My first question is about initials W. C. What do they stand for? May I know or is it a secret?
When I started to put my writing out into the world, advice-givers strongly urged me to publish under a name that didn’t indicate that I was a woman. The reasoning was that biases remain in the publishing industry, and in readers in particular, that don’t favor female writers. I’ve since let go of that fear, and the enigmatic first initial, “W,” became instead something fun. Someday I may reveal what the “W” stands for, but for now I’m enjoying keeping it a playful mystery.
Were you an introvert when you were a teenager?
Yes. I was both shy and introverted. As a teenager, crowd socializing was a thing drawn up from the realm of nightmares for me. I’d make the mistake of listening to myself while it was my turn to speak, and in the back of my mind I’d pick apart what I was saying as I said it. Or I’d lose volume as that undermining shadow voice in my mind would take in the expressions of my listeners and ask whether they were only pretending to be interested. Whether I was making sense. Had they been talking about something else completely before I jumped in? Why was I still talking? What was I saying? What was that new look on their faces? Self-doubt plagued me for a long while. Adulthood, and the experiences and lessons that come with it, helped.
I have to say though that shyness and introversion can be a benefit. I’ve learned in the years since how to see the strengths that were built from wrestling with those challenges. And, consider the time spent watching and learning from those around me while I was too uncomfortable to speak or act, myself. A writer must use all of their senses, because rather than applying paint to canvas or tools to clay, we sculpt words. Words are in essence concepts captured and bound together to open new meanings. With our words, worlds form. People populate them and histories are made. It’s upon us as writers to understand the spirit of these things and cast our art through what words we have.
Do you remember the first novel you read?
I don’t. I’m going to guess that it was about horses though.
What major did you study at university? Did university help you enhance your creativity?
I studied Literature and art. The programs were rigorous, so I have a difficult time arguing that creativity was enhanced by those studies, but I can say that foundation concepts were planted that I’ve used in the years since to fuel creativity and improve upon my writing. I also learned to approach my work with dedication and resolve, and to set aside my ego and ask for criticism in order to turn in essays that would pass. These lessons were invaluable to my later writing, and to my career in general.
What made you choose to write? I mean you could be a dancer, a singer, or an actress. Why are you who you are now?
I’m a storyteller. Not the gregarious entertaining person at a party who keeps people laughing for hours but a different kind. My stories come from contemplation and worlds of imagination that lurk at the edge of my vision. They help me to cope, escape, improve… it varies. The stories are part of who I am. I rejected it for a while, trying out different ways of being, but no matter what I do during the day to earn my paycheck, I am a writer in truth.
And you are a mother, of course. Do your children like books and stories? Do you encourage them to read and write regularly?
My children love books, which of course makes me a proud mama. I already recognize the storyteller in my eldest and a good bit of wit in my youngest. I believe we can look forward to many happy stories ahead.
You have a website. When did you create it and what can we find there?
Oh, let’s see. My websites are a shifting landscape. I’ve been thinking of revising www.wcmcclure.com and may do so if I get the time. I’d say that right now you can find everything relevant to my writing at www.farsideofdreams.com. That is the blog I started in 2012, and on it you can find my writer’s bio, links to published books and of course an archive of short stories.
You write stories for kids, teenagers, and adults. It’s interesting. Why do you write for three totally different stages of life? Is it because you want to challenge yourself or do you merely enjoy it?
I enjoy it! And, for me, I’ve accepted that this is simply my relationship with writing. When I started out, I thought I’d be a writer of children’s and young adult fiction. The adult-level stories rose out of my short story period after I began writing on www.farsideofdreams.com. Part of my journey as a writer included the discovery that I’m not nearly as ‘in charge’ of my writing as one might think. Inspirations wake me from deep sleep. Characters and plot points gnaw at me as I try to navigate my day. I have come face to face with exact embodiments of my characters, and been left standing there wondering where the lines between reality and fiction might potentially blur. At a certain point I stepped back and accepted my relationship with storytelling as it is. I find that different kinds of stories speak to me as they need to be told, and I let them through. Some take more nurturing than others. Some arrive fully formed in a moment’s thought, and I’m left to the mechanics of writing and the art of editing.
What will happen if you stop writing today? Who will lose? Your readers or you?
I would lose. Storytelling is a part of me. I’ll likely continue to write, regardless of whether anyone out there is reading.
How many books do you typically read in a month? What are they mostly about?
I read 2-4 books a month these days, mostly in the young adult fantasy fiction or science fiction genres. I frequently revisit favorites when I miss a particular character or want to bask in a favorite author’s writing style.
I give you a novel, a short story collection, a play, and a poetry book written by a famous contemporary poet. You are allowed to select only one of them. Which one will you pick?
I’m tempted by all of the above! I’d probably select the novel in the end.
Imagine I’m the owner of a well-known press. I offer you one million U.S. dollars to write a novel which I like but you hate. Will you take that money? Will you work for me?
Ha ha! I have done some ghost writing, so this question isn’t as appalling to me as it might seem that it ought to be. My answer would lie in the reason for my strong emotions. If my hesitance is due to a lack of interest in the subject, that is a hurdle I can overcome. I’d find a way to become interested, and use that spark to create a novel that would appeal to readers who are already fans of the subject as well as those reluctant to the subject, such as myself. That’s a challenge I could enjoy in the end.
If my objection is because I believe that the novel would do harm in some way to the world or to the people in it, I would politely decline the commission.
Have you ever doubted your writing skills and your power of imagination? Have you ever thought of forgetting all about writing stories, blogging, and these kinds of stuff?
