Andrea McAuley is an up-and-coming author with a fantasy novel under her belt and two intriguing projects underway, including one about a café for dead people that I’m already dying to read (geddit? Wink wink).
She loves cheesy 90s shows, tea, and writing. She has two adorable dogs called Zeus and Hank. If that’s not enough to turn you into a fan, well… you’re hard to please, jeez. Perhaps read on and fall in love over an interview?
Or maybe this’ll do it…
1. I see you’ve finished your first novel, Flightless. What’s it about, and where did the inspiration come from?
Flightless , a modern fantasy about people with wings (or avians as I’ve fondly nicknamed them), has been a long time coming for me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved the image of flawed angels. When I was younger I wrote short stories about them and read books like Laurel Winter’s, Growing Wings and James Patterson’s, The Angel Experiment. As I got older, I never forgot my love of unconventional “angels”, but didn’t ever do anything with the trope.
That’s when my aunt died. After a long term battle with cancer left her crippled, she took her own life, and the whole family was shaken. Here was a woman who wanted to take on all of Texas, and then was reduced to next to nothing because of a disease. The night I found out, I drew a picture of who would one day become a minor character named Elizabeth. She has one wing, and represented how I felt my aunt must’ve seen her self towards the end. Being able to draw Elizabeth helped me through my sadness, and after a years of sketch book after sketch book filled, I wound up coming up with a more solid story line and decided to put the world I created into words. Elizabeth isn’t my main character (at least not yet, I might want to tell her story later), but she is a huge help to my protagonists on an emotional level. In a way, I guess she serves the same purpose for them that she did for me.
As for the story itself, it’s about a woman named Kaitlin who’s been fighting the fact that she’s not entirely human her whole life. When her little sister, Melissa, dives into the world of these creatures everyone considers angels and doesn’t come back, Kaitlin goes in after her. She meets an avian named Christopher who’s agreed to help her save her sister, but ultimately has to fight growing feelings for her in order to protect his kind’s secrets.
Since I just started sending out my work to agents, I don’t have representation yet, but hopefully I find someone by the end of the year!
2. I’m curious where your love of candles comes from? I’m also tempted to begin lighting some before I write, like you do. It sounds very romantic!
My love of candles started like a lot of things start. My folks told me I wasn’t allowed to have them. Of course, when you’re 13 and your parents say no candles in the room, it’s because of a fire hazard, but this just made me want them more. When I moved out of the house and went to college, I started lighting candles in my work space to keep an eye on them so I didn’t prove them right by setting fire to my dorm. Yes, I know. What a rebel I was.
Over time, it turned into a mini ritual and now I almost always have a few lit on my desk. I can write without them, but it gets me more in the mood.
3. You’re an artist as well as a writer. Do you ever draw scenes from your books, or get story ideas from your drawings/paintings?
Oh all the time. In fact, I didn’t write Flightless for so long because I was entertaining the idea of doing a comic for a little bit. I even have other artists out there who’ve loved Flightless so much, they took to drawing the characters, as fan art. Since I enjoyed the writing more than the drawing, I changed the plot to be less “graphic novel” and more “novel-novel” and put pen to paper instead. I still have artists who send me artwork from time to time, and I couldn’t ask for better fans. They’ve been a huge help throughout my writing process.
My own drawings still help me get to know the characters better and acts as a writing warm up for me coming up with stories to go with random sketches I come up with.
4. Like many authors, you listen to music as you write. What’s your favourite scribbling soundtrack?
I adore the artist FYFE and the band Bastille. My husband calls me a closeted hipster because I can’t get enough of indie artists, or artists who just have a different sound to them. I still listen to what’s on the radio, but if I’m writing, give me FYFE or Oh Wonder over Beyonce and Zane any day.
5. Let’s get serious for a moment and discuss something that’s nearly shed blood in my office. You’re a tea connoisseur: with black tea, should the milk go in before or after the water?
Oh no! I’m going to be horrible here and admit that I don’t normally put milk in my tea (I am a big fan of green/white teas, although Harney and Sons will always have a special place in my heart for their “imperial earl grey” ). But I know my very New England family on my mother’s side all put the milk in after the water. My mom says I’m the odd duck, as far as tea drinkers in our family goes, because I like strong tea with a little bit of sugar and no milk, and that is NOT the way to do it at all. She blames all the time I’ve spent in Texas with their sweet iced teas corrupting my taste buds.
6. Are your dogs, Zeus and Hank (cuteness alert) more or a help or a hindrance to your writing?
Hank, my yellow lab, has been dubbed “the writing buddy” in my house. Whenever I say to my husband “I’m off to write!”, Hank’s butt starts to wiggle and he’ll even beat me to my office sometimes, already curled up under my desk waiting for me. I can’t say he’s much help plotting, but he definitely keeps my toes warm.
Zeus, my mastiff, on the other hand? He’ll sit outside my office door, but he’s not as interested. I think he takes himself too seriously, and likes to be my guard dog, not a creative pal.
7. How do you come up with character names?
I like to think about my character’s parents when picking the name. It helps me get a little bit of a background picture into my protagonist/antagonist’s life styles. I also do a lot of research in the time, date and area the character’s born in, and look up name trends. Kaitlin, for example, was in the top fifty names during her birth year in California. Since her mother’s the type of woman to follow trends, but still want to be unique, I spell it with a K instead of a C. Christopher had a very religious mother who picked his name after St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. My antagonist, Abram, was named after his father since family and patriarchal standings are important to his family.
8. As a reader, what do you look for when choosing a novel to buy?
As horrible as it sounds, I am a sucker for a good cover. That being said, my best friend/might as well be sister always gives great suggestions. She knows me better than most people, and always suggests new things to read before I even have to worry about getting to the last page of my current book.
If I’m by my lonesome, however, and trying NOT to be attracted to pretty covers, I’ll usually read the first three pages of a book. If the writer’s voice isn’t one that grabs me in those first three pages, I move onto the next one. There doesn’t need to be a bunch of action, but the writing has to captivate me into the story, even if the main character is just doing some grocery shopping.
Right now, I’m reading a book written by a friend of mine, Alexandra Burt, called The Good Daughter. I don’t normally read suspenseful women’s fiction, but now that I’m almost halfway done with this book, I’m almost thinking I’ve been depriving myself of a wonderful genre. It’s been a great read, and I’m so happy I was given an opportunity to get my hands on a copy before February, when it’s released.
9. And what are your pet peeves as a reader? Cliffhangers, typos, deus ex machina moments?
Convenient endings, overly perfect characters, and a book trying to be something it’s not. I can’t stand it when an author tries too hard to be “the next American novel”, and forces a style without focusing on the story.
10. What writing project is next in the pipeline for Andrea McAuley – Author?
My husband’s encouraging me to write a novel about an idea I came up with last year with the working title Cafe Good Times. Long story short, it’s about a coffee shop for the dead. So far I have my protagonists, antagonists, a plot outline, and a lot of research into new age and occult, learning more about ghosts in different cultures. It’s been entertaining and a lot of non fiction reading. I hope to make a fun modern fantasy romance, while still nodding to my love of researching a subject to make it sound more real, even when I’m writing about ghosts, the undead, and witches. We’ll see how it goes! I’ve generated interest in some of my writing circles, so I’ve got high hopes!
Lastly, I’m going to be posting up the first chapter of Flightless by the end of the month though, so if y’all are interested, come on by and check it out!
You can find out more about Andrea, and subscribe for updates, at http://aemcauley.wixsite.com/author. You’ll also find an interview with me there, but don’t expect me to be all articulate and interesting like Andrea.
You can also find Andrea on Twitter: https://twitter.com/aemcauley