Caron McKinley – Q&A

Caron McKinley
Caron McKinley
Caron grew up in a mining town on the east coast of Scotland where her dad would return from the pit and fill her life with his tall tales. She never thought about making a career in writing – that was what posh people did, not someone from a working-class council estate.

However, her father’s death was the cause of deep introspection and her emotions gave birth to a short story, Cash, which was published in the Scottish Book Trust’s anthology, Blether. This gave her the confidence to try and believe in herself.

When not blogging, reading, and writing, Caron spends her time with her daughters. She doesn’t enjoy exercise – but loves running around after her grandsons, Lyle and Noah, to whom she is devoted.

Caron had three childhood dreams in life: to become a published author, to become a teacher, and for David Essex to fall in love with her. Two out of three ain’t bad, and she’s delighted with that.

Caron can be found at:
Twitter: @caronmckinlay
Instagram: @caronmckinlay

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

I always wanted to write a story about love. Something that would move people and let them experience a sweep of emotions. But I also wanted to address how women are often affected by the toxic behaviour of men. Most women have had an experience of being adversely affected by a man in their lives at one time or another. Or if not, they know of a family member or friend who has had that happen to them. So I wanted to write a book that would reflect this aspect of society by focusing on interpersonal relationships. I suppose you could say that the inspiration for the book was to see if those two opposing themes, love and toxic relationships, could be drawn together into a book that people would enjoy reading.

What came first the characters or the world?

That is a hard one because as I thought about the characters, I always saw them embedded in their historical and social circumstances. So in a sense, as the characters took form, their worlds grew up around them.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

Once I started the submission process, it took four weeks to get an agent and then six weeks to find a publisher. That seems a relatively short time to me, given what I have read in the press about publishing and have heard from other authors. But I would not describe it as easy. It took me a long time just to work out how to write a convincing cover letter, for one thing! And most of all it was down to luck.

How long did it take to write?

Nine months. However, there were weeks and weeks when I didn’t write a word. I can’t force myself to write, I have to wait until the words come to me.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

No, but a lot of ‘The Storytellers’ was written with Married at First Sight on the telly in the background!

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

People have been tremendously supportive which is both gratifying and very humbling. To date, I have had 54 reviews on Goodreads, with 48 five-star reviews and a further six four-star reviews. I am really so grateful to everyone who took the time to provide ratings and comments. And it means the world to me that it’s connecting with early readers.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

So many people have been so kind, and have said so many lovely things, from ‘mind-blowing’ to ‘magical’ to ‘beautiful’ to ‘fascinating’, it is very hard to select one reaction. I guess one of my favourite quotes is ‘every woman should read this book’. But if I had to choose just one reaction as my favourite, it would be my daughter telling me she read the book in a single day and cried throughout! She is not a reader.

What can you tell us about your next book?

Not really as I am torn between two different ideas, and I am not sure which one to go with. Everything they say about book two is true – It’s a nightmare!

Do you take notice of online reviews?

I suspect most authors do, even if they say they don’t! It is a nerve-wracking thing to spend so much time writing a book and then sending your baby out into the world. Of course, you want people to love it the way you do. But the only way to find that out is to look at what they say about it. Until now, I have been very lucky. So far, so good.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Several people have described ‘The Storytellers’ as ‘genre-busting’. I am hoping that was meant as a compliment! I love fiction with a speculative element so I am happy writing that at the moment.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I was a secondary school teacher and eventually became a headteacher before I took early retirement.

Which author(s) inspire you?

The Storytellers
The Storytellers
I spend a lot of my time reading. I am an insomniac, and often stay up into the wee, small hours with a book in hand. I suppose two of the books that recently influenced me were Schwab’s 2020 ‘The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue’ and Niffenegger’s 2003 ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’. But, being honest, I suspect every book I have ever read and enjoyed has had some sort of effect on me and what I write. So if I were to mention a third, it could be Brontë’s 1847 ‘Wuthering Heights’. I suspect some other authors and books from that near-two-hundred-year span crept up on me without me noticing!

Which genres do you read yourself?

I read most genres except spy thrillers, sci-fi and hard fantasy. My favourites are speculative fiction, psychological thrillers, women’s fiction and the odd romance.

What is your biggest motivator?

When I retired, I found I had time on my hands. I tried several different things like joining a gym and taking up walking. But none of them really stuck. But I knew I wanted to do something. When I wrote my first short story, about my father’s death, and it was published by the Scottish Book Trust, I decided I might actually be good enough to write a book. My father was an inveterate storyteller and I think I inherited that from him. So I realised I finally had an opportunity to share my stories with others. And that has remained my motivation – wanting to write a story that someone else will listen to and enjoy and, hopefully, make an emotional connection with.

What will always distract you?

My grandsons! And my daughters.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

I have heard from other authors that they had little input into their book covers. But I was fortunate that Bloodhound Books allowed me to have a substantial say in what the cover would look like. We went through two or three iterations before we finally landed on the present cover.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Yes. Since childhood, I have always found a great sense of peace when I slip into a book’s imaginary world. I am a bit of an insomniac, so always have lots of time to read at the end of each day, and I have been like that since I was young.

What were your favourite childhood books?

The Famous Five and any kind of ghost story.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

I would have to say The Portobello Bookshop in Edinburgh.

What books can you not resist buying?

Anything in women’s or psychological fiction, especially if it has a speculative edge and a hint of time travel. I love Keith A Pearson’s books and always buy his.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

Only one. Making sure I always have a full can of real Coke to hand before I start and a bar of chocolate.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Maybe three. I tend to read what I buy fairly quickly.

What is your current or latest read?

‘Wrong Place Wrong Time’ by Gillian McCallister. It was just genius and ‘Breakneck Point’ by T Orr Munro which is the start of a new series.

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

I cannot wait to read ‘The Bonesetter Woman’ by Frances Quinn.

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

All the books I mentioned before at the beginning. I love when something is set in the real world but has just an edge of magic.

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