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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

TOPIC: An Author's Life...with Bec McMaster

Being a published author is an ... involved ... process, and I take my hat off to those who've been in the business more than a few years now.

As a pre-pubbed author I was always curious about what happened once you received THE CALL and stepped into the world of publishing.

What did it involve? How did they handled the day to day pressures? Did they developed routines, set goals etc.? What did they like/dislike about the process?

So I asked my special guests these questions and many of them have offered some intriguing insights into their lives. Maybe they'll even give you a heads up on what to expect if you're thinking of entering the world of "getting published".

Please welcome my next guest... 

BEC MCMASTER writes romance novels featuring red-hot alphas, kick-ass heroines and edge-of-your-seat adventures. She is fascinated by all things dark, gothic and paranormal and spends her life with her nose in a book.

Her debut steampunk, KISS OF STEEL, is available Sept, 2012, from Sourcebooks. Read more about her at www.becmcmaster.com (under construction), or follow her on Twitter.

Author Facts
Pseudonym or given name on cover? Why a pseudonym?
I’m writing as Bec McMaster, for the simple reason that no one can ever spell or pronounce my surname correctly without me saying it first. I thought I’d make it easier for the world.  It also puts me about the middle of shelves for marketing purposes.
Location: Country Victoria.
Published genre: Steampunk/Paranormal romance.
Website: www.becmcmaster.com (under construction) 
First published in: September 2012.
Number of books published: This will be the first.

The Nitty Gritty 
Up to 5 significant events:
  1. One of the more significant events in my writing was joining RWA. Until then I’d always written, but I was floundering around with no set path or idea of where I wanted to go except for the fact that I wanted to be published some day. I joined RWA in late 2008. It was so important to meet other like-minded people and to make friends, as well as being the impetus for me to decide I don’t just want to write in my spare time, I want to give this a good red-hot go and make it a career.
  2. Reading one of Keri Arthur’s Deadline Dames blog posts. She’ll probably never know how much she influenced me and I can’t remember when it was, but the gist of it was how she was working full-time and to fit her writing in she did it in every spare second she had, lunchbreaks, after work, late at night etc. I realized that if I wanted to find the time to write I had to make it. I got up an extra hour earlier each morning before work, wrote on my lunch breaks, and stayed up late. It made me realize you’re responsible for your writing. It also made me realize that the time is there, you just have to use it productively.
  3. Joining the RWAustralia Critique Partner registry was another stepping stone. Through it I met Michelle de Rooy, my critique partner and cheer squad. She helped improve my writing dramatically, and I love having someone to chat about ideas with or meet deadlines with, to push myself to enter contests and just generally ask questions she might know the answer to. 
  4. Entering contests. I wouldn’t be where I am now without starting to send my work out. It was through a contest that I caught the eye of my editor.
  5. Finally selling! Possibly the most significant event and most likely the biggest stimulus for my writing skills – or at least I expect it to be.
What resources/techniques/events did you find useful to develop your writing skills/craft?
As mentioned, the RWAustralia CP scheme and contest feedback were both invaluable. You can only edit your own work with the knowledge that you have, so you always need another set of eyes on it to improve and realize its faults.

I also make an effort to take an online workshop once each quarter, though the impetus has changed from writing skills to more business/technical/marketing side of things these days. And I’ve read a few of those how-to books, though I’ve been largely under whelmed so far.

I read heaps of blogs and also a lot of work in my own genre, and lurk on several e-loops. There’s always a question popping up somewhere that I haven’t thought of yet, or useful links to follow. I think the most important thing is to never stop trying to learn and improve.

Can you share the special moment when you received The Call?
I’d won the Valley Forge 2011 Sheila contest and received a full request from the final judge, Leah Hultenschmidt of Sourcebooks. So I waited a week to do a last minute polish before sending it off to her on Tuesday the 14th of June.

Thinking I wouldn’t hear back for a while, I didn’t give it another thought, until the phone rang on Thursday evening at about 11:30 pm (Australian time). It woke me up but I recognised the phone number as American, and since I was waiting on the results from a few other American contests, figured it was one of them.

