Author Interview: PJ McIlvaine

Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?

PJ: Yes, and the book is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. I read that book countless times as a child. I loved everything about the novel. I wanted Atticus Finch for my father. And the movie adaptation was just as wonderful. My favorite book in the world, hands down.

Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?

PJ: Well, that depends. Modeling a character after someone you know can be dangerous. It can also lead to bad feelings if the person hates your characterization. My late, troubled brother Michael was the inspiration for my bad boy protagonist in my adult contemporary killer thriller A GOOD MAN. It was therapeutic in the sense that I was able to give Michael a better ending in the book than what he got in real life. So, that was a good thing. However, it also dredged up a lot of bad memories, which wasn’t so good. In the end, though, I’m glad I wrote the book the way I did. 

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

PJ: I had a phase where I wanted to be a nurse or a lawyer, but then I came to my senses early on where I knew that the only thing I wanted to do was write.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

PJ: Write every day, even if it’s only a sentence or a paragraph. The only way to be a writer is to write. It takes discipline, patience, talent, hard work, and luck.

Do you play music while you write — and, if so, what’s your favorite?

PJ: That depends on what I’m writing. When I was deep in my screenwriting phase, I wrote scripts based on songs that elicited a mood or setting. When it comes to books, I find that playing music while I write can be distracting. However, for A GOOD MAN, which has scenes set in 1966, I did a huge amount of research into the music of the day, bands, etc., and while I did that I played a lot of classic rock from that era.

Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?

PJ: Both. Some books I write when I’m in the zone, and it’s like being an auto-pilot. The words pour out of me as if coming from somewhere else. For example, I wrote A GOOD MAN in two months, an exhausting pace for me. When I was done, my brain was fried. But it was a great feeling to follow my passion and write without worrying if anyone would ever read it. Other times, writing can be exhausting when it’s a chore, when the words and inspiration take forever. My newest book, a romantic mystery I call THE LOST HEIR OF MONK ISLAND, took nearly a year and a half to finish a first draft. At times, it was like pulling teeth.

Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing?

PJ: Luna, my three-year-old French Bulldog. When I’m writing, she plants her head between my legs and nudges me. It usually means she has to go potty or she’s hungry.

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

PJ: I have used pen names for different genres because I do write in multiple genres. For several short stories, I used my grandmother’s name–Charlotte Barbaret. I also used it initially for THE CONUNDRUM OF CHARLEMAGNE CROSSE, my YA alternate history adventure. But now I use my real name.

How do you celebrate when you finish your book?

PJ: That’s too easy. I treat myself to ice cream, brownies, and pizza—in other words, my favorite foods.

If your book were made into a movie, which actors would play your characters?

PJ: I do that all the time, envision actors/actresses as my characters. In A GOOD MAN, Danny Huston would be Brooks Anderson, Jennifer Lawrence would play his wife Cassie, and Donald Sutherland or Brian Cox for Bernard Anderson.




Instagram: @pjmcilvaine


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