A blog post by ex-police officer, former psychotherapist, and award-winning, New York Times Best Selling Author, Michael McGarrity.
I’m not sure my fans and readers give a hoot about my journey to become a writer. If they do, they can easily research me on the Internet, or read the author’s bio on my website. Either way, it won’t be complete because there’s a whole lot about my life that simply isn’t anybody’s business. What I do believe is that good fiction writers are invisible and they never show up raw and naked on the pages of their books. That’s the way it should be. Readers really only care about the story. And it’s either good or it isn’t. That’s what counts. Being famous or a celebrity writer doesn’t mean a thing. Storytelling is everything.
If you’re interested in my writing and are new to it, what you need to know is that regardless of the genre, be it crime or historical fiction, all my stories are about family. If you get into my books, you’ll soon find out what I mean.
Don’t forget to patronize your local independent bookstore. They are a big part of the cultural bloodstream of your communities. Thanks, and keep reading!
An editorial note: I had the pleasure of working with Michael McGarrity on several programs for our local library in Alamogordo, NM. His warm and engaging personality, along with a pocketful of irreverent stories from both his writing career and prior law enforcement work, make him an entertaining speaker. His support for libraries is tremendous. If you haven't had a chance to read McGarrity's work, now's a great time. He's got a new book coming out for all you mystery buffs, and his family saga starting with Hard Country is a fascinating exploration of ranching life in New Mexico, and in particular, the Tularosa Basin where I was born.
Michael's next Kevin Kerney novel "Residue" will be out this fall. You can keep up with Michael and his books on both his website and his Amazon author page!
Other Titles by Michael McGarrity
The Kevin Kerney Novels
THE JUDAS JUDGE
UNDER THE COLOR OF LAW
THE BIG GAMBLE
NOTHING BUT TROUBLE
DEAD OR ALIVE
RESIDUE (Coming October, 2018)
The American West Trilogy
THE LAST RANCH
Susan Bishop Crispell earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Born and raised in the mountains of Tennessee, she now lives twenty minutes from the beach in North Carolina with her husband and their literary-named cat. She is very fond of chocolate and is always on the lookout for hints of magic in the real world. She is the author of The Secret Ingredient of Wishes (September 2016) and Dreaming in Chocolate (February 2018).
I’m not one of those authors who’s always known I wanted to write. When I finally stumbled my way into fiction in college, I couldn’t fathom ever writing something longer than a short story. My undergrad creative writing program was an incredible intro into the literary world. I learned craft rules and studied theme and symbolism. I even graduated with departmental honors in creative writing.
Then I stopped writing. For years. It’s not that I didn’t want to write anymore, but the kind of writing that was lauded in school—high-brow literary fiction—didn’t feel like me. The kinds of stories I wrote didn’t live up to that. Not by a long shot. And it left me feeling like I wasn’t good enough to keep at it.
But the stories wouldn’t leave me alone. And the voices in my head insisted I pay attention to them.
So, I decided to write a story for me. One that felt true to who I wanted to be as an author, not what I thought other people thought I should be. That changed everything. I started with a short story I’d used as part of my honors thesis and turned it into my first novel. It wasn’t some great work of literary genius, but then it wasn’t meant to be. It was a way to fall back in love with writing and to show myself that I could craft a story that spanned a few hundred pages instead of stopping after ten or fifteen.
I’ve written six novels since then, with a seventh more than half way completed. Through these stories and characters, I’ve refined my voice as an author into something that’s whimsical and commercial and a little quirky. And it’s about as far from what I was writing in college as I could get. But my books are one-hundred percent me. They’re the kinds of stories I like to read, all magical and sweet and hopeful. They’re full of family and fate and food. (So much food!)
When I first started writing these kind of stories, I wasn’t sure they would appeal to anyone. (I freely admit they’re a bit odd.) Then I read Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen and realized there was indeed a market for my brand of magical southern fiction. Now that I have two books out in the world, I know I’ve found my heart as a writer. I’m still learning and growing with every new book I write. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Dreaming in Chocolate
With an endless supply of magical gifts and recipes from the hot chocolate café Penelope Dalton runs alongside her mother, she is able to give her daughter almost everything she wants. The one sticking point is Ella’s latest request: get a dad. And not just any dad. Ella has her sights set on Noah Gregory, her biological father who’s back in town for a few months – and as charming as ever.