As soon as she said her name I think every coherent thought flew out of my head. I managed to understand that she was ringing to offer and somehow said thanks and requested a week to let some of the agents I was querying know. As soon as the phone call was over (the best moment of my life and I can’t recall a word of it!), I jumped straight on the internet and began re-querying the agents I’d just sent queries out to.

The next few days were a blur of waiting, then receiving a flurry of responses until I finally settled with Jessica Faust of Bookends. I don’t think I slept all weekend and I couldn’t get the grin off my face! 

How have you grown over the years as a writer?
I occasionally flick back through old manuscripts for a nostalgic trip and its always interesting to see how much my writing has changed and improved.

The hardest thing was finishing one piece (I have hundreds of half-started manuscripts on the hard-drive), but I’ve come a long way in terms of grammar and plot.

I think the main difference has been pacing and plotting. Not just letting the story drift, ‘...and then they went here and did this...’ etc., but keeping each scene relevant to where I want to go. I know there was a huge upheaval in personal-writerly-growth through 2010, as I started entering contests and getting feedback.

How important is it to set career goals? Can you give an example of one you have for yourself?
I think it’s hugely important to set goals. How can you work toward a career if you don’t know where you want to go or how to do it? I took the Bob Mayer’s Warrior Writer workshop in 2010, and that was great at teaching me to set small, specific, achievable goals, as well as larger over-arching ones.

I actually find the smaller goals more important as they’re achieved in a smaller timeframe too, which means I see results quicker. It can be anything from mapping out the contest season according to who the final judges were (aim high (: ), to marking out workshops I want to take to improve my writing, self-imposed deadlines to finish my books etc.

In turn, all these smaller goals set up a stepping stone to the larger ones: get published etc. It’s important to make them achievable though. Becoming a NYT best-selling author is what I consider a dream, as it’s somewhat outside my ability to control. Writing the best book I can, however, is something that I can control.

Keep in mind, I’ve never been an organised, motivated person, but once I began setting goals and creating a career plan, writing became more important to me. Suddenly I wasn’t just writing for myself anymore, I was writing with a career in mind, which was a huge change and helped me land a contract. If I can do it, anyone can.

Can you describe your writing process/timeframe from when you start a new book to handing it in at deadline?
It usually takes me about three-four months to write a manuscript. The first 60,000 words blaze out of me so fast I can’t stop them, then I hit the dreaded slump, where I want to play with other, shinier ideas and slog it out until I can see the end. Then it starts racing again.

I plot a little, with a vague synopsis to work off, though a lot of that changes in the process. My computer is littered with post-it notes like, ‘aha, the vampire is.....’, or ‘need to insert wrap up scene re: hero’s issues’.  As well as the occasional note from my boyfriend like ‘Clean House’.

I like to leave myself a little room to play regarding deadlines. For example, the last manuscript I finished (Book #2 of contract) was due halfway through February. I finished it at the start of December and gave myself a month off to go play with those other ideas, then began to do a final edit at the start of Jan so it’s completely polished by the time February rolls around.

I’m one of those people who edits and tidies as I go, then do a final complete edit before setting it aside to percolate. I often find unfinished threads and thoughts pop out at me during that month of not looking at it.

So this final edit is mainly to flesh out certain scenes (and finish some of those post-it notes regarding plot holes or things that need adding). During this time, I’ll also start book three, which has been brewing for the last month or two in my head.

What do you enjoy the most in the publishing process?
Writing that first dirty draft. Spewing all those words onto the page and getting excited about all of the fresh, crazy ideas that pop up when you least expect them.

What do you like least?
 Like most authors it’s the social media part of the gig, but I understand I have to put on my big-girl panties and deal with it. I’m a terrific stalker on Twitter and Facebook, but when it comes to putting myself – as the author – out there, I hate it. I’m a private person and a little socially inept in certain situations, so it’s hard for me to promote myself. I just have to pretend to take myself out of the equation and get on with it.

