About Bernie MacKinnon:
My family moved to the U.S. from Canada when I was ten. After that I lived mostly in Maine and graduated from the University of Maine at Orono. My first two novels (“The Meantime” and “Song For A Shadow,” both young-adult) were published with Houghton Mifflin but the current one, “Lucifer’s Drum,” is self-published and a historical thriller, set in the American Civil War. These days I live and work in Memphis, Tennessee.
What inspires you to write?
When I was 13, I read Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers For Algernon” and it hit me hard and deep. I was awed by how Keyes drew me into the mind of a mentally impaired character whose IQ surged after a brain operation—and then sadly regressed. At 15, I read Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio” and was struck by how fluidly the author slipped into the skin of a diverse cast of characters. In writing, I am still inspired to reach for the kind of power and three-dimensionality found in these stories.
Tell us about your writing process.
I keep a notebook and write details in it whenever they occur to me. From these, a loose outline starts to emerge. I write a few pages at a time by hand, jotting in the margins a lot, and then put it on computer. When the first draft is done, I go back at least twice and edit heavily, using handwritten notes. The outline gives me a sense of direction, but its looseness allows for growth and transformation. I work out a few brief character sketches in advance, but these change and deepen as I go along.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I feel at times as if I’m eavesdropping on my characters, though their voices often come to me when I’m not trying to hear. They take me off guard, often when I’m in the process of writing.
What advice would you give other writers?
Jot down your ideas and observations and keep them in a safe place. Look at them every so often. Once a pattern is formed and reaches critical mass, a story idea will ignite. Also, only spend your precious months and years working on stories that really grip you.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
My first two books, both y-a, were published by Houghton Mifflin—I got a lucky break, getting my first ms. in front of an established author, who was then generous enough to forward it to her editor. My latest book “Lucifer’s Drum” is a historical epic set in the latter part of the American Civil War—and with the 150th anniversary of its real events closing in, I decided to self-publish to save time. I also went that route because its length and scope seemed to scare most agents and traditional publishers. It’s no news that flogging a book requires more of the author these days. If you conclude that self-publishing is the best way to go for you, be aware that more initiative will be required. But a lot of initiative is required whatever you decide.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think physical books aren’t going away anytime soon, but online publishing will continue to expand and develop. I think the future looks good for publicists, more problematic for agents.
What do you use?: Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?: historical fiction, thrillers, young adult
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.