Interview with Nan McAdam, author of “Saving Mim”

What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special?

I write in the young adult fantasy genre and I love it! I enjoy reading fantasy because I can unhook my imagination from the tethers of reality and let it soar. Writing in that genre is the same way. Anything is possible. I can create or expand upon creatures who are not considered real but exist in folklore and legend. Folklore and legends exist because people with vivid imaginations created it to explain the unexplainable. They are tales from the storytellers from the past who used their skill and imagination to entertain people.

How important is research to you when writing a book?

Research is very important to me. I spend time researching mystical creatures and folklore stories. The research sparks my imagination and I will find a fantasy creature who must be included in my book. There are so many cultures and stories to pull interesting mystical creatures from who make my story more interesting.

When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

When I was a child I wrote stories but I grew frustrated with them and threw them away. When my parents moved from their home to a care facility I found a few of them. I could see why I threw them away. Lol. I never told anyone I wrote stories because I thought people would make fun of me. Little did I know that my grandmother wrote stories also. When she was young woman she wrote, but no one knew it. She put them away in her personal things and forgot about them. My sisters and I found a few of them when we were cleaning out my parents’ home. I took one of her stories and co-authored a short story for an anthology coming out this year with my writing group. The story is called Jane Wainwright’s Unusual Vacation. It was a fun undertaking because the original story was written around 1916.  Things have changed dramatically in literature and social norms in that time period. My grandmother was a very big influence on my life and she has been gone since 1978. I felt close to her again when I adapted it. It was fun and inspirational to expand the story from its original form to what it is today.

What inspires you to write?

I guess I’m a legacy writer. Not that I write about legacies, but that I want something in written form for my grandchildren to be able to read and have a closeness with me, long after I’m gone. My first book that I wrote was a nonfiction called Surviving the STRESS of Your Parents’ Old Age. I wrote the book to help other caregivers. I have taken care of many different older people and I have lived through some things that could help a caregiver traverse the stressful field of caregiving. After it was published and was well received, I decided to dive in and learn to write fiction, which has been a dream of mine since I was a child. My adult children have enjoyed reading my work and leaving a part of myself for future generations drives me to keep writing.

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

I have learned this one the hard way. When I first wrote Surviving the STRESS, I thought I could edit it myself. That’s when I realized I had a fool for an editor. I took the e-book down off Amazon and paid a professional editor. I soon found out what a smart thing that was to do. She convinced me to release the book in print also. She said the age group who would be reading the book enjoyed reading printed books. She also told me that people would want to mark and reference back to certain areas and that isn’t as easy to do in an electronic book. She is wise and I took her advice because today the print book far outsells the e-book. Now, I always use an editor.

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

I also learned this one the hard way. The “school of hard knocks” has taught me some important things. My first young adult fantasy fiction novel Saving Mim’s cover turned out not to be the best to grab the attention of the age group it was intending to reach. I realized this when the cover hit the lousy book cover site. I took it to heart and researched fantasy artists who had done great book covers in the age group. I found a fantastic freelance fantasy artist by the name of Andrew Gaia. He has done all three covers of my Charlie Kadabra Last of the Magicians series. Now, when middle grade kids come up to see my covers at events they oooh and ahhh over the covers and they want to own the books. Thank you “school of hard knocks.” I feel this change has been the best thing for the marketing of my books.

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

Absolutely! The old saying “you can’t judge a book by the cover” may pertain to people but not books. It’s the first impression a potential buyer has of the book. If the cover doesn’t intrigue them they aren’t going to buy it. The writer may be the next Hemmingway, but if their book covers stink they will remain undiscovered. A great book cover is one of the best investments for an author. Authors need to realize also that their book cover will be a small thumbnail on Amazon. The image must be clear and standout in that thumbnail picture.

Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?

I would remind myself to feed the creative beast. Meaning, don’t get so wrapped up in life that the creative side of my personality is left to languish. Writing is my passion and I’ve always enjoyed it. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to pursue it. I’ve been successful in business and now it’s time to be successful in my passion.

Do your novels carry a message?

Yes they do. I don’t preach the message, but there are some things sprinkled in that I wish I had known at a younger age.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

There’s a lot of me in my two main characters. The main character, Charlie, is insecure and faces situations like bullying and not being the cool kid. I was that kid. I think the middle grade school years is a time period in many children’s lives that is fraught with anxiety. They don’t want to be the kid who is the tattle tale. They want to figure things out for themselves. They want to feel strong and self-confident. Their lives are changing so fast and moving them into the adult world. It can leave them unsure of themselves and emotional. I know kids like the stories because they approach me at events and tell me how much they enjoyed them. It was a great way for me to share how I felt at that age.

Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?

My characters have done some things that have happened in my life. It might have happened to me or it was something my kids did when they were growing up. My adult kids read the books and they know where some of those things came from. It’s fun to look back and find the humor in it.

Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

I am blessed that my entire family is supportive of my work. My husband, Scott, is my first reader. He is supportive and gives me helpful criticism. I can bounce ideas off of him when I’m writing and he helps me through my writing process. He is my number one fan and I wouldn’t have had the courage to write if it weren’t for him. My adult children enjoy my books. My daughter has been very supportive in getting the book out to the readers. My youngest son sells them in his store and gets them into the hands of his son’s teachers. My other son has a demanding career in the military, but he always finds time to read Mom’s books. One of my sisters always reads and supports my efforts as a writer. Writing is a career that loved ones can make or break. Very few beginning writers have the self-confidence to “put it out there” without someone urging them on to do so. If a fledgling writer has a family who is critical and non-supportive it is almost guaranteed the new writer won’t make it, unless they find a support system somewhere else. It’s a tough competitive world and a writer needs to find the people who will be helpful and supportive.

