Today our guest of honor is a wonderful person whom* WordPress conspired to keep off the Blog last Wednesday. We’re delighted to have her back today! A thousand more apologies and thank you Bonnie McCune for coming back to hang out!
What made you decide to become a writer? Have you always envisioned yourself a writer?
I’ve always thought books were magic and storytelling the most important talent anyone can have. When I was a kid, I was younger and smaller than my classmates and couldn’t quite catch on how to behave. So I escaped through books. As I went through school, I found I had a facility for writing. But being practical, I first applied my skills to work in public relations and communications, including free lance nonfiction writing. I’ve also simultaneously written fiction, but I didn’t start publishing that until much later in life.
Why do you write romance?
Romance is just one type of writing for me. I also write general “women’s” fiction. Romance is a favorite because I can create a world in which the good gals and guys win. I can indulge in optimism, not always possible in the real world.
How long have you been writing for? And how would you describe your publication journey?
I was ten when I submitted my first work to Saturday Evening Post, a poem about rain rushing down the gutter (it was immediately rejected). Ever since then, I’ve been a writer. At that time I had visions of my name living on, like Homer who wrote The Iliad. Since then I’ve become much more realistic. I realized my skills could be used on the job as well as freelancing nonfiction articles. Years of rejection taught me just how difficult it is to get published in any way, shape or form; and it’s been much more difficult to publish fiction. Who knows why I’ve kept at it—probably the occasional publication encouraged me.
A quote from someone–”No one ever said on the deathbed, ‘I wish I had spent more time in the office.’” This is NOT true in my case when it comes to writing. I wish I’d spent more time writing. Where would I have taken the time from? Certainly not my family and friends—they deserve every minute. Not my job or volunteer activities. I guess it would have been to spend less time fooling around or watching tv and more time writing. Another important lesson I learned in the past few years has been the necessity of REwriting and REwriting and REwriting.
What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas?
Everyday life and ordinary people are the most fantastic source of situations, characters, and plots. Rudyard Kipling said, ‘The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.’ If you pick up a newspaper or watch the television news, you’ll see something so funny, scary or interesting, you don’t have to look far. Then a writer simply adds a question—What if?
Are you a plotter or pantser? What is your routine? Are there any weird things that you do before you start to sit down to write?
I used to be a pantser. I thought that fiction sprang fully formed from the writer’s mind. Now I know it’s a blend of inspiration, work, critiquing, and more work. This actually is more satisfying because the writer feels part of the process, not just a conduit. I also have been helped by taking several workshops in which the instructor broke novel-writing down into outlines, work charts, and similar organized methods. I’ve found it helpful to take my work through these tools, not just once, but over and over as I write and rewrite. As for weird things—not really. I find a regular schedule helps me. I try to write every day for an hour or two. If I miss occasionally, so be it. Oops, I do have some traits people might think strange. I used to be a smoker, and I substituted eating sunflower seeds in the shell for cigarettes. Also I have an autoimmune condition that affects my legs, so I’m always searching for a comfortable position in which to write. I buy different chairs and cushions and rotate among them to work. So if you walk into my office, you find lots of misplaced furniture in the middle of piles of sunflower seeds. And I usually have the television on. Unlike many people, I don’t need isolation and quiet. I grew up in a large, noisy family and learned to concentrate in the middle of chaos.
What characteristics do all your heroes/heroines have in all your stories?
I find that almost every piece of fiction I write addresses confronting some sort of fear that’s limiting a main character. I’d like readers to feel that action is worth taking, if just to grow within themselves. The heroines also tend to be naïve, sympathetic, and curious.
What genres do you read? Do you read what you write?
I read anything that seems good (as in well written) and frequently take suggestions from friends and book reviewers. I have a soft spot for the classics—A Tale of Two Cities, Pride and Prejudice—and wish I had more guidance in excellent contemporary books, such as The Things They Carried. My grandchildren are now advising me. The Hunger Games trilogy was a real find that came via them. I read sci fi, but only the soft kind—sometimes called space opera or sociological. Women’s novels, romance of different kinds.
What writing resources do you abide by as a writer?
As I said, sunflower seeds in the shell. Continual reading of good books to use as models. My critique group, which I’ve been a part of for 12 years now.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
See my bruised forehead? (Imagine it.) I got that beating my head against a brick wall. If you don’t have a “calling,” if you don’t have an obsession to write fiction, I’d advise you to stop now. Otherwise, write, write, write; read, read, read. The publication process is yet another challenge, to be addressed at a different time.
What are you working on right now?
