Thursday, February 21, 2013

Welcome Author Catherine E. McLean!


"In order to have a real relationship with our creativity, we must take the time and care to cultivate it." - Julia Cameron

Although I wrote my first short story in third grade, no one took my writing seriously. Not even me. It would be 1990 when an injury to my back made it impossible to work for a living as a secretary. To kill the pain that the pills didn't stifle, I began my first novel—a Star-Trek tale. When a literary agent told me I was a storyteller but that I needed to bring the art and craft of fiction to my writing, I embarked on an odyssey to learn what a story was and how to tell a story well. When I had gained enough craft, my short stories sold, and continued to sell readily. On Valentine's Day 2012, I signed a contract for my first novel, Karma and Mayhem, a paranormal-fantasy-romance. Two months later, my fantasy/sci-fi novel, Jewels of the Sky, was published.

I basically write "Women's Starscape Fiction" because I enjoy a story where characters are like real people facing real dilemmas, and where their journey (their adventure-quest, with or without a romance) is among the stars and solar systems, and where there's always a satisfying ending.

Yet, I continue to hone my craft and study how-to books, take workshops, and learn all I can. Why go to such lengths? Because craft enhances talent, and craft liberates creativity. More importantly, craft can be learned and will set a storyteller apart from a writer who just writes.

One of the things that helps creativity is collecting "bits and pieces" for possible stories. In other words, I collect "story starters." The story starter for Karma and Mayhem was: what would happen if a man had two souls? The story starter for Jewels of the Sky was: what if the aliens the American Indian legends said visited Earth were actual Indians?

Since ideas spark creativity, here's how to collect them. Every day, pause to notice, to seek, to listen, for ONE tidbit that could spark your imagination. Here are twelve categories of possibilities:
1) An unusual first name
2) An unusual middle name
3) An unusual last name
    Ask: what does the name mean? Why was that person given that name? (Hint: gather names from obituaries or the announcements of marriages or engagements, or from lists published of honor students, or even from under photographs of groups of people. Visit your local library and turn to the back of biographies or histories and look through the index for names.)
4) Listen in a restaurant or anywhere people gather for a snatch of a conversation that makes you ponder "what in the world are they talking about?"
5) Find an interesting or odd headline from a news report, newspaper, or magazine. Even a blooper headline can spark an idea.
6) Discover a factoid, or an antiquated word. How can it become part of a story, or who would say such a thing?
7) Go to an atlas and, at random, flip to a page. Put your finger on the map and ask: Who would go there? Why would they go there?

8) Be on the lookout for an animal that fascinates you
9) Be on the lookout for a flower that amazes you
10) Be on the lookout for a fish that astounds you
11) Be on the lookout for a little-known ship or plane that had an amazing or unusual voyage
12) Be on the lookout for a philosophical question, like: what is the speed of dark? (My answer would be: the same as the speed of light only in reverse.) Or what's the most unusual occupation of a giant? (My answer would be: an ant farmer.)

Now record your "daily find" by placing it into a binder or some type of file where you can periodically look through it— or pick one item for a daily or weekly writing exercise. By doing this, you're telling your muse that you want something worthwhile to write about.

Lastly, truth is often stranger than fiction. So, start with a reality and let your imagination ponder a fantasy worthy of a story.



  1. Thank you, Bobbi, for having me as your guest.

  2. This time a comment box popped up! Some great helpful hints on getting story starter ideas! I'll print it out and keep it handy.
    Good luck on both your books out and thanks again for the writing tips!
    Amy L. Bovaird

    1. Hi, Amy--glad to see you finally got to comment!

  3. Hi Catherine,
    Great suggestions! I bet they'd help with writer's block too.
    I sometimes pick names for my characters which mean something that is related to the character.

    I don't usually get story ideas, I see and hear my characters fisrt, then try to figure out what's going on with them.

  4. You're right, Cathy, the list of twelve would work for writer's block. About names--what you're doing when you pick a name is honing in on the name's "archetype"--which is the built-in qualities of character that is at the character's core. And how true, many writers see and hear their characters first. Mine come on stage facing their "problem" and I have to work out the details, why's, and how-come. :))

    Wishing you all the best with your published books and your works in progress!

  5. Thanks Bobbi for having Catherine post here. Thanks, Catherine for the inspiring post of how you write your books and the wonderful tips on how to get ideas. I will go back to this frequently as I look for names of characters and for ideas on scene for my books. Like you I get my ideas from everyday life. :)