Today is publication day for Ways of the Doomed, the first in a planned trilogy of YA novels by Moira McPartlin. I have read some cracking YA fiction and this was no exception (you can check out my review here). I was therefore delighted when, as she prepared to release her latest book into the wild, Moira found the time to consider a few of my questions on her experiences as a writer. I hope that you find her answers as interesting as I did.
Please welcome to neverimitate, Moira McPartlin.
Where do you typically write?
Anywhere I can find a seat. Also it depends on what I’m working on. I always write the first draft in longhand. I choose fancy notebooks and find good quality pencils or pens. Notebooks are the greatest small pleasure in the world! I love to write in bed first thing in the morning. I’m most creative then. I live in a small village, so a trip to the local café can be unproductive if every second person joins you for a chat, but I often travel to the city to café-write. Even if there is music playing in the background I find cafés inspirational spaces.
Like many writers I suffer from backache, so I switch seats often when working for long stretches on a keyboard. I have a sunroom that looks out to the garden and the surrounding countryside – this is my favourite spot. Light and nature are so important to me. I like to seize every moment of it while I can. If it’s even slightly bright and dry I work in the sunroom. If it’s rainy and cold, which it often is in Scotland, I retreat to my small study where it is quiet and warm, although very dark.
Blogging and emails are done in the evening curled up on my sofa in front of a wood-burning stove. The common denominator here is my need to be cosy, comfortable and warm.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m in the middle of writing my fourth novel (my first is buried under the bed). If I’d been asked this question a couple of years ago I’d have said I didn’t have a process, but I now realise I do.
I always start with a couple of big ideas or one simple story and create one or two characters to drive the story along. Then I embark on a month of writing (longhand) 2000 words a day. I often do this in November to coincide with NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. I never know what’s going to happen to my story. I let the characters take over: it’s fun and liberating to know you can write rubbish if you want and no one is going to judge you for it.
After the month is up I have notebooks filled with 60,000 words or so and a pretty good idea of what the book will be about. I don’t read it back but stick the notebooks in a drawer and continue with whatever project I’m supposed to be working on.
When the time comes to begin the novel I have a head start of 60,000 words to type up and on balance most of the words are not that bad. This wild approach normally gives me about two-thirds of the novel and I work on those, redrafting and editing, until I am ready to write the ending, which has been gestating in my head. The time I know a novel is alive is when I can’t stop thinking about it day and night. That is a wonderful feeling.
Tell us about your publishing experience.
I have a file filled with almost a hundred rejections from publishers and agents. I kept them all!
Some are encouraging, most are standard. With my first novel (the buried one) I had mostly standard rejections. With my debut novel, The Incomers, I knew I had something special. The full manuscript was requested by many publishers. Some were interested but were scared off by the racial content. Eventually Fledgling Press were brave enough to take it and they published it to critical acclaim in 2012.
Ways of the Doomed had a different journey. Saraband saw an early version, recognised its potential and gave me great editorial advice. Meanwhile I half-heartedly sent it out to some English publishers and received quite a bit of interest and positive rejections. I always wanted Saraband to publish so resisted sending to other Scottish Publishers. Saraband continued to provide me with editorial input even before the contract was signed and we are now both happy with the result.
In what ways do you promote your work?
Both Fledgling and Saraband are small independent publishers without the budgets larger companies can dedicate to marketing campaigns. I’ve always embraced the responsibility for promoting my books and work hard with my publishers to maximise my exposure.
Before The Incomers was published I contacted every book festival in the UK and every bookseller in Scotland to ask for an event, or even just a mention. I contacted all the publications who had even a tenuous connection with the subjects in the books – I even wrote a letter to Land Rover Monthly because Land Rover is mentioned twenty times in the book. They said they would publish the letter, but I don’t know if they did.
Before I began writing full time I worked for a large global corporation and that gave me a huge address list of good friends. Ebooks paid off for me here because no matter where they were in the world they could buy a copy. One pal was working in Kazakhstan and downloaded The Incomers the minute he received my mail.
I used social media, mostly Facebook, as much as I felt I could get away with before turning people off.
Ways of the Doomed is aimed at young adults as well as adults and I am working hard to do things differently.
Last year I joined the International organisation SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) and began to build a network of writers. The organisation is fantastic for providing training for all things promotional. They made me realise I was only scratching the surface of social media.
Ways of the Doomed is a good read for schools so I created a Teacher’s guide linked to the various curricula and have been systematically contacting local authorities, libraries and schools to introduce them to me and the novel.
During the publication period I am spending two weeks in London and have ten promotional events planned for that time. I can’t wait to meet some of my readers!
What are some of your current projects?
As well as the promotional work I am working on book two of the Sun Song Trilogy and thinking about the themes for book three which I plan to blitz during NaNoWriMo in November.
I am also an active member of Scottish PEN, an International organisation that campaigns for the rights of writers oppressed or imprisoned by extreme regimes. Through PEN I have been working with a group of female refugees and asylum seekers to produce new writing. I have been neglecting the ladies in the past few months but hope to get them involved in an event in September.
Where can readers find you?
Blog – www.moiramcpartlin.com
Twitter – @moiramcpartlin
Tumblr – theweemcp (Sun Song)
Instagram – moiramcpartlin
Snapchat – moira.mcpartlin
Moira McPartlin is a Scot with Irish roots. Although born in the Scottish Borders, she was brought up in a Fife mining village. She has led an interesting life as a mother and successful business woman. Moira made a big impact with her debut novel The Incomers, which tells the tale of a West African woman moving to a small town in 1960s Scotland. It was shortlisted for the Saltire Society First Book of the Year Award and was a critical success. Moira is also a prolific writer of short stories and poetry, which have been published in a wide variety of literary magazines. She currently lives in Stirlingshire, Scotland.