Happy Thursday all!! Another awesome new person for you to meet! CL McCollum! I am so excited for this interview! I love meeting new people and I hope you all do too!!
L. McCollum spends her time delving into the wonder of the world. She’s always been drawn to the “How” and the “Why” and the “Is this even possible?” While her debut novel is on the road to publication, C. L. has contributed to multiple anthologies, and also co-edits a charity anthology series known as “Clichés for a Cause.” She was also chosen as a 2015 Pitch Wars Mentee and is incredibly grateful for the amazing community of mentees, mentors, and the marvelous Brenda Drake. Currently, C. L. is keeping it weird in Austin, TX with the love of her life and their various furry roommates.
You can find her at home at www.clmccollum.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CLMCCOLLUMAUTHOR, and in the Twitter verse at https://twitter.com/C_L_McCollum. You can find her stories on her Amazon Author page http://www.amazon.com/C.L.-McCollum/e/B00OM24UUS/
Now for our interview! 🙂
Christina: What’s your current project? Tell us a little about it.
CL. Currently I just finished up revisions and am querying my Pitch Wars MS TRACES – it’s a New Adult near-future sci-fi novel with a lot of romance and psychic solider shenanigans. It was a lot of fun to write and I’m excited to send it out into the world!
On the writing front, I’m trying my hand at a YA magical realism set in a small town in Texas similar to where I grew up. It’s a completely new sub-genre for me with a very different, almost literary style compared to the other stories I’ve written in the past. I’m enjoying the hell out of it, but who knows if it’ll turn out well or not LOL.
C.What has been your favorite scene to write so far?
CL: While I love reading action scenes or well done sex scenes, I find I most enjoy writing the quieter character-centric moments. Found families growing closer together through food or hobbies just makes me smile – it’s sort of my treat to myself any time I get to write those scenes. They may or may not stick around for final drafts, but they are where I learn the most about my characters and how I want to write them.
C.What is your biggest goal with your writing?
CL. I would love to eventually make writing my full time career – that’s been my dream for years now, and I am working to make it happen with the best of my ability. If I never quite reach that, though, I’ll still be happy if even one person really truly enjoys what I write. I pen the books that I find myself wanting to read, and getting to share that story with someone else is such a cool feeling!
C. Do you have any pre-writing rituals?
CL. Other than making sure I have some caffeine (either tea or Dr. Pepper) and music going, I don’t tend to do much in the way of pre-writing rituals. I daydream almost constantly, and that makes it pretty easy for me to slip from daydreaming in my head to daydreaming in a text box no matter where/when I am.
C. What is the weirdest location you’ve ever written at?
CL. Recently? Probably in the checkout line in the grocery store on my phone because I had a brainstorm hit and wanted to jot it down before I lost it!
C. How do you handle writer’s block?
CL. I tend to multitask like it’s going out of style, so I rarely get true writer’s block to the point that I can’t write anything. If the novel I’m writing the first draft on starts arguing with me, I may jump to a different part of the book, or if that doesn’t work, I may take a break to write a blog post or brainstorm on a short story or fanfic. As long as my hands are moving and words of some kind are getting down on paper, I still feel like I’m making progress for the day. Usually jumping around to another project will actually kick start my brain on the novel. Stepping away but keeping my brain going definitely seems to help.
C. How much research was involved in your latest piece and how did you tackle it?
CL. There was quite a bit of military jargon/rank information that I had to research and then alter a bit to suit my purposes. I was somewhat familiar with one or two branches of the current US military due to family and friends, but for my near future military state, I combined several of the rank structures and mostly ran amok because I could LOL.
C. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
CL. A bit of both? I usually have a vague idea of how a book begins and ends and a few of the major things that will happen in the middle, but I rarely sit down and outline or anything like that. I have written faux query letters before with a concept, but that’s half to get my thoughts down so I can set the idea aside while I continue to work on my current WIP.
I guess I just work better with room in the plan to let my stories evolve organically. The MS that I got in to Pitch Wars with was actually a NaNoWriMo novel originally, and I went into that year with just a mental ensemble cast of characters and the very first line of a story. From there over the course of November, I ended up with this much larger world than I expected and conspiracy theories and really cool psychics and all sorts of things that I just never would have guessed would show up on the page. Admittedly, I had a LOT to revise once I was done with the first draft as it was all over the place. But honestly most of the book remained in a similar shape to how it started out, and I didn’t cut near as much as you might have thought. Pantsing just gives me more freedom, and that seems to work best for the way my brain operates.
Now, I’ve yet to write any sequels to any of my stories, and I have a feeling if I end up getting multibook contracts, I will need to start doing some outlining to make sure to keep continuity straight from book to book. But I definitely will still go the pantser route for brand new books with characters/worlds I’ve never played in before.
