Suspense, romance and fantasy writer, L.A. McGinnis, was reading Crime and Punishment and Shakespeare at the age of 10, because she had more access to books than to television. She discovered mythology at a very young age and was drawn to epic storytelling and world building. Authors like Tolkien and Herbert made her realise the power of the written word. She began writing in 2007 when her son challenged her to do so. The characters in her Shadow of Ghosts series were based on the setting of the novels, Charleston. She would travel to Charleston and research about its history, as well as Scottish history, in order to ingrain the series into reality. She always ensures that she likes her characters, to ensure that her readers do too. The next book in this series is tentatively named Echoes of Your Heart, and will come out this fall. McGinnis loves the entire process of writing and is grateful for the support she receives from the RWA, FF&PRWA and the NEORWA. She strongly believes in the power of hard work, and enjoys painting, drawing and working with glass and a torch, in her free time.
I have always been a big reader, probably because we didn't watch much television in our house, but we always had books, so I read from a very young age. My parents never set limits on what I was allowed to read, like they did on television-watching, so I read books that were far beyond my years, even if I didn't realize it. By the time I was ten, I'd read all of their college books, which gave me a weird world view, in a way. (Think about reading Crime and Punishment, or Shakespeare at 10!)Why do you think there is such a power in words and literature? When did you first discover this power?
I think it was when I discovered mythology at a very young age, and realized that these old myths and legends were still around, some three thousand years later. That's staying power! It fascinated me that I could still read all about the Norse gods, even though they hadn't been around for millennia. After that, I was more drawn to epic storytelling, which brought even larger worlds, more complicated thinking into play. When I read Tolkien and Herbert, that kind of sweeping world building made me realize just how powerful the written word could be.What was the impacting force in 2007 that made you sit down and start writing? What were your aims in terms of a career before this?
In 2007 I was trying to balance being a mother and working full time when my son actually challenged me to start writing again. It had been a long time since I'd done anything just for enjoyment, because as a mom, I'd spent so much time doing what had to be done. Even after I finished that first manuscript, it took almost ten years before I honed my writing skills enough to secure a publisher. Had I to do it all over again, I would have approached it differently, but you know what they say about 20-20 hindsight.What do you love most about writing fantasy? Even though writing supernatural stories is a lot of imagination, what are some strict rules you adhere to so as to keep your tales somewhat "realistic"?
While I think world building is important, the key is character. Nothing matters if the reader doesn't connect with your characters. No matter how rich the surroundings, or how complicated the plot, it all falls apart if there's no heart to your story. So my first step is always to make sure I love my characters, and I make sure that I know where they're going, what they want, and what they're most afraid of. After that comes plot development. For my paranormal romance and urban fantasy series, I'm lucky, so far, my stories take place in the real world, so they are somewhat grounded, so it's easy to keep that part of them realistic.What is your favourite way to escape from the present and relax (besides reading or writing)?
These days, I'm a full time artist as well as a writer, working with glass and a torch (so I get to melt things over a 1500 degree fire) and I also love to paint and draw.What are the RWA, FF&PRWA and the NEORWA? And in what ways do they help writers like yourself?
The RWA is the Romance Writers of America, an international organization created to support romance writers and the romance community by offering support and resources to its members. The NEORWA is our local chapter- the Northeast Ohio Romance Writers of America, we have monthly meetings in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as a yearly conference and writer's retreat. The FF&PRWA (Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal RWA), is an online subchapter that promotes fantasy and paranormal genre romance writing, offering workshops and online support. All of these offer a support network for writers that fills a critical hole. When I first started writing, I didn't know about any of these, and I spent about 7 years alone, spinning my wheels; trying to edit, trying to plot, trying to reinvent the wheel with no real direction or idea of what I was doing. By joining these communities of like-minded writers, I have found so much support, I wouldn't be where I am without them.How did you get the idea for "Shadow of Ghosts"? Were your characters Logan Dean and Ian Grant inspired by real people?
Not so much by real people, but rather by the setting, Charleston. The book ended up going through several hard edits, from a contemporary romance, to a gothic romance, to a paranormal romance, until it finally became the dark paranormal it is today. While many things changed, both Logan and Ian's characters stayed exactly the same.In what ways did you try and lift this book up and make it different from other books of its genre?
I wanted to downplay the 'vampire' aspect of the book, and make it more from the perspective of how they would fit into the human world. I always figured if I was part of a race that didn't want to be detected, then no one in the human world would even know they existed, so that's exactly how I wrote the books.While it is a fantasy novel, what sort of real life research went into the making of "Shadow of Ghosts"? Are there any lines or passages you're particularly fond of in this book?
I made some trips to the area, toured some antebellum mansions, and walked the streets of Charleston, including the length of the Battery, to get a feel for how it feels to be up there, and what the water sounds like, etc. I also spent a lot of time researching the history of the area, as well as Scottish history. The interesting thing about writing about vampires is, at this point, they are so ingrained in our literary psyche, they need very little introduction. And they come with a built-in mythology of their very own, one of mystery and sex and death all wrapped up into one being that creates a very interesting character- who can either become a hero or a very convincing villain. My favorite part of the book is in Chapter 17 when Logan is baring her soul to Ian:
“All I can tell you is this. Everybody in your life teaches you something. You like to remember the ones who taught you the good things. Like the woman who told you how beautiful you were on the day your mother screamed at you and told you that no one would ever love you because you were ugly. The ones who trusted you, believed in you. Those are the ones who helped make me whole. But...” She dove in.
“There are the others. Sometimes…it’s the ones who show you the darkness who teach you the most. The deepest wounds that make you realize that there’s more inside of you than you had ever imagined, and you’d better dig deep inside yourself if you want to survive. Those are the people who you can’t forget, try as you might. See, in all their crazy, wounded ways, I needed them all. They made me what I am."
The next book is tentatively named Echoes of Your Heart, and is first round edits with my publisher, it will hopefully be out this coming fall. It continues the story of Logan and Ian (which will be a three book trilogy), introduces a new, twisted villain, some old characters in revealing and hopefully interesting ways, and features a secondary love story I hope my readers will love. The novel has an element of time travel, and takes place in South Carolina and Scotland.Why did you choose to set the story in Charleston? Are there any other destinations you want to explore in future books?
I loved the idea of writing a gothic romance set in the south, and really wanted to explore that idea further. And because I had this romantic notion of my hero being a 500 year old Scottish vampire, it made the Carolinas a natural choice because so many Scots settled there after the clearings of the mid 1700's. I gravitated towards a bigger, a port city, because it seemed like that would be the natural place to settle if one were a businessman. Book 2 will travel to Scotland and the Orkney Islands, and Book 3 will be split evenly between Scotland and Charleston. At this point, I believe Book 4 will be set in Ohio and Charleston, but I am still in the development phase.What has been the most rewarding experience of being an author so far? What is a writing dream of yours that you hope to accomplish within the next 3-5 years?
I just enjoy the process of it. I look forward to the months I get to create new work, but I actually love to edit as well, so I have a fairly ambitious schedule that I stick to, keeping the workflow evenly spaced out. I have an urban fantasy series of 7 books I am planning to self pub next year, and a young adult series I am working on that I'd love to see come out in 2020 or 2021. The YA series is a pet project for me, as I spent some time tutoring in a project called Ohio Reads back in the 90's, and I often thought if I ever wrote a book, and if I could get just one kid to pick that book up and read it, I'd consider myself a success. Maybe that will happen.What's a word of advice someone has given you that's changed your outlook on life? Do you have anything to add to it, based on your own personal experience?
Just to work hard. And that's something that always seems to apply, no matter what you do.