It was my pleasure to chat to DEBBIE A. MCCLURE recently about her debut novel, IN THE SPIRIT OF LOVE, which I reviewed yesterday (please check our REVIEWS category to have a look).
Where did you grow up?:
London, Ontario, Canada
Where did you go to school?: Westminster High School, London, Ontario
Did you always want to be a writer?: Yes, but unfortunately I had to focus on raising two children as a single parent for many years after my divorce. The truth is, I didn’t have the confidence back then to take on something as major as writing a novel, although I always knew I would some day. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve taken up the craft in earnest.
How long have you been writing and do you write full time?: Although I’ve been writing for about three years now, writing full time has been a very recent adventure of about six months.
What are your goals as a writer?: As a writer, my goals are to entertain my readers with stories that catch their imagination, while perhaps weaving a few “morals” into the story line that resonate with them. I hope my characters are ones the readers can identify with, leaving them wanting more. In The Spirit Of Love is designed as the first in a series, and I’m pleased with the initial response from readers who tell me they are “hooked” and now need to know what happens to the characters in the next book.
Who are your favourite authors?: My favourite authors have long been the likes of Nora Roberts, J.R. Ward, and more recently, Kristin Hannah. Each writes is a very different voice, but I’ve always loved how the characters are believable and the plot lines engaging. Each also usually has some “moral” to the story, although not so obvious that you’re thinking “oh, that’s the moral of the story”. They make you think about the relationships between the characters, and life lessons, and this is something I attempt to emulate in my work as well.
What is the title?: In The Spirit Of Love
When was it published?: November, 2012
What is it about?: Set in Kent County, England, In The Spirit Of Love is a paranormal romance with a murder mystery twist. It is the story of Sir Richard Abbotsford, a ghost wrongfully accused of murder almost a century and a half ago, and the woman he believes has returned to release him from his eternal prison. Unfortunately, Claire Jacobs doesn’t believe in ghosts, and has no recollection of Richard or a love he claims they shared-one hundred and fifty years in the past! Rife with twists and turns that keep the reader turning the pages, In The Spirit Of Love reminds us that the past and the present are connected in ways that can change the course of the future, and that sometimes, love finds a way to rise once again.
What came first, the characters or the story?: Good question. In this case, the story line. The characters evolved and grew throughout the writing, often times surprising me. In the sequel, new characters are introduced, while current ones continue to be explored.
And what inspired you to write this story & about these characters in particular?: I was watching television one afternoon, when something came on, an advertisement perhaps, but I don’t recall. It featured one of those fabulous old English manor estates, and I remember thinking, I wonder if those places are really haunted? With that thought came the germ for a story line, so I jumped up and went to our dining room table and began typing in a very sketchy outline for the story. The next day, I couldn’t wait to get back to it and start writing. As the story unfolded and evolved (I never have much of a story board), so too did the characters. Despite all the edits, once the characters were in place and fleshed out, I never challenged, or changed, them. Each felt right and whole, so I left them alone.
How long did it take you to write, and how do you go about research?: It took me about three months to write the first draft, then another three to edit it for querying to agents and publishers. Once I had a publisher, Echelon Press, LLC, I had another two rounds of edits, followed by a final print proof edit for the soft cover prints. As for research, when I came to a part in the story where I wanted to understand a little more, such as Kent County, or particular estates, I’d simply stop and Google the question, make the adjustments or add the info I wanted, then continue writing. Sometimes those searches sent me in places I’d never considered before. For example, I was extremely surprised to learn that England actually has a Chillingham Castle, although I’d never heard of it before referencing a Chillingham Estate (which is reportedly haunted) in the book. I also did some research during writing about the paranormal and ghostly encounters at English manor homes and castles, which was interesting. I’ve never had such an encounter myself, but it’s a subject that has always intrigued me.
What is your next project ?: I am currently about 2/3 of the way through writing the first draft of the sequel to In The Spirit Of Love. I don’t have a working title in place, since I find I tend to title a project once it’s finished. As with the first book, this second one is unfolding in some interesting ways, and even I’m not sure of the ending or the roles each character will play, although I have an idea.
What was the best piece of advice you received on your journey to publication?: Be prepared for a huge amount of hard work, and after you’ve poured your life’s blood into your project, expect huge amounts of rejection. Oh, and after being accepted with an agent or publisher, expect huge amounts of work again. Each of these has held true for me, but the journey and learning experience has been worth it.
Are you pleased with the initial response to the release of this, your debut novel? Absolutely. It’s only been a month, but already I’ve received some incredibly supportive comments and reviews. I was most afraid of what my family and friends would have to say once they read it, since I value their opinion. I was terrified they’d think it wasn’t terribly good, but so far, all have raved about it, saying they had no idea how much they’d enjoy it. Even my male friends and family have come to me saying they initially read it because they thought they “should”, but found themselves drawn into the murder mystery and story line and really enjoyed it. The fact that so many have come forward saying they can’t wait for the sequel is really exciting for me. As a writer, you “pen” the words in silence, but until a reader lets you know they enjoyed it, you haven’t experienced that high you get from having accomplished your goal.
Have there been any surprises in the writing or marketing/promo phase of your book? Not so much in the writing, but the marketing/promo phase is huge. Because of my background in sales and marketing, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, but I underestimated how much time and effort it would take. Add in a (semi) weekly blog, social networking, interviews, etc. to the writing of the next book, and you start to understand what REALLY goes on behind the scenes in getting a book out to the buying and reading public. There is simply so much more to it than most people, authors included, know. I often laugh and say this writing gig has proven to have a learning curve the size of a tsunami, but what a ride!
Do you have anything you’d like to add? Only, Thank You to you folks at LionheART Galleries for inviting me to this interview, and a huge Thank You to my readers and supporters. You make my job my joy.
Debbie A. McClure can be contacted through:
Twitter: @debbiemcclure59 or