Friday, February 18, 2011
It varies. In some characters, I don’t see any of myself even though I know the protagonists are driven by a Christian worldview, as I am. If there is any of me in my characters, it is unintentional. When I look back in the editing process, I can see where there are parts of me in a character, some of my personality and mannerisms. One character may pick up my sense of humor, another my introverted personality. I try to keep myself out of my characters as much as possible by incorporating elements from other real people, by doing character sketches and bios, even using the Meyers-Briggs on occasion. Some characters just seem to grow out of the story. They start out filling a specific need or role and then grow in importance, forcing themselves into a larger role. They can, at times, be so frustrating, I want to shoot them. But, most of the time, it’s exciting to follow where they take the story.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I felt called to write in 2002, after serious heart surgery. I had dabbled in writing for several years before that and, after the surgery, I picked it up again, more seriously this time, but still only a couple of steps above dabbling. In 2005, I felt it was time to get serious about writing, to see if I had what it took to be a writer. I signed up for the Apprentice Level course at Christian Writers Guild. I also began to attend writers’ conferences and get involved with critique groups. I ventured out and risked having my work evaluated by others and I received receiving encouraging responses. The positive and constructive feedback moved me to take my writing seriously and to strive to learn more of the craft and develop my skills.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I enjoy mysteries (Elizabeth George, P.D. James, Jacqueline Winspear), westerns (Elmer Kelton, Stephen Bly), science fiction and fantasy (Orson Scott Card, Stephen Lawhead, Tolkien, Lewis), thrillers (Steven James). Other Christian authors I read consistently are DiAnn Mills, Angela Hunt, Davis Bunn, Mary DeMuth, Brandilyn Collins, and James Scott Bell. I also enjoy nonfiction such as American history and books on the craft of writing.
I read many of those same Christian fiction authors. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I begin each day in prayer and meditation of the Word. This is first and foremost. If I don’t make time for the Father first, the day runs amuck.
I also hold myself to a schedule. Now that I’m writing full time at home, I discipline myself to be in my writing room by 9:00 a.m. and to write until 1:00 p.m. and I look to achieve a specific word count of 2,000 words per day. I schedule time to handle emails, phone calls, etc, outside of this block of time.
If I need to do research, I schedule a meeting with myself to do it.
My background in management taught me the value of controlling my time and my commitments.
I’ve also learned not to rush into decisions, to take my time and make sure I have peace before moving forward.
All very good advice. How do you choose your characters’ names?
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
In the realm of writing, it is winning the Operation First Novel contest sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild and Tyndale House.
That is wonderful. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Eyore of the Winnie the Pooh stories because our personalities are so much alike. Or so people tell me. I just thank them for noticing.
What is your favorite food?
Veal Parmigian with real veal cutlets, not veal patties.
I love that, too, as well as Eggplant Parmigian. What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Being a perfectionist, going over the same chapter or page time and again, seeking to make it perfect.
Through DiAnn Mills, Angela Hunt, and Brandilyn Collins, and others, I learned to focus on getting the first draft done. The work and art of writing is the rewriting.
Tell us about the featured book.
Here is the back cover copy. It sums it up so very well.
A chance for redemption was something they never expected.
A chance for love was something they never dreamed of.
Sometimes the journey is only the beginning . . .
Michael Archer made a promise he intends to keep. Though he was unable to save Ben Carstairs, Michael is determined to carry out Ben’s dying wish: to be reconciled with his father. What he doesn’t know is that Sam Carstairs—one of the most ruthless businessmen on the frontier—has no use for his own son, much less a man of God seeking reconciliation.
Soon after arriving in the booming town of Riverbend, Michael meets the stunning Rachel Stone while waiting for Sam to return from a business trip. Beautiful yet guarded, Rachel is running from a past as dark as Michael’s, and the last thing she expects—or thinks she deserves—is a chance at love. Yet there’s a spark between them neither can deny.
When word reaches town that Sam has been kidnapped on the stage coach home, Michael joins the search posse. But the trail ahead is more dangerous than any had imagined, and making it back alive will require Michael to face his past and overcome his deepest fear.
I know I'm going to love this book. Please give us the first page.
April 10, 1878
The crowd was small for a hanging. Quieter than usual, as if they all knew justice would not be served today.
Michael Archer found it hard to look at the young man before him. Ben Carstairs, only twenty-two, stood like a boy grown too tall, too soon. Each strand of his sandy hair grew as if it had a mind of its own. Handcuffs encircled his fine-boned wrists in loops of heavy iron. His lips quivered. Fear raged in his brown eyes.
“You believe I didn’t do it, don’t you?”
Michael’s throat tightened. He nodded. Many hours with the boy had convinced him of the young man’s innocence.
Ben gulped air and sighed. His shoulders sagged. He lifted his cuffed hands and opened a palm. “Give this to my father when you see him. It was my ma’s, and I wanted something of hers when he threw me out. Tell him I’m sorry.”
It was the silver Celtic cross Ben had worn on a leather thong around his neck. Only slight traces of the delicate engravings remained. Michael rubbed the cross as he had seen Ben do hundreds of times and closed his fist over Ben’s treasured token.
Michael slipped into his shirt pocket, buttoned the flap, and patted the cross with his hand. “I will.”
Sheriff Gideon Parsons spoke from behind Ben. “It’s time, son.”
Ben swallowed, then straightened. “Thank you, Michael.”
What a wonderful first sentence, and then the scene that follows is excellent. How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website is http://www.henrymclaughlin.org/ .
I am also on Facebook and LinkedIn
Thank you, Michael, for the interesting interview.
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