Noah broke Penelope’s heart years ago, but now part of her wonders if she made the right decision to keep the truth of their daughter from him. The other, more practical part, is determined to protect Ella from the same heartbreak. Now Penelope must give in to her fate or face a future of regrets.
Where to Buy Dreaming in Chocolate
Bestselling author Barbara Claypole White creates hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. Originally from England, she writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina, where she lives with her beloved OCD family. Her novels include The Unfinished Garden, The In-Between Hour, The Perfect Son, and Echoes of Family. The Promise Between Us, which shines a light on postpartum OCD, launched in January, 2018. She is also an OCD Advocate for the A2A Alliance, a nonprofit group that promotes advocacy over adversity. To connect with Barbara, please visit www.barbaraclaypolewhite.com, or follow her on Facebook. She’s always on Facebook.
As someone who has lived in the shadow of mental illness since childhood, I’m fascinated by the stigma, shame, and misinformation that surround invisible disabilities. I grew up in a family that hid both my aunt’s untreated schizophrenia and my father’s decade of alcoholism; now I’m part of a family that talks openly about mental health (my son and my husband both struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder). I’ve been an enabler, an advocate, and a mental health coach for people I love. My learning curve continues, but the ongoing journey also feeds into the fiction I write—hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness. I guess that was inevitable, but it was also unexpected.
With one manuscript in the drawer, I was deep into my second manuscript when a character called James Nealy appeared fully formed in my brain and refused to leave. James has OCD, and he came from my darkest fear as a mother: What if, when my young son grew up, no one could see beyond his obsessive, anxious behavior to love him for the incredible person he is? When I met James, I thought I was writing love stories with a dark edge. My hero and heroine were tortured souls who shared a truckload of emotional baggage, but mental illness wasn’t even a blip in a subplot.
James was a revelation from day one, but I was nervous about writing a character with OCD. Could I treat the OCD in a sensitive, accurate way? Would people question why his OCD didn’t manifest in the same form as Monk’s, the germophobic TV detective whom most people identified as the face of OCD? Would James’s quirkiness take over the story of a young mother trying to make peace with the guilt surrounding her husband’s death? And yet there was James, taking up prime real estate in my brain, saying, “Write me into your story.” (He’s quite persistent, my beloved James…)
Eventually, I tore the manuscript apart and rewrote it to include him. After a famous agent declared James “too dark to be a romantic hero” and rejected the story, I ripped it apart yet again and added chapters from James’s point of view, allowing readers to eavesdrop on his hidden battles with anxiety. I’m not sure whether this was a moment of chutzpah or my British war mentality shining through, but it was the best literary decision I’ve ever made. I quickly snagged the agent of my dreams and thanks to her, I now have five traditionally published novels.
I owe James everything. Excavating his layers helped me discover my passion for giving voice to characters who challenge stereotypes of disorders. He also set me on my path as a career novelist. By the time I’d created Felix Fitzwilliam, the unlikely hero of THE PERFECT SON, it was obvious I was writing about the impact of mental illness on families.
While my novels are standalones, my characters share common traits: they show extraordinary courage as they navigate the minefields of their everyday lives; they are never victims; and they are flawed individuals who are messy composites of personality, brain chemistry, DNA, upbringing, education, religion, etc. When they screw up, mental illness isn’t always the culprit, and they are never defined by—or reduced to—a label.
Okay, time to get off my soap box. The bottom line? I believe fiction matters and novels can educate and enlighten as well as entertain. When I visit book clubs, we tend to share wine, information, tissues, and group therapy, which I love. Many of the private messages I receive from readers are filled with stories of daily struggles without treatment or support. Community is such an important part of recovery and management, and a recurring theme in my novels.
Happy endings aren’t guaranteed in the worlds I create, but my stories all close with hope. Endless hope! Life in the trenches with mental illness can be dark and isolating, and yet each new day brings the possibility of a fresh start or what I like to call light through the trees.
Which leads me to Amy’s question: If I could meet one author, who would it be and why? I’m going to pick four giants who’ve been open about their own struggles with messed-up brain chemistry: Marian Keyes and J K Rowling (depression), John Green (OCD), and Stephen King (addiction and alcoholism). When celebrities share their struggles, it helps demystify mental illness and spread awareness. If I were to meet these guys, I would say thank you: as a niece, a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a writer.
