Janet McLaughlin is the author of the Soul Sight Mysteries series, including Haunted Echo and Fireworks. She has been involved in the communication field most of her adult life as a writer, editor, and teacher. Her love of mysteries and the mystical are evident in her novels. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Florida Writers Association. She lives in Florida with her husband, Tom, and along with her writing, enjoys playing tennis, walking, traveling, and meeting people.
EXTRA CREDIT INTERVIEW WITH JANET MCLAUGHLIN:
Joining LitPick for an Extra Credit Interview is Janet McLaughlin. She is the author of The Soul Sight Mysteries. The newest book in the series, Fireworks, has just been released, and it has received a LitPick Five Star Book Review Award.
***Do you have a solid outline before writing, or do you usually get ideas as you go along?
Somewhere in between. Before I start writing a novel, I need the basic premise. My protagonist is on a vacation and is visited by a pesky ghost, or her best friend gets kidnapped and she needs the help of the cute, new guy. Of course, there has to be a romance of some kind, too. What’s a mystery without romance?
Once I have the basic idea, I write a loose outline in my mind. What are the roadblocks I can put in my protagonist’s way to make it difficult for her to help that ghost or rescue that friend? Once I have that general outline (in my mind), I start to write the book. That’s where things get interesting. New ideas come into play. More or stronger obstacles emerge. Sometimes the characters take over, not cooperating with my story line, so I take a new path that’s invariably better.
***Has someone you’ve known ever appeared as a character in a book (consciously or subconsciously)?
Oh yes! In my Soul Sight Mystery series, my protagonist, Zoey, has a best friend, Becca. She’s not-so-loosely based on my favorite cousin. Becca is feisty, smart, popular, and strong-willed, and she generally gets Zoey into trouble. That’s my cousin. Zoey is that person I want to be. As for the guys in her life, I’d say they’re too good to be true, but honestly, their characters are a composite of all the best parts of my dad, my son, and my husband. I’ve been blessed by the men in my life. The women, too!
***What do you do when you get writer's block?
The first thing I do is take a break from writing. It could be a week. It could be months. But I stay in touch with the writer’s world through my critique group. When an idea comes, I sometimes get so excited (and relieved) that I start to write immediately without going through my process. That’s when I get into trouble. I call those false starts. I have a folder full of false starts. But that’s okay because I’m writing, and even if those stories never get finished, I’m doing what I need to do. I’m writing. Inevitably, the story I need to write comes along, I do my process, and I write my book. I had about five false starts for the third book in my Soul Sight Mystery series (which I’m currently writing) before the right idea came to me. And who knows? Some of the false starts may become novels down the road.
***If you could live in a book's world, which world would you choose?
Harry Potter. Hands down. I love the world of magic and mystery. Not so much the mayhem, though.
***What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
From the classics: To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone with the Wind, and Wizard of Oz.
From recent novels: The Hunger Games series, the Twilight series, and, of course, ALL the Harry Potter movies.
***If you could have lunch with one other author (dead or alive!), who would it be?
J.K. Rowlings. She’s an inspiration to all writers of children’s books. She broke so many barriers. I’d LOVE to pick her brain and to say thank you.
***What else would you like to tell us?
Thank you for letting me express myself. It’s been great fun.
Janet, thank you very much for joining us to share more about your writing process.
INTERVIEW WITH JANET MCLAUGHLIN:
How did you get started writing?
The first inking I had that I might like to write was in fourth grade. One of my classmates started writing a story (during class) and passed it around. I got butterflies in my stomach when I read it. I knew this was what I wanted to do. That dream lay dormant for, well, a lot of years. Then, while playing tennis with three other women who all had professions, I decided I wanted to go back to college and finish my degree. I was in my mid-thirties by then. (I’d opted for marriage and having kids in my twenties.) I majored in communications, started a publication for the hair industry with a friend, moved to Florida and started three publications with my husband and daughter. I was the editor/writer for all of them. From there I branched out to writing novels. We’re talking a lifetime of preparation here. Writing is my passion and my joy. And my grandkids are my inspiration.
Who influenced you?
Mmmmmm. I suppose you could say every author I’ve ever read, starting with The Bobbsey Twins. (That too was a butterflies-in-the-stomach experience.) Reading wasn’t something that my parents encouraged. It wasn’t in their realm of experience. But that didn’t stop me. I LOVED to read. Books, magazines, labels—it didn’t matter. My eighth grade teacher insisted that all her students had to have library cards. (We didn’t have a school library.) That was probably the greatest gift she could have given me. It opened up a whole world of books to me. From then on I was, and am, never without two or three books waiting to be read. A wise woman once said to me, “If you want to learn how to write, read great books.” She was so right.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
My favorite setting is Florida, the state where I’ve lived for the past twenty-five years. Although I grew up in the Philadelphia area and moved around a bit in early marriage, Sarasota has always felt most like home. There’s an air of mystery (for me, anyway) in the surroundings. It’s here that I met and interviewed the psychics that I base Zoey’s abilities on. And, of course, there’s Siesta Key Beach, a short drive from my home. In book two, FIREWORKS, Zoey explains why this place is so special. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so I think I’ll just let you read the book!
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Read. Read. And read some more! Aren’t we authors lucky that our greatest source of information and training is reading? That is the way we absorb, almost unconsciously, the rhythm and intricacies of writing. You’ll want to keep company with other writers, too. Since writing is such a solitary endeavor, it’s important to have the association with and feedback from others of like mind. I don’t know if I could do this without my critique group. This is a shout out to the SKYWAY WRITERS, who keep me on track, and do so with integrity and finesse. I am deeply grateful to all of them.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Well, normally it’s a little corner in our family office. It’s quite cozy. But then there are these wonderful times when my husband and I go on a cruise. Then my favorite place is in the breezeway right off the casual dining area. I find an empty table, sit back on the big, comfy pillows and immerse myself in the writing. There are two great things about this situation. There is no internet access to tempt me. And there are all types of goodies just feet away to keep me energized and happy. Yup. I like those cruises.
What else would you like to tell us?
For me, writing is great fun and hard work. Every time I start a new novel it’s like learning to walk all over again. I stumble and fall—a lot—until I find my balance. After I’m done the first draft, which could take six months to a year, the rewrites begin. That’s another six months or so. All of this is done with the help of my critique group. Their feedback is invaluable. That’s my timetable. Others do it in a much shorter time span. Some a much longer one. It’s a very personal journey. For me, it’s a labor of love. The payoff? Reviews from readers (like the ones on the LitPick site) who say how much they enjoyed the read. How they related to the characters. How they wanted to be as strong as Zoey. How they laughed out loud. Ah, that’s golden.