Author Spotlight and Giveaway: Gracie MacGregor…

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Gracie and congratulations on the release of ‘Hearts on Hold ’! 

HOH

This is your debut novel. Can you tell us a little about your road to publication?

During a holiday on Gozo a few years ago I was inspired by the character of the island and its people. I took a lot of photos, jotted a lot of notes, scribbled a few thousand words… but it was attending a romance writing workshop with Anna Campbell and Christina Brooke that lit the fire properly. I dug out the chapters I’d written, signed up to RWA, ferociously fought to win a Brenda Novak auction prize of a critique from Anna, set myself the deadline of finishing the manuscript so I could pitch it to publishers at the RWA Gold Coast conference, met Kate Cuthbert at Escape Publishing who was kind enough to ask for a partial, decided I couldn’t possibly send it to her after what I’d learned at the conference, kept polishing it for six months and then finally submitted it at the beginning of this year. Since then, it’s been a whirlwind, but I’m reassured by the numbers of authors who have survived the storm before me!

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?

How satisfying it would be to actually finish a book. I’m a shocker for writing a few chapters, polishing them within an inch of their lives and then putting them aside to chase down another idea. Finishing’s the thing! 

Describe yourself in three words: Rusted-on romantic. 

What advice would you give to aspiring romance authors out there?

I’ve already talked about the importance of finishing, so perhaps the next most-useful piece of advice is starting! Don’t talk about writing, write. Write every day. I’m a terrible procrastinator myself, and can always find very plausible excuses why I don’t have time to write, but I’ve just read a wonderful piece about Jerry Seinfeld’s approach to turning out consistently excellent work that I think will work for me, and perhaps for others as well.

Take a big full-year calendar, hang it in a place you’ll see it, choose your daily task (eg write for 30 minutes, or whatever you want to commit to), then put a big red cross over every day you complete your task, so after a few days of consistent writing, you have a chain you’re not going to want to break. “Your only job is to not break the chain.” I’m sure Jerry would also tell you: do NOT wait until 1 January next year to get a nice, shiny new calendar before you start! 

Do you have a favourite craft book for writers?

I have a number of terrific books by Donald Maass, Linda Seger and Jeffrey Hatcher that I wouldn’t be without, and I’m forever going back to them when I’m feeling stuck and stale. But my favourite is Alexandra Sokoloff’s “Screenwriting Tricks for Authors (and Screenwriters)”. I’ve always been a voracious reader, but films have also always been really influential in my creativity and I’ve had many, many “aha!” moments reading Alexandra’s advice. 

How important do you think it is for authors to be actively engaged in self promotion?

It’s very important to take charge of your dream: you’ve shed tears, blood and a lot of coffee for your book, so you want people to find and read it! I’m filled with admiration (all right, I admit it, envy!) for the authors who are so talented at and committed to promoting their work. It really pays off.

But as a newbie, I’m really struggling with getting the balance right between my “other” life and responsibilities, building a platform and promoting “Hearts on Hold”, and sitting my arse on my writing chair and writing the next book. I’m taking comfort in the recent discussions that are suggesting the best way to promote your first book is to get your second book out there with it!

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Name three character traits that you think make an irresistible hero in a romance novel.

Vulnerability. Self-awareness. A generous spirit. 

Complete this sentence: When I’m not writing, I’m… feeling guilty about not writing. 

Do you have a writing schedule you follow, or are you a ‘write whenever I can’ type of author?

There is no doubt I work best when I’m writing to a daily schedule. That’s how I got “Hearts on Hold” finished and ready to pitch at RWA. There is no doubt I work best when I can carve out a decent block of time to get cracking on it. My biggest challenge is carving out a decent block of time on a daily basis. I’m in awe of authors such as Helene Young who have the discipline and talent to write wherever and whenever they can (actually, I’m just altogether in awe of Helene Young). I’m working on it. It doesn’t come naturally, but I know that’s no excuse, because I doubt it comes naturally to many!

Can you give us a sneak peek from your book, maybe a brief excerpt from a favourite scene, or the first sentence?

Their climb took them to the top of the sharp cliff-face that overlooked Ramla Bay, and Cate paused a moment to watch the ant-sized bathers squealing and splashing in the breakers below, closely observed by parents huddled under a panoply of gaily coloured beach umbrellas which covered virtually every inch of coarse, brown sand.

