The Writing Life of: Lucy A. McLaren
Lucy A. McLaren
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Lucy A. McLaren, who will be sharing with us details of her writing life, telling us all about her new book ‘Awakening‘, which was released on 1st May 2022, and answering a few fun questions. This post contains affiliate links.
As a writer, Lucy A. McLaren spends her time capturing on paper the imaginary kingdoms, far-off places and characters who live there (and their pets, of course) that her brain throws at her at completely random times of day.
She’s been a fan of fantasy stories since she was a child, but especially loves to explore her characters through the real-world lens of mental health— what have they been through, what are they feeling and why are they how they are? She uses a mix of counselling theory and D&D backstories when creating her characters. Add a pinch of magic, ruthless cults, authoritarian, patriarchal leaders or murderous lunatics, and perhaps a talking animal or two, and you’ll have an idea of what her stories involve.
1) Did you enjoy writing when you were a child?
I did! I remember writing stories when I was young but in particular I started on fantasy stories when I was about 11 and discovered series like The Song of the Lioness Quartet. These, alongside playing video games such as Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, really opened up my imagination.
2) Which author shaped your childhood?
When very young I remember adoring Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree books, which I have no doubt were some of my earliest explorations of fantasy worlds. But I think it would have to be Philip Pullman because His Dark Materials is my favourite series which I first read when I was a child and has stayed with me into adulthood. It’s one of those series I can’t wait to share with my son when he’s older.
3) What motivated you to begin your first novel?
I actually started writing it following my first stint at D&D. I hadn’t written properly for some time but coming up with my character backstory for that lit the creative juices once more. Evelyn was my D&D character, and from her backstory was born the world of The Commune’s Curse trilogy.
4) Do you plot your book, or are you a pantser?
Very vague plotting, but I quickly get bored of it. I want to dive into writing the story! So definitely more of a pantser. I find it exciting that scenes or characters appear on the page before I even really know about them. My subconscious is clearly a step or two ahead at all times!!
5) What is your average writing day?
Well, since I had my son last summer the answer to that question has changed quite a lot. I used to write every day. For the first few months after my son was born, I was barely able to even think about writing. I am slowly finding my routine again though—and writing on my phone when my son is asleep on me has been a big part of that. So my typical writing space looks like this:
6) What is the best thing about being an author?
I never thought I’d label myself as that and I get so excited every time I realise that yes, I am an author. My teenage self wouldn’t believe it. So I think the best thing for me is actually that I’ve achieved what I thought I never could: written a book that is being released out into the world. With many more to follow, I hope. I can’t wait to share my stories!
The Commune’s Curse Book One
Publisher – Santa Fe Writer’s Project
Pages – 380
Release Date – 1st May 2022
ISBN 13 – 978-1951631178
Format – ebook, paperback
The Kingdom of Septima is ruled in all but name by the Commune, a ruthless cult that seeks control of an ancient power that has taken root in unsuspecting children in Septima. To maintain their hold on the kingdom, the Commune will stop at nothing to capture children who show signs of this power, to be weaponised or eliminated.
18-year-old Evelyn Folksman is in hiding. Taken in by a tavern-owner, she is haunted by the horrific events that drove her from her home years before. Evelyn is forced to face her past when two wayward children, Raif and Rose Huntsman, arrive at the tavern, pursued by Commune soldiers.
The children fall under Evelyn’s reluctant care as the trio narrowly escape a raid. Relentlessly hunted by Commander Jonah Sulemon and Commune agent Lord Eirik Torrant, Evelyn and Raif cannot fathom why they pose such a threat to the Commune, until six-year-old Rose unwittingly reveals a terrible secret: she possesses powers more fearsome than any the Commune has unearthed in decades. There are only two options: to be captured and imprisoned, or to run for the rest of their lives.
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7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
Awakening: The Commune’s Curse Book 1 is a YA fantasy. I think I’ve been “researching” ever since that first moment I played Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time when I was 10. Every fantasy story I’ve read, played and watched has gone towards giving me this feeling that I wanted to create my own world and characters.
8) How long did it take to go from the ideas stage to writing the last word?
