Welcome to Janet McLaughlin
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I’m originally from a small town outside of Philadelphia, PA. I spent my early adult years moving around to different states with my family as my husband got promotions and transfers. Yes, I was a stay-at-home mom and I loved it. In 1990, we moved to Sarasota, FL where we started a small business publishing magazines. I found myself not only editing copy, but also writing it. That experience gave me the courage to tackle writing novels. And what better place to be writing than in sunny Florida!
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc.
I write fiction for ‘Tweens/Young Adults. The novel that has just been released by Absolute Love Publishing is titled HAUNTED ECHO, Book 1 of the Soul Sight Mysteries. I think the publisher’s description says it best:
Sun, fun, and her toes in the sand. That’s what Zoey Christopher expects when she joins her best friend and fellow cheerleader Becca on an exotic Caribbean vacation. What she finds instead is a wannabe boyfriend, a voodoo doll, and Tempy – a tormented young ghost whose past is linked to the island grounds.
Where do you find inspiration?
Life experience is my favorite source for stories. And, no, I’m not psychic. But as a publisher of a small magazine, I had the opportunity to interview several gifted people. Their life stories provided the authenticity for my protagonist’s ability in HAUNTED ECHO. The novel takes place on an island in a private, exclusive, wealthy community. I had the opportunity to spend a week in the home described in the book by invitation from its owner. The experience of living the life of luxury with a maid, and cook and private beach was too good not to use. The location is a character in itself. The ghost is made up!
Are your characters based on real people?
Yes—and no. I think most writers use traits of people they know to round out their characters. Certainly there are parts of myself in many them as well. The novel I’m currently working on is based on the experience of a relative of mine who has the neurological disorder, Tourette Syndrome. Though the story is fiction, the challenges are real. I couldn’t write that book without having intimate knowledge of what the protagonist experiences on a daily basis.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book?
Yes, but I like to keep my message subtle. It’s just as important to entertain as it is to get a message across. In HAUNTED ECHO, we see Zoey, the protagonist, unwilling to let anyone know (with the exception of her best friend, Becca) about her psychic abilities. She wants to be accepted as a normal kid. But what is normal? In the end, Zoey discovers that she isn’t the only one with a secret, and that sharing that secret brings peace and acceptance to all involved. I’m hoping that kids who read my books will realize that just because they’re different, doesn’t mean they’re weird or can’t fit in. That they’ll come to realize that in one way or another, everyone is—different.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited?
Yes, I self edit. I also belong to a wonderful critique group who help me with the original draft. After I’ve rewritten the work an innumerable amount of times and reached a point where I know I’ve exhausted my skills, I send it to a professional editor. Then, I start the rewrite process again. Only then do I start to query. But that’s my process. Everybody has their own way of writing a book. I do think a professional edit helps a lot. I also think you can waste a lot of money if you send your MS to a professional in its early stages.
Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be?
Yes, I do, but I also think that attitude is changing. Traditional publishing has been the “gorilla in the market” forever. Indie/self-publishing is the newbie. It’s a normal process for new ideas to take time to be recognized as legitimate and become established. Right now, being traditionally published has an aura of acceptance surrounding it. Also, the big publishing companies have more connections and influence—if they choose to use it to an author’s benefit, it can help tremendously in book sales. But an aggressive Indi-publisher or self-published author can have good success if they know what they’re doing and work at it.
What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot?
First, I have to say that I love going to the movies. I especially love seeing a novel come to life on the big screen while I’m surrounded by people and their reactions. But, while a movie can evoke feelings, it rarely conveys the nuances of thought, emotions, and details that a novel does. I think readers get more invested in a story than viewers do. At least, I do. Plus, books offer hours of pleasure over an extended period of time rather than 2 hours for one day. And books are tactile. You can hold them in your hands, feel the paper between your fingers (unless you’re reading from an electronic device which is a lot less pleasurable but perhaps more convenient for some). And they’re more personal. An author can sign his/her book. You can lend or borrow a book, read it while waiting for an appointment or while eating solo at a restaurant. A book is a companion. I LOVE books, can you tell?
What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?
1) Read all you can in the genre you want to write in. It helps to know what’s out there, what publishers are looking for, how other writers handle the genre. When you read you can absorb so much about the craft of writing, often without realizing that’s what you’re doing. Plus, it’s fun.
2) Join a writers organization (e.g. SCBWI for writers of children’s books) where you can attend conferences, learn more about your craft, meet other writers that you can bond with, and find a critique group in your area and genre.
3) Sit your fanny in front of the computer and start typing. Keep at it even if you feel what you’re writing isn’t good. And finish that first draft. It you don’t write it, it most certainly will never get published.
Do you have a favourite movie?
I love the Harry Potter movies. I’ve read all the books and I’ve seen all the movies multiple times. Imagine being 12 years old and attending a school run by witches and wizards and learning magic! Imagine having a wand that does magical things. Imagine being a kid and facing all kinds of evil creatures and adults and beating them at their own game. Wow! I was with Harry all the way, living in that wonderful, exciting, imaginary, magical world. My only regret is that I didn’t think of that story line first. Kudos to J. K. Rowling.
Book links, website/blog and author links: