Today I'm welcoming author Margaret Pinard to the blog to talk about her life, her inspirations and her writing process.
I'm also happy to congratulate Margaret on the upcoming launch of her latest book The Keening, which will be out on December 3rd. Stick with us to the end of our chat to hear how to enter a giveaway to win a copy.
Welcome to the blog, Margaret. What inspired you to write your latest book?
I stumbled upon one of those “moments in history” where you realize how the vast, shifting machine of world politics trickled down into everyday lives. I must have been daydreaming after reading a piece about the kelp-burners and the economic forces that forced them from home. I love Scotland and have visited several times. I wanted to find a story to relate that resonated with me, but captured the love of the land that I feel when I stand in the Treshnish Headland, for example, and gaze upon Ben More.
Of course, I’ve read about the Clearances, and read several real and fictional accounts of where landowners cleared their tenants off the land so that they could make more profit from raising sheep. But this story of the people who burned kelp on the islands seemed to show another angle, a similar tragedy. The fisher folk and subsistence farmer tenants had been encouraged to have large families to provide more laboring hands for the landowners. But once the tariff on barilla was struck down, after the Napoleonic wars had wound down and English merchants lobbied for cheaper materials to do their soapmaking and glassmaking, the landowners left their tenants, with too many mouths to feed, high and dry. That’s where my story began, in that injustice—I wanted to show the struggles of a family trying to keep a part of their homeland alive for themselves.
How did you come up with the title?
The Keening was a tricky one. I came up with it rather late, and was pretty excited. But when I queried four writing friends, not one of them knew what the word meant. I was discouraged and thought about changing it to something different and more mainstream, and then I saw there was another book by the same name. It was small and not widely distributed, but it made me rethink the title decision…and then I read the definition again:
Keening is a traditional form of vocal lament for the dead. In Ireland and Scotland it is customary for women to wail or keen at funerals. (Source: Wikipedia)
It was so exactly what I wanted to convey for this first Remnants book that I decided to go with it. I just hope that the title finds the right audience!
What’s your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
For three of my books, the drafting process has been Nano-driven, which is a word I just made up to mean: jump-started by NaNoWriMo. I use the month of November and the mental power of hundreds of thousands of people writing alongside me (in their own kitchens and offices and back rooms) to push me through an intense month of disciplined writing. This year, I’m trying a new strategy to complement my part-time job: getting up and hitting my word count before 7 AM. There are four core pillars to the success of this venture: NO food, NO music, NO phone, and NO light until I hit at least 1,667 words. Water and bathroom breaks allowed.
The rest of the year is devoted to an interweaving of research, editing, formatting, proofreading, marketing, and short-story writing. So you see I’m only disciplined 30 days out of 365. I am a pantser, at least compared to those I talk to, bringing in only a few pages of outlined notes for a full-length historical fiction novel. That’s why the editing process and post-draft research take so long. But those 30 days of creation are glorious!
What book are you reading now?
I am reading a book purchased from a local bookseller (Elisa Saphier of Another Read Through), written by a local author (Annette White-Parks), and it is exquisite. Cuttings from the Violas: Traveling with my Scots Grannies is about Annette’s travels to Scotland in pursuit of information on her women ancestors, about whom little was known. She weaves in so many beautiful stories of women she meets and historical female figures she’s discovered, that even a non-Scot like myself feels pulled into the tapestry.
Are there any new authors that you’re fired up about?
There are several ‘old’ authors I am continually discovering, but since you ask about new…Hillary Jordan, who wrote When She Woke, a gripping dystopian novel about fairness and identity and love—Anne Bishop whom I discovered because of her new series, starting with Written in Red—Gail Carriger and her madcap, deadpan, steampunk humor in Soulless and beyond—Elizabeth May, who has crafted a powerful girl hero in The Falconer—and Katherine Rundell, whose world in Rooftoppers leaves me feeling delighted, zany, and appreciated, all from the page.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Editing. I have to really bribe myself. By now, I know that I have to do several rounds of self-edits, then work with a professional editor, then send the latest to beta readers, then do final proofreading… looking down the length of all that can really seem endless at the start! The chocolate bribes threaten to wreak havoc on my wardrobe fitting me, however, so it’s a constant battle for balance.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I love the smell of the paper and the feel of turning the pages, so I’m a hardcore physical book fan. I’ve read one book on an e-reader (Bleak House by Charles Dickens) and it was not pleasant: my turning finger went numb swiping the screen. As far as hardback vs. paperback, that’s a cost question. The overwhelming majority of my books are paperbacks, and they still give that feeling of holding a little treasure in your hands, so I’m happy.
How do you publish your books and why? (Indie, traditional or both)
Indie. When I left behind my 9-5 life on the East Coast, I was cutting ties with a toxic relationship, as well as leaving a job that had ceased to teach me anything new. I was defying old expectations of my career track to return to the West Coast and write. I needed to find a part-time job, make friends, and make myself a home. I did not need to feel rejected at this stage.
So I chose to self-publish, for the ease of getting bytes to pages and out the door. I am now drafting my fourth book, and I still consider querying a remote possibility, but am kept busy enough at the moment marketing to local bookshops and tabling at book fairs to get my name out there.
Where can we find you online?
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1kxq0kB
Margaret Pinard has spent her first few decades traveling the globe in search of adventures to incorporate into her writing, including living in the lands of the Celts, the cities of European fashion, and several dolce far niente Mediterranean cultures. Her novels include Memory's Hostage, a historical mystery; Dulci's Legacy, a YA mystery/fantasy hybrid; and The Keening, a historical drama, which will be launching Dec. 3rd. Enter the giveaway for a copy of The Keening on Goodreads! Sign up for the newsletter or visit MargaretPinard.com.
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