Most people would succeed in small things if they were not troubled by great ambitions. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Carole McKee Interview Published on: 09, May 2019

Tell us a little bit about your childhood and where you grew up. What does your family think of your writing?

I grew up in the country, just outside of Pittsburgh. To say that I had an ideal childhood would be a false statement. But some things are better left unsaid. I will say this much though: I hated watching those TV shows where the parents were loving, and the siblings were nice to each other. I hated them because they were like beacons pointing to what my household lacked. I hid in my room most of the time, and I took to writing short stories to pass the time.

I liked the country life, and I loved animals. There were always pets—cats, dogs, rabbits. Some of the farms around us had livestock and I always enjoyed seeing them. What was even more enjoyable was when a cow or a horse got loose and ended up in our yard. That was always such a thrill for me.

I don’t really know what my family thinks about my writing. My mother was proud of me, I know. She showed my books everywhere, to everyone. I have four brothers. Three out of four say they are proud of my achievement. The fourth brother says nothing at all. We are not a close family.

What motivated you to begin writing seriously about 20 or so years ago?

It was in 1995, actually, when, Jackson, my wonderful black Labrador Retriever died with kidney disease. I loved that dog so much, and it broke my heart when he died. I had him cremated. The woman who performed the cremation called me a couple days later and told me what a beautiful dog he was. We talked for over an hour, and I told her all the wonderful things about Jackson. He was exceptional. She was amazed to hear some of these things, and she suggested that I write his story and submit it to dog magazines or veterinary magazines. When the veterinary magazine actually bought the story and published it, I was excited. But it was a few years later that I actually decided to write a book. I kept thinking about the article, and one day I thought to myself, maybe I’ll try to write a book. I always had all these ideas running around in my head. So, I did. I wrote “Perfect.”

How did you come up with the idea of writing a short story about your beloved black Labrador Retriever for a veterinary magazine? How much has your writing style changed since then?

Okay, I answered this first question already; but how has my writing style changed? Hopefully, it has improved. Although I still write from the heart, that short story was Heartfelt. I cried the entire time I was writing it, and I still cry when I go back and read it. The only real change in my style would be that I use a lot more dialog than I did then. I’ve also employed tips I have learned from other authors. I keep trying to improve.

How was your experience of writing your first novel? While entering it in a contest, did you expect it to win an award?

It took me a year to complete my first novel. When it was published, I only told a few people about it. I was almost embarrassed for myself, even though I wanted to stand on the roof of my apartment building and shout my achievement to the entire world. But what if nobody liked it? What if people made fun or it? Or said it was awful? All these insecurities ran through my brain. A friend suggested I submit it into a writing contest. At first, I said I couldn’t, because maybe it wouldn’t be good enough. But he encouraged me to try, so I did. Of course, I had that dream that it would win the first prize, but in all honesty, I didn’t think it would win anything.

Why do most of your stories revolve around the Western Pennsylvania area? How do you choose the setting of your books?

I grew up in Western Pennsylvania and know the area well. A lot of my stories are based around the western side of Pittsburgh, but “Kisses from the Heart” takes place in a little town called Mill Village. I lived there for a year, and just loved it. Other than that book, I don’t actually pinpoint the area. There are some hints to where the book takes place, but unless a reader lives there, the exact location wouldn’t actually be detected.

My settings are chosen by what the main character is like. Is he/she a country person? A suburbanite? Or strictly city? I really don’t do city, I guess, because I don’t like cities. In the last book I published, “Angelface,” the girl grew up on a farm in Portersville, a Western PA town; but lives in a neighborhood-type setting. I’m writing the second book in the “Angelface” series right now.

What are some things that haven't been done in the romance genre that you hope to introduce through your books?

I like writing more about friendships and family than just a romance between a man and a woman. I write a lot less sex and a lot more of everyday occurrences. This is just me, maybe, but I find hot sex scenes distracting from the story. Old-fashioned as it may sound, I still believe sex should be behind closed doors. I hint at sex, but I don’t write out the entire act. When I read books, I actually skip over that part, since most of the scenes are redundant.

I just like the everyday life approach to romance. Girls go shopping together, guys shoot pool together, drink beer together, and watch sports. It happens, and I believe it happens a lot more than hot sex.

“Second Chances” is a feel-good story with a touch of mystery and romance. How did you blend the two genres together?

Well, there is a little mystery in everyone’s situation, I think. “Second Chances” is a feel-good story. It’s about a woman who believes some people just need a boost up in the world, and she gives them that boost by hiring them. The mystery comes in when someone burns down her business. The why and the who questions must be solved. Of course, the main suspect is the man she’s been falling for, but did he actually do it?

What inspired you to start writing "Second Chances?" Why did you choose Florida as the setting of this book?

