Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Kathleen McGurl: From short stories to novels

Today we welcome author, Kathleen McGurl to the blog at a very exciting time in her writing life.

Kathleen, you are well known for your blog, Womagwriter. How did this blog come about?
Hi, and thanks so much for having me here on the RNA blog!
I began my writing career writing short stories for women’s magazines. I always quite fancied having a blog, but wanted it to have a tight focus. Then I came up with the idea of putting all the women’s magazine fiction guidelines, news and views into one place online. Initially this was just for my own benefit and fun, then people began to discover the blog and found it useful, then it began to get mentions in writing magazines and in online forums, and before I knew it, it had become quite famous in the little world of magazine fiction writing.  These days, blogging isn’t as popular as it once was, and I no longer write womag stories, so it’s become harder to keep it going, but I try.

Will you return to writing short stories?
For the last three years or so I’ve concentrated on novels rather than short stories. I have a full time job and many other demands on my time, so I find it impossible to do both. These days I write very few short stories – just two or three a year for my writing class end of term competitions. I have to enter these or I’d get told off by my tutor, Della Galton!

Can you tell us something about the thrilling news of your book contract. Did you have to wait long after submission and how did you celebrate?
Yes, it certainly was thrilling news, especially for me!
I sent my book to Carina UK in early May this year. Then in late May I was at the wonderful RNA Summer Party, and had the good fortune to be introduced to a couple of Carina editors. It turned out they’d read my submission that very morning, and they  liked it. I was very hopeful this would lead to a request for the full MS, and spent the next couple of weeks checking my emails about a hundred times a day. Finally, I received an email offering me a two-book deal straight up. I was over the moon. How did I celebrate? With my good friends Pinot and Grigio, of course!

How long did it take to write The Emerald Comb?
I started writing it in March 2012, and it was complete by the summer of 2013, when I began submitting it to agents. I didn’t work on it solidly for all that time – I also wrote and self-published one of my How To books (Ghost Stories and How to Write Them) in that period. So in total, it probably took about a year to write. I am definitely going to need to become quicker.

How have you found the transition from short fiction to full length novels?
It was a struggle to begin with – I felt quite daunted by the prospect of writing 80,000 words or more, and even more so by the thought of having to edit them into shape afterwards. So in 2010-11 I wrote a ‘practice’ novel,  just to prove to myself I could do it. (Eventually I rewrote part of that novel to create my novella, Mr Cavell’s Diamond, so it wasn’t wasted work!) Then I had the idea for The Emerald Comb, and have since written another novel as well. These days I much prefer writing longer fiction – I love having all that space to fully develop characters and plot, and to play around with stories in multiple time periods.
You have a busy work life so how do you juggle your writing around the day job and your family?
‘Juggle’ is an apt word here. I have a full time job, but luckily it’s one I do from home most of the time, with a commute to London (from Bournemouth) once a fortnight. My sons are in their late teens and don’t need too much looking after anymore, so I am able to write in the evenings and at weekends. I find it is all a question of priorities – I want to write, so therefore I must prioritise writing over other things such as watching TV, faffing on Facebook or twiddling on Twitter. But then again I also want to go out running or cycling, read books, go to the pub with my husband, wallow in the bath… it’s hard to find time for everything without my head exploding!

So what’s next for Kathleen McGurl, novelist?
My second novel with Carina UK – The Pearl Locket – is already available for pre-order (release date is February 2015). I have ideas for another three historical/timeslip novels, but at the time of writing, I haven’t decided which to work on next. I’m also completing a short non-fiction book (on time-management for writers) which I will self-publish soon, just in time to help with all your New Year Resolutions!

About Kathleen:
Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, with her husband, sons and cats. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women’s magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present., and enjoys exploring these links in her novels.
Many thanks for finding time to chat with us, Kathleen

The RNA blog is brought to you by

Elaine Everest & Natalie Kleinman

If you would like to be featured on the blog or write an article for our readers please contact us on elaineeverest@aol.com


Kath McGurl said...

Thanks for having me here today, Elaine!

Kate said...

Smashing interview!