This year I celebrate a decade of writing. It was not something my creative brain discovered until I came to Canada. Throughout my younger life art was my main creative outlet, whether it was painting, collage, pottery, sculpture, textiles, knitting, sewing, and many more. I would spend my lunch hours in the art room at school rather than in the playground, it was my happy place. From creating abstract art in a multiple of mediums to utilizing fabric remnants found at Liberty’s of London for summer tops, I indulged my creativity.
This changed as I began adult life and my creative outlets ceased as I entered the workforce and socialized with my peers and then had children. I dappled in rug design without success and although I was gifted an easel one Christmas and attended an art class for a short time, I just didn’t have the time or motivation. It was only when I came to Canada and there was an opportunity to find a creative outlet that I made the decision to find one. I stumbled across the writing group, The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County (https://www.wfscsherwoodpark.com/ ) by pure chance on a trip to the local library and decided to attend a meeting. From that point on I found my ‘place’ and began to learn a new skill, one which has given me not just a group of firm and supportive friends but also allowed me to discover my new country, as well as attend numerous events and a connection to many other writers from home and further afield.
Now I have eight published books and three work in progress manuscripts (and numerous ideas filed) and there is no slow down in sight for my writing passion. It has gripped me and I am so happy I ‘found’ my creative life again.
Not only have I written novels but also participated in National Novel Writing Month a total of ten times, attended numerous writing retreats and workshops, presented at workshops, started a freelance writing business (https://tailoredthemedtosuit.wordpress.com/ ) and became Secretary to my writers group. I am truly immersed in the writing life and am so glad I braved that first writing group meeting.
Tell us why you participate in National Novel Writing Month
I find it a superb way to practice writing to a deadline, write without the worry of editing and letting my creativity flow with no constraints.
How/When did you first learn about NaNoWriMo?
My first NaNo was 2009 when I was persuaded by a new writing friend from my writing group to participate. At the time I’d only written very short stories (and I mean short). The idea of fifty thousand words made me refuse point blank but gradually she convinced me I could do it. That first NaNo’s project was edited and revised almost every year until I finally published it 2018.
How many years have you participated in NaNoWriMo?
This will be my tenth NaNo – I only missed 2017 when I was working on two manuscripts that were published that year.
What is your NaNoWriMo project for this year?
The idea came late in October (almost November) it just popped into my head to write a young romance set within a university campus. The two main protagonists have evolved into fully rounded characters now.
If you were to introduce yourself to a group of strangers, what would you say?
I indulge my creativity in writing whether writing fiction or aiding clients within my freelance business and am a writing community advocate.
Do dreams inspire your writing ideas?
I have used several dream sequences within my works of fiction, they are always vivid and I quickly write them down. I always have a notebook on the bedside table.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
Stephen King is my literary hero. He is the greatest story teller, creating characters with minimal description, grips your interest from the first page and never disappoints. My greatest possession is a personal letter I received from him. It is framed about my writing desk.
What is your preferred genre to write in?
I do not write to genre, I write the story an it chooses which genre it is as it unfolds.
It took some time to decide whether I would participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I have participated ten times in all and each time have created novel or novella length manuscripts. Most have been revised and edited over the following year or so to become published books. Some quicker than others it must be said. My very first NaNo in 2009 resulted in a work not published until last September! Yep 9 years. This was due to it being my first full length manuscript, my novice writing and self doubt that it was worthy of publishing. I revised and edited almost every year until I took the plunge, finally satisfied it was finalized.
However, in regard to this year’s NaNo, my first stumbling block was the two draft novels I have pending, which are previous year’s NaNoWriMo manuscripts. Again I know they need revisions and editing prior to submission to a publisher. My struggle was should I work on these manuscripts rather than create another one?
Secondly, I have several events to attend during November, which will take me away from the vital writing time needed for NaNo. As we all know every minute counts during November. Will I have enough time to succeed?
Thirdly, although I browsed the multitude of saved short stories in my laptop folders, I was not convinced any of them were novel length material. Or maybe it was my Muse not being excited enough about them – who knows? So I pondered what ‘new’ story I could write. Nothing I thought of seemed the elusive ‘it’ until just as I was drifting off to sleep an idea burst into my mind. It gave me a rough timeline, one character and the inkling of a plot. Knowing that relying on memory is a writer’s mistake when ideas pop up, I got up and wrote it all down. Subsequently, I have managed to decide on my two main characters, their location, some backstory and a timeline.
So I am as ready as I can be for 1st November. If you would like to connect on the NaNoWriMo site I’m MandyB.
One of the most defining and yet complicated relationships women have is with their mothers; this was true, at least, of Danielle, the protagonist of my first book. But parents – and especially mothers – seem to lose their identities except as “mom”. I wanted to explore who Danielle’s mother was before she was a mother; her identity, her past. Her secrets. Why is she the way she is, which has such an effect on Danielle? And then, I’m always interested in women’s issues, and the 1960s was such a turbulent time for that, so it all played in to the inspiration.
How did you come up with the title?
To Air the Laundry… the whole premise follows Sharon deciding to tell her secret or not. She spends so much of her day doing her husband’s laundry, and as she does this, she thinks and wonders and remembers, and struggles with whether to air the laundry of her own, so to speak.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
It’s okay. Sometimes it is what it is and it might be hard, but we do the best with what we can and deal with what happens afterward and all of that is okay, even if it doesn’t always seem that way. I also want people to remember that each person has her own story; everyone has thoughts, experiences, secrets, a full identity, and we usually catch only glimpses of the whole story.
How much of the book is realistic?
