Interview with Gina Mcknight, author of “The Blackberry Patch”

A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?

Writers are socially inept? I suppose there are famous writers who were/are hermits, social misfits, recluse, etc.; however, most are not troglodytes. As a writer, I believe it is more important to listen rather than to speak. If that makes a writer socially inept, then I suppose the misconception is true. My grandfather had a plaque on his wall of an old nursery rhyme, it went like this… “A wise old owl lived in an oak. The more he saw the less he spoke. The less he spoke the more he heard. Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?” Writers aren’t socially inept, they are wise.

Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?

All authors do not have to be grammar Nazis. That is the job of editors. Writers. Editors. They are two separate vocations. However, my editor(s) would like me much better if I were a grammar Nazi (ha!). Editors have to earn their keep somehow, just as I hope you are editing this interview (grin).

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

If I could have been the author of any book, I would like to have written Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff is to die for. His love affair with Cathy is timeless. It breaks my heart that Cathy, in her thoughtlessness, married Edgar. It is my favorite book. I can see Heathcliff and Cathy walking hand in hand for eternity over the stony crags of Wuthering Heights.

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

This particular genre I am involved in is special because I like writing children’s books. Writing for children is lighthearted, whimsical, and fun. My first two children’s books (The Blackberry Patch, 2009; Trail Ride to Snake Hollow, 2016) are non-fiction. However, I do have a children’s book series coming out soon that is fiction – 1839 India. The book is the first in a series about Nawaab: Marwari Stallion of India, Banyan Publishing, India, 2016.

How important is research to you when writing a book?

Research is extremely important. Write something incorrect and readers will be at your doorstep, and rightly so! Writers are obligated to provide readers with substantial research – whether writing fiction or non-fiction – to establish credibility and integrity. For instance, when I write about a certain breed of horse, my facts must be correct. Horse people know their horses, and they expect writers of horses to know they know about horses!

What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

What works best is my desktop or laptop computer. If I am out and about, then I rely on anything to capture a thought – a napkin, sand, my cell phone. The thought must be recorded because it may not come back later.

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

It dawned on me that I wanted to be a writer when I won an essay contest in high school and my story was published in my school newspaper. That was the beginning. My English teacher was supportive and encouraging.

What inspires you to write?

Life events, dreams, my horses, people – all are inspirations. As a poet, anything can bring inspiration; a bird, a tree, an infatuation. Everything is game when it comes to inspiration.

How often do you write?

I write every day. I write for three equine magazines – Florida Equine Athlete, Arabian Finish Line, and trueCOWBOYmagazine. Besides that, I just released my second volume of poetry (Poetry from the Field, Monday Creek Publishing, 2016), and I am an award-winning blogger.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

With a family and lots to do, I am up at 5 am every day, work out until 6 am, then write until I see everyone off to work/school. Then, I resume correspondence and writing. I have to have quit to write. Around 11 am, I break for lunch, then do my household chores. Since I write children’s books, biographies, equine articles, poetry, etc., I feel inspired all the time. As a horse owner, I find inspiration whenever I am at the barn. I log ideas during the day, then write in the mornings (or late at night after everyone has gone to bed).

How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?

It is not difficult to sit down and begin writing. Since I write a variety of genres, if I am not in the mood to write one genre, I move to the next. Writers write. It’s like a stream that continually flows – there is no stopping it.

Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

Unless I am under an editor’s timeline, no, I don’t set out to write a set number of pages/words each day. I know a lot of writers who do and I wonder why they put a limit on creativity. Why do you have to write 10 pages in one day? Write what you can, when you can; quality vs. quantity.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest thing about writing is interruptions. When I am on a roll and words come out easy, then someone interrupts, it’s annoying. Non-writers seem to have no clue that you just can’t interrupt a writer anytime you like. Otherwise, there is nothing hard about writing. Except editing. Writing is easy, editing takes finesse.

Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

There is no such thing as Writer’s Block. It is an excuse to stop writing. Get up. Take a break. Rethink and brainstorm, then get back to writing. A writer doesn’t become ‘blocked’ – they become lazy.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I am a believer that the more you write, the better you become. Just like any vocation, the more you work at it, the better you are. I think that most of my work has improved over the years. My first book of poetry is okay; my second book of poetry is much better (in my opinion).

Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?

Yes, I have had (and have) books in process that have taken several years. I have a biography that is currently in review, which has been five years in the process. I had to interview people and research extensively, which took a very long time.  The script was over 100,000 words and my editor said to reduce it. Editing a lifetime to 100,000 words is difficult. I stewed over what to leave in, what to edit out. Hard work pays off and I know the biography will be worth the wait.

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?

The most important thing about a book (from a writer’s viewpoint) is drawing the reader in so that he/she feels part of the story. Whether it’s a poem, short story, or novel, the reader must feel part of the story for it to be a success.

Have you ever designed your own book cover?

Book covers are so important. My new poetry release Poetry from the Field is illustrated by world fine artist Tamara Rymer. Tamara provided the illustration and I created the cover. It’s gorgeous. Another book out in December 2016, Horsemanship, is illustrated by Zorka Velickovic. Another gorgeous illustration that I added text to for the cover. It’s stunning. When you find an artist who sees your vision, then it is a winning combination.

 

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

Book covers do play an important role in the selling process. It’s what the reader sees first and draws them in (hopefully). Book covers should be intriguing enough to entice readers to want to read the book.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

My advice to aspiring writers is to remember the influential tools and skills from teachers/mentors.  Learn the importance of the dictionary, thesaurus, the library and other writing implements.  Ideas come from many sources – siblings, relatives, life events, etc.  Keep a journal of story ideas and words; it is the quality of words in a story that count, not the quantity.  When writing and choosing a genre, be creative and use a little serendipity and a tad of whimsy. Persevere.  Dreams do come true.

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