I wrote this book because this would have been me, if I had the capital for a start-up business. It was always my idea, or fantasy, if you will, to start a company, manufacturing something, and hire those who want to work, but for any number of reasons, can’t find a job. Included in those reasons is low self-esteem. I always believed that a lot of homeless people can’t get a job because they have no clean clothes or have no way to be contacted. I chose Florida for the setting because I lived in Florida at the time. I passed this empty building on the corner for years and every time I did, I would picture myself buying it and starting a business like that.

What is "Kisses from the Heart" about and how did you come up with the idea for this book?

I like the concept of a woman being self-employed, and I love Mill Village, where this takes place. I knew the female protagonist would be named Mindi and I had an image of what she looked like. I liked the oxymoron idea. Cutesy name but a strong personality. There had to be some kind of excitement, and the idea of the prison bus wreck just came to me. There is a prison not too far from Mill Village, so it made sense. But there is more excitement when the prisoner that ends up in Mindi’s house is actually innocent of the murder he has been accused of. There are protests in front of the courthouse when he is recaptured. Some people say this is their favorite story.

If you could breathe life into all your characters, with the condition being that you could never meet or get to know them personally, would you?

Heh-heh. This is a hard question to answer. I love my characters. After all, I’ve given birth to them, so to speak. All of my protagonists are really nice people, so the world could benefit from them. My antagonists not so much. I use my degree in Behavior Health to create their personas, so a lot of them would not make good citizens. I think I’d have to say I would. Even though I wouldn’t have to benefit of knowing them, other people in the world would have that joy.

How would you describe the relationship between Storm and Kyla in the Testosterone Poisoning Trilogy? Which book was the hardest to write in the trilogy?

Kyla and Storm are a perfect match. Both have high standards, and a great sense of humor. They are the perfect couple—a couple that stands by one another in all situations.

Writing the kidnapping part in the first book was difficult. I’m not a violent person, and I find it hard to read or write violence. The hardest book to write was the third book. Mainly, because I knew it was the last book, and I didn’t want to let the characters go. They actually will be making guest appearances in other future books. In fact, they already do show up in “Angelface.”

What are some new ideas and writing techniques that you explored in the book "Missing Memories?"

Well, the techniques aren’t new, but they are new to me. Not disclosing the mystery, but hinting at it, is new for me. In other books, the protagonist was left in the dark, but the readers knew what was happening, because I would write it out, using a break in the chapters. Of course, the amnesia concept was totally new for me. I don’t know why I chose that subject, but I actually wrote this book on a whim. I was actually in the middle of making corrections on “Angelface” when I just pulled down a new document and started writing.

When are you most inspired to write? What are some things you do to motivate yourself when you're stuck in a rut?

I write in the afternoons. After my three cups of coffee and answering emails I think about writing. I usually play a couple mindless games on the computer first, just to clear my head. Luckily, so far, I have not been in a rut. I am living in Montanita, Ecuador, and managing my nephew’s hotel. I live right in the hotel, which sits right on the Pacific Ocean. I look out my window and watch the waves, and ideas just come. Unfortunately, I’m living my brother’s dream. He retired, bought the hotel in Ecuador, and planned on living out his life here. But he suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. His son inherited it, but he can’t live here. He has a job and three kids, and a mortgage. Since I am free of all that, I agreed to come here. It’s the best decision I ever made. I’m happy, healthy, and the ideas just flow. I have very little worry here. Actually, I have no worry at all. But what would motivate me? Besides looking at the ocean? A best seller, I guess.

What kind of advice would you offer to budding writers out there?

Being in authors’ forums and other sites for authors, I see a lot of “free advice” passed out to new authors. Some of the advice is good, some is not. Some is just plain rubbish. My advice would be to fact check what someone tells them. Especially, when it comes to legalities. Some of the advice can be very discouraging, too. I say to budding authors, write what you want, and check on the facts and legalities later. You can find everything you need to know right at your fingertips.

My advice: Don’t listen to other people. Just write. Write it, read it, repeat your dialog out loud to make it sound real, rewrite, make changes, read it again. I read my books at least three times before I submit them to an editor. Then I read them again when the corrections are done.

One more piece of advice: Grammar and spelling. Know the difference between their, there, and they’re; your and you’re, too, to, two, and so on. Misused words in a published book is my pet peeve. Oh, and I guess I’ll just throw this in there. This is another pet peeve. All books have a beginning, a middle and an ending. Ending a book with “to find out what happens buy book 2.” Is not acceptable. You can end a book and do a sequel without leaving a cliffhanger. Cliffhangers are for TV dramas and soap operas.

Finally, how has your time with AllAuthor impacted your life and your writing so far? What other measures could be taken on this site to cater better to the needs of authors?

AllAuthor is pretty good. They seem to have thought of everything. I notice my book sales have increased, which is awesome. I love the things AllAuthor has created for my books, and I think it is well worth the money to be with them. I would love a couple YouTube videos, but I have no idea how to create them. Help with that would be wonderful.

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