wake-Liz-McMullen-ebook/dp/B00L4OV7MG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1403289187&sr=8-2&keywords=liz+McMullen
You got to study at Trinity College in Dublin, have those experiences in Ireland found their way into your work?
Not yet, but I am sure they will. I’ve always loved travelling, from backpacking around Europe to driving cross country, from New Jersey to California on my own. Going to Trinity gave me an unparalleled opportunity to travel, weekend trips (on shoestring budget) to Paris, Amsterdam, London, Edinburgh, and of course all over Ireland.
I had to completely re-write it several times, but now I have a novel I am proud to share
How excited are you about the book and can you tell us a bit about why you were drawn to writing it?
I’m incredibly excited, it’s been a long journey. I had to completely re-write it several times, but now I have a novel I am proud to share.
I was a guest on the Cocktail Hour’s Bar Rag. Andy, the host, and I were swapping stories and she shared her actual experience with a party, where a woman revealed her jewellery in the exact manner described in my short story (The story in question starts just past the midpoint of the episode: http://cocktailhour.us/archives/87). The story stuck with me, was making me batty actually, so I went to Think Coffee, my favorite coffee shop in New York City, and wrote it in one sitting, six hours worth. I read it on another Bar Rag…which was nerve wracking, and then sat on the proverbial shelf.
Fast forward to last Fall. There was a call for submissions, looking for stories with two butch lovers, or butch lovers in general. I decided to buckle down and see if I could get it accepted. I worked my tush off, but was rejected. I had decided ahead of time, if it wasn’t accepted that I would publish it myself. I did, and it was “well received.” See, I kept the description clean! (JK – You deserve pie for that effort!)
Onto your show, who was your first ever guest? What got you into being a hostess?
My first guests on The Liz McMullen Show were Nell Stark and Trinity Tam. We had lived through SuperStorm Sandy, and so we got together to talk about it. I stayed on the Island where I live for the storm and they experienced it from their home in the Village, not far from the Hudson River. They are writing team, and nearly all of my guests are authors. The majority of shows that I do are reviews of fiction, but my most meaningful episodes are on current events, including my series on Gender and Sexuality. http://www.thelizmcmullenshow.com/category/gender-sexuality/
I am constantly amazed that all these wonderful talented authors make time for me, it’s a fan girl dream…
What have been some of the highlights and lowlights of being an interviewer?
I am constantly amazed that all these wonderful talented authors make time for me, it’s a fan girl dream, including interviewing trailblazers like Lee Lynch and Radclyffe. The low side is never have time or the desire to read for pleasure. I’m always reading for review. Recently I have revamped my schedule so I have one week off of reading, so if the spirit moves me, I can read for pleasure.
It’s very important to read in the genre you write, as well as outside the genre to learn what’s out there, what works and what doesn’t. Plus I love talking about books and sometimes they read me stories…which I adore.
Has getting to chat to some amazing authors inspired your writing?
I wouldn’t say inspired, but I would definitely say I have learned a great deal about the craft of writing, both from the interviews and reading. Reading is essential element of my writer’s toolbox. It’s very important to read in the genre you write, as well as outside the genre to learn what’s out there, what works and what doesn’t. Plus I love talking about books and sometimes they read me stories…which I adore.
You are doing some specials, what gave you the idea for Lizzie’s Bedtime Stories? How does it differ?
I love having people read to me, their own work or books they love. When you have a public reading or a reading in a review episode, they are brief, and rightly so. They need to be short to keep a fan’s attention. I wanted to create a show where the expectation was that there would be longer readings, and those who took the time to listen, would understand that and even relish it.
I used to do two episodes a week, one review and one LBS. This was taking a lot out of me, and I was burning out. I also wanted time for my own writing and that wasn’t going to happen if I was devoting all my time to my shows. I decided to keep the concept of longer readings, but limit it to specials. That way I can still have storytellers read to me, and my fans too *wink* but only a few times a year, rather than weekly: Valentines, Pride, Halloween, etc. I still get my fix, while giving myself time to spend on other projects.
