My Interview at Writing.com

Here is the text of an interview with me on Writing.com concerning the upcoming National Novel Writing Month.

Welcome to A NaNoWriMist in the Spotlight, a series of interviews introducing a selection of group members. This week we have a great interview from Maggie Duncan, a full-time writer of fiction and published author.

Hi, Maggie, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed! This year will be your fourth NaNoWriMo – what are you writing?

This year I’m going a little off my usual genre, which is Suspense/Thriller. I’m going to try a piece on a dystopian America in the not-so-far future after a domestic terrorist act, so I’d call it Speculative Fiction. The plot centers around people in a small town trying to survive after a domestic terrorist group destroys the Federal government. I’ve located it in the small city in the Shenandoah Valley where I now live, and the villains are a right-wing, ultra-conservative movement we’ll all recognize.

It’s clear who has inspired your antagonists – what about the protagonists?

The protagonists will be O.D. James, Mallory James, (brother and sister), John-Patrick Yardman, (these three are based on my grandkids), and Anne Donnachy, a retired government worker who writes thriller novels and who is based on me.

So you used to work for the government? How did that fit with your writing?

I’m a former government tech writer and have written stories since I was old enough to write. I retired two years ago to focus on my fiction full-time and just had a short story published. I first tried NaNoWriMo in 2008, while I was still working full time. Because of work travel requirements, I only had seventeen days out of the thirty to produce those 50,000 words. I had chosen to write a semi-autobiographical piece about my life and the recent breakup of a long-term relationship, so when I did have the time to write, the words were all there. It was very cathartic. I decided not to pursue publishing it–mainly because I’d like what’s left of my family to continue to speak to me–but I pick it up on occasion (I got a proof copy from CreateSpace.) to further that healing. After that, I was hooked on NaNoWriMo.

You’re obviously a fan of NaNoWriMo – what do you love about it?

I love the work NaNoWriMo does with kids to get them to use writing as expression or, as it was for me, an escape from a harsh reality. It’s also the best thing around to get me to write something completely new at least once a year. I have literary fiction friends who recoil in horror when I mention NaNoWriMo, but I tell them what they’re missing–a creative exercise that focuses on that one aspect that makes us writers: creativity.

From what I hear, you don’t lack for creativity! Tell us your favourite writing memory.

When I was eight or nine, someone gave me a set of alphabet rubber stamps. I would listen to my mother and her friends gossiping around the kitchen table, then I’d “produce” a newspaper with the rubber stamps with their gossip items as front page stories. I stayed up all night making a dozen or so copies (one letter at a time) and distributed them the next morning–when the you-know-what hit the fan. Needless to say, my rubber stamps got confiscated, and that was the end of my fledgling career in journalism. It was pretty devastating at the time to a nine-year old, but I look back at the memory and laugh at how indignant my mother and her friends were about my writing the truth.

What hints and tips do you have for the rest of the group this November?

Because I was a non-fiction editor before I retired, I tend to get too focused on getting it “right.” I find that if I let go and just let words flow, I’ll increase my daily word count dramatically. If you’ve got people in your household, you have to be adamant about your writing time being sacrosanct. I usually promise my friends and family something chocolate if they just pretend I don’t exist during my writing hours. They’ll do almost anything for chocolate.

I think I would too! Or for hot chocolate. What’s your writing beverage of choice?

If I’m writing in the morning, it’s my second cup of green tea. Afternoons mean Sobe Life Water, and nighttime is Diet Coke. I have been known to give in to my Irish side and sip Jameson’s in the evenings.

Where do you do your writing and tea drinking?

My favorite place is my office/writing room. It’s in the back of my house, and I have an incredible view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, when that is distracting, I go to a second writing space in my bedroom–away from the window–so I can focus 100% on writing.

What books or authors inspire you?

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood; anything by Jane Austen; The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver; anything by Sharyn McCrumb; and The Stand by Stephen King (plus his non-fiction work On Writing). Several authors inspire me, but I’d have to say the predominant one is Margaret Atwood because she can tell such a good story and surround it with a political viewpoint that I can relate to. If I had the talent she has in her little finger, I’d be a happy camper.

How will you celebrate finishing NaNoWriMo? 

With a self-congratulatory pat on the back, followed by a post on Facebook and a Tweet to let my friends know I’m still alive.

Well, best of luck! Thanks again to Maggie for a great interview. 

I live for your constructive comments.

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