C. What has been your biggest learning experience so far in your career?
CL. Oh this one hurt! I made the mistake of accepting a contract offer from a small press just because it was the first one I got. I even had queries and partials out with agents and rather than giving them time to read/request the full, I just blanket emailed them to say I was pulling my MS and taking the offer. It was SUCH a rookie mistake and it definitely bit me in the butt when the small press basically vanished and stopped answering emails about a question I had about the contract. Eventually I found out that the press went under, so in the long run, not getting the contract signed turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Still sucks that I don’t have a book out this year like I was told would happen, but at least I didn’t sign with a dying press.
So yeah, learn from my mistake guys – be patient and calm and don’t jump into a contract/deal without doing your research and keeping all bridges unburned.
C. Is there anything you wish you were told prior to writing or publishing?
CL. I got luckily in that I did have some amazing writing teachers and I was warned about a lot of the pitfalls up front. Mostly, the biggie was just DON’T STOP. I took a long break after college, and I wish I’d kept going with my MS through those years. I could be so much farther in my writing and career if I hadn’t let my doubt get to me.
C. What do you like best about writing sci-fi?
CL. I love the “what if” I get to delve into with sci-fi – whether it’s the locations on our planet in the future with new and crazy technology or out into space on strange worlds or caught inside a ship somewhere. And the people/creatures/aliens! There’s just so much to learn and create with sci-fi. I love it!
C. Is there another genre you have tried writing?
CL. I almost solely write in SFF genre, but I’ve dabbled in a ton of the subgenres from steampunk to near-future sci-fi to paranormal to epic fantasy to fairy tale retellings to magical realism. I just love to play with possibilities, and SFF seems to offer the most scope for that.
C. Have you taken any writing classes? If so, share those experiences.
CL. I have taken quite a few! I double-majored in college in Psychology and English, and most of my electives ended up being creative writing classes. Mostly I really enjoyed trying new things with each class – I’ve taken everything from poetry writing to memoir to script writing to short stories to novels and with each, I learned something new about the way I write and the types of things I like to write. Plus, most of those classes had some peer critiquing involved, and it definitely helped me learn how to share my work and not take it quite as personally if someone had things they felt could be fixed, as well as how to respectfully suggest things that I saw that I feel could be improved. It’s been invaluable for working with the Herding Cats writing group!
C. Have your parents read your work?
CL. My mom was actually the very first beta reader to see my first MS. She was amazing, honestly. It was a little odd to know she was reading a sex scene I’d written, but I managed to get through her critiques without blushing too much LOL.
C. What made you decide to self-publish?
CL. Self-publishing really was the only option for our Clichés for a Cause series of charity anthologies. My editor-partner-in-crime August Clearwing (@augustclearwing) and I wanted to make sure that we could personally keep track of the royalties so there were no complications when we got ready to make donations to the charities in question. Plus, it made it easy for us to have control when it came to formatting and inserting the gorgeous illustrations for the stories too.
I don’t know that I’d be up for the challenge of self-publishing one of my novels just yet. Doing the anthologies was definitely eye-opening regarding the sheer amount of work that publishing route is. It’s something I’m considering for the future though!
C. When did you start to feel like an author?
CL. Weirdly enough, it was getting the first issue of my Writers Digest magazine. I have no idea why, but that somehow made me feel like I had moved to a level of legitimacy – I wanted to be an author badly enough that I bothered to pay for a magazine subscription. Totally odd, I know, but that was definitely the moment where I went “Yeah, I’m doing this!” I don’t even know with my brain sometimes, I swear.
C. Have you ever acted out a scene to see if it worked? Share a funny or embarrassing story about acting it out.
CL. I don’t physically act out scenes, but oh boy will I ever speak dialogue out loud to myself. Usually it’s in the car, and I catch other drivers staring at me thinking I’m having a seizure or something because inevitably if I start speaking a loud I’ll start talking with my hands (or hand as I do try to keep one on the steering wheel LOL).
C. Which poets or authors have influenced you in your own writing?
CL. Oh goodness, this is the question-from-hell for any writer! LOL I read voraciously so there are many authors/poets I’ve enjoyed and taking in bits and pieces. A few do stand out though – on the poet side, Emily Dickenson’s words never fail to fill my heart with emotion, and I’d love to move a reader like that someday. The Bard himself, William Shakespeare, is another that I will never tire of reading. Puck’s final soliloquy in Midsummer’s Night’s Dream was one of the first bits of literature that I ever memorized and I tend to recite it almost by accident from time to time. On the authorly front, Robin McKinley will forever be one of my favorite writers of fairy tale retellings. Beauty: A Retelling, Rose Daughter, Spindle’s End… the list of gorgeous new glimpses goes on and on from Robin – I hope to someday write the kind of reimagining that she might be a fan of in return! Tamora Pierce is another writer who I absolutely adore – the scope of her world building with interconnected series is fantastic, and I’d love to manage something similar myself some day! Finally, Jaqueline Carey was the first author to write a First Person POV series that just completely swept me away. I mostly write Third Person for now, but I’d love to try my hand at an epic First Person eventually!
What a great interview!! Thanks so MUCH!!!