Author Interview ~ Krista McGee

What two or three things would you do differently if you were starting your publishing career today?

I would read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers before I wrote one word. I would attend writer’s conferences and join a writer’s group. In short, I would get as much preventative help as I could!

What one issue makes you struggle the most as an author? How do you handle it?

Other people’s opinions. Oh, man. My entire day can be ruined by one bad review. I am learning to handle it with God’s help – reminding myself that I can’t please everyone, but I can please him in how I respond to others’ responses.

What is the best writing (or life) advice you have ever heard or wished you had followed? Why?

The best writing advice I’ve heard was from my editor, Becky Monds. She always tells me not to go easy on my characters. “Don’t be so nice!” Conflict drives a good story, so creating conflict in my characters’ lives – both internal and external – is crucial.

What one issue ignites your passion? Does your passion fuel your writing? What would you do with your life if you didn’t write?

I am a passionate follower of Jesus Christ. Knowing him and making him known drives my passion for writing and for life.

Tell us a bit about your current project.

Anomaly is a dystopian novel, set in a future where the world has been destroyed by nuclear war and the only survivors are scientists who determine to create a new world. Their world is inhabited by people whose ability to think, question, and feel is removed. They each have a job to do to help the State run smoothly. Thalli, however, is an anomaly. She questions what she is taught, she is not content to be just her pod Musician. She longs for more. And she gets more, but not in the way she expects.

We are all about journeys…unique ones at that. How convoluted was your path to your first published book? Share some highlights or lowlights from your path to publication. 

I wrote a really terrible book fourteen years ago. I was in a new place with not much to do, so I wrote. I didn’t know anything about the publishing process, so when I finished the book, I sent the whole thing to one publisher. I received a rejection letter a couple months later, and I didn’t write again for a decade. When I started the second time, I read up on the writing and publishing process. I even found an agent who said, once I finished my book (what eventually became First Date), he would represent me. So I finished it and wrote him. That was four years ago. I still haven’t heard back from him! But I did find an agent who was actually interested in representing me, and eventually, with her help, I found a publisher.

With the clarity of experience what advice would you offer up to the wet-behind-the-ears you if  beginning this writing journey today? 

Write! If you have an idea, a desire, then go for it. Don’t let excuses keep you from writing. Write ten minutes a day, if that’s all you can do at first, but do it. Don’t edit, don’t fix your errors, don’t rewrite. Get the whole thing on paper, then you can go back. It won’t be perfect. No manuscript is. But it CAN be written. You CAN do it.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

I don’t particularly care for having to “sell” myself. I love talking about my book and interacting with readers. But having to post “Buy my book!” stuff is difficult for me. 
Share a dream or something you’d love to accomplish through your writing career.

I want to go on research trips to Europe. I’d write about anything if I could just be sent over there for a few weeks/months J.

What gives you the greatest writer buzz, makes the trip worth the hassles (besides coffee or other substances, or course)?

I LOVE hearing from readers, especially readers who have been encouraged or challenged by my books. Emails from my readers make my day!

What is one of the more unique or strange life experiences that has really given you an extra oomph in your writing?

I have had the opportunity to live in both Costa Rica and Spain, a year each. Those experiences were amazing and eye-opening. I know what it’s like to learn a new language as an adult; I know what it’s like to adjust to a new culture. My worldview is so much broader for having spent time in those amazing countries, and my writing is informed by that worldview.

Describe your special or favorite writing spot or send a picture if you’d like.

I write at a desk in my room – not so unusual. But I sit on a medicine ball to write – slightly more unusual. Because I have metal rods in my back (I had surgery to correct severe scoliosis when I was 13), the ball is far more comfortable than a traditional desk chair.

What is the first thing you do when you begin a new book?

I write out a 2-3 page summary, and from there, I write out chapter summaries. I like to have a clear “map” of where I am going before I begin writing my manuscript.

Writing rituals. Do you have to sit somewhere specific, complete a certain number of words, leave something undone to trigger creativity for the next session? Some other quirk you’d like to share?

I “warm up” for writing by checking email, Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes I’ll write a blog entry, anything to wake up my fingers and my brain.

Plot, seat of pants or combination?

I prefer to have the plot written out. I like knowing where I’m going and thinking through how to get there. Although, with Anomaly, I only had a skeleton outline. It was scary, but it really helped me develop more plot twists.

What is the most difficult part of pulling together a book? Ex. Do you have saggy middles, soggy characters, soupy plots during your first drafts…if so, how do you shape it up?

My manuscripts tend to be choppy in the first draft. I need a second and third time through to tighten up the elements and characters.

Krista McGee’s passion to see teens excited about serving God is a driving force behind her novels. Ever since college when she spent a summer working at a youth camp, McGee knew she wanted to invest in teenagers. Since then she’s been involved in a variety of youth ministries and currently teaches at a Christian school in Tampa, FL.

McGee broke into the writing world during her time in Spain. A friend encouraged her to submit an article to a Christian girls’ magazine, and it got published. Once her family moved back to Tampa, she got the idea for her first novel, First Date, a modern take of the story of Esther. Her subsequent books, Starring Me and Right Where I Belong, are based on Rebekah and Ruth.

When Krista McGee isn’t living in fictional worlds of her own creation, she spends her days as a wife, mom, teacher and coffee snob.

Learn more about Krista McGee and her books at Readers can also become a fan on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.