Madeleine McDonald is a newspaper columnist who has just published her first romance novel. In a previous life she worked as a freelance translator and précis-writer for the United Nations.
SA: Tell us about ENCHANTMENT IN MOROCCO
MM: Morocco is a land of colour and contrast, a crucible where Africa meets Europe. It provided me with a fascinating backdrop for a traditional romance story.
SA: What qualities do you need to be a successful writer?
MM: Persistence. Never give up, despite the rejection slips.
SA: What is your working method?
MM: I have to think through my fingers, with a notebook or keyboard. I have never been able to write in my head, or even think about plots in my head.
SA: What is the single biggest mistake made by beginners to writing?
MM: Writers have to be willing to tear their work up, and start all over again. When you’re starting out it’s difficult to stand back and assess your work dispassionately because every word is an achievement and every word feels precious.
SA: How did you come to write this particular book?
MM: I wanted to write a romance set in an exotic location, and drew upon personal experience from my travelling days to describe the traditional way of life in remote Moroccan villages.
SA: How can people buy your book?
MM: In various electronic formats, downloaded from www.redrosepublishing.com. Readers outside America can purchase it via PayPal. Enchantment In Morocco
SA: To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?
|Pic by Weronika Dziok|
MM: The rules of grammar and spelling are no more than an aid to clear communication. You can write a great story, or an interesting article, but if it is littered with spelling mistakes it will be consigned to the wastepaper bin without being read. Weird punctuation also distracts the readers’ attention from what the writer wants to say, or distorts the message. In contrast, Read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species to see how precise, elegant language illuminates the scientific arguments.
SA: How much revision of your MS do you do before you send it off?
MM: My book went through half a dozen versions. If I hadn’t had a deadline, I might still be tweaking it.
SA: To what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?
MM: It helps readers to identify what they are buying. On the other hand, it puts readers in a straitjacket. If readers never stray outside their comfort zone, they lose out.
SA: What are your writing habits?
MM: When I was younger, in paid employment and looking after the family, I had to snatch an hour here and an hour there. Nowadays, I try to devote a whole day to writing, then cram housework, shopping and gardening into the next day. This puts chores in their proper place. Having a deadline of “get it all done today” stops other activities interfering with writing. Conversely, knowing that I must stop writing at the end of the day encourages me to keep typing and not wander off for a cup of tea.
SA: Do you have support, either from family and friends or a writing group?
MM: I belong to Hornsea Writers, a support group notorious for constructive criticism. My wonderful husband however reads newspapers but never books. With many a groan and sigh, he used to proofread my translations before I sent them off, but he draws the line at romance.
SA: Is presentation of the MS as important as most agents and publishers suggest?
MM: Everyone, in every profession, is under pressure to do more in less time. Anything that makes an agent’s or publisher’s job easier will make them more receptive to your work.
SA: Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?
MM: Both. Craft can be learned, but without the initial spark a writer will never succeed.
SA: What are you writing now?
MM: A romance set in Switzerland, against the background of the annual Basel Art Fair.
SA: Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit?
SA: Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?
MM: A cabin like George Bernard Shaw’s summerhouse, which rotated to catch the sun.
SA: Where do you actually write?
MM: In bed, at the kitchen table, in the summerhouse with my notebook balanced on top of the cat, on the sitting room sofa screening out the noise of the telly, on trains, in waiting rooms. If you can read, you can also take a notebook and scribble.
Word of the Day is divorced from the post that precedes it and produced in response to a request from a follower to provide just such a service.
Word of the Day; abstract – abstruse, non-representational, not concrete. ‘The abstract art of today can be viewed either as a symbol of the rejection of representational painting or, if you’re more honest and less naive, as a great con trick to fleece the gullible.’