Interview with Pat McDonald

Interview with Pat McDonald

What genre do you write and why?
So far my first three books (a trilogy) was pure crime fiction and are set in a typical Major Crime Unit in a British police force. My fourth novel, although about a character who drops out of the plot in my first crime novel gave me the opportunity to experiment with a multi-genre book that I wrote because I wanted to know what happened to the character and also so that my granddaughters could read it.
Tell us about your latest book.
I have just released my fourth novel Breaking Free which is a Y.A paranormal thriller about stalking based in the North of Wales, UK. It has a hint of historical W.W 1 drama that is surprisingly haunting! I enjoyed experimenting with several genres and yes it is also a romance thrown in. The story is about Livia Morrison who escaped from her captor to United Arab Emirates (Getting Even: Revenge is best served cold) but finds it impossible to live there as a single female so she comes back to the UK settling in a small community in Wales. Far from hiding in plain sight she finds herself plagued by old memories that won’t stay quiet, stalked by someone but she doesn’t know who and haunted by a life that the Old Forge cottage she buys wants her to remember. Luckily she meets Nathan Edwards who seems to want to help her.

What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?
I have for some time been building an audience and bookish community on Twitter (@issyblack) and linking this to my author page where I find it easier to blog and run small advertisements for my books.

What formats is the book available in?
My books are all available in soft cover and e books, kindle etc. which are sold through my Amazon author page and my publisher website

Who are your favourite authors?
I have an eclectic taste in authors but favour crime, thrillers and humorous authors; I am excited by new authors such as Angie Smith (CXVI trilogy), Joe Leslie, and Barrie Kibble; the humour of Aaron David and Ian Hutson, and J L Emslie (The Mentalpause) – these people keep me laughing. I read new authors and review their books because I often find inspiration that way, and try to encourage new authors who write to me.

What advice do you have for other writers?
I am asked this often and encourage all new writers just to write; to get down their ideas as they think them and try not to get too hung up with what they hear are the rules on writing. Often writers are so tied up with ‘learning’ the art that they become stifled and put off. The rules on writing are someone’s idea of what they should be, but who is to say they are correct? Write first, then you have something to edit, rewrite, and apply what you think is correct – go with your own instincts I say, but at all times try to preserve originality and your own style – Stephen King would say ‘be true to yourself and your story’ and so would I.

What’s your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
I have only ever read one book On Writing – by Stephen King of course. It is entertaining in his usual style and I think gently applies his own thoughts, not dictating what should and should not be; after all he had a long and hard road to travel like we all do. The comment that sticks in my mind is “kill your babies” which he advises us to do if something adds nothing to the story but is just there because – well you liked it. Took me some time, but I got there in the end, so I cut a few passages now and again. He is correct though, the story is the important thing – don’t lost sight of that.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?
If you have the ‘ache’, the need to write then the writing is the thing you have to do – I need to write, but I also need to tell a story and when I can get it so I can say “Yes!”, then I have done what I set out to do. My particular pleasure is getting the end right, it is important because I have read too many books that fizzle out at the end. I want to hear “aah!” and have someone message me, like I have recently and tell me my book is the first one that has ever made her cry! All we authors can hope for is to make an impression with our writing and if we can evoke an emotion, then we have succeeded.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
I have a website and an amazon site, but my on my author page I reveal aspects of my writing that can’t be found elsewhere: For example I just revealed the spooky thing that happened to me at midnight on 31st December 2015/16 and which inspired me to begin a new novel: Echoes of Doubt.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
My latest published book that has just been release – Breaking Free – is primarily about Livia Morrison who has just returned to North Wales, UK to try and break free of a past that haunts her – hiding in plain sight is traumatic but she meets Nathan Edwards and is instantly drawn to him. He is different to anyone else she has ever known (which is why I like him as a character) but is he as lovely as he seems to be? I like to get inside my characters to try to bring them alive.

Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
I think and am told it is a balance between several genres. I have always been interested in how easy or hard it would be to disappear and for me it explores some of that, and the effects that stalking can have on a person. I personally hope that people will enjoy how Livia’s past life comes back to haunt her at the point in her life when she is trying to break free of it. Hopefully people will be thrilled by the many twists and turns it takes – feedback is good so far.

