Today, we sit down with Canadian Author of The Gift Legacy Series, J.P. McLean. She has a very interesting background and is going to share it with us along with her influences, a bit about her life away from writing and an exciting excerpt from the upcoming book in her series.
Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions.
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
So often, I hear writers say they knew when they were very young that they wanted to write. It wasn’t like that for me, though I do remember thinking writing would be an idyllic occupation for someone fortunate enough to not have to leave home every day to work in a ‘regular’ job.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
Sometimes the ideas run around in my head for much longer, but when I start to organize it and write it down, it’s usually finished in a year.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
My most productive writing times are first thing in the morning, or, strangely, late at night. Now that I’m retired (or unemployed as some helpful friends like to point out) I can write every day. Mornings are by far my favourite, so I block that time off and dedicate it to writing. My goal each day is to write an entire ‘scene,’ and if I can also get the bridge done to the next scene, I’m happy. Some days the words seem to spill out, and on those days I’ll get back to writing later in the afternoon or evening and see where it takes me.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Quirks? Hmm, I suppose one of my quirks is that I change chairs depending on what I’m writing. For these questions, for example, I’m sitting in a lounger in the living room. It’s where I do my emails, marketing and a lot of my research. When I’m working on the books, I sit in an office chair in the writing corner I’ve set up in the dining room. For some reason, when I sit in that chair, I’m immediately immersed in creative mode.
Q5) How are your books published? (traditional, indie, etc.)
When I was new to publishing, I used a partner publisher to format the books and distribute them. I am now indie published through my own company, WindStorm Press.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
The idea for the series originated with a recurring dream I’ve had since I was a child. Another book I’m working on sprung from my curiosity with society’s ever-growing inclination toward body art, and inking in particular.
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you?
I started writing The Gift: Awakening in my mid-forties. Some days I wish I’d started earlier, but I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to publish before I did.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
In the summer when I’m not writing you can usually find me in the garden. We have almost two acres and several flower beds. I used to keep a large vegetable garden as well, but writing took that out of commission. Writing trumps weeding, I’m afraid. In the winter, I love to find cooking inspiration and try out new recipes.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
Choosing just one is an impossible task, so I’ll name one that was a very early influence for me, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
In the beginning, they were shocked, as I hadn’t told anyone what I was up to until the first book was finished. Now, most of my family and friends have read the series, even the ones who wouldn’t ordinarily choose contemporary fantasy, and I feel very fortunate to have their enthusiastic support.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I was most surprised to learn that sometimes the characters go off and seemingly do things on their own. I know that sounds ridiculous. In fact, I’d arched my own eyebrow when I’d read other authors who’d claimed the same thing. But believe me, it happens. You’re merrily writing away, usually with a good idea of where the scene is going, when somehow an errant thought worms into your brain. Next thing you know, your story takes a twist you hadn’t seen coming and your characters are forced to react. Of course, it’s me doing all of that, but in the throes of writing, it feels like they’re acting on their own.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
Having to stop.
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written five books in the Gift Legacy series, though the fifth isn’t yet published. My favorite is probably the first, because it was such a wonderful surprise.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
It’s my belief that all writers are works in progress, and two things help me continuously improve. One is to keep writing. The other is to seek feedback on your writing. On-line or local writers’ groups are one way, but be sure the group is a good fit for you. Another source of valuable feedback is working with an editor. They find your weaknesses, which may sound scary, but you can then concentrate on strengthening those areas.
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
I do, and it’s been such a lovely surprise. I love it when they ‘get’ the character(s) and celebrate and/or commiserate with me about them. Many have said, “I dream of having that gift,” or “I knew something wasn’t quite right about so-and-so” (there are two characters that typically get named here).
Sometimes the feedback gives me story ideas, especially when readers tell me how they think they story will unfold. For example, early on, I heard, “I think Emelynn will end up with so-and-so,” or “I think Emelynn’s father (who is dead in book I) will show up again.”
I never tire of hearing that my book kept a reader up all night, and I’m happy to be blamed for by-passed bus stops, missed appointments or over-sleeping.
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
Frazzled people who need an escape. When life wears you down, these books will lift you back up.
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
For me, a good story makes me forget my surroundings and lose track of time. Most often, this happens when the characters come to life in a setting I can visualize. When the characters are believable, I can relate to them, and even if I don’t like them, I’ll be pulled into the story.
When I’m writing, I start with the characters and build them out into three dimensional beings infused with personality, flaws, strengths and weaknesses. The setting is also critical, and I engage all of the senses as the characters move through the scenes.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
As a child, I had only one occupation in mind: I wanted to be a princess! One who granted wishes, and wore a pointy hat with a fluttering veil. And if I couldn’t be a princess, then I definitely wanted to be a witch. One with a pointy hat.
Q19) Where can we find your books?
They are available for order from any bookstore, or on-line through Amazon, Nook, iBooks and many other sites. They are also available at a growing number of libraries, including Vancouver Island, Burnaby and Vancouver, in British Columbia; Calgary, Alberta; and Barrie and McKellar, in Ontario.