All the time. Writing is a solitary activity in most cases, and it can become very isolating for the author. It’s easy to believe that for all of the words you cast out into that vast, echoing void, there is no one reading or appreciating them. It’s then that you’re confronted with the question, “for whom do you write?” If the writing feeds you as its author, then it doesn’t matter how quiet, limitless or dark is the void.
Honestly, I doubt my writing skills the most when I’m confronted with my old work. I recall vividly thinking at the time when it was written that every word was exactly the right one. Reading it now, I’m often mortified by the mistakes or the clumsiness or simply by how juvenile it seems. How will my current writing be to me in another ten years? Probably just as appalling. The only way forward is to continue to write and improve.
I’ve also had periods where the inspirations ran dry, but I try not to worry about those. You can write a story about a blade of grass. I have. So, in moments of doubt, I remind myself that if you can do that, literally everything around you is material for inspiration.
As a woman, do you still feel that there is a gap between male authors and female authors? Do you ever tell yourself: “I’m gonna buy books written by women today and I won’t give a s**t what those men write in their f***ing books?”
This question made me laugh out loud. I think I see more obvious examples of professional-sphere gender inequality in the course of my every day than in response to my writing. If anyone has chosen not to read my words because of my gender, so far they’ve at least been considerate enough not to let me know about it.
I don’t have much time to read, so when I decide to commit to a book, my choice is based solely on whether I think I’ll find it interesting. My library of contemporary work is probably an even split between male and female authors.
Do you ever feel that most people don’t understand you? Is it important to speak with other humans face to face and express our feelings?
I think that to a certain extent, everybody feels that those around them don’t truly understand them. For some, this doesn’t cause any sense of worry while for others, this is a crippling truth. I fall somewhere in the middle. My nature is often reserved, particularly in social settings, and I may slip into the safety of my private mind when I’m not consciously pushing myself to engage with others. It’s far more comfortable to observe with a writer’s eye, and indeed, my writing benefits from those moments. This isn’t necessarily good for me, though.
I believe that this life, with its miraculous network of moments, ought to be experienced as well as observed. Within myself, I watch for the impulse to reach for comfort, the familiar safety of my imagination that will transport me away from experiencing my present. I do believe that it’s important to connect with other people, possibly more important in this time of technology replacing human interaction, than ever before. No two people are exactly the same, and in those differences we are afforded an opportunity to grow. How will we discover this if we’re each isolated to our own thoughts?
And about writing, please give me one tip on how to find my own unique voice and style in writing stories. In other words, what makes a writer outstanding, in your opinion?
What makes a writer outstanding, in my opinion, is whether their work can withstand the test of repetition. When I truly fall in love with a book, it’s because the characters came to life, so much so that I miss them after the book is done. The plot is well thought through, fresh, interesting, and without holes. The atmosphere of the story, be that a fantasy world or a depiction of everyday life, is omnipresent but not noticeably so. Phrases, situations and dialogue have the power to make me laugh, swoon or cry. When I truly love a story I read it again and again. Sometimes holes appear in the second read that I hadn’t noticed in the first, and I’ll set it down. Sometimes, though, a story has the power to provide just as much enjoyment in the fourth or fifth reading as the first. That is a masterpiece.
I worried about my ‘voice,’ particularly in the first years after college. I had studied so many authors’ styles that I felt I had lost my own voice in the process. Everything I wrote sounded vaguely like one author or another. I took a break from writing and read instead. I focused on fairy tales and short stories for a while because I couldn’t stomach anything longer. Poetry and mythology followed, and each was simply for the pleasure of reading. I began to find the voices that spoke to me, and I began to recognize that my own voice was different from theirs already. I started to write again. It took a while before I stopped hearing echoes of other authors in my writing but that time came. My voice emerged on its own.
Now I am able to enjoy favorite authors’ work without the fear that I’ll hear their cadences or phrasings in my own writing. I continue to learn from others, but these little gleanings have to do with subtleties. I might savor someone’s mastery at creating suspense and indicating the passage of time by dedicating a couple of sentences to seemingly off-topic details. Or I’ll obsess over a writer’s use of built up assumptions about a character playing out in a perfect moment that sends the dedicated fan into howling fits of laughter and goes unnoticed to the uninitiated. These are subtleties of technique, but put together, you end up with a ‘voice.’ My advice is to be patient and let your voice form itself while you enjoy the journey of refining your technique.
Last question. Do you have a specific plan for your next five or ten years of writing fiction? I’d like to know more about your dreams and plans, please.
My current plan is to focus on refining favorites from the short stories I wrote for my blog into the Color Series short story books. I’ve published four of the first eleven so far and have an end goal of at least 55 single short story books already selected. In addition, I want to re-release a second edition of my debut novel, The Statues of Azminan (Far Side of Dreams series), in conjunction with the release of its sequel, The Trails of Exasia (also Far Side of Dreams). After that, I think I’d finally like to release the Onyx trilogy, a futuristic dystopian series, before returning to finish out the Far Side of Dreams set. A good portion of the writing mentioned above is completed. My challenge is in finding the time to edit, package and publish. After I publish all of these, I may begin a new series following the waking and new adult life of Anna, my heroine from the Far Side of Dreams series. I’ve had some fun inspirations on that story line. And of course, who knows what pressing story might thunder into my sleep demanding to be told… the adventure is ongoing.
Thank you very much dear W. C. McClure for taking the time and answering my questions patiently.
Thank you Sam, these questions were fun.