A short interview wherein my guest, one of my favorite authors, answers three questions about the writing life.
In what genres have you written, and which one of them gives you the most satisfaction?
I have written four series: The Unbridled Series/murder suspense—this was my very first published works-2011. The stories surround a Thoroughbred Racing Stable and the West family. There are five books in the collection.
The First Force Series: A romantic suspense/military suspense series. Also five books in this series.
I’ve written four children’s books, The George the Pony books, about an ornery little pony who lived among the Thoroughbreds at my farm. The little guy had quite a personality and I drew on that to write the stories. Kids just love George!
In 2016, a friend of mine convinced me to write a cozy mystery. This was the beginning of my good friend and muse, Fiona Quinn—The Fiona Quinn Mysteries, a Pittsburgh based mystery series featuring many of the venues and landscapes of the Pittsburgh region. Thus far, there are twelve books in this collection.
In 2020, I began to write a time travel cozy mystery series, The Owl’s Nest Mysteries. This series is a little grittier than Fiona Quinn. While it falls well within the cozy mystery parameters, this series includes romance and suspense.
I have also written four short stories that compliment the Fiona Quinn Mysteries. This collection is called Fiona Quinn QUICK Mysteries. I like to think of them similar to Nancy Drew, as there are no murders in these shorts; rather, simple, fun, everyday mysteries.
The cozy mysteries have been my joy. I find them fun, entertaining, and satisfying to pen. I would love to write a fantasy novel, but my brain does not function on that level. Horror is out of the question. I’d never sleep again. That said, I have been working on a memoir for quite some time. The book journeys through my mother path toward Alzheimer’s, not during her ten year struggle. There are far more signals to be aware of than just memory loss. I have no idea when I will finish the book. I struggle emotionally to write it.
What one piece of advice can you offer to a writer who has yet to tackle the publishing world?
As in all things, everyone’s journey is different. However, a poorly edited book will give you a bad reputation immediately. I advise anyone who asks me about publishing to get their book professionally edited, and then send it on to a proofreader. Yes. This is an expensive part of publishing, but as necessary as a good plot. Nevertheless, even after having an editor go through a book two times, and passing it on to a proofread, I have found minor mistakes in my books. It’s human error plain and simple. That said, I have found mistakes in books written by New York Times authors. Again, human error.
I also recommend a cover designer. Like it or lump it, the cover tends to sell a book and if your cover is lacking, so will your sales.
What one piece of advice can you offer to the more experienced writer who is having a bad day/week/year/decade?
We’ve all been there. Okay, maybe not a bad decade. Recently, on one of the social media platforms I use, I saw an author hang it all up. They were an “award-winning” author. The individual was disgusted and discouraged with all the marketing we must do to stay afloat without the results they were hopin for. This is most unfortunate, but it happens.
When I’m feeling discouraged, whether it be a slump in sales, again, it happens to all of us, or I’m just stuck in a storyline, I simply close my laptop. Sometimes, I’ll gather up my dogs and go for a long walk. Sometimes, I go shopping—that’s an expensive cure, my friends, and I’m not sure I’m recommending it, but I’m certainly guilty. Oftentimes, I’ll have lunch with a friend, or I’ll go shopping with a friend—there it is again. Yikes. But I find the only remedy for disappointment or frustration is perseverance. Keep going—no matter how many pairs of shoes you bought yesterday afternoon. Take some time. Relax. There are times I don’t return to that pesky manuscript for a week or so, but I always do.
Another solution is a writing buddy. I have one. We talk almost every day, and we encourage each other, bounce ideas off each other, and no, they don’t have to write in the same genre you do. Thankfully, she lives rather far away, so shopping with her isn’t an option. All of that said, stick with it. If you truly love writing—stick with it.
Alexa Owl has one burning question: Who killed Bobby Starr?
Out of the blue that ornery angel, Detective Bobby Starr, shows up at The Owl’s Nest Couturier Shoppe. Much to Alexa Owl’s surprise, Bobby doesn’t need her help. Rather, he’s brought along someone else who wants to qualify for Saint Peter’s Guardian Angel Squad. Saint Pete has delegated this new inductee to solve a murder to get into the group, and it’s a doozie: Who killed Detective Bobby Starr? How can Alexa turn this assignment down?
Back in the 60s, Bobby’s fifth wife, Katherine was a diva in a community operetta company. During a performance of The Merry Widow, Bobby was forced to stand-in for a member of the chorus who fell ill. Only, Bobby’s first performance would be his last! The suspects are hitting all the notes as this mystery comes to crescendo!
About the Author
Meet the Author:
For twenty-six years C.S. McDonald’s life whirled around a song and a dance. Classically trained at Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School, The Pittsburgh Dance Alloy, and many others, she became a professional dancer and choreographer. During that time, she choreographed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards. In 2011 she retired from her dance career to write. Under her real name, Cindy McDonald, she writes murder-suspense and romantic suspense novels. In 2014 she added the pen name, C.S. McDonald, to write children’s books for her grandchildren. In 2016 she added the Fiona Quinn Mysteries to that expansion. She decided to write the cozy mystery series that everyone, including teens and tweens, can read and enjoy. Presently, the Fiona Quinn Mysteries includes nine books with a tenth slated for 2021. The books are also available on audio, narrated by Maren Swenson Waxenberg.
Cindy’s newest venture is The Owl’s Nest Mysteries. Once again, she has set her cozy mystery in Pittsburgh and the female protagonist, Alexa Owl, is much different from Fiona Quinn. The Owl’s Nest Mysteries has a little grit, a little time travel, a little romance, and a whole lot of cozy!
Ms. McDonald resides on her Thoroughbred farm known as Fly by Night Stables near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Bill, and her poorly behaved Cocker Spaniel, Allister.
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