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
Excerpts from all four of my published books are already online on my website and blog, so how about something from the book that is coming out next, The Gift: Betrayal? This is chapter one:
Sneak Peek of Jackson’s Story
The Gift: Betrayal
Matthew Delaney had no qualms about getting his hands dirty to build his real estate development empire. When he unexpectedly dies, his son and heir, Jackson Delaney, encouraged by his wife, Alexandra, commits to doing business differently and redeeming the family name. But when Jackson’s half-brother, Cole Des Roche, who has been denied his paternity, stakes a claim to the family fortune, Jackson falls prey to old patterns in order to defend his father’s honour. How far will Jackson go … and how much will he lose before he finds his way back home?
Read on for a sneak peek …
The oppressive heat was unavoidable, omnipotent, like the man in the casket. We followed dutifully behind, our steps out of time with the rhythmic clops of the black hearse horses. White lilies hugged the casket, quivering to the drum roll of a jazz band, their lively rendition of “When the Saints Come Marching In,” a funeral favourite. Tourists in waist pouches and flip-flops, unsure of the show, whispered behind finger curtains and stole glances under furrowed brows and baseball caps. I understood their uncertainty. The man who’d anchored my world had left without warning, too soon to recognize his mistakes, let alone fix them.
“If this spectacle wasn’t spelled out in his will,” I said, “I’d never have agreed to it.”
“But it was. And you’re a good son, Jackson.”
“Was. I was a good son.”
“You always will be,” Sandra said, wrapping a cool hand around our entwined fingers. She looked up at me, her blue eyes hidden behind sunglasses and a loop of black netting that covered her face.
I eased the pressure off her hand with an apology, ignoring the bead of sweat that crawled down my spine.
It took thirty minutes for my father’s slow funeral procession to wind through the streets of New Orleans, wafting the cloying scent of flowers. We’d walked an unpleasant mile behind the coffin before passing under the iron arch of the cemetery. Like a shrimp trawler with its net out, our parade snagged tourists and curiosity-seekers in its wake.
The music took on a sombre tenor only when we mounted the slight rise which housed the Delaney tomb. The last time I’d seen the tomb open was the day, fifteen years ago, when we’d laid my mother to rest. Following long tradition, her coffin had been discarded and her remains dumped into the bone heap below to make way for the new arrival. One day, my coffin would displace my father’s in a similar ritual. Would I also succumb to a stroke before I’d finished living my life?
The priest raised his voice over the crowd while photo-journalists captured video of the mourners. Tomorrow, they would justify the intrusion in the name of news. Equally unwelcome tourists snapped cellphone photos they’d later show their friends at home in some macabre recollection of their good fortune in stumbling upon a genuine City of the Dead funeral.
I looked out over the perspiring faces. Tourists aside, my father would have been pleased to see the caliber of mourner who’d braved the August heat to pay their last respects. Top echelon politicians and businesspeople mopped their brows and donned sombre expressions, hopeful that the priest was nearing the end of the ritual. Half of the men gathered were better candidates for a casket. My father wasn’t yet sixty. It shouldn’t have been his time.
After the casket was laid in place, I bid him a final silent farewell then nodded to the cemetery workmen who kept their wheelbarrows of mortar and brick at a respectful distance. As soon as they moved in to seal the tomb, the mourners began to scatter.
Jimmy Marchant was the first to approach. Sweat beaded his red face and dribbled down ample jowls that melted into a thick neck. His jacket was soaked through, but he hadn’t loosened his tie. He’d be a proper southern gentleman for my father one last time if it killed him.
He took the opportunity to kiss Sandra before offering me his hand. “Sorry for your loss, Buddy. Your father’s left a big hole on half the boards in Louisiana.” Jimmy was born and raised in New Orleans. He spoke with a Yat accent, enunciating Loo-ziana and pronouncing “boards” with a barely perceptible “r.”
“Thanks, Jimmy.” In his younger years, Jimmy could have passed for John Goodman’s brother. My father respected Jimmy Marchant for his legal counsel and even more for his discretion. Jimmy understood business. “I hope you’ll join us at the Omni tonight. Let Dad buy you one last drink.”
“Wouldn’t miss it. Matthew Delaney knew how to throw a party and I intend to honour my promise: Your father’s wake will be one to remember.” He leaned close. “And well lubricated,” he added with a conspiratorial wink.
I should have known; Dad never did leave anything to chance and he’d made a good and loyal friend in Jimmy. I’d known him all my life and I had my own reasons for liking the man. It was through him that I’d met Sandra. Like Jimmy, her father was a lawyer, and Redmond Moss was well connected. After Katrina, he’d used those connections to generate funds to help rebuild. Sandra Moss distributed her father’s funding out of Jimmy’s donated office space. When Jimmy recruited my father’s development expertise, I was the lucky sonofabitch who got to work with her.