She ignored the habitual kick of longing with an ease born of long practice. Children were not for her, not now. She remembered Stephen had been irritated by a toddler who had stumbled, dripping water and sand, over his outstretched legs as they lay on that same beach, years before. She’d teased him about being a grumpy old man; cajoled him with promises of mini-Stephens he could take diving; finally resorted to pinching playfully at the hairs on his legs, trying to coax him into a better mood. He had retaliated with that lightning speed and intensity that characterised him, dragging her under his sand-crusted body and whispering into her mouth between salty, luscious kisses that if she didn’t stop tormenting him, he’d make her pregnant then and there.

She smiled sadly at the memory, and realised it didn’t hold the pain she had expected. Since those early weeks after her return to Xlendi, when devastation had crushed her lungs and torn at her gut every time she rediscovered places she’d been with Stephen, Cate had deliberately avoided going back to their favourite honeymoon spots. Now, as she looked down on Ramla Bay, it felt as if she was saying goodbye.

 

Web links

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Escape Publishing

Gracie is giving away two e-copies of  “Hearts on Hold”. All you have to do is answer the following question:  My best tip for getting started is…

This competition is open worldwide and will be drawn on August 6th, 2013.

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16 Comments

  1. Hey, Gracie, thanks for the mention! Congratulations on HEARTS ON HOLD! Lovely interview. Love the Jerry Seinfeld idea and the rusted-on romantic description. Think I’ll steal that one! By the way, we’re ALL in awe of Helene! 😉

    Reply
  2. Gracie,
    I’m so pleased all your hard work paid off. Congratulations on your lovely book. Your advice to get started is to get a shiny new calendar and start marking it.

    Reply
  3. Suzi, great to see you up and about again!

    Reply
  4. A very inspirational post, Gracie! I really needed that. I’m having trouble getting ‘started’ at the moment, so I really can’t offer any advice – but I’m happy to take yours!
    I loved the excerpt of your novel. Very poignant. And, like Anna, I adored the notion of being a rusted-on romantic!
    Umm, where is Gozo? Now I feel really ignorant …

    Reply
    • Thanks very much, Venetia! Gozo is one of three islands in the Maltese archipelago. It’s hard to describe its location without sounding like a geography book. You know what? I’m going to post the intro to the blurb I wrote (which wasn’t used because it was way too long and I’m hopeless at self-editing) because I hate wasting words 🙂

      “In the Mediterranean Sea, between the ancient civilisations of Sicily on the European continent and Libya in North Africa, lies the Maltese Archipelago. Its three islands – Malta, Gozo and Comino – comprise one of the world’s smallest states. For thousands of years its strategic importance – for trade, for culture, for war – has kept it in the covetous sights of empires and religions.

      Gozo, second largest island in the Maltese achipelago after Malta, is said to be the true location of Ogygia, the home of seductress Calypso in Homer’s Odyssey.

      Rich in history, rural in character, Gozo’s fortunes have forever been tied to those of its larger sister, Malta. It carries the world’s oldest free-standing structures, in legend the temples of giants. Invaded by the Ottomans in medieval times, repopulated by the Knights of Malta, occupied again by Napoleon’s French before being surrendered to the British, the people of Gozo have learned to adapt, to defend, to endure.”

      Reply
  5. Congratulations Gracie on your debut release. I loved reading about your writing journey & so glad others share my habit of chasing shiny new ideas. Your advise is to: get started and write every day. I also dont have any idea where Gozo is but will be googling it next! All the best for fabulous sales

    Reply
  6. Vanessa

     /  August 2, 2013

    Hi Gracie! Love the excerpt! My best tip for getting started is… to turn off the internet, hang up the phone and go for it! (More) coffee and a chocolate is a good bribe 🙂

    Reply
    • Vanessa, thanks! Great advice! I’ve recently discovered chocolate-coated coffee beans and they’re getting a pretty good workout, too!

      Reply
  7. Rebecca Sierp

     /  August 3, 2013

    Congratulations on your newest book. You are an inspirational writer and your work is exquisite. I am definately getting a copy of this to read. Again, congrats!

    Reply

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