1. What made you want to become a writer?
I think like most writers I’ve always had a special relationship with books. I loved them even before I could read. I have photos of my three-year-old self sitting at a tray table with a pile of Golden books, looking at the illustrations and making up my own stories. I would “read” them to my little brother, inventing stories to go with the pictures. I was especially drawn to horror, and when I was in elementary school I would read anything that looked like it would be frightening and had monsters, ghosts, witches, or vampires. I would read Stephen King and thriller, suspense novels like “Jurassic Park” when I was in 4th and 5th grade. I didn’t understand a lot of the “grown-up” stuff in those novels, but I loved the thrill of the intense scenes, and I would re-tell them to friends and family.
In college, I fell in love with critical analysis of literature and that just fueled my desire for writing. I wrote a lot in my spare time, even as a kid; mostly poems and suspenseful scenes from novels that I wanted to write. But it wasn’t until last year, now that I’m in my thirties, that I decided to learn how to take it seriously and start writing for real audiences.
2. What is your genre or writing style and has it changed over time?
I have a hard time determining my genre. Like I said, I used to love reading horror and I think that’s influenced me a lot. I love mysteries, old Gothic novels, and some Sci-Fi and Fantasy if they’re well written, and they all inspire me, but mostly I love reading and writing pieces that are dark in a way that really hits home with the reader, and touches them somewhere slightly disturbing or uncomfortable. I want it to be a familiar feeling, but I don’t want that familiarity to be identified or specified. Basically I want to evoke the uncanny. I strive for that darkness in everything that I write, no matter what genre I’m trying out, whether it’s a love poem or an adventure novel. When I was a kid, my writing was all about thrillers and messy love-triangles, but the darkness was always there.
If I had to choose a genre, I love magical realism, especially in short stories. That is relatively new for me. I took a magical realism class in graduate school, and it was my favorite literature course. It has such potential for darkness and psychological mind-bending, and disturbing uncertainty. I like it best when the antagonists are most likely in the characters’ heads or hidden within the people they thought they knew, but no one, not even the reader, knows for sure. The more I write, the more I try to capture that.
3. What has helped you the most in the writing pursuit?
There is this one e-book I read on a whim that changed the way I viewed everything about what it takes to be a writer. It’s Noah Lukeman’s “How to Land (and Keep) a Literary Agent.” I’ve always wanted to be a traditionally-published novelist (still do, someday), but I’ve never had anyone lay it out for me in black-and-white the process to become one. It always seemed like some unattainable dream, but now I can visualize it and all the steps to get there. I needed someone to show me the checklist of what to do and map out the road and all its bumps, so that I knew where to focus my hard work to get where I want to be. Of course, following the checklist doesn’t equal success – as of right now, I’m no novelist — but at least I know how to get there when my writing is ready. Before reading Lukeman’s book, I had no direction. I had the passion and consistently worked on the craft, but I didn’t know where to go from there. Not to be too dramatic, but it changed my life. It’s only led me down more and more rewarding avenues.
4. How would you describe your writing practice?
It’s constantly evolving. I obviously love to write, but if I don’t give myself new goals I can’t stay motivated. I search for writing challenges online, or create my own. Being apart of a group makes me feel accountable, even if it doesn’t always work. I’m a mom, and I take care of my two and three year old all day, so it’s hard to have a consistent writing schedule. I keep a book or writing journal with me, so I can write or read whenever I have time. If I had to describe my writing practice in a phrase, it would be: whatever works for the moment.
5. What are you writing now?
I’m currently working on several short stories, experimenting with different literary techniques. To motivate myself a couple months ago, I began a short story reading/writing challenge where I force myself to read two stories from “The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction” and then take a technique used by the authors to try out in my own short story. The techniques can be anything from point-of-view to building a story around a philosophical question, for example. Examining the “masters” gives me inspiration and gets me to try new things with my writing. The goal is to write 25 short stories then choose at least five to polish and perfect. I’m putting all of my progress in my blog, laid out like a writing course for other writers who want to join me.
One of the stories I’m working on right now from the challenge: two women meet and have a conversation at a boring, dinner party. One woman is describing to the other the memory of a moment in her life when she’d been the most terrified. The woman listening to the story becomes so absorbed as the first woman talks that she actually becomes part of the memory and, by the end, she is the catalyst in the moment where woman telling the story was the most afraid. It’s one of my attempts at magical realism, but it’s not really where I want it to be right now.
6. Where can someone find out more about your work?
My website is VeronicaMcDonaldAuthor.com. I’m not exactly an “author” yet, but that’s the plan down the road. On the site you’ll find my short-story-challenge progress, excerpts and poems, and links to my published work. Twitter is also a good place to spy on me: @VeeMcD123.