Fortuitous – definition: happening or produced by chance; accidental; lucky; fortunate
Please welcome Joe McGee – his fortuitous meeting with his current mentor steered him into his current genre.
a) What do you enjoy most about writing? I enjoy exploring new worlds, meeting these wonderful characters that become living extensions of my imagination. I enjoy the process and the discovery along the way. Many times I am just as surprised in my writing, with the way the story unfolds, as the reader may be. In essence, I enjoy the very act of creating…of giving life to people and places and entire worlds….
b) What age did you start writing stories/poems? I distinctly remember writing stories for other people to read, at the age of 12. I would write short stories in my spiral bound notebook and read them to kids at recess. Whole groups of kids would gather in the brick alcove where the doors were and listen to me read my weird tales or fantasy adventures. In 6th grade, I was among the few children chosen from my school to attend “Young Author’s Day,” a series of workshops aimed at aspiring creative writers throughout the school district.
c) Has your genre changed or stayed the same? I wrote adult fantasy, horror and sci-fi, for the longest time (when I got older, of course), while learning my craft. I had some small pub success, my biggest achievement coming as a 2nd place winner in the Writer’s Digest Annual Short Story Genre competition. However, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I discovered where my natural voice was, and where I belonged, and that was in writing for children and young adults. And now I am writing picture books, middle-grade, and young adult novels!
d) What genre are you currently reading? I read all over the place; all across the board. Since I am writing in three spectrums, I try and read in all three spectrums: picture books, middle-grade and YA. However, I do still indulge in some adult and fantasy novels, especially as my circle of professional writer friends expands. I am a firm believer in supporting my fellow authors through the purchase and reading of their work. Lately, I have been reading a tremendous amount of Roald Dahl, as he has been the subject of my critical thesis at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
e) Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Both. Absolutely. I read for pleasure, in my general interest and genre, because that encourages me and inspires me to write good stories. However, I also read to learn and grow as a writer. Having recently completed a M.A. in writing, and being close to completing my M.F.A. in writing for children and young adults, I have been trained to read with a critical eye. I cannot help but dissect and examine as I read, recognizing those things that work, and those that don’t. I also read what I have to for research. The Writer’s Digest piece that I won with was a dystopian about immortality, death and tattooing; heavy on the tattoos. I did extensive tattoo research (reading, physical exploration, and interviews) and I firmly believe that that research made the piece as strong as it was. So, research, yeah…absolute necessity. If you write fantasy, sure..you could write about the soldiers thundering about on horses, but go out and ride a horse. Feel a horse’s mane, the muscle tone. Smell a horse. Feed it, put its gear on…that’s research and that becomes evident in your work.
f) Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? Wow..that’s tough. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by a lot of great writers/people in the last couple of years. However, I’d have to say that Lisa Jahn-Clough, a successful children’s writer and creative writing professor, has been of tremendous support to me as a friend, a mentor, and an encourager. She helped me discover that I belonged in the field of writing for children and young adults, and that I had what it took to be successful. She is the reason that I am at VCFA, and ultimately realizing my dream of being published.
g) Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? I think my favorite character is in the YA book that I am currently working on, because in many ways, he is me…and his struggles are mine. I am touching on emotional themes that I thought I’d buried and some that are current struggles. His name is Sebastian; Sebastian Finn…but I really love all of my characters. In a way, they are all pieces of me. That’s how it works, right?
h) Where is your favorite writing space? Coffee shops…although I say this having no good local coffee shop to write in. I write on my MacBook Pro, so I can write anywhere. But I prefer some ambient light and a bit of civilization. That being said, I write in my basement office a lot right now (complete opposite of what I say I prefer), and I built myself a treadmill desk so that I can work for hours AND exercise. My dream spot is a loft office above a detached garage, preferably in Vermont, but I’m not picky…
Take a peek at Joe’s treadmill desk!
i) Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants writer? I am a hybrid. And this is another thing I have been experimenting with this last year. Here’s what I do now: I write the beginning, the first twenty pages or so….then I write the end. The climax, the denouement, bam. Then I plot a few major scenes as they pertain to quartiles/acts/writer’s journey…whichever method you most associate with (they are all very close)…and then I pants it. It’s like laying out the map, knowing where you start, where you end, and where the filling stations are in between. Then you drive through the fog and see what you see.
j) What inspires your ideas/stories? I live by “What if?” So…I’m usually inspired by a cheeky idea or some twist on what I see/hear/read….sometimes it’s a concept, sometimes it’s a character. But whatever it is, I take it, twist it, warp it, stretch it, and see just how much fun I can have in distorting the hell out of it.
k) Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one? Right now, my writing group is my fellow classmates at VCFA (Go Allies!) and my advisor, none other than THE Amy King (A.S. King). I’ve recently worked with Tom Birdseye and Sharon Darrow.
l) Do you have a book published? If so, what is it called & where can readers purchase it? We (my agent, Linda Epstein, Jennifer DeChiara Agency, and I JUST recently sold my first picture book. However, we are in the midst of signing the official contracts and such, so I am not supposed to give out any more info (i.e. publisher, etc) until I sign…(next week?) and it goes up on PW…so, SHHHHHHH….. 😉 Spoilers…
m) If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why? One? Come on, really? I’m giving you two and you can’t stop me: Stephen King and Roald Dahl. King’s mind fascinates me, as well as his ability to churn out stories (not to mention his twisted mind); Dahl is an amazing storyteller and since I’ve been reading a lot about his life, he seems like he’d be a hell of a cool person to hang out with over dinner and drinks.
n)Where can readers find you and your blog? You can follow my blog at http://mcgeejp.com/ and follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mcgeejp Here is Joe’s blog header – it’s really cool. Forging Worlds One Word At A Time.
o) Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? I do! We have three more picture books ready for sub: one about a young witch (Autumn Grimm) who discovers that having a pet is no easy job (especially when that pet is a giant spider), a book about a clockwork city in which the winding key is lost, and one in which the protagonist discovers that he is not alone in the book and is fearful of what lurks within. I am revising a middle-grade novel about an outcast with a dark legacy who must save his town from a 19th century madman and his army of ghouls, and I am at work on a YA novel about a young Ink Binder with the ability to resurrect the dead through arcane tattooing.