Most memorable fan-mail I’ve ever received?
No fan mail as yet, though I received some really lovely contest feedback this year. I think one of my favourite judge’s comments was about how the judge kept my entry until last because she wasn’t really into the genre or idea, but ended up sitting up all night because she couldn’t put it down!

Is there anything you think pre-published need to know about the business/industry before they’re published?
Study the industry, read blogs, talk on the loop, ask questions. Watch what’s going on in publishing land, what’s selling, etc. Know as much as you can before you try and leap in.

Also, be aware that you’ll have to learn patience. So far I’ve discovered publishing is all about long weeks or months of hearing nothing, then suddenly being asked to supply something (bio, revisions, author photos, copy edits) at the drop of a hat. Long periods of nothing followed by intense periods of work on your behalf.

A Bit of Fun
Favourite colour: Blue. 
Hunkiest hero ever: Since I can’t decide, I’ll give you one for each; for book it would be Curran from Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels series, for movie it would be Daniel Day Lewis from the Last of the Mohicans and for TV show, Damon from Vampire Diaries. I can’t resist a bad boy just waiting to be redeemed.
Most daring thing you’ve done in your life? It would have to be my home town’s charity event of It Takes Two, where I had to get up in front of four hundred people and sing. It’s my worst nightmare ever, but I always believe in challenging myself (see above: shyness, promoting myself). If my immediate response is “No way,” then I have to make myself do it just to prove that I can and get over my shyness.
Greatest love: Writing? LOL. I would have to say my boyfriend. He’s the rock in the madness of my life. He brings me back down to earth, reminds me there’s more going on than whatever ‘movie’ is playing in my head. He doesn’t read but I think I enjoy that. I spend so much time in my other world and on the computer that I need a break away from it, to actually live life rather than dream it.
Timeout/relaxation for me incudes: Playing netball or running. Anything outdoorsy. Hiking, riding a motorbike, wakeboarding.
Special quote/saying you like: Dreamers who only dream never have their dreams come true.


  1. Thanks for another insightful and fun interview Kylie :)
    Its a shame I cant find anything about the book online though, and the author links don't work :(
    I did find a goodreads listing and so have added it to my 'to read'
    I haven't read much steam-punk but will give Kiss of Steel a look when its published :)


  2. Hey, Bec and Kylie,

    I'm looking forward to your release, Bec. I've never read steampunk, but have enjoyed a few movies - Wild, Wild West, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. (They are steampunk, aren't they?)

    Love your boyfriend's sense of humour! My Mac has a sticky note application which I use pretty much as you do.

  3. Thanks Cath - unfortunately I was hoping the website would be finished by now when I wrote the interview. Hopefully I will have some news soon.

    Hi Sandy. Thanks for dropping by! Yes, you're correct, they are definitely steampunk. And LOL on the sticky note thing! Sometimes I find them on myself - like stuck to my pants - and I've been walking around with them for an hour.

  4. Very interesting. I too can relate to the Post Its. Best of luck with the book, Bec.

  5. Hi Bec and Kylie,
    Great interview, I reeally enjoyed it.

    I've never read a steam punk but I'll be getting yours and reading it, Bec.

    And I enjoyed your call story - don't know how I'd missed it before :)


  6. It's all good Bec...I'll check back at a later date to check out the website etc :)

  7. Great interview, Bec and Kylie. Bec, I never picked you as a shy person. Can't wait to see Kiss of Steel on the shelves!

  8. Hey Bec and Kylie, GREAT interview. (Can't believe I'm so late! How did I miss this?)

    Believe me, everyone, it's a damned fine read. Now, I'm not one for blonde heroes, I like them dark and mysterious, but this one makes you turn page after page after page, until the dawn light streaks through your bedroom window and you have mini-me's asking for breakfast! It takes a lot to get me to read all night, but this story got me the very first time I read the very first page.

    Yes, RWA has a lot to answer for, doesn't it, Bec? And it's all good!!

    I can't wait for release day, it's going to be fabulous. I agree about the How To books. Some are great, some you have to burn. If you try to do things everyone else's way, you'll never find your own.

    And since I can't help myself - **GO Bec, GO!!!** :)

    Michelle xx