It’s realistic fiction, so pretty much all of it. In a note from me at the end of the book, I say that this is not the story of any one person I know, but it is one story that could have belonged to any one of hundreds or thousands of young women over the years and generations.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
No, not really. As a teacher I see a lot, and I know a lot of women who struggle with the career vs family decisions, even now, so in the 1960s it was even more pronounced.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
Yes, I do; I’ve started my third book, and while it is a stand-alone, as are my first two, there is tie-in. It actually centers on a minor character from my first book, Allison. I really like exploring different styles of storytelling, and this is something completely different from anything I’ve tried before, so I’m really taking my time with it, but I’m having a lot of fun with it, too.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
Hmm. This is a tricky one. I have to say it’s pretty tied between Mark, the husband from The Girl with the Empty Suitcase, who I feel is wonderfully flawed and human, and Melinda, who makes a brief appearance in The Girl with the Empty Suitcase, but is more present in To Air the Laundry. Melinda is sassy and strong and fiercely fun-loving and brash and independent, and I just think she’s fabulous. Maybe she’ll show up in future stories; I don’t know, but I hope so.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I write women’s literature, which is usually realistic fiction, but there is a lot of overlap. To Air the Laundry, since it takes place in the 1960s, overlaps with historical fiction. My new book actually overlaps a bit with magical realism, and I’m toying with a new idea for the future that overlaps with science fiction. They all are firmly in women’s literature though, in whatever other form they may also take.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
I’m in the middle; I’m a “plantser”. I do outlines and have a rough plan or idea for my stories, but the details get worked out as it all develops.
What is your best marketing tip?
Just keep at it. I’m learning every day, and it’s hard, but just keep trying.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?
Though it does get to be a distraction, I actually generally find it a very useful tool. I connect with other writers and readers and use it for marketing, but also to “nerd out” over books and writing in general, which I love and find so important.
What age did you start writing stories/poems?
About 5 years old. I remember laying on my stomach on a bed, writing and illustrating stories with crayons. I attempted a novel at age 12; it was awful. My brother accidentally deleted it right around 100 pages, and he probably did the world a solid favour, but I kept the title for use for a future story – it was the best part of it all. When I was in upper elementary or junior high I started telling people I wanted to right a book, and I once recorded all the old family stories and anecdotes and put them together and gave them to my dad for a gift once. When it came time to share talents, I never knew what to do, so I’d always just tell people a story; so I’ve always been writing.
Has your genre changed or stayed the same?
Growing up I didn’t realize how much genres overlapped each other; science fiction can also be women’s lit! So while I always primarily write realistic fiction/women’s lit, I am a lot more playful in combining genres.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both?
Both. Reading for pleasure is also research! I usually have two or three books on the go at one time, outside of work, where I typically have another three. I learn a lot and am made of the pages I read.
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
My husband. One hundred percent. He reads everything I write, even though it’s not his genre at all. He encourages; he sets up tables and displays, he shares on social media, he sets up orders at his work, he sells books for me at my launches, he insists I take days where I do nothing but read or write, even when I’m complaining about my to-do list… he is the best support ever. I’m very fortunate to have a great support system – friends, family. My mother-in-law does my cover art and frequently helps me sell at markets. The community and my students are also really supportive.
Where is your favorite writing space?
At home, on my couch, with at least one of my dogs curled across me and at least one cat continuously trying to walk across the keys of my laptop. Add a giant cup of tea and that’s pretty heavenly.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?
Margaret Atwood. She is an incredible storyteller who is able to weave an incredible plot while still focusing on character. She is also concerned with women’s stories, and so important to Canada, not just in the literary world. Plus, I think she just seems like an awesome human being.
If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?
I always say Venice, Italy, but I think maybe I’d just live there part time. Part time on a beach somewhere. And part time here in the Crowsnest Pass. When I was very young – again maybe 5 – I told my mother I was going to marry a man home by 5 every night, and we were going to live in a small town in the mountains where I was going to write and teach kids about reading and writing. And we would have a lot of animals. That’s what I’m living right now, and it’s pretty fantastic.
Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. I’m not doing it now, as I’m a high school English teacher, but for others, most definitely. Maybe one day, as I get older, get a few more books out, it will be for me, but for right now I also love being in the classroom. The people I know who make writing their full-time career; I’m both happy and a little envious of them.
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?
Sometimes, yes. I like salty snacks, like crackers or popcorn, or occasionally something small and sweet, but most often I’m drinking coffee or tea or occasionally a glass of wine when I’m writing.
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?
More time reading and writing!
Krysta MacDonald writes about realistic characters confronting the moments and details that make up lives and identities.
She lives in a small Canadian town in the Rocky Mountains with her husband and veritable zoo of pets. She has a B.A. in English and a B.Ed. in English Language Arts Education, and spends most of her time teaching, prepping, marking, and extolling the virtues of Shakespeare. When she isn’t doing that, she’s writing, and when she isn’t doing that, she’s reading.
How did you find your particular writing style? A creative writing class, a teacher, a format or something else?
Do you write differently for different genres?
We all find a process that allows us to convey our story in the best way is good – right? There are several styles that utilize words/language, sentence structure, and paragraph structure, to convey our meaning effectively in respect of the genre we write.
Last week’s question: How important is research to you when writing a book? What have you researched for you current manuscript?
For me, research is half the fun of writing. Even with the convenience of today’s Internet, I still enjoy thumbing through “real” reference books: highlighting, underlining, dog-earing pages, sticky noting, etc. My most recent research project has been on cremation.
I have researched medieval physician’s healing techniques, the circumstances of how a body can dry out and become a husk, natural substances that prevent pregnancy or induce sterility.