I’ve finished a women’s novel about two old women who “adopt” an Asian student, called “The Company of Old Ladies.” I’m also working on a novella about a single soccer mom for Valentine’s Day and brainstorming a romance based on a small town in Colorado that sponsored a weight loss competition for all its citizens. It will have something about forest fires, because those are on everyone’s mind right now. The smoke is every where, even for those who don’t live close to a fire.
What do you find most challenging about being a writer?
- Getting published. Today social media and the Internet are over-riding all over types of marketing; and I’m waaaaayy behind the times. I don’t understand how other people manage to keep up, whether they’re writers, readers, businesspeople, teenagers or whatever. For example, I’d never heard of the term “author tagline” until it came up on this blog.
- Critiquing my own work. I’m still a novice at this. I want everyone to think everything I write is wonderful from the get-go. It hasn’t worked out this way. So I have to look at the market (what’s selling), what I want to write, and apply the skills I have.
What news would you like to share with your readers?
I try to keep my webpage updated with notices on publications. I have several short stories published recently or to be published soon.
Where can readers find you?
- Twitter: Sorry, still behind the times
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bf.mccune
- Website: www.BonnieMcCune.com
- Others: Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8207907-bonnie-mccune
Bonnie is also offering a prize! One electronic version of A SAINT COMES STUMBLING IN will go to a random commenter, ask her about challenges writers encounter, beg her to get that Twitter, or just say hello!
Bonnie McCune credits her tenacity for the successes in her life, and A Saint Comes Stumbling In is proof. Since fifth grade, she has been determined to be a writer. This is her first published novel, but her interest in writing led to her career in nonprofits doing public and community relations and marketing. She’s worked for libraries, directed a small arts organization and managed Denver’s beautification program. Simultaneously, she’s been a free lance writer with publications in local, regional, and specialty publications for news and features. Her main interest now is fiction writing, and her pieces have won several awards. Her civic involvement includes grass-roots organizations, political campaigns, writers’ and arts’ groups, and children’s literacy.
For years, she entered recipe contests and was a finalist once to the Pillsbury Cook Off. A special love is live theater. Had she been nine inches taller and thirty pounds lighter, she might have been an actress. For reasons unknown (an unacknowledged optimism?), she believes that one person can make a difference in this world. McCune lives in Colorado, where she’s been married to the same man forever, and has two children and three grandchildren. Read more about Bonnie at www.BonnieMcCune.com.
Can a rejected wife conquer self-doubt, trap a criminal, and win love? A patron saint might help…
Thirty-something Joan Nelson has more to contend with than a biological clock or an identity crisis. Despite her ardent belief in a conventional marriage, she finds herself deserted for a younger, slimmer woman. Lacking any skills or education, she’s thrust unprepared into the nightmare challenge of making a living for the first time in her sheltered existence.
A job as a receptionist in a law firm is the first rung on the ladder to her independence. Yet the taste of success sours when Joan considers the emptiness of her personal life. How can she reconstruct her damaged life and heal her bruised ego? Ill-equipped for the singles scene, she embarks on a confusing, sometimes frightening, new lifestyle.
When Joan stumbles on a crime perpetuated by a charming cad, she must defy her boss, jeopardize her newly won stability, and reject her friends. Her namesake, Joan of Arc, provides a model of courage and insight. If she risks danger and uncertainty, will she discover that independence and adulthood can be both enjoyable and fulfilling? Does optimism beat pessimism? Who would have dreamed her final victory could solve a childhood puzzle while it brings her true love?
Excerpt: A Saint Comes Stumbling In
A persistent chime from the doorbell finally breaks through my musings. Who would come over unannounced? Tempted to ignore the summons, I sidle along the wall so the visitor can’t see me through the window, put an eye to a crack in the curtain. “Kevin!” I throw the door open. “What are you doing here?”
No slob he, Kevin wears an impeccable business suit, pale blue shirt and paisley tie. Even more impressive are his freshly combed hair and congenial greeting. At the end of a long, grueling work day, Kevin bears no signs of fatigue or defeat. Unlike paranoid and depressed me, whose rumpled, dingy sweatsuit, faded from grey into a streaked greige, matches my attitude.
“I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d drop by to discuss several informal offers on the house,” he says.
“In the neighborhood? Get serious. This is miles from your place. You’re a sweetheart to worry about me after I wailed on your shoulder the other day. Come in and have some coffee.”
Turning to go back to the kitchen, I catch just a glimpse of a flush that mounts Kevin’s face. As I move from cupboard to sink to counter, chattering about the computer incident and my fears, I also notice his unusual reticence.
