Cara McKinnon wrote her first fantasy romance at the age of six, about a unicorn couple that falls in love and has adventures (there is also pie). Now she writes about humans falling in love and having adventures, and she can’t stop including magic. She loves history and historical romance, so she decided to set her books in an alternate Victorian era where magic is not only real, but a part of everyday life.
Cara has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where she found her writing tribe. She lives on the East Coast of the US with her husband, two kids, and an oversized lapdog named Jake.
1.What got you into writing / what made you sit down and actually start something?I can’t remember not wanting to write. When we had journaling time in middle school, instead writing to the prompts every day, my teacher allowed me to write a novel. It was pretty much Dragonriders of Pern fanfic with my own characters and world, but it was my first attempt at a full-length novel. It took me about ten more years to actually finish a project, and then I went to school and got my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. That experience completely changed me as a writer and a person, and taught me discipline.
2.What is a usual writing day like for you, how is it structured?
I work from home, so I have a very flexible schedule. A typical day includes about an hour in the morning on social media, looking for interesting things to share or write about, and then an hour or two of writing. Then I break for lunch and do my “real” job for a while. After I finish that for the day, I go back to writing until my son gets off the bus! Then I try to disengage from the computer and turn back into “Mom” for the rest of the day, unless I have a deadline to meet.
3.Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it?I do, sometimes. But the only way out is through. I just force myself to sit and write until things start making sense. It helps to have a detailed outline so I know what I’m writing toward.
4.Are you a plotter or pantser when it comes to writing a story?Absolutely a plotter. See above! My outlines also get me through the “saggy middle” stage, where the story starts to feel boring and I feel like I’ve lost the excitement I had in the beginning.
5.Are you traditionally or self-published?Self-published for this series (The Fay of Skye), although I am querying agents on a separate project that I would like to publish traditionally.
6. What was the publishing process like for you? Any advice to aspiring authors?There are so many learning curves to becoming an independently-published author, and many, many decisions to make. I am very lucky to have a strong indie author group from the WPF program at Seton Hill, where everyone talks about successes and failures and many of my questions were answered. My best advice is to go to places like kboards and read what your fellow authors are doing (although that’s pretty Kindle-specific, Amazon is without a doubt the strongest retailer for eBook sales). Join a local chapter of RWA (or your genre’s equivalent). If you can afford it, consider the MFA route, specifically at Seton Hill, because they not only welcome genre fiction, they specialize in it.
7.What has been your highlight since becoming a published author?Seeing the first reviews come in and having random readers I’ve never met before gush over my book. Even the modest reviews make me happy! I’m in this to connect with readers and to share my stories with the world, so feedback is wonderful.
8.Can you share a little of your most recent book with us, including genre and targeted audience? My most recent book is A Theft of Magic, the second book in the Fay of Skye series. It features Sorcha Fay, an isolated witch from Skye in Scotland, and Ronan McCarrick, a smuggler and Irish Republican. The series genre is fantasy romance, set in an alternate late-Victorian Era, and follows a family of Scottish witches and mages—Clan Fay—and their exploits. It begins in the 1890s and will continue through the turn of the century, up to the end of the First World War. The heat level for the romance is steamy, about the same as Elizabeth Hoyt or Jennifer Ashley, so my audience is adult. A Theft of Magic can be read alone, but like most series, readers will probably enjoy it more if they read the first book, Essential Magic, first.
9.What tip would you give to new authors when trying to build a fan-base / get followers and market their books? (What to do and what not to do.)This is where I am right now, so I’m still working on it! I think a definite “do” is to post interesting content to your social media and blog. Take advantage of features like Facebook events to host release parties, and play games that readers can engage with. If you’re a romance writer, sex definitely does sell! I get much more traffic when I write about or re-blog articles that deal with sex. I am just now branching out into other marketing avenues, so I don’t have much advice to give beyond social media. The only “don’t” I can think of is don’t spam people. That includes on your social media feeds. Make sure to post plenty of non-book-related content in addition to reminders of releases and sales.
10.How long on average does it take you to write a book?Before I started my current series, it was about two years. But this past year, I wrote two books and part of a third. I’m planning to write three more books by this time next year.
11.Tell us about the book cover/s, how the designing came about, whether you had much input etc. Because I’m independently-publishing (I created my own micropublisher for my books, called Stars and Stone Books), I had direct control over all of the design work for the series. And, since I am familiar with image-editing software like Photoshop, I decided to do the covers myself. I think they’ve been a success so far, although book three (the one I’m writing right now) is giving me some trouble!
12.Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time?I’m a mom, so much of my “spare” time is spent taking my kids to sports practices and games, dance and voice lessons, and other outings. But when I’m not doing that, I enjoy reading, baking, sewing, and gardening.