Wednesday Author Interview: Callum McLaughlin
Today, I’d like to welcome poet and suspense writer Callum McLaughlin to Bookin’ It. Callum, can you tell us a bit about how you became a writer? When did you decide that’s what you wanted to be, and what steps did you take to prepare for a writing career?
CM: To kick things off with a tried and tested cliché, I really have always loved writing. I’ve been coming up with stories, big and small, for as long as I can remember. My first ‘proper’ writing was for a local magazine and I used that experience to start working on a freelance basis, which allows me the time and flexibility to increase the amount of effort I can dedicate to creative writing.
BI: It’s wonderful that you were able to parlay your magazine experience into a freelance career, and now have the time to work on your own books. Were you inspired by any particular authors, past or present, and what is it about their work that impresses you, or moves you?
CM: The single piece of work that has moved and inspired me most is Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep, a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye. It’s heartbreakingly simple.
In terms of present authors, I’d have to jump on the global bandwagon and say J.K. Rowling because what she has single-handedly done for literature and storytelling is incredible. Above all else, she proved that limitations are non-existent and anyone with a good idea and enough passion can write a book.
Looking to authors from the past, I love the lyrical, cinematic writing style of Thomas Hardy. He really pushed boundaries for his time, which was an immensely brave thing to do, and told stories with true human emotion always at the core.
I suppose in a more general way you could even say that my uncle has been an influence, as he has made his living as a playwright, meaning I’ve always known on a subconscious level that working in the creative world is possible.
BI: Interesting and eclectic selection, indeed. I’ve stopped by your blog many times, and I always enjoy your poetry, Callum. Beyond that, what genres do you read most often for pleasure…those books you gravitate toward the minute you walk into a bookstore?
CM: I love the fast-paced intrigue of a good thriller. What I love most about them is that they can incorporate elements of most other genres too, be it crime, romance, mystery, comedy, horror or otherwise. That kind of scope means there’s always something new and exciting to discover.
BI: Who doesn’t love a good thriller? Now about your work methods…do you have a dedicated workspace, and are you consistent with the amount of time you spend writing each day?
CM: I do have a desk but essentially, as long as I’m at home and there’s not too much noise, I can write anywhere. When I’m into the swing of a first draft, I try to write at least 1000 words per day, but we all know that things don’t always exactly go to plan. It also depends somewhat on how much freelance work I have to do that particular day; as much as I adore it, too much writing at once really does turn the brain to mush.
BI: I’m guessing every writer knows what the dreaded Mushbrain feels like. I know I do, for sure! Tell us more about how you write. Do you use visual aids, like inspiration boards, photos, or maps of your book’s setting? What reference books or other material do you consult most frequently as you write?
CM: Visual aids are something I haven’t really explored a lot of but the idea definitely interests me. My reference materials of choice would probably be On Writing by Stephen King and The Complete Plain Words by Sir Ernest Gowers, the latter of which is a gifted original copy from 1954 that I plan to treasure.
BI: I find visual aids a great help, not only for keeping me on track with descriptions or locations, but also just for getting me in the mood for what I want to write. Let us know if you try them. Now, when you have an idea for a new book, do you sit down and start typing, or do you start with an outline, and figure out all the major plot points first? In other words, is your working style structured and organized, or more organic and free flowing?
CM: I like to strive for a healthy balance between the two. I always have a very clearly envisioned end point to aim towards and outline the major plot components needed to get there, but when it comes to more intricate details like characters’ personalities and smaller twists and subplots, I think it’s nice to let things develop more naturally as I write. This way I have a structure to stop me from veering off anywhere too crazy but leave enough room for a little spontaneity – I wouldn’t want the writing process to feel like joining the dots.
BI: Sounds like a perfect balance to me. Callum, do you prefer reading eBooks, or print? Why?
CM: I definitely do both and suppose the best way to sum it up would be to say that I like reading eBooks but I love reading print books. The speed, convenience and price involved in digital books are undeniable but nothing can beat the smell of the pages and the feeling of nostalgia attached to a proper physical copy of your favourite stories. As sad as it may sound, I even like just looking at my bookcases!
BI: It always seems that authors simply love holding a real book, doesn’t it? And speaking of real books, time for you to tell us about the books you have published, and where we can buy them.
CM: My first book, The Vessel, is a suspense novella published in November of last year. The story follows a young woman at the heart of a corrupt government scheme in a dystopian world seeking to expose the truth.
My new book is a mystery novel entitled False Awakening. It follows a teenage girl who wakes in hospital with no memory of the incident that put her there. She must search within her own mind for the answers, while dealing with the various complex relationships in her life.
Both are available as paperbacks or for Kindle through all of Amazon’s international channels.
BI: I’ve downloaded both books, and am looking forward to reading them, especially False Awakening, which sounds especially interesting to me. Are you currently working on a new book? When do you expect it to be available?
CM: I have a very rough plan for the next piece of fiction I plan to work on but it’s so early in the process I couldn’t even venture a release goal yet. I do however have an ever growing catalogue of poetry and a tempting idea to compile a collection. My hope is to have something ready for publication in the first quarter of 2015.
BI: I would very much love to see you publish your poetry. You can count on me to buy that one, for sure. I’m already a fan. Can you tell us what the best thing about being a writer is? The worst?
CM: The best thing about being a writer is that there is truly no limit to what you can do; no idea is too ridiculous; no world too fantastical. Being able to let your imagination run wild, say the things we’d never say in real life through our characters and never have two working days pan out the same way; it’s pretty wonderful.
There’s not a whole lot I don’t like about being a writer, other than the knowledge that not everyone is going to like what you do and that competition is fierce. A lot of people seem determined to pit writers against each other, constantly comparing emerging authors to those we already know and love, rather than embracing what is new or exciting about them.
Bonus Question: Are you self-published, and if so, what have you learned from the process, overall? Positives and negatives?
CM: I’m self-published as I wanted to get experience in the industry at my own rate and liked the idea of keeping complete creative control over my work without pressure to hit certain deadlines or sales figures. I don’t doubt both methods have pros and cons; it’s just about going with what is right for each person and each project at the time.
The only real negative is tackling the dreaded world of marketing, which you’ll have to take really seriously if you want to have a shot at ‘making it’. It’s a lot of fun though, and I’ve learned that while publishing takes a lot of patience and perseverance, there is a whole community out there willing to support and encourage you. As soon as you hold the first copy of your book in your hands, the hard work leading there will feel totally worth it.
BI: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today, Callum. It’s been great learning more about you and your books, and I wish you the very best in all your future endeavors! Please keep us posted about your next novel, and your book of poetry.
Callum McLaughlin was born and raised in the Scottish countryside, where he continues to live and work. Aside from his own creative writing endeavors, he operates on a freelance basis, producing content for blogs, websites and magazines. A lover of all things literature, music and nature, he is a keen poet and takes his greatest inspiration from the world around us.
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