J.L. McCreedy is a shoe-string traveler, a street food fanatic and a (confused) attorney who prefers writing stories over legal briefs. She is also the author of Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen and The Orphan of Torundi.
EXTRA CREDIT INTERVIEW WITH J.L. MCCREEDY:
Joining LitPick for an Extra Credit interview is J.L. McCreedy! J.L. is the author of The Orphan of Torundi and the Liberty Frye series that contains Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen and the newest installation, Liberty Frye and the Sails of Fate, which came out earlier this month. Oh, yeah, and she lives in Borneo!
Do you have a solid outline before writing, or do you usually get ideas as you go along?
I start out with a general outline that sketches the beginning, middle and end, with notes on various elements or ideas that I want to include. This helps get me started and provides a rough road map to move along. Then, as the story progresses, new ideas sneak into the story; characters say things that I wasn’t necessarily expecting, and twists pop up in places that the rough outline did not contain. I think that might be my favorite part of the writing process: these quirky ideas and circumstances that make the world you are creating come alive so that it doesn’t even feel as if it is your world at all, but rather something beyond yourself that is simply making itself known; it is a very strange, but magical, thing to experience!
Has someone you knew ever appeared as a character in a book (consciously or subconsciously)?
Yes! Well, at least parts of people. Sal McCool, for instance, is roughly based on a lovable—but frequently exasperating—family member. Ginny and Uncle Frank are other characters that are more or less partial conglomerations of people that I respect and care for deeply. I think I tend to pick out a few characteristics that I find amusing or interesting or endearing in a person—or sometimes in more than one person—and then make a character based on that characteristic, but then evolve it into something else … if that makes sense?
What do you do when you get writer's block?
It depends on the circumstance. Sometimes, I’ve found that the “block” is simply a lack of confidence: I get stuck on an idea or circumstance and don’t feel that I have what it takes to proceed in a meaningful and entertaining way. In those cases, I quite literally have to tell myself that I can do it, and then make myself start writing, as if putting one foot in front of the other, until the natural result manifests itself. Other times I need to go on a walk or do some other form of exercise where I can let my mind wander and explore ideas. Sometimes I make my husband sit down and talk it over with me; he’s amazing at brainstorming ideas! And sometimes I have to just chew over an idea for a while and there is no way to rush it; I’ve found it helps to read other books in the genre I’m writing to get acquainted with new ideas or to get that spark of inspiration. Sometimes I have to try all of the above, but eventually, I’ll get going again because I feel lost when I am not in a story!
If you could live in a book's world, which would you choose?
That is a really hard question! I think my answer might change each time I answer it, so my answer isn’t really a legitimate answer, is it? But since I’m thinking about Liberty Frye and all things magical at the moment, I have to say that I think the world created by C.S. Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia would be a pretty fun world to explore, especially the idea of going through a wardrobe into another world like in The Lion, the Witch in the Wardrobe, or going through a painting like The Voyage of the Dawn Treader or going through a little pond like The Magician’s Nephew. That idea has always captivated me, ever since I read those books back in elementary school, especially the idea of the characters you meet in these alternate worlds then following you back into yours, like the white witch in The Magician’s Nephew.
What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
That’s another hard question! For fantasy, I think book-to-movie adaptations keep getting better and better as the technology for creating these fantastical worlds increases in sophistication. I don’t know. When I first saw a Harry Potter movie, especially the moving ceiling at Hogwarts, it got me all excited. Or The Lord of the Rings series. I think both of those series were done so well as they really captured the feel of the stories and the characters within while bringing this world that only existed in the mind into life. I think that must be especially hard because we all imagine things differently, don’t we? So to have a movie that captures these worlds in a way that most of us as viewers can agree upon is an amazing feat.
If you could have lunch with one other author (dead or alive!), who would it be?
Probably Mark Twain, because he was such a wicked funny, insightful and outside-of-the-box person. He’d be a lot of fun to hang out with for a few hours!
Wild Card Question: You live this amazing life of being an author and living and experiencing different countries in the world. Do you recommend that people travel, and why or why not?
You are very generous in your description of my life! For me, living in other cultures is more or less my version of normal, as I grew up living between countries and cultures all my life. In fact, when I came to the US for university, I felt tremendously out of place to find myself living with fellow Americans in an American city where everyone spoke American English. Perspective is a funny thing!
