Would you like to get to know more about how the inner book brain of Indie Author works?
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Periodically, we'll invite an Indie Author to open up their brain, and show us inside. We'll have a conversation that deals a little bit with writing craft, reading influences, and some other fun stuff.
Today, we thumb through the pages of
Indie Author Ken MacGregor's grey matter...
Discover More About Ken MacGregor HERE!
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I went to a three-day writers’ retreat in Ann Arbor (not far geographically but outside my experience up to then). There, I met some fascinating people, caught up with folks I already knew, had some of the best conversation of my entire life, and came up with an entirely new book idea. Highly recommend seeking out something like that near you.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Probably Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Overuse of character actions. Everyone is constantly nodding in my stories. It’s a problem. I’m trying to address it. (Nods) I’ll get there.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I definitely try to write each book as a standalone story. However, I’m working on two sequels right now (for Devil’s Bane: Tales of a Fourth Grade Warrior, and my pending novel, Headcase) and I’d like readers to be able to see those characters grow and learn from one book to the next. Except maybe Gavin the Werewolf; I’m not sure he’s capable of learning anything new.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Holding an actual book of nothing but things I wrote was a real eye-opener for me. It made me realize I could do more than just submit to anthologies and magazines. That I was more just a short story hobbyist who occasionally got paid for it. It was the first tangible proof that I could be a writer. It was powerful and emboldening. After that, I set my sights on bigger things, and I’ve achieved some of those already.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Honey badger. Keeps plodding along, eating and mating, creating more honey badgers, despite scorpion stings, porcupine quills, skunk blasts. Honey badger just doesn’t give a f*ck.
What did you edit out of your books? (keep it family-friendly, please)
Well, when I write horror, for adults, which I do pretty regularly, I don’t edit anything. I let the story go where it needs to go regardless of how awful and disturbing that might be. Now, when I’m writing for kids, obviously, I had to tone it way down. But I like to keep the tension high, and I like to keep it scary. I just do so in a more approachable, family-friendly way.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Awards, I guess. Recognition. It’s far more important to me that readers are enjoying my work than to get a little statuette. Don’t get me wrong: I’d love to win one (especially a Stoker!). But you asked what I’d give up. I’d give that up.
What is your favorite childhood book?
Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Pfeiffer. It’s funny: he wrote it to explain math and English concepts in an approachable way, and it turned into this wildly imaginative, fun story.
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
The waiting. Everything takes forever. Waiting to hear whether or not a story is accepted; waiting for edits; waiting to publication; waiting for the actual books you ordered so you can sell them to arrive (I’m doing all except waiting for edits as I type this).
What is the easiest part of your writing process?
The raw creation part. Sitting down and making stuff up. I love it. Especially when the characters take on lives of their own and start telling me how the story is supposed to go. You can’t beat that. It’s the best.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
There isn’t really an average. Not for me anyway. My two story collections were put together using reprints and some originals that I wrote over a long time and compiled; the compiling part took a few months. The novel I cowrote in just under a year, I think (It was a while ago, and memory is a dodgy thing). The novella I just released was finished in about six months; however, with rewrites and edits, it took a couple years to get it publication ready. I’ve been writing the sequel to that one for the last few months now and am up to page 62 (handwritten: roughly 200 words per page, if you’re one of those who needs to know word counts).
A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?
For me? Not remotely. I’m ludicrously extroverted. I adore being the center of attention. Give me a spotlight and a microphone, a crowd and a stage, and I don’t even need to eat for days. It sustains me. Having said that, I do know quite a few authors who suffer from crippling social anxiety, so maybe there’s some truth to the stereotype after all.
When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be an author?
I’ve been making stuff up since I can remember. Probably before then. I wrote a poem that was published in the school newsletter in fourth grade. It inspired two other students to write poems on the same theme. But I didn’t really think about trying to get published for real until about 2011. I had been writing sketch comedy (performing too) for a few years, and I had been writing movie scripts for a local film company. In fact, I was churning those out so fast that one of the directors told me I should turn them into short stories, contact the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers and see if I can get published. That’s worked out pretty well, and that guy doesn’t have to keep telling me he can’t make my movies anymore.
Who are your biggest literary influences?
So many. Stephen King, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Roger Zelazny, Terry Pratchett, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Tolkien, Poe…
What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book?
This is incredibly difficult to answer. There have been so many good ones. I’m going to take a different tack: I absolutely adore short films and TV shows based on short stories. Black Mirror, Love, Sex & Robots, Twilight Zone, Night Gallery. That sort of thing.
Why? – Because they allow the short form to be enjoyed by people in a more accessible format, and I think short stories are a deeply underappreciated thing.
How did it feel when your first book got published?
Like a god.
How did you celebrate?
Beer and cake. At the book launch. More beer after.
What is that one thing you think readers generally don’t know about authors?
I think there’s a commonly held belief that authors are unapproachable, that we prefer not to be bothered by the common folk. This is, for the most part, ridiculous. Authors are just people. If you liked something someone wrote, please tell them. We live for that stuff.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
I touched on this a little earlier. I’m writing two sequels now. I’m also working on expanding a short story into a longer format. I fell in love with this character and setting and want to make it a novel. It will likely be a series of individual stories (I mentioned that I love the short form, yes?) tied together by a single through-line. It’s a fun, if somewhat daunting project. No idea when it’s going to be finished. I also write whatever occurs to me as ideas pop up. I’m constantly doing that. Keeps me on my toes, let me tell ya.
Are you attending any conventions/festivals where readers can meet you and/or buy your books? Please provide all the “find it” information.
There’s a virtual book festival (with a horror focus) happening on September 5 that I’ll be part of. It’s part of the Flint Horror Collective. In all likelihood, I’ll be reading (along with several other writers) some of my stuff aloud. Should be fun.
Please provide links and/or instructions about how readers can purchase signed copies of your books.
As much as I’d prefer to offer up a listing of independent bookstores and small presses (I strongly encourage you to buy books this way), the only comprehensive way to list the vast majority of my stuff is by pointing you to the corporate monstrosity that is https://www.amazon.com/Ken-MacGregor/e/B009MOY6KA?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1593121012&sr=1-1
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring authors?
Oh, I have so much to say on this topic. However, I’ll keep it relatively brief. I’m going to do this in list form because it seems apt:
Good luck out there, folks.
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