She was a knockout. Half the men in Jimmy’s office trailed after her with their tongues hanging out. Most of them still did. Even my classmates, Kyle Murphy and Anthony Dimarco, who’d flown in for the funeral, fawned over her. They liked to taunt me by currying her favour, but not today. They were on their best behaviour, and showed uncharacteristic restraint as they rode with us in the limo.
At the Omni Hotel, the scent of flowers hit me the moment I walked into the ballroom. It looked like the funeral parlour had transferred every last bloom in New Orleans to the hotel. Was this the measure of a man? Personally, I never understood the flowers. A man had died. He’d lived and breathed business, not flowers. Flowers were something his guilt trotted out on Valentine’s Day. Why not a genuine tribute to the man when he was still alive? A fine bottle of bourbon? Mid-field seats at a Saints game? A favour he didn’t have to pay for?
Condolences flowed, abundant as the liquor, and one after another, Dad’s impressive circle of influencers, friends and rivals approached me to pay their respects. Marcel Cadieu, a Louisiana senator and early convert to my father’s way of doing business, was one of the first.
“My wife, Claudette,” he said, making an unnecessary introduction. “Please accept our sympathies, Jackson. Louisiana has lost a great man.” Marcel hid his animosity behind a politician’s smile. He never did figure out how my father had learned of his affair with a sandy-haired gentleman half his age. Marcel had been so careful; he and his lover had never acknowledged one another in public, not so much as a wayward glance. They’d checked into separate, but adjoining rooms on the forty-second floor of the Sheraton in New Orleans. Yet my father knew the sandy-haired gentleman had spilled his flute of Crystal out on the balcony that fateful night. And if he knew that detail, then he knew everything.
Carl Prudhomme, also a convert, approached with a hearty hand-shake. He was head of Industrial Rod and Steel in Lafayette. My father ensured his loyalty and a favourable pricing structure when Carl learned that my father somehow knew the name of the horse Carl rode the night he and two other major steel suppliers had taken a midnight trail ride into the wilds of Carl’s 800-acre ranch outside of Vidalia in Concordia Parish to discuss their new pricing scheme. My father had been reticent to point out that collusion in any form would likely be frowned upon in Louisiana’s legislative circles.
Of course, not all of Dad’s guests wore fake smiles. My father was a generous man who loved a good party and treated his friends well. After the handshakes and back pats subsided, I headed to Jimmy’s clutch of insiders, many of whom were Dad’s close friends, and introduced them to Kyle and Anthony. We quenched our parched throats and listened to their ribald tales of Dad’s exploits.
My father had chosen to lead a public life, and some of the tales were ones he’d leaked himself. He’d manipulated the media as handily as the men he’d kept markers on, cashing them in when it suited his game. And it didn’t suit his game to have them know his other persona; the man who grieved when my mother died; the man who stayed by my side until I’d conquered my deathly fear of heights; the man who helped me bury Razz, short for Razzmatazz, the crazy black lab he’d bought me for my fifth birthday.
He’d already been gone a week, and I’d thought of little else but the void he’d left. He’d taught me everything he knew, and it wasn’t enough. My love for him was rough around the edges. In time it may have softened, but we had no more time. I wasn’t ready. If only he hadn’t been alone that night—he could have survived the stroke if he’d been found earlier. I hadn’t thought I’d miss him as much as I did.
Standing in the midst of a huddle of men at the end of the bar, I watched Sandra work her way through the mourners. She clasped a hand here, stroked a shoulder there, smiled a blessing with a nod of her head. She charmed every man in the room and befriended every woman, and she was mine, my oasis in the quagmire of grief and guilt my father’s death had stirred.
A little after midnight, Sandra approached the table where I’d been reminiscing about Dad and the early days, when Delaney & Son was still developing strip malls. The wake was just warming up and wouldn’t end until dawn. She offered the men a shy smile then leaned down to my ear. “I think we’ve done our part, Jackson. Let’s go.”
Her sweet vanilla scent pulled me out of my chair. It always put me in mind of my mother’s bread pudding, something else I could never resist. My father once told me Sandra was too good for me. He might have been right.
I excused myself and followed her to our room, freeing the mourners to drain the bar and speculate about what would happen to the dirt Dad had on most of them.
Look for The Gift: Betrayal in the fall of 2016
About J.P. McLean:
J.P. (Jo-Anne) McLean is the author of The Gift Legacy series, Awakening, Revelation, Redemption and Penance. Reviewers call the series, addictive, smart and fun.
Jo-Anne and her husband share their home with a Wheaten terrier cross named Molly. They live on Denman Island, nestled between the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island.
J.P. is a certified SCUBA diver, an avid gardener, an accomplished chef and a voracious reader.
She would love to hear from you. Contact her via her website at www.jpmclean.net or through her social media sites. Reviews are always welcome.
J.P. McLean’s Books:
Book I Awakening: http://myBook.to/Awakening-KW
Book II Revelation: http://mybook.to/Revelation-KW
Book III Redemption: http://mybook.to/Redemption-KW
Book IV Penance: http://mybook.to/penance-kw
Connect with J.P. McClean