A while back, I reviewed the first book in the Mistmantle Chronicles by M. I. McAllister, Urchin of the Riding Stars. I’ll save you the time of reading the review and tell you that it was an excellent book.
I wanted to thank the author for writing it, so I found her website and sent off an email of thanks and a link to my review.
I really didn’t expect to hear anything back, but the next day, I got a message in my inbox from Margi McAllister herself! We’ve written back and forth a couple of times since, so I asked if I could interview her on my blog. She kindly consented.
Here are the questions I asked:
– What does your writing space look like?
– What passes through your brain when you see one of your books on the shelf at a bookshop?
– What do you want people to know about your aside from your writing?
– How did you get into writing?
– Any advice for other writers?
– What would you do if you could no longer write books?
– If you could have an afternoon with a character from one of your books, who would you choose? Why?
– What book is on your nightstand at the moment?
Here are her responses:
My writing space at present is tucked away at the top of the house. We have a converted attic, which is one long room divided up by the furniture. At one end is my daughter’s room (she’s grown up and lives away from home, so she’s not often there,) at the other end is my study, and in between is the Pink Sitting-Room where men are only allowed if they take off their shoes and promise not to talk about football.
The laptop sits on a rather elegant writing bureau which I bought for very little in an antique market, and there are masses of deep bookshelves, crammed solid. It looks untidy, but I know which heap everything is in! The clutter is more to do with the work I do for children’s clubs and school visits. And when I look up from the desk I have a beautiful view of the moors.
You ask about what passes through my mind when I see one of my books in a shop. There’s a little jump of my heart to see that they’ve got it, followed by – why haven’t they sold that yet?
What do I want people to know about me apart from my writing? Not a lot, really, except my storytelling sessions! Anything I do want to talk about is on the blog, which is From The House of Stories (you can find it through the website at www.margaretmcallister.co.uk . Things I want to share – about faith, about the things I care about, about what’s going on nationally or locally, and anything I find funny – are all in there. I’m passionate about justice, and about doing the best for children. I’m blessed to have lived in and visited some blessed and beautiful places, and I like sharing them. I love gardens, history, and wildlife. Of course my family are more than vital to me, but I don’t want my children’s privacy invaded so I’m a bit cautious in what I say about them.
I’ve always written. I was born that way, and I can’t help it. That’s my defense, and I’m sticking with it. At school I was always writing things, (usually when I was supposed to be something else) and I have a great record of failing to get published. Then, when my youngest son started school, I took an evening class in writing short stories. That led to me getting stories published in magazines, which gave me confidence to write my first book, A Friend for Rachel, later renamed The Secret Mice.
For other writers – read. Read. Read more. If you like a book, what made it work for you? If you didn’t, what was wrong with it? Don’t just think about writing, do it. And don’t wait for inspiration. Just write.
What would I do if I could no longer write? I often wonder about this! I use to say I’d retrain in geriatric care – lots of people want to look after little children, but there’s nothing so attractive about looking after elderly, and they’re so important. But since injuring my back, I don’t think I could do all that heavy lifting. I’d have to go back to one of the jobs I’ve done before – home tutoring, adult education, caring for a beautiful old building, working in a retreat house, or washing up in a coffee shop – I’m not too proud to get my hands dirty!
Which of my characters would I like to spend an afternoon with? What a great question! It’s not one I’ve ever considered before. Kazy Clare from Hold My Hand and Run would be great company. I admire Thomasin from High Crag Linn enormously, but she can be a bit prickly. I’d love to spend an afternoon with Fingal, because he makes me laugh, or Urchin with all those adventures to talk about. Or Sepia – she’s a calm, gentle person, but so tough inside. But if I could only choose one, it would have to be Crispin. The hero’s hero. He has such experience and wisdom, such a strong centre, and a way of noticing more than he lets on. And a perfect gentle-squirrel. (Do you think we could meet in Fir’s turret, so he could be there, too? He contains elements of people who were very dear to me.)
What am I reading just now? Several things at once. An Aspect of Fear, by Grace Sheppard, who was the wife of the Bishop of Liverpool. She was agoraphobic, and wrote from her experiences of dealing with fear while filling a public role.
I love anything by Simon Parke, who writes with authority about quietness, meditation, and the need to embrace simplicity. The book of his I have on the go just now is The Beautiful Life. I heard him speak at Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival a few years ago.
My younger son introduced me to the works of Terry Pratchett, and I LOVE Discworld! They are clever, moving, great page-turners, and actually have some depth. Did I mention that they’re laugh out loud funny? Just now I’m reading Lords and Ladies. A unicorn just got lost on the way through a stone circle. As Granny Weatherwax would say, oh deary, deary me.
I normally edit things so they follow more of a question/answer format, but I didn’t want to risk editing out the beautiful answers that Margi gave.
I sincerely hope that you’ll go out and buy as many of her books as you can carry. Thanks for reading!