Interview with Caitlin McColl

Published 2013-08-28.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in the cold prairie province of Alberta, Canada but soon after moved to the beautiful West Coast and grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia (one of the most beautiful places on earth, in my opinion!).

Growing up in Vancouver of course influenced my writing! Like famous author Douglas Coupland who is also from Vancouver, and whose stories are set in Vancouver, a lot of my stories (like Under a Starlit Sky) also take place in Vancouver (albeit sometimes an alternate history version of it as in my steampunk short stories!). After all, you should ‘write what you know’, right?
When did you first start writing?
The first thing I remember vividly, is writing a story in elementary school – I must have been about 5 or 6 or so. I wrote a couple page story (with illustrations, all done by me) on construction paper. It was about a knight called Michael (not a very knightly name, I know!) who rescued a princess from a dragon. Funnily enough, about 16 years later, I married my husband, also called Michael. I still have that little booklet hiding somewhere…and I’ve been writing ever since!
What's the story behind your latest book?
I've never written about a female protagonist before (despite being female myself!) so with my last book(s) - 2 steampunk short story collections, I thought i'd write about a female main character - a newspaper reporter that finds herself in lots of troublesome scenarios when she tries to investigate stories for the newspaper she works for (which was a very difficult job to get, for a woman in an alternate Victorian-era society!). I love her, Abe (aka Anise). She's fun and fiesty, and has cool boots!
What are you working on next?
I have a couple of things in the pipeline. I’m planning on doing a 3rd volume of 5 steampunk short stories – so more stories involving newspaper reporter heroine Abe Buttersby! I love her as a character. And the other main thing I’m planning on working on is the 3rd book in my steampunk novel series (the first 2 are as yet unpublished)…
Who are your favorite authors?
Stephen King – I've read a lot of his horror stuff growing up, but was never a huge fan...but it's his ‘The Dark Tower’ series that I love. Best fantasy/sci-fi series ever! (Did you know he wrote fantasy/sci-fi and not just horror?!)

Erin Morgenstern – I loved The Night Circus! can't wait to read anything else she writes...

Terry Pratchett – l have every single book in his Discworld series. Love the humour in his stuff

Neil Gaiman – like Terry Pratchett, I love his quirky, whimsical fantasy worlds

Douglas Coupland – fellow Vancouverite who writes about Vancouver – places that I’ve lived and/or know well…and that’s really cool to me (plus his books are awesome – very different and quirky – it seems I like quirky!
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My alarm clock? Ha ha. Well, my day job requires me to get out of bed 4 days a week. The other days…well, I’m just programmed to get up! There are some days I can't wait to get up and start writing when i'm working on a new story, though.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I read, I work out (I’m a new runner, and I love running! I’m just about to do my first 14k race in a few weeks), I like those mystery-solving video games, and movies.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Mainly through recommendations by friends – or my Kobo ereader!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
see my earlier answer about the dragon slaying Knight named Michael!
What is your writing process?
I don't really have a writing process, per se. I've tried in the past to write in depth story outlines, but things usually change so much anyway that in the end the outline doesn't even really work anymore! Now I usually just focus on writing detailed character profiles so I know my characters inside and out (I also do character 'interviews') and then I have general marking posts - things I want to have happen in the story...but everything else just flows without me having planned it ahead of time. I find I write better without really thinking about it. It just happens! Of course I have a very general/vague plot idea in mind... but that's about it.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don’t remember the first story I ever read, but I remember reading some of my Dad’s old sci-fi novels like ‘The Last Starfighter’ (y’know, that cult 80’s movie) probably where I get my love of sci-fi and fantasy from!
How do you approach cover design?
I ask friends who are far more talented than me to design covers for me and thankfully they agree :). I think a good cover is a very important thing. Bad cover design turns me off stories, unfortunately (even though you should never judge a book by its cover, I’m afraid that I do).
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Dark Tower 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! Just kidding (though they’re great books!). This is a very tough question, because I love a lot of different books for different reasons! I love Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. I just love the concept and idea of it. I love Gail Carriger’s entire Parasol Protectorate series (can I count the whole series as one book?!) and Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. I adore The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and love Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories - it’s hard to choose a favourite as they’re all such great stories.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read a whole lot of different stuff (except Romance, really). I love fantasy and sci-fi first and foremost, but I also like paranormal/urban fantasy, ghost stories, literary fiction, crime novels, thrillers…if friends recommend it, and it sounds interesting I’ll read it! (hey, I’ve even read Dan Brown, and the Twilight books – don’t hold that against me though!)
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My Kobo e-reader! I’m not totally up to date with the 21st century so have yet to get a smartphone (iphone or something of the sort) so the main thing I read e-books on is my Kobo ereader. I love that I can get books from my local library through it! Maybe that's why I like writing (and reading) Steampunk - I love the Victorian era, when technology was just coming more mainstream in society...My crappy cell phone is like something that could be invented by some mad scientist in my steampunk alternate society!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Well Smashwords is a great tool in itself – with the author profile page. And of course I’ve found that social media (facebook and twitter) have been great at getting people to know about my stuff. I have yet to try the whole virtual book blog tours yet, but hopefully that will be next!
Describe your desk
I recently got an antique writing desk of my great grandmother's from my parents. It's an awesome giant wooden thing with beautiful curved legs, and a neat drawer to store all my writing stuff in!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I want to share my stories with readers my way, and have control over my story, and it’s cover design, without someone taking it and editing it or tearing it apart and putting it back together in a way that it is no longer recognizably the story that I wrote. I don’t want that to happen, and being an indie author allows me to freedom to retain my story as something I am proud to share with others!
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords is such a great platform, and there’s no way I would be able to distribute my ebooks to so many varied online retailers – especially the big names like Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple without it! Thanks to Smashwords, my books are available in more places than I could have put out myself – and through Smashwords itself, of course. It makes it easy to keep track of my books, where they are selling, and to make changes to the books without having to go separately to lots of different retailers every time I might want to update my book! Also with all the people that are on Smashwords, it's a huge community of potential readers (as well as writers!) which is great! :)
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing is telling the stories! Putting the worlds and characters that are in my head down on paper, and having them come to life, and hopefully have other people enjoy those worlds and characters (and spread the word about me! :))
What do your fans mean to you?
What is an author without fans?! No one and nothing! My fans mean the world to me, and I would hope they would tell their friends about my stuff if they enjoyed it! :). Without my fans, my writing might as well just be sitting unread in the back of my closet...
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

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