Author Spotlight Interview: Yolanda McCarthy
Today’s interview is with speculative fiction author Yolanda McCarthy. Her debut novel is currently a #1 New Release on Amazon in the Teen & YA Dystopian and Science Fiction Romance category. We were thrilled to chat with Yolanda about her author journey, life outside of writing and exciting upcoming projects.
HG: How would you describe yourself to somebody who isn’t familiar with your writing yet?
YM: As a reader, I enjoy the fast-paced twists and turns of a thriller, the yearning of star-crossed lovers, the hollowness of a villain who’s lost faith in the world, and for my setting I need something ‘more’ than the everyday. Whether that’s a science fiction invention, magical-seeming powers, or historical details… I guess I just like escapism! I also like young adult literature, because that’s where we find the really powerful choices on which the rest of a lifetime turns.
As a writer, I try to bring to life stories that I would love to read. So, my debut novel found itself with a young adult protagonist in a SF setting, a thriller pace, a troubled romance, and a morally bankrupt villain. My writing doesn’t contain sex scenes or swearing, mostly because my son is keen to read it. My writing, that is.
HG: A Girl From Forever is a teen sci-fi novel that was just recently released. Congrats! Can you tell us a little bit about the main characters and what readers will love about this story?
YM: Thank you! The story follows seventeen-year-old Fern, who was raised in a powerful Institute by a cult of scientists. She’s absolutely certain of her place in the world and what she was born to do. That begins to change when she’s contacted by Rehan, who is everything she’s been taught to hate, and for the first time she begins to see some of the ways in which she’s been manipulated and exploited. But Rehan isn’t all he seems either, and Fern has to grow up very quickly. The reviewers on Amazon are telling me that they loved the fast pace, the original plot and the character details.
YM: First and foremost I want them to feel satisfied with the story. I’ve read a few books where I was startled at the end by a sudden cliffhanger, and that wasn’t how I wanted mine to be. That said, any good book leaves the reader wanting more – so that’s a tricky balance to strike!
I once read a book where I got to the end, couldn’t bear to leave that world and characters, and turned back to page one and started reading it again from the beginning straight away. I guess the dream is to write something that makes readers feel like that.
HG: Totally. For fun, if A Girl From Forever was made into a movie, who would you cast?
YM: I love movies where the actors feel fresh and I don’t recognize any famous faces from other stories, so I’d want new faces! I’m also a big fan of color-blind casting, and I’ve tried to leave character ethnicity open in my novel so that readers can choose the final details of how the characters look to them. So I think I’m going to insist on leaving this to the readers’ imaginations…
HG: Absolutely. I love that concept. Switching gears, what has been the most challenging part of your road to publication?
YM: This book was going to be published in Spring 2020. You may notice that it is now September 2021.
HG: Ahh, time. So, can you tell us about your actual writing process? Did it change during the pandemic? When and where do you write?
YM: Oh, it changed during the pandemic… It stopped completely. My son, then aged seven, was very anxious about it all and we decided it was best for him to have a year off school. At the same time, I’d just demolished most of my house. All of my creative energy – and time – went into home educating my son and trying to keep the rebuild project on track despite supply chain nightmares. I didn’t write anything until the build was done and my son returned to school after a year off.
There’s two kinds of work I do for my books, and neither is much use without the other. First there’s the creative stuff, where a character leaps fully-formed into my head and starts arguing with another character, or where I get an idea for how a plot and setting could express a cool dilemma. That kind of ‘writing’ has to, for me, take place far away from computer or notebook. It happens when I’m mowing the lawn, or having a shower, or standing squashed between commuters in a train carriage. Anywhere the brain is yearning for an escape…
Then there’s the second kind of ‘writing’ where I actually get the ideas out of my head and onto the page. This kind can be great fun, but mostly isn’t, and I have to shut myself in a silent room with no phone / internet or I’d never finish anything. Usually I scribble a lot of handwritten notes to help me work out the story outline, then start typing the first draft on my laptop.
