In today’s Friday Feature, Hannah Hunt interviews Mindy McGinnis, a young adult author who tackles some serious issues on both the environmental and psychological fronts in her work. Her publications include Not a Drop to Drink (2013), In a Handful of Dust (2014), an A Madness so Discreet (Fall 2015). The reads are realistic, fast-paced, and set in worlds that give you goosebumps, but man does McGinnis know her stuff!
Author Bio: Mindy McGinnis is an assistant YA librarian who lives in Ohio and cans her own food. She graduated from Otterbein University magna cum laude with a BA in English Literature and Religion. Mindy has a pond in her back yard but has never shot anyone, as her morals tend to cloud her vision.
Interview with Mindy McGinnis:
- Your books have an air of realism about them, and I assume MADNESS, despite the difference in genre, will be no different. How much research went into DRINK and DUST before you wrote them? And into MADNESS?
I did quite a bit of research for both DRINK & DUST. I needed to learn about methods for purifying water, for sure, but there are always little things that pop up. For example in DUST I had to learn just enough about horses to make it sound realistic when one of them went lame. MADNESS was a different story altogether. I researched for a year before writing a word of the novel. The plot the setting, the speech patterns of the characters all had to be realistic in order for me to have any pride in it.
- Do you think there’s ever too much research done for a book? Why or why not?
I think it’s easy to go overboard. For example I read three books about lobotomies, and two books about brain injuries that included doctor’s medical notes from colonial times. The sum total of thousands of pages of research influenced about five paragraphs in MADNESS. I executed those few paragraphs and was like – that’s it, Mindy?
Even so, I wouldn’t ever say that you can do *too much* research. Everything I learned informs every line of the book, even if I’m not referencing the research directly.
- What would you say is your weakest skill as a writer, or what have you had to work hardest at in your drafting (e.g. character building, world building, plot, etc.)?
Character movement. I hate it. I hate physically moving a person from one room to the next and trying to keep that interesting. It’s almost impossible. I’d rather just scene break.
- Do you have any writing quirks (e.g. writing with a bowl of jellybeans on the desk, in your pajamas only, when a cat’s perched nearby, under the shroud of darkness, etc.)?
I write in bed, because I work full time so my writing time is at night. I recently started putting on some white noise, it’s like a protective sound barrier around my brain.
- Your journey from writer to published author is a long one. Any advice for those following a similar path of writing and waiting, or those maybe losing their faith in the craft?
I don’t like hearing the advice “never give up,” because I think it’s therapeutic to go ahead and give up once in awhile. It took me ten years to get published and I gave up more than once on the journey, but always found my way back to it. A lot of the factors in publishing are completely out of an author’s control so constantly pressuring yourself to do better, be better, MAKE IT, isn’t necessarily going to be beneficial. Outside factors like the market and editor’s personal taste might be what’s not allowing you to break through right now, and that’s not something an author can control. Write your best book, then walk away and come back to it (trust me it still needs work). Take those breaks.
- What are some of your most memorable experiences so far with the publishing process (with any of your books); and from meeting your fans?
I had an adult male tell me that DRINK was the first book they’d ever read in their life, and DUST would be the second. That’s pretty humbling. It’s an amazing thought that I can bring the love of reading to someone later in life. Highest possible compliment.
- Some people suggest using a pseudonym or pen name when writing/publishing in different genres. It’s clear you don’t plan to with your switch from dystopian fiction to historical; why is that?
Good question. Even with jumping genres the voice of MADNESS still fits my author brand. I write dark, and this definitely fits in that category.
- You were a part of the Darker Days tour with HarperCollins after DRINK debuted in 2013; how is an organized tour different from scheduling your own talks throughout the rest of the year?
Ha, well – it’s a lot cheaper, for one thing. A tour like that is paid for by the publisher, but when an author schedules their own events the costs are on us entirely and it’s a gamble that you hope pays off in sales. And sometimes it doesn’t. The other thing is that when you get to do a group tour like Dark Days it builds amazing camaraderie with fellow authors. You’ve got inside jokes after three hours. It’s fantastic.
- If you could pick a setting from any manuscript you’ve ever written (published or not) to live in for the rest of your life, where/when would you live and why?
Oh man, none of them. I write horrible things. I’ll put fake people there, but that’s it!
What Critics are Saying:
The intensity of action moves the story forward, but not at the expense of character development. The complex, authentic characters are neither fully evil nor unbelievably good. The honest and hopeful ending—while not “happily ever after”—will resonate with readers and leave them asking for more. — Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
In A Handful of Dust:
Tension’s maintained by constant, subtle foreshadowing (rather than transparent cliffhangers), and the characters rarely feel safe enough for readers to relax. Hard to put down. — Kirkus Reviews
A Madness So Discreet:
Brutal, relentless, and haunting. Every character in A Madness So Discreet is more colorful and unforgettable than the last. With a realistic, emotionally complex, and clever heroine, readers will find themselves rooting for Grace from page one. Her story and McGinnis’s style is too gripping to ignore. — Madeleine Roux, New York Times bestselling author of Asylum and Sanctum
About the Contributor:
Hannah Hunt spends her free time writing about pickpockets, cyborgs, and global conspiracies. Just not at the same time. She’s served on the submissions review board for Flip the Page and the Wittenberg Review of Literature and Art, and has published several short stories. When she’s not working on one of her manuscripts, you might find her painting, burrowed beneath a pile of books, or plotting world domination.