Part of the CLP blog tour | Colleen McCarty is a wife, mother, entrepreneur and restaurant owner, and in the midst of this busy schedule has managed to find time to write and publish her debut novel Mounting The Whale. The book’s family are dysfunctional at best, but tragedy is often the best force to bring people together, none more so than a text from your sibling saying: Cartel got me, tell mom.
WA: I saw that writing your book came after a while helping others publish their books and that it felt there was something missing. How did you find the experience of finally writing your own book, given that this seems to have been the missing thing you spoke about?
CM: I had had the idea for this book for a long time before I sat down to write it. I had put it off for so long that eventually I felt like I would die if I didn’t begin writing the story. I felt like I was suffocating, and that lack of creativity began to come out in other ways; some healthy and some not so healthy.
WA: How long had this story been brewing for you? How easily did it come to you to finally create it?
CM: It was in my head probably six months or so before I started writing. Starting something like this was a real challenge for me because I had never written fiction before except a few short stories, and that was years ago. I started writing and hated everything that was coming out. I realized I needed help and contacted a friend from my former publishing life. She is a terrific editor, but also works as a craft coach. She helped me set a realistic weekly goal for my writing and supported me through the process.
WA: How did you find balancing various aspects in your life to find the time to dedicate to the book?
CM: This is a real challenge! As a mom, and also someone who has a day job, I always feel that writing falls to the bottom of the priority list. It really upsets me sometimes, but its just the way it has to be for right now. I set aside time at night and on the weekends during my daughter’s naps to get the writing done. I just had to make it a priority and stick to a goal of 10 pages per week.
WA: What advice would you offer to others with busy schedules who would love to write a book?
CM: Set small goals, and don’t get frustrated with yourself if you can’t do as much as you want to. Have someone to keep you accountable to your page goal.
WA: What drew you to the idea of the cartel and a kidnapping in your story?
CM: The cartel is something that I think is terrifying and very real, and something that we know is going on right under our noses. I thought it was the most believable type of situation that my character would get into.
WA: Were there any authors that influenced your writing style, or desire to go in this direction with your writing? What books in particular stand out?
CM: Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn are two books I admire and I guess you could say they inspired me. As a writer, I try not to be to influenced by other working writers. If I read too much while I am writing, I tend to take on that person’s voice unintentionally. I am more inspired by movies, actually even though I read and watch movies equally.
WA: Though the cartel is the big draw of the synopsis, it focuses more on a dysfunctional family’s dynamics when facing trouble. Was that something you sought out to do, or that came naturally as you wrote?
CM: The focus of the book for me was always on this family, and watching how they relate to each other. There’s nothing like a crisis to bring dysfunction to the forefront!
WA: What characters did you find most enjoyable to write, or that you felt the strongest connection to over time?
CM: I loved writing Cybil, although that’s not how it started out. I also really loved writing some of the villains of the story, but I can’t give that away!
WA: What were the main hurdles you overcame in writing Mounting The Whale?
CM: Definitely schedule and the frustration of not having time to just sit down and write everything out. At one point I had the whole last act in my head, ready to go, and couldn’t find the time to write it. It felt like something was living inside me, taking up space.
WA: What do you think will be the strongest point of the book that readers will connect to, or that will hook them in?
CM: I hope people connect to the humanness of the characters, and maybe learn to see themselves and those around them with a little softer lens.
WA: Overall, how have you found the experience of completing your debut and releasing it to the world?
CM: It’s been terrific, the readers have loved the book and it’s getting great reviews. It feels a little empty for me now, but I am about to begin a new novel so that should get remedied quickly.
WA: How have you found the response from readers so far?
CM: People who’ve read the book are actually taking away the things I intended from the story (and some cool things I didn’t even realize!). It’s a strange feeling to be sharing my innermost thoughts with strangers, but its actually made me feel close to people (i.e. the human race) in a way I couldn’t have before. To know that other people have thought and felt as I have, it’s comforting, in a way.
WA: What are your plans for the year?
CM: I hope to begin my next book and continue marketing Mounting the Whale!