An Interview with T.L. McDonald
By: Michelle Lynn
What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?
I have three books out right now in a completed trilogy, The Marked Series. The first book is titled Marked, followed by Fated, and Redemption. My series is a young adult urban fantasy about a 17-year-old girl who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and inadvertently gets caught up in a prophesy foretelling the start of the apocalypse at the hands of a chosen one with dual fates. He’ll either become the world’s savior, or it’s destroyer, but which path he takes will be directly influenced by the choices she makes.
Who’s your favorite character from your books?
Of course I love my main three characters Hanna, Jared, and Will, but I have to admit—and maybe this is bad—but Blondie, the villain of the story just might be my favorite. He was just so much fun to write.
Your debut series is a paranormal of epic proportions with all of the exciting staples of the genre. What was the most difficult aspect of writing in a genre that is so incredibly popular right now?
Being unique. There’s a lot of things the paranormal genre has in common, a formula so to speak, and I wanted to try my hand at being a little different, which I hope I accomplished. Instead of dreamy fallen angels the main character falls in love with, mine are malicious and sinister. Instead of my main character discovering she has supernatural abilities and that she’s been different all along without knowing it, her abilities come from a transference of power when she’s marked with a mystical symbol by a dying boy in a side alley outside a club.
Cliff Hangers. We love to hate them, but YA fiction has embraced them completely. Did you worry about how readers would react when your first book ended this way? Was there a strategy to the madness?
I did, but I had hope and crossed my fingers that it would be a good reaction, lol. Personally, I love a good cliffhanger because it makes me excited to read the next book in the series and that was my goal for my readers. I wanted the book to stick with them. I wanted them to shout out, “Oh my, I have got to find out what happens next.”
In Marked, it seems like secrets are the name of the game. Everyone has them and they drive the story, but you managed to reveal them slowly as the book progressed so as not to overload the reader. Can you tell us something about untangling such a web? How do you make a complicated story simple for the reader?
Raw talent. Ha ha. Just kidding. An outline or a general sense of your beginning and ending is the most important thing. Though I’m usually not one to have a detailed outline because I like the story to progress naturally, I did keep notes—mostly in the form of sticky notes plastered all over my work area—to help keep track of things. I wanted the book to feel organic and grow so to speak, so it was important to reveal things slowly just like how it would be revealed in real life because if everything is laid out all up front, it would make for a very boring book. I wanted the reader to become just as invested as the main character was in figuring out what was going on.
What authors have inspired you to write?
R.L. Stine was the first author that inspired me. I’ve always loved the horror genre and I used to gobble up his Fear Street books like they were candy. I used to read them and think Someday I’m going to do this. Tahereh Mafi also inspired me. I read her Shatter Me series and completely fell in love with the style, so much so that I completely rewrote Marked, changing it from 3rd person past tense to 1st person present tense.
What age were you when you started writing?
I was young, like somewhere between 6 and 8 years old. Of course back then my stories were barely legible and made no sense, and were always of the horror genre. I’ve still got them tucked away in a box somewhere. It’s fun to go back and look at them every now and then. After that, it’s all I ever wanted to do and I’d write every chance I got, whether it was for my friends or to fill out a journal in English class, which I did by the way in high school. We were supposed to turn in two pages every week, writing about whatever we wanted, so I wrote a book. J
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yep. I think at some point every writer does. The trick is to just push though it and write even if it’s terrible because you can always go back and fix it during the editing stage. It also helps to find things that inspire you to get the creative juices flowing again, such as listening to music and allowing yourself to daydream, reading a book from your favorite author or genre, watching an addicting TV show, and what if-ing everything. Inspiration can be found everywhere.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I like to just write. It feels more natural to me to just let the ideas come as they may. I do however keep notes—on my phone, scraps of paper I find at the bottom of my purse, napkins at a restaurant, on an obscene amount of sticky notes—because I tend to come up with ideas for scenes on the fly and at all hours of the day. The books I write are constantly percolating in the back of my mind with new ideas and directions forming, so I don’t want to be restrained by the traditional sense of an outline.
Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?
Actually, I kind of do. When you spend months or years writing your characters they become a part of you, so when you reach the end of the series it sort of feels like you’re moving away and leaving all your friends behind.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
My biggest challenge was pushing the submit button. Sure, I’ve wrote things before that I’ve shared with my friends and family, but this was going to be for the whole world to see. It made me nervous. Of course I ran into other challenges too because I’m a little impulsive and jumped right into the publishing lake without testing the depths of the water first. One of those challenges being the marketing side of things: covers, blurbs, graphics for ads, and so on. There’s just so much to learn, but it’s so worth it if you get to do what you love.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
If I could change anything it would be working on the editing portion a bit more with Marked before I submitted. Like I’d said in an earlier question, I tend to be a bit impulsive, and I was just so excited and nervous, but mostly excited to get it out there…typos and all. I’ve since re-edited and re-submitted, but my future goal from now on is to have all the I’s dotted and the t’s crossed before I submit. We all live and learn.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I’m still in the beginning stages, but I can say it will be a young adult urban fantasy with touches of horror and that the main character will be a hybrid whose blood will have some very unique qualities to it.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest criticism would probably have to do with my grammar skills…or lack thereof. Commas and I sort of have a love / hate relationship with one another. But as I said before, we live and we learn, and I’d like to thing that commas and I are becoming fast friends. Some of the best compliments I’ve gotten has to be when a reader said my books were just as good as Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments books—which happens to be one of my favorite series—and another said they loved them just as much as Stephanie Myers Twilight series—which I also love. I also had a reader love my series so much they tattooed Hanna’s symbol (from the original cover of Marked) onto their arm.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
My advice would be to have a good support team in place. The writing part is easy; it’s everything else like marketing, for example that can be daunting. Luckily, there are some fabulous Facebook groups out there where you can connect with other authors who are more than willing to help you out and give you feedback. I belong to a few of them and I have to say, I’ve learned a lot.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
I don’t know if it’s strange or not, but I have to have music playing whenever I write. Some people may find that distracting, but I find it inspiring. For me, the music adds to the atmosphere of the world I’m creating.
What others are saying about T.L. McDonald:
“The author does a great job of weaving a vivid tale filled with twists and turns and creating characters that are truly relatable.”
“MARKED is a rollercoaster ride of mystery mixed with the classic YA elements we all know and love, and it sets up perfectly for the next installment in the series.”
“I found the story entertaining and I wanted to read about the characters. I cared about them and I wanted to find out what the mystery was. The author did a good job in creating tension and keeping the mystery interesting for the reader.”
You can find T.L. McDonald at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE!
You can find her on Facebook HERE!
She’s on Goodreads HERE!
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