How long did it take you to write your book?
I wrote this book whilst finishing off (editing and proofing) my second and third in the Blue Woods Trilogy. My endings of various elements came to me on a research visit to Wales at the end of December 2014 and I completed the book in February 2015 after about six months writing it. I discovered I had a brain tumour at this time and decided to leave final edit for my convalescence after April when I had my operation to remove it. It was a trying time as I had a lot of physical problems to overcome, not least of which was to teach myself once again to write and type, the publishing process was probably a little longer than would normally have been the case (October 2015).

Who designed the cover?
My print manager Kay Jay designed the cover to my specification (and incidentally also did Boxed Off); she is a fine artist and has her own company Kalpart Caricatures as well as working for SBPRA as print manager.

Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?
It being my fourth book and a new venture I was surprised to learn how much I enjoyed editing and proofing; whether this was because I was used to the process I don’t know. But I loved writing this book and of all my books so far it is my favourite. Perhaps it was experimenting with different genre. I like to have the next book begun at this stage and because I went on to try humour I found the contrast rather welcoming. My discovery that a one off book is easier to write than my crime trilogy with all its continuity problems may lead me to settling for standalone in the future. My humorous book ‘A Penny for Them’ is nearly complete and having just begun ‘Echoes of doubt’ I can see both of these as series, oh dear!

Where can a reader purchase your book?
Amazon author page:
SBPRA author website:

Who inspires you? How do you research your books?
Truth is I believe life is inspiring and everything counts as research and I have a lot of years behind me! I use, like everyone else, the internet; but nothing is as good as ‘real’ research. For example in Breaking Free I took a trip to Caernarfon castle, to the Royal Welch Fusilier’s museum there and the ending came to me as I stood in front of the 1914-18 show case and the fully killed out model of the soldier, the sound effects of gun fire and war playing in the background – I visualised the scene as if it were happening – what do you think? I also visited all the places I wrote in Getting Even out in United Arab Emirates and introduced it in Breaking Free because Livia Morrison returned from there.
A lot of my characters are people I meet, or things said to me, or that I observe and develop and of course I read a lot and am inspired by the books I read.

What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
My work in progress is to finish off my humorous ‘A Penny for Them’, which is about my hapless hero Benjamin Matthews who up until his thirty first year a failures at most jobs until he meets Rebecah the daughter of one of the biggest villains in his town. But even turning to criminal endeavours he manages to fail and by chance succeed as a businessman! It is a tongue in cheek look at crime from the inside and my first attempt at humour – here’s hoping.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
I am continually informed by indie authors that my books are too expensive and if I could give them away free or at 99pence or $0.99 then I would sell more! There is a false picture created. I didn’t start writing to make money and the years where I was given a contract and an advance are long gone (my academic work). It seems to me we are all swimming in the same pond and whilst some people think having a publisher means you have made it, it is well over stated. Val McDermid the crime writer says she wouldn’t make it in today’s climate, her publisher allowed her four years before one of her books got into the best sellers lists – now you can do that by giving it away at £1.99 or totally free. Good luck to everyone I say. The new climate means that for most people unless a book is free they aren’t interested.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
I always wanted to write, I think I have the gene!

What are you currently reading?
Just finished The Burden of Truth by Peter Best (really enjoyed this book) and am reading The Little Nurse by Marjorie Penn (she was the mother of an author I met on Twitter and having just been hospitalised the contrast to this view of the early years in nursing is so interesting).

What books or authors have most influenced your life?
Stephen King - because his imagination has no boundaries and I marvel at that. Thomas Hardy influenced me because of his view of the reality of life and its consequences. Charles Dickens was amazing at characterisation and liking for strange people. Alice Walker – The Colour Purple and especially the quotation: “No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow”. I am a book collector - there are too many books and not enough time!

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
It is now a huge part of my life, so I am not very far from pen and paper. I love to read and lose myself in books. More recently I have been more housebound, but usually I love to grow vegetables and live as healthy a life as possible. I used to drive to my favourite coffee shop and sit and write, meet people and get inspired to create my characters. I am hoping to do these things once again.


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