The Promise Between Us
“This is an eye-opening and realistic exploration of mental illness—a topic that greatly deserves to be front and center.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Timesbestselling author of Small Great Things
Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.
But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?
To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.
Where to Buy The Promise Between Us
Becky Clark is the seventh of eight kids, which explains both her insatiable need for attention and her atrocious table manners. She likes to read funny books so it felt natural to write them too. She surrounds herself with quirky people and pets who end up as characters in her books.
Readers say her books are “fast and thoroughly entertaining” with “witty humor and tight writing” and “humor laced with engaging characters” so you should “grab a cocktail and enjoy the ride.” They also say “Warning: You will laugh out loud. I’m not kidding,” and “If you like Janet Evanovich, you will like Becky Clark.”
I'm lucky enough to be a full-time writer, which means I get to do my writing between 9:00am and noon every day, instead of 9:00pm and midnight. Which is good, because it's hard to write when you're fast asleep.
I started writing when my kids were very young and I had a childcare business in my home. The naptime rules were that they didn't have to sleep, but they had to stay put and read or otherwise silently occupy themselves.
That's when I went upstairs and wrote. At that time I wrote short personal essays about whatever was on my mind. I envisioned myself the next Erma Bombeck. I sold a few of those and it was extremely gratifying. It also gave me the writing bug.
Fast forward several years to my son and me at the public library. He wanted to find some historical fiction written for boys, but precocious as he was, he'd already read everything they had. As we left, he threw down the gauntlet. "Why don't you just write one, Mom?"
I didn't do everything my children wanted, but I did this. I had a lot of help, though. Several organizations and people came to my rescue: Colorado Independent Publishers Association, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and Pikes Peak Writers.
Many marvelous people taught me strange and wonderful things I didn't even know I needed to know and I got that book published, and into the hands of kids, one who told me he didn't like to read until he read my book.
Again, that writing bug chomped. Hard. And hasn't let go.
I wrote six or eight more manuscripts for kids, each one teaching me how much I still needed to learn. And then I made the leap to writing mysteries for adults. I became more involved in Pikes Peak Writers, and other writing organizations, teaching workshops to pay back the help I'd received over the years.
Getting involved in writing organizations is the advice I give everyone who asks me how to get started in a writing career. You meet fantastic and generous writers, some further along the path than you are, some further behind. You learn from both types. It's where I met most of my friends and many of my inspirations. Writer's conferences bring in editors, agents, and bestselling authors. And you get to chat with them.
As my mysteries found an audience, I was able to kick it up a notch, join Sisters in Crime (and help found my beloved Colorado chapter) and attend mystery fan conventions. Not put on for writers, but for readers. And I was able to hobnob with tons of mystery authors at conventions like Left Coast Crime, Malice Domestic, and Bouchercon.
Guess what! Even very famous ones are down-to-earth and generous! In fact, at Bouchercon 2017 I made a plan to stalk a bunch of authors to ask if they'd blurb my upcoming title FICTION CAN BE MURDER. I nervously clutched my ARCs, trying not to get them all sweaty, but I was nervous for absolutely no reason. To a person, they all said they'd be happy to read and blurb. Of course, it didn't work out for all of them in the end due to time constraints and their own writing deadlines. But I was never made to feel 'less than' or 'junior.' When asking, I always made sure to acknowledge that what I was asking of them was a huge imposition and that there really wasn't anything in it for them. They all pooh-poohed that, telling me, "People did this for me, and I want to do it for you."
Writers are inherently generous. I don't know why, but they are. I heart them.
I like the image of writers ahead of me on the career path stretching one hand back to me to help pull me along, while I have my other hand reaching back to help pull someone else along.
Because of all these helping hands, I have the first book — FICTION CAN BE MURDER — in my new Mystery Writer's Mystery series getting ready to launch in April 2018.
Fiction Can Be Murder
Mystery author Charlemagne Russo thought the twisty plots and peculiar murders in her books were only products of her imagination. That is, until her agent is found dead exactly as described in her unpublished manuscript. Suspicion swirls around her and her critique group. Which of her friends is a murderer?
Becky’s website …. https://beckyclarkbooks.com/
Follow Becky Clark on Amazon … https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004NQO14I
on Facebook at Becky Clark Author … https://www.facebook.com/BeckyClarkAuthor/
and at Goodreads … https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4730815.Becky_Clark
Where to Buy Fiction Can Be Murder
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.