You have a blog up and running for June, is that linked to the show too? What kind of people are blogging for you this month?
I created a Pride Blog Series, one blog for each day in June, which is Pride Month. I’m happy to say it’s been a huge success. So many topics covered, from the personal to the political, and those that lie somewhere between.
Onto the GCLS, how did you get involved with them and what is your role?
I replied to a call for volunteers for the Education Team. I have a masters in Education and I was excited to put it to work in a way that supports our community. I wear many hats, but the two most prominent are managing the mentoring program and being a part of the GCLS Writing Academy. I love working with people who are passionate about supporting and improving the quality of lesbian fiction.
How do you feel about Indie authors? Do you think having that choice to have full control over your work is important?
Well, I’m biased because I am an indie publisher. I like having full creative control over my shows and my writing. I get to explore wherever the muse takes me, I set my own deadlines, choose my own editors as well as my own marketing strategies. That said, going with a publisher is also a good thing, you are a part of a mini community and can really get your titles out there. Some publishers, like Bold Strokes Books go beyond publishing to mentoring. This includes having a writers retreat with workshops on how to hone your skill and learn the craft of writing. I think it’s a personal choice, you should go with what works for you.
How can you see the GCLS evolving as the literary industry adjusts to Indie authors and eBooks?
GCLS is evolving with the times, you can see that in how they organize the categories for awards. The submissions run the gamut from mainstream publishing houses to the self-published authors, and their main goal is to support lesbian fiction authors.
If you could pick actresses to star in your books, which ones would they be?
I’d love Nicole Curtis, the star of the home improvement show Rehab Addict to play Charlie. I created an album on Facebook with pictures of actresses I could see playing the roles of the main characters http://www.facebook.com/lizfireair/media_set?set=a.10152045093872765.1073741834.726147764&type=3
Quick fire round
- What is your strength as a writer? Developing rich characters within a tight unique plot.
- What is your ‘typical’ writing day? I get a lot of my writing done in Blitzes, where I join other writers at a specified time to sprint to 1000+ words. At other times, I just go with inspiration wherever it strikes me.
- When readers pick up your books, what would you most like to hear them say? That the loved the characters as much as I do. These are people I would love to hang out with, if they were real. Psssssst. They are always pretty real to me.
- What would you least like them to do/say? That they don’t like the characters and find the plot implausible.
- Who is your literary idol? why? Radclyffe, reading her stuff inspired me to try writing on my own. She rejected my novel, yet gave me great advice on how to improve it and encouraged me to stick with writing if I was passionate about it. I did, and five years later, I achieved my dream.
- If you could have written any book, which one would it have been? A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness
- What is your ‘tic’ word when writing? I’m not sure I have one.
- Favourite word? enraptured
- Least favourite word? nibble
- What would you most like to develop in your writing? Sense of place and setting, that’s where I need the most work.
Thank you for dropping in to chat to me! You can find Liz online here:
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Charlie Dempsey has recently lost her beloved grandmother and is surprised to inherit a treasured family heirloom, the necklace her great grandmother wore on the boat from Ireland to the New World. But with possession of the necklace comes unwelcome and unseen guests that spark a paranormal awakening within Charlie and shakes up her once comfortable life as a first grade teacher in seaside college town.
A dark spirit is stalking her, a ghostly child is haunting her, and she finds herself romantically drawn to Faith Lorian, a witch who is the key to unlocking the mystery of banishing the dark spirit once and for all.
Together, can Charlie and Faith succeed, or will Charlie be irrevocably drawn into the darkness determined to ensnare her?
*****Liz is a generous guest! She is giving you the chance to win a copy of either of her books, your choice, so leave your comment below and we’ll draw the winner at the end of the month! Hurrah!*****