Author Interview: G.R. McWhorter

Do you prefer ebooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?

                I grew up reading and collecting books so a tangible printed book is always better to me than any other form. I love being able to sit anywhere with a good book and not having to be worried about finding electricity or low battery, etc. There is something special about the feel and smell of books. And, yes, I smell my books! People make fun of me for doing so, but I love the smell of printed paper! I can guarantee everyone that all my books will always be available in actual print book form. I only do ebooks because people demand them.

Have you ever tried to write a novel for a genre you rarely or never read?

                I’ve tried writing in almost every genre. My first two books were psychological horror and my new book, Bound By Vines, is general or women’s fiction. I have read many books that are classical fiction, but I rarely read women’s fiction other than the books of Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters. I don’t consider those books women’s fiction though. Austen and the Bronte’s works get pigeonholed as women’s fiction by some, but I believe their stories transcend a gender label. I hope mine does as well.

How long did it take you to write this book?

                I think the core of it took about four months and then another two months for edits, rewrites, and so on. It took as long as it needed and I feel that not rushing was beneficial. I gave it time to ‘breathe.’ I also travelled a lot as I worked on it. I flew to several states and countries while writing it at home, in airports, hotel rooms, and so on.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

                Bound By Vines is my third book and the one I am most proud of. My first two books were psychological horror, and while they were good and received well, my newest novel shows a new level of my writing that is even more mature than my earlier works. It is also much longer than my other books. I’ve had my writing published since the 1980s though. I’ve had my writing appear in many newspapers, magazines, academic journals, TV scripts, and so on. I am mainly focusing on novels for the rest of my life though.

If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?

                I originally planned for this novel to be a one-shot, but I did leave room for a sequel. Some of my readers have also told me they liked the characters and would welcome a second book so it might happen. My novel was just recently published so I’m already writing another novel, but if Bound By Vines shows enough interest, then a second book will more than likely appear. I don’t want to give anything away, but there are some things that happen in my novel that would form the basis of a second book.

What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

Don’t give up. Keep writing. Sometimes it may be good to force yourself, but don’t overdo it. Have balance and do other things too, but keep writing. Somedays you may feel like writing only 500 words while other days you might get out 4,000 words, but it doesn’t matter how many…just keep going. Giving yourself unrealistic goals is just pressure you don’t need. If the book is in you, it will unfold itself to you. If it takes too much effort, you might want to try a new story. I have left behind many unfinished attempts at a novel until the right story clicked for me. Just remember, keep writing. You will find your way.

What books do you enjoy reading?

                As far as my favorite genre to read, it is mystery of all kinds, from hardboiled detectives to cozy cottage mysteries. I love a good Whodunnit. After that, I do enjoy non-fiction biographies about people who work in some aspect of the entertainment industry. I’ve read a lot about the famous stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age of film as well as a lot of outsider musicians from jazz to punk. I grew up reading newspaper comic strips and comic books and I still enjoy a good comic book from time to time. I love to read just about everything though.

What inspired the idea for your book?

                You hear about ‘divine inspiration,’ but I don’t think it was quite that. I’m not sure how the idea for the story first came to me, but I was absolutely possessed with the spirit of determination to want to write. I wrote every chance I had. I wanted to do it and I enjoyed it, like a ‘Runner’s High.’ It just flowed out of me. No idea why. I’ve never had that kind of writing experience before so it did seem strange to be so wrapped up in my work.

                I do live close to the many wineries in Temecula, California where my story takes place. I think my initial thoughts are that I wanted to write about a place I knew about and infuse the setting with well developed characters with strong personalities. The film version of Under the Tuscan Sun has nothing to do with my book, but I have cited it as an inspiration. It is a good depiction of a single woman’s dedication to survive against challenges and I wanted my story to have that feel with my lead characters. The Australian television show McLeod’s Daughters is a bit closer to the idea of my novel and was a partial inspiration. Another inspiration was in getting to know two sisters in my personal life, who I will not mention by name, but their background and holidays are certainly in my book.

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

                I think this question is a little subjective. I know some readers love flowery details, but others like me prefer tight, concise writing that leaves some details up to the ‘theater of the mind’ to fill-in the blanks. I read a lot of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and all their contemporaries and I love clean, tight, precise prose that does not go overboard on details, but instead focuses on suspense and tension. Even though my novel is not a thriller, I still hope that when challenges face my characters that there is a bit of a thriller feel imbued within my work.

                With a more universal perspective on this question, I would say you should have well developed main characters and a strong plot. A lot of other elements depend on the genre and any specific themes you hope to address. Supposedly all stories can be broken down into seven archetypes so how you ‘dress’ a story is important, and again, dependent on genre and theme. A good example of this is how the Japanese film The Hidden Fortress (1958), set in feudal Japan was ‘redressed’ into the science-fiction film Star Wars (1977). If you have good characters and a strong story, you can dress it up any way you like.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part of publishing?

                Marketing sucks! I absolutely hate that I must do my own marketing. I tried about fifty literary agents and got no results. I was tired of my novel sitting around so I decided to self-publish. Now I must do all the marketing to draw traffic to what I truly believe is a great novel, but it might not get read by enough people who would normally buy a book marketed by the major publishers. Besides marketing, the whole publishing game of trying to find a literary agent or publisher is harsh too. It seems like luck to get picked up for a book deal, probably based in part on the agent/publisher’s mood the day they read your pitch or what they had for breakfast. Uggh. I want to write. I will write. My books are good. Take a chance. Okay, stepping off my soapbox now.

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