Amy McCaw is the author of Mina and the Undead, a YA murder mystery set in 1995 New Orleans, and the upcoming sequel Mina and the Slayers.
Her interests are books, movies and the macabre, and her writing has elements of all of these. If Amy’s not at a book event or reading, she can usually be found scribbling away in her writing room, surrounded by movie memorabilia and an out-of-control signed books collection. Unsurprisingly, she’s a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and has gone to conventions to meet James Marsters more times than she cares to admit.
Amy also loves travelling and has a particular affinity for America. She’s visited 29 states, 13 Man Vs Food restaurants and many bookish locations, including the cities where Twilight, Interview with a Vampire and Vampire Diaries were set.
If you want to talk with Amy about books or movies, you can find her on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
Tell me what inspired you to write your debut novel.
I visited New Orleans in 2012, and I knew immediately that I wanted to set a book there. I was captivated by the creepy locations and local legends, and I worked a lot of those into the story. My love of horror movies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and vampires in general also played a part.
How long did it take to write?
I think it took me about a year to write and another year to edit. I started writing it in 2016 and got an agent with a draft that still needed some work in 2018.
What can you tell us about your next book?
It’s the sequel to Mina and the Undead and is due to be published in September 2022.
Three months after the events of Mina and the Undead, Mina’s settling into her new life. Despite the teething problems in her relationship with Jared, she has her sister back, new friends and a part-time job to die for. Over Halloween, Mina and the gang have planned a spooky week of Gothic restaurants, horror movies, ghostly tours, creepy carnivals and a costume ball. But the fun doesn’t last. Mina is on work experience with Detective Cafferty while the police are investigating a savage masked killer and a rise in suspicious ‘animal attacks’. During her own investigations, Mina discovers a mysterious group of slayers, who are battling to control the rogue vampires. The threats circle closer as Mina spends her days with the police and nights with the slayers. Will she and her friends survive Halloween without being staked, stabbed or bitten?
Do you take notice of online reviews?
My husband monitors my Goodreads and shows me lovely reviews. I always read posts that I’m tagged in, and I enjoy seeing what people thought of the book. I don’t seek reviews out, because I know not everyone enjoys every book and reading a bad review would only make me question myself. In my opinion, constructive reviews are for other readers to decide whether or not they want to read your book. They’re not aimed at the author.
Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?
At the moment, all of my future projects have something in common with the Mina books. I’m drawn to Gothic, creepy ideas in terms of what I read and write. That could change, but for now I’m enjoying it too much!
What did you do before you became a writer (or still do)?
I did a law degree and then spent ten years teaching in primary schools. I’m now a part-time education consultant, which means I also have time to write and to spend time with my toddler.
Which authors inspire you?
So many! Kendare Blake, VE Schwab and Laini Taylor are three authors I’m in awe of. Their writing makes me think, sucks me into the worlds they’ve created and makes me feel so many things. They write such creative, distinctive stories that also feel uniquely like one of their books.
Which genres do you read yourself?
I read most genres, but my favourites tend to be YA horror, thrillers and some fantasy. I’m very much a mood reader, and that varies from contemporary romances to twisty horror. I read everything from picture books to adult fiction and some non-fiction.
What is your biggest motivator?
I love writing novels, and I feel a drive to succeed at it. I’m proud of my books, and I want to get them in the hands of readers who enjoy them. I don’t have a lot of spare time, so I motivate myself using deadlines (either ones from my publisher or those I impose on myself). I’m quite disciplined, and I find that writing most days keeps my momentum.
What will always distract you?
Social media can be a useful promotional tool and a wonderful way to connect with people, but it sucks up so much time. I try to use it smartly and not spend too much time on it.
How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?
I’ve been incredibly lucky at UCLan publishing. They’ve asked me to share covers I like and concepts, so I’ve felt involved at every stage of the process and seen my suggestions being incorporated. Fred Gambino illustrated Mina and the Slayers, and I love the work he’s done alongside the cover designer, Becky Chilcott.
Were you a big reader as a child?
I spent so much time reading as a child! I devoured The Babysitters’ Club books and Sweet Valley High when I was younger and soon discovered a love of horror. I read Point Horror books and Fear Street books for years and I still love them now.
What were your favourite childhood books?
The first book I remember being obsessed with is Northern Lights. I waited so impatiently for the next two books in the series, and I really felt transported by Philip Pullman’s writing.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?
Whenever I visit a new place, I have to find the nearest bookshop, and there are different things I like about so many of them. A couple of favourites are The Rabbit Hole and Wonderland Bookshop. They’re run by friendly, supportive people who truly love what they do and both have an amazing atmosphere and selection of books.
What books can you not resist buying?
I tend to be steered by authors I love, and there are plenty where I preorder their books without question. Cynthia Murphy, Kat Ellis, Kathryn Foxfield, Dawn Kurtagich and Sue Wallman are just a few of them. I also struggle to resist vampire books for any age of reader, from picture books to adult.
Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?
I’ve just finished editing Mina and the Slayers, and there a couple of YA projects I’m working on that I can’t talk about yet.
Any events in the near future?
I’ll be appearing at the Northern YA Literary Festival on Saturday 21st May doing a panel and signing. I have other events later in the year that haven’t been announced yet.
And finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?
When I started writing, I explored all different genres, but the books that I loved writing all had mysteries, elements of horror and relationships between characters at their hearts. My favourite scenes are probably those creepy ones where the reader begins to realise that something is amiss, and I also have a lot of fun writing romance. I will always write books that give me the most pleasure, and I think loving what you do comes across to readers.