How do you see writing? As a hobby or a passion?

Writing is my passion. I feel exhilarated when I’m brewing a story! I also believe writing novels is a business. Writing is great, but if a writer doesn’t implement effective marketing strategies their writing will not be discovered. I like to see myself as the master of my own destiny. I have become very comfortable with the “school of hard knocks.” I always walk away with a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t work. It helps me hone and fine tune my writing and my business plan for my writing and my marketing strategies.

Do you enjoy book signings?

I adore book signings. I enjoy talking with the people who read my books. My readers are ages 10 on up. I have many adult fans who love spending time in the magical world of Mim. It’s a great place to steal away and lose yourself in Mim for a few hours. The young readers who are new to Mim are so excited to hear about Charlie and Fen. Their eyes grow wide and glisten with anticipation of their new adventure in Mim. Their faces are the picture of joy and anticipation that I never get tired of seeing. One of the readers who read Saving Mim to her grandchildren got the second book, The Secret Key of Mim. She asked her grandchildren who they would like to be in the story and her grandson said “Mim”.  She shared that with me on my Facebook page and I don’t think my feet hit the ground for at least a day.

Is writing book series more challenging?

I don’t believe it is more challenging. I love my characters and it is easy to go back to spending time with them. My series are standalone novels. They have a chronological order but if a person were to pick them up and read them out of order they would still enjoy the story and not feel like something is missing. Writing a series gives me the opportunity to have the characters grow and mature.

How do you feel when people recognize you in public and appreciate your work?

It lifts me up! When someone tells me they enjoy my work I feel as sense of accomplishment. I never get tired of hearing from them. It’s always interesting to hear their favorite parts of the books.

Are you friends with other writers?

I have friends who are writers. When I first started writing I sought out a writers’ groups to bond with. It took me a while through trial and error to find the perfect group for me. We aren’t as concerned with the actual writing process as we are with the marketing ideas. I have found writers within the group to bounce ideas off of and who will give me constructive criticism. It’s not always wise to have another writer critique another writer’s work. Sometimes they want to re-write it like they would have written it. To be an effective critique partner one has to respect and honor that writer’s voice. I belong to a larger writing group and a smaller one. Both are extremely important to me and I have found lasting friendships in both groups.

Do you think you still have a story to tell to the readers?

I will always have a story to share. Writing a story is magical. I feel alive when I’m writing. I hunger to share stories and I am truly happiest when I’m spinning the yarn. I enjoy every aspect of the novel writing and publishing process.

When can the readers expect your next book in print?

I have the third book in the Charlie Kadabra Last of the Magicians series entitled Invasion of the Soul-eater in Mim. It should be out before the Christmas holidays time frame.

Were your parents supportive of your choice of career?

My parents didn’t know about my renaissance choice of a career. By the time I started writing more than my blogs they had moved to a Care Facility. My father had dementia and my mother was stricken with Alzheimer’s. They have both since passed away. When I wrote stories as a child I never told them about it because I felt they would’ve thought it was stupid. Whether that is the case I don’t know, but I never felt comfortable talking with them about it.

If you’re writing about a city/country/culture you haven’t physically visited, how much research do you conduct before you start writing?

I have developed a fantasy world of Mim and I research folklore and mystical places. I know that if I was writing a reality based place in my work of fiction I would research it extensively. It will come to pass that someone who lives in that area will read the book. I know when I read Stephen King’s book The Stand I was very disappointed when he described my town. It was obvious he had never been here or researched it. It took me out of the story for a bit and put a little bit of “taint” on the story for me. We are lucky as writers in today’s world. We have Google and Google Maps. One of my writer friends who wrote about a small town in Nebraska as the location of her story visited the town and learned about it extensively so she could add little things about the town to the flavor of the writing. The people from that town are very proud of her and her book. Research is important for a writer. I know my friends employ research people to check their facts. Not doing the research can mess up a good story.

Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?

My father was a reader. The person who pushed me as a reader was his mother, my grandmother. She had been a teacher and she loved reading. Every summer when I visited her and my grandpa for two weeks she would read every day to me. I could read the stories on my own but hearing her read was a delight and made the characters come alive! I have been a lifelong reader and I believe it was her influence that inspired my love of reading.

Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece?

My dreams are magical. I have gotten creatures and events out of my dreams. A whole group of magical creatures called the Haroons came out of my dreams. I dreamed Charlie’s magical friend, Fen, all the way down to the top hat and baggy pants.

Were you a troublemaker as a child?

I wasn’t a troublemaker as a child. I was too frightened of my mother. I was an unsure and frightened child with a lot of insecurities. Being proud of ones’ self was frowned upon in my home growing up. It was a sign of pride and I was quoted “pride cometh before the fall” many times. The beauty of life is that we can learn and grow and become the person we wish to be. I’m not that scared little kid anymore. I have grown into a woman that I’m proud of and I feel I have things to share in this world. A healthy sense of pride in oneself is healthy. I have worked hard on who I have become and I’m proud of that person.