How did you become a writer? About a decade ago, I decided to take a break from an entirely different career to explore my creative side. I signed up for a few drawing and painting classes, and one on writing novels. I'd always enjoyed writing, but until I took that class I had never considered pursuing it as a career.
After seeing scenes turn into chapters and eventually a full manuscript, I was hooked. And although my road to publication was full of bumps, I've never looked back.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.). I have fairly eclectic tastes when it comes to reading, but for a book to really hold my attention, it needs to have either a fabulous story, or a gripping voice--preferably both. That said, for me, fantastic storytelling skills trump beautiful sentences.
Some favorite authors include: Robertson Davies, John Irving, Margaret Atwood, Suzanne Collins, Rainbow Rowell, Joe Hill, Anne Tyler, Molly O'Keefe, Anne Rice... I told you I had eclectic tastes.
When and where do you write? I do most of my writing in the afternoon and early evening. I can write anywhere in a pinch, but I do most of my first draft work in coffee shops. I happy anywhere with a socket to plug in my (almost antique) MacBook, good coffee, and something other than sweet food for fuel.
What are you working on now? I am working on a few projects simultaneously. But the one currently on the top of the stack is a realistic, contemporary-set teen novel. I say realistic, but like most of my stories, it will include high stakes, suspense and fast-pacing.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? I've definitely had LOTS of days when it was difficult to get past a point in a story. But I don't like to think of these days as writer's block, per se. I think it's too easy for writers to fall into the habit of using that affliction to legitimize not working--that, and the absence of their "muse". I think the mark of a professional writer is the ability to push through and work, even on the days when nothing seems to be working.
To get through the hard days, I sometimes brainstorm about possible solutions to my problem. Or, if I've lost confidence that day, (or simply don't feel like writing), simply venting my frustration and other feelings via the keyboard can often get things flowing again.
What’s your advice to new writers? Learn your craft. If you were entering any other profession, you'd expect to spend years studying before finding success. Writing is no different. These days, because self-publishing has become such a viable option, I fear too many writers will dive into publishing before they have honed their craft. I, for one, am glad that my first 2 or 3 manuscripts never saw the light of day. I'm glad that I got to learn how to write fiction in relative privacy, with only my teachers, critique partners, and eventually publishing professionals seeing my early efforts. Not that they were terrible. They simply weren't good enough.
It's also important to learn about the world and business of publishing, which is a moving target these days. Only by understanding all the options, and the most professional way to approach each, can you make educated decisions about whether and how to pursue publishing your work.
Maureen McGowan is the award winning and bestselling author of two popular YA series including the dystopian thriller series: The Dust Chronicles. She writes exciting, fast-paced novels, enjoyed by teen and adult readers alike.
Maureen always loved writing fiction, but side-tracked by a persistent practical side, it took her a few years to channel her energy into novels. After leaving a career in finance and accounting, she hasn’t looked back.
Aside from her love of books, she’s passionate about films, fine handcrafted objects and shoes. She lives in Toronto, where she attends the film festival every year.
Her most recent titles include: Deviants (Skyscape, 2012), Compliance (Skyscape, 2013), and Glory (Skyscape, June 10, 2014). Contact her, or join her mailing list at www.maureenmcgowan.com.