To complete first draft of Awakening, it was 8 months. From first draft to final draft it was about 3 years. You know, I didn’t realise when I first wrote the book just how much editing and rewriting it would need. I actually queried my first draft—ha! I’ve learned a lot since then, through meeting amazing people in the writing community as well as through querying and being rejected multiple times.
9) What made you choose the genre you write in?
I’ve always loved fantasy stories. There’s something magical about being immersed in a whole other world. Sometimes the worlds are similar to ours and sometimes they’re drastically different. What ultimately makes me love a book is good characters. Which, yes, you can find in other genres. I suppose I just like the possibilities that come with writing fantasy. You want a talking animal? Go ahead, you’ve got it. That might take some explaining in a contemporary romance or thriller.
10) How did you come up with the name(s) for your lead character(s)?
There are 4 main characters in Awakening, though we see some more than others in this first book.
Evelyn was named after my late dog, Evie, who was by my side for much of the writing process. I very sadly lost her in June 2020.
Raif was a name I’d liked since I read J.V. Jones’ Sword of Shadows series, and always had at the back of my mind.
Hector… I don’t even know where his name came from! My subconscious somewhere. He appeared on the page as I was writing and his name just popped into my head.
Commander Sulemon was from a list of names I keep in the back of my notepad. I write down whenever I hear or see a name I like, just for future use in stories.
11) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
Evelyn is 18 years old and struggling with a historic trauma that has left her mistrustful, anxious and full of self-loathing. She is thrust into a position of responsibility when she takes charge of brother and sister Raif and Rose as they flee from soldiers of the Commune.
Raif is 14 years old and has suffered the loss of his home. Without answers as to why their village was attacked by the Commune, Raif feels he must take care of his 6-year-old sister Rose as they try to make sense of what’s happened. He is immature in many ways but trying to prove he is the man he believes he should be.
Hector is part of rebel group Veritas who are fighting to prevent people being imprisoned by the Commune and to ultimately bring them down. He has a cat companion called Cara, who is connected to him telepathically because of the powers Hector possesses. He becomes something of a mentor and friend to Evelyn, Raif and Rose.
Commander Sulemon is a soldier of the Commune. Hailing from the Noman Islands, he has seen first hand the devastation that can be wrought by those with powers if left unchecked. He believes the Commune must take those with powers under their control, or risk the safety of all in the kingdom. He follows the orders of Lord Torrant, a man he has loved for man years.
12) How did you feel when you had completed your book?
When my book was completely done, all edits and polishing and proofreading, I was thrilled. I was sent a copy of the final book by my publisher and it was surreal, in a way, to hold something in my hands that started life in my brain. It’s an amazing feeling.
1) Do you have a favourite quote?
I’m a Person-Centred counsellor so I have to share a quote from founder of Carl Rogers, founder of Person-Centred Therapy:
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.
I’m still working on living by that, but since I trained as a counsellor I’ve certainly moved far closer to accepting myself than I did before.
2) Do you have any pets?
I’ll include a photo of my darling Evie, as she was my companion through so much of the drafting and editing of Awakening:
3) What are you currently reading?
Oh it’s LONG haha. I’m currently reading A.M. Portman’s Legends of Andolin: Adella of the Campos and D.R. Ranshaw’s Gryphon’s Heir—both are lovely people and fellow writers I’ve met on social media. They are both fantasy stories that I’m enjoying immensely.
After that, I have a lot of options on my TBR list… there are too many good books out there!!
4) Your book has been made into a movie, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what will you be doing?
I’d be in the tavern at the start of Awakening, enjoying a piece of Fat Bessie’s famed apple pie.
5) If you could travel to a fictional world from any book for the day, which would you choose?
Ohh wow that’s tough. Immediate thought was Hobbiton from The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings series, as it just seems so peaceful and lovely. But also I’d like to travel to Lyra’s version of our world from His Dark Materials so I could find out what my daemon would be!
6) There’s a penguin sitting in your chair, what’s the first thing he says to you?
“This is awkward but… your son is holding my friend hostage and keeps playing with him every bath time, as if he’s just a small plastic toy. I’ve come to rescue him. Let’s not make this harder than it needs to be.” *Cocks a small fish as if it’s a gun.* “Hand over Percy the Penguin and I’ll be on my way.”
A big thank you to Lucy A. McLaren for sharing her writing life with us and for a wonderful interview.