Nancy McKibben was born in Conneaut, Ohio, grew up in Fredericktown, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from The Ohio State University with a B.A. in French and an (unofficial) minor in Russian. After graduation and marriage, she toured as the journalist with a singing group in the U.S., Asia, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe before the fall of communism. She and her husband lived in the United Kingdom for six years, and their first two children were born there.
After moving back to the States, she continued to write short pieces, but invested most of her energy in her growing family (six children, whom she homeschooled through the eighth grade), and it was not until 1998 that she wrote her first novel, The Chaos Protocol, which was a finalist for the 2000 Ohioana Book Award for Fiction.
The second book in the Millennium Trilogy, Blood on Ice, followed a few years later. Discouraged by the lack of interest from traditional agents and publishers, Nancy returned to journalism, writing a series of feature articles for Edible Columbus magazine, for which she still writes, whose emphasis on fresh, local foods, sustainably produced, mirrors her own interests. In 2002 she received a humor writing award from the James Thurber House for her essay “A Char is Born.”
With the advent of the ereader and the rise of the ebook, Nancy realized that she was free to eliminate the middleman (traditional publishing) and publish Blood on Ice as an ebook, where she hopes it will turn out to be one of those novels that publishers are really sorry they failed to pick up.
Still married to the same remarkable man, Nancy is still living and writing in Columbus.
What inspires you to write?
I like to tell stories – I started my first novel in the fourth grade, with my teacher, Miss Leedy, cheering me on.
Tell us about your writing process.
Since my novels are plot-heavy, I find that I need an outline, although creating an outline is not my favorite part of the process. My first novel was a countdown – I had to spread events over about a year, and since it was always X number of days until the main event, I had to be sure I kept everything straight chronologically. So I created a very detailed timeline with POVs in each scene color-coded to characters, and kept it taped to the wall where I could refer to it.
Likewise with the second book, since the main protagonist is a professional hockey player – I had to be sure that the action happened within the correct parameters of the seasons. In that case, I printed out a monthly calendar and wrote the scenes on the corresponding dates.
Although I may have an outline, I tend to have certain scenes in my mind that I am pretty sure about from the start. I know what will happen in the scene, even if I’m not sure what will happen in the rest of the book. So those scenes I write and rewrite mentally until they seem true, and then I write them down, often out of chronological order. In the course of writing the novel, eventually I figure out where those scenes belong.
I have also tried the other way – creating the characters and seeing where it goes when I write about them – but I’m less comfortable with that approach.
I haven’t found that writing the back stories of my characters is particularly effective. I think about them a lot – as Margaret Atwood said, never ride in a car driven by a novelist in mid-novel!
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I watch my characters. I imagine them doing this or that and see what transpires. I often go to sleep thinking about my characters in the hope that my subconscious will solve some of my plotting challenges.
What advice would you give other writers?
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Writers have to jump through so many hoops with traditional publishing: research agents, write a compelling query letter (that one alone was enough to do me in), write an outline, send the agent a chapter, send the whole book, wait and wait for a response. So time-consuming and discouraging! And then the author does most of the promotional work anyway, so what has all this angst accomplished?
Self-publishing seemed a brilliant way to eliminate the middleman. I still did all the work – I wrote a number of drafts, got feedback, copy-edited, made sure formatting and covers were professional – but I cut out the exhausting part in the middle.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think it’s changed already – the traditional model is not dead, but now we have other, and often better, options as authors. I don’t know where publishing is headed, but if it better connects readers and authors, then I’m all for it.
What do you use?
Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
suspense, thriller, mystery
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print
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