“So you see I’m working off nervous energy as well as preparing to move,” I say with a gesture at the open cupboards and the cups teetering in stacks on the table where Kevin sits. “If I get fired, I couldn’t bear having to pound the pavement again. My ego was totally destroyed. I don’t know which type of rejection I preferred—the unanswering void of some potential employers who didn’t bother to respond to an application or the politely worded rebuffs.”
As if unfolding a letter, I pretend to quote. “We sincerely thank you for applying. Although you met the requirements for the position, we regret to inform you that other candidates were better qualified. Therefore we are unable to offer you the position of ‘you-fill-in-the-blank’. We wish you good luck in your job search.”
Kevin shakes his head so emphatically he destroys his combing job. “You can’t let rejection discourage you. I get dozens of rejections every day. How could I ever close a sale if I allowed the no’s to slow me down?”
I return to my cupboard. “Easy for you to say. I was desperate for a job. James had walked out and I had no income when my mother alerted me to the opening at the law firm. I was grateful for her assistance. Pride prevented me from asking James or my family for financial help. I found pride was the last quality I needed after seven weeks of hopeless, fruitless inquiry. I couldn’t bear to go through the process again.”
Three shelves in the cupboards are clear. I look at the stack of miscellaneous mugs heaped on the top shelf and decide to discard them. An array of assorted colors and sizes, they proclaim cute sayings on their sides such as, “If you think today was bad, wait until tomorrow,” and, “Keep your paws off!” or “Mondays are God’s punishment for weekends.”
I shudder as I climb on a stool for a better look. James and I used to exchange the mugs regularly on birthdays, a kind of contest to see which one could find the ugliest or rudest. Until two years before the break-up, I suddenly realize. Another subtle sign of the disintegration of my marriage. I don’t need them as reminders.
Kevin’s voice breaks into my thoughts. “You won’t have to worry for long.”
I poke into another assortment that has been hidden at the very rear of the cupboard. “What do you mean?” I ask.
“About supporting yourself. Surely you have a very good friend waiting in the wings.”
Whirling around on the stool where I stand, I nearly fall over. I hook five or six mugs firmly over my fingers, clamber down, and advance on Kevin while brandishing the dishware. “Listen, mister, James is the charmer, the con man, the one with the sweetie-pie, not me. Was that way in school, remember? Every time I turned around, I had to pry him out of the hold of some adoring females, after a basketball game when he’d made a winning basket, hanging out in the park during the summers. Evidently, no difference after he finished college and started in business either. Don’t ask, don’t tell was my philosophy. I didn’t probe or spy. And I never was unfaithful to him, before or during marriage, and I resent your implication.”
Kevin recoils and leans back as far as possible in his chair. “Sorry. I’m the best one to know you weren’t. I don’t know why I said that.”
“What do you mean, you’re the best one to know?”
“Don’t you remember the pass I made at you just before you got married? The summer after high school?”
Thoroughly bewildered, I shake my head.
Kevin stands, puts his cup on the table, shoves his hands in his pockets, thereby disarranging his suited perfection. “Not an incident to be proud of, to put moves on a friend’s girl. The party when James had to leave because his dad was out of town and his mom called to say his little sister was sick? He left and I got you in a corner to nuzzle?”
I lower my arms to my sides, still holding the mugs. The action matches my dropping jaw. “That was a pass?”
Kevin is motionless, as if my comment is sinking into his consciousness, until he throws back his head and laughs. “I don’t know whether to be offended you found me so inept or grateful you haven’t resented my action all these years.”
“I thought you were just practicing. Everyone necked constantly with anyone in reach. They were like puppies or kittens squirming around to learn about their bodies. I didn’t know you were serious.”
“And if you had known?” Kevin asks. A silence stretch between us. I don’t know where to look, so I stare at my toes. “Ah, well, now is not the time for what-ifs. We’re all grown up. Like a brother and sister, right?” He reaches for some of the mugs to help pack them.
“If you hold it, you keep it,” I warn. “These are discards.”
“One. Only one,” Kevin says, touching my hand lightly with all his fingertips. “So, there’s no one in your life?”
Now it’s my turn to flush. “Well, a guy in the offices at work is interesting. We haven’t gone out, though.”
Kevin’s fingers grasp one particularly grotesque mug which resembles a stony gargoyle. “This will do as a memento. Time for me to take off.”
“I thought you were going to tell me about some offers,” I protest.
“Until earnest money’s involved, an offer’s not serious. No, don’t bother,” he says when I make motions as if to walk him to the door. “I’ll find my way out.”
Don’t forget, a random commenter will recieve a free copy of the book the above excerpt is from (A SAINT COMES TUMBLING IN) – thank you so much Bonnie for stopping by!