HG: Where do you find your inspiration?
YM: Songs, memories, world events… I actually just wrote an article for my VIP Readers Group about how I had the idea for A Girl From Forever, so to know more, contact me through my website and I’ll send you the article!
HG: Awesome! Was writing something you always saw yourself doing? Was “author” your dream job?
YM: Writing books was always something I wanted to do, since I was little. But at first, I didn’t have anything particular to say. I didn’t know what to write about! So I became a lawyer instead and wrote some very ‘creative’ litigation arguments.
Looking back, there was a series of moments that helped me get back to writing…
…Sitting in a movie theatre watching a very bad, but very successful, movie and realizing that professional writing wasn’t just for geniuses. This really helped demolish imposter syndrome for me.
…Listening to a film producer say that the most successful writers she knew weren’t the most talented she’d met, but those who never quit.
…Listening to a writing teacher bellow “Don’t get stuck trying to be original! Shakespeare wasn’t original and you’re not Shakespeare!”
…Seeing my name on screen as the writer – just a short film, but it still felt good.
It took a long time. I started my first screenplay in 2005 and my first novel in 2017. Neither are fit to be seen!
HG: What do you like to do when not writing?
YM: What do I like to do? Beach parties, picnics on top of mountains with stunning views, iced coffee with friends in far-off cities. Midnight sea-swimming in a hot country on a clear night. Playing with kittens. And I feel lucky to have done all of those things. But now that I think about it, not for a very long time…
What do I actually do? Take son to school, start cleaning house, get bored, play on phone, feel guilty, (insert writing here) collect son, chase him round playground and local field for a couple of hours, drive home, panic because I forgot to buy anything for dinner, order takeaway, try to convince husband and son that they like the takeaway, try to revive the mouse that my cat just brought in, put son to bed at 8pm. And again at 8.30. And again at 9pm. When he’s finally in bed I read, or watch TV… At weekends we usually have brunch then go out for a family walk by a local river, maybe visit family.
HG: I can totally relate. For fun, if you could ask your author idol one question about their writing, writing process, or books, what would it be?
YM: That would be an amazing opportunity to have. I think I’d be curious how much her work changed from draft 1 to final draft. My author idol is brilliant at creating unexpected plot twists and I’d love to know how much they’re all planned at the beginning. Does she keep changing the plot as she goes, to write in bigger and bigger surprises? I’m very much a ‘planner’ with my writing, so with A Girl From Forever I was surprised that I had to completely change the ending I’d originally planned, because it didn’t feel true to the characters once they’d been on their journey.
HG: Before we wrap up, I understand that you have some very exciting projects in the works, what can you tell us about those?
YM: I’ve got so many more ideas. First I want to go back in time and explore how the Forever cult began and what motivates the villain who caused Fern and Rehan so much grief. I’m working on a novella, Forever A Villain, that explores all of that.
After that, I’m going forward in time again and finding out what happened to Fern and Rehan after all the drama of A Girl From Forever. I’ve written half a book which I hope will become the sequel, but it’s a little different from the others as I’m writing from four points of view! The working title for this is The Flaw in Forever.
When those books are finished, I plan to edit a young adult historical novel that I finished last year but put aside for a while because I know I want to change the ending but I haven’t quite decided how… It’s called A Liar’s Stage and you can find more information about it on my website.
HG: Fantastic! We’ll definitely keep a lookout for what’s to come. Lastly, for readers that want to find out more about your stories and keep up with you, where should they go to connect or learn more?
YM: The best place for up to date information about my writing is www.yolandamccarthy.com. The site also tells you how to join my VIP Readers’ Club, a group I write to once or twice a month to share updates about my writing and cool things I’ve found around the internet, like free books and author recommendations.
Readers can also follow me on the sites below to be notified about my new releases, but for regular updates the VIP Readers Club on my website is much better.
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