That said, I do recognize how fortunate I have been to travel and to follow my passion for storytelling. I won’t say this combination came to me easily—my husband and I made a lot of life choices to achieve what we do—but I am grateful to have the freedom to pursue my dreams. I will also say that, while I can’t think of a reason why I wouldn’t recommend travel, I also think it gets a bit glamorized. There is a lot to be said for settling down in a town, having roots, experiencing connections with people and places because of a lifetime spent there. But even in that case, traveling even for a week to someplace new gives you a perspective you wouldn’t have gained otherwise, and will probably make you appreciate your hometown in a new light as well. As Mark Twain famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” What better reason than that to see a bit of the world whenever you can?
J.L., thank you for visiting with LitPick! With your statement that your husband is amazing at brainstorming ideas, you may have other authors contacting you to see if they can borrow him!
SIX MINUTES WITH J.L. MCCREEDY:
Joining LitPick from Balikpapan, Indonesia, is author J.L. McCreedy! Jesse has also lived in Tonga (while she and her husband were there working for the Peace Corps) and Tianjin, China. Jesse is the author of The Orphan of Torundi and Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen.
How did you get started writing?
I’ve been writing things like poems and songs and whatnot since I was in elementary school, but I didn’t actually begin writing a full length novel until I was in my late twenties. I never finished that story, but it paved the way for another one I did complete (and publish) in 2014: The Orphan of Torundi.
My first completed novel, though, was Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen. I first began writing that in late 2004 when my husband and I moved to Germany for his work assignment at a U.S. military base. Before moving to Germany, I’d been working as an attorney at a law firm, and the sudden switch from being extremely busy at work to having no job at all came as a bit of a shock! Happily, since we were living near the town where the Brothers Grimm were born, I decided that it was the perfect time to begin writing the story I’d always wanted to write: a fantasy adventure about a girl who finds herself in a world where the fairy tales she’d read about are actually real. And that was the start of Liberty Frye!
Who influenced you?
I grew up reading fairy tales: Grimm Brothers, Hans Christian Anderson, Perrault, Aesop’s Fables, children’s versions of One Thousand and One Nights, and the like. By fifth and sixth grade, I loved anything fantasy-adventure related such as C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, Roald Dahl and J.R.R Tolkein. I always wanted to write something like that, to create vivid worlds where the hero faces meaningful, layered challenges. Keep in mind, this was a long time ago – before ebooks and the advent of middle grade novels, so stuff like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter weren’t around just yet. But I would have loved them if they’d been.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
I love the character of Jean Valjean in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. I love the fact that he receives a second chance in life and makes the most of it; that he doesn’t short-cut and always takes the high road, even though his life would have been so much easier if he hadn’t. His character is so heroic and deep. It’s inspirational.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
I can’t provide advice on how to become a well-known author, but I do have some experience regarding how to write and develop a story. To start with, I guess I’d say what everyone else says: to read and write. The more you read (and not just read, but read the kind of stories you are interested in writing), the more you see what clicks for you, what speaks to you, what kind of stuff you would want to create for yourself. And the more you write, the better you get, the more you discover how to weave things into your characters, how to have a voice that others will relate to in the way you intend.
Also, I’d say not to give up. It’s a lonely – and daunting –thing to write a book and so easy to lose confidence or get discouraged. It helps me not to get overwhelmed by writing a rough outline of my story, together with a brief profile for each of my main characters. The structure gives me a loose road map to move forward without being too rigid. As the story progresses, I discover new things about my characters and circumstances I didn’t originally anticipate. This works for me, but every writer has their own method; some prefer no outline at all, while others outline every single detail before beginning. Find out what works for you.
Finally, you have your own unique point of view to offer, so don’t try to write exactly like someone else, even if that someone else rocks. Respect yourself enough to let that uniqueness shine through, but use it in an intelligent manner so that it builds your story. It should be the story, not your own dazzlingly clever personality or vocabulary that is the super-star.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I usually write at home on my laptop. Since I have my own home-based business, I’m really lucky to have some control over my schedule. I’ve found I prefer writing in the morning while my mind is fresh and uncluttered from all the daily to-do’s. I usually sit at my office desk, but sometimes I write on my couch or even sometimes in bed. If I feel stuck on something, as silly as it sounds, I’ve found that if I move to another location, it helps me get into the groove again! But wherever I am, I like to have a window open to let the sunlight in.
What else would you like to tell us?
Thank you so much for your interest in Liberty Frye! It took me over seven years of writing and re-writing her story before I published the final version in 2012. It has been a labor of love, and feels as much a part of me as my own heart. Thanks for letting me share it with you! Also, the sequel will be coming out this year, so please keep an eye out for the next adventure with Liberty Frye!
Jesse, thank you for spending six minutes with LitPick! What an interesting career change from attorney to author! We’re looking forward to the next Liberty Frye book!