Friday, April 18, 2014
SCHMOOZING WITH HILARY MACLEOD
1. Who has influenced you the most in your writing career?
For writing mysteries, M.C. Beaton has had the greatest influence on me. Her amusing mysteries about Hamish MacBeth, the irreverent copper in the remote highland village of Lochdubh, inspired me to find my own charmed setting (I call it The Shores) right outside my cottage door on Prince Edward Island. Beaton’s books also encouraged the idea of blending tragedy (murder) with comedy (the doings of eccentric locals.) Before I wrote my first mystery, Revenge of the Lobster Lover, I had read all of Beaton’s MacBeth stories, and remember closing the cover on the final one with the clear thought: “I could do that here.” So I did.
2. What are you working on now?
I’m close to finishing Bodies and Sole, the fifth book in The Shores Mystery Series.
It follows Revenge of the Lobster Lover, Mind Over Mussels, All is Clam and Something Fishy.
3. In what ways is your main protagonist like you? If at all?
I deliberately set out to make my protagonist, Hy McAllister, not like me at all. I gave her my younger sister’s red curly hair. She’s tall, which I am not. But, she is a writer and the house she lives in at The Shores is a replica of my cottage in Sea View, PEI. She’s clumsy. She doesn’t like to cook. Guilty as charged. There is also the perhaps subconscious fact that her name, Hy, begins and ends with the same letters as mine. Readers tell me they think I am Hy. I’m not, but I do think there is something of ourselves in all of the characters we create.
4. Are you character driven or plot driven?
Definitely character-driven. The story is there to provide my characters – good and bad – a place to play in and act out. I delight in creating appealing and appalling characters for each new book. My local characters, meanwhile, develop and grow. The Mountie, Jane Jamieson, has gone through the most dramatic changes from the first book to the fourth. My characters are definitely the focus of the stories, more so than the plot.
5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I am an organic writer. I prefer that to “pantser,” because although I don’t have a perfectly worked plot in advance of sitting down to write, or an outline, I do have a general sense of what’s going to happen. I’m not always right, because the characters do take over, and I enjoy the fun of writing myself into a corner, then figuring out how to write my way out. I’m sure it happens as well to writers who’ve plotted in advance. I admire writers with outlines. I just can’t do them myself. I wish I could. It’s very time-consuming going by the seat of your pants. There’s a lot of rejigging, weaving, moving scenes around that the more well-organized don’t have to struggle with. More room for error too.
6. What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
I hope they will have been entertained, had a few good laughs and some food for thought. I call my sub-genre “village noir satire.” I hope the village and the locals will entertain, the noir give food for thought, and the satire a few laughs.
7. Where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years?
Resting on my laurels! I’d like to see The Shores mystery series on TV or film. I hope to have completed a historical romance that I now have in the works, and possibly a historical trilogy.
8. What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
My readers might be surprised to know that I have never been a reader of mysteries or a watcher of cop and detective TV shows. The first mysteries I read – and certainly the first series—were those Hamish MacBeth stories that inspired me to create The Shores series. I read mysteries now, those of my colleagues, but I have always been mostly a fan of historical novels and 19th century novels.
9. What do you like to read for pleasure?
I read mystery books by my colleagues, writers like the Mystery Mavens, authors I meet in the course of conferences, library readings, etc. I like to know what the people I meet in the mystery community are writing. It’s part pleasure, part business. My pleasure reading at the moment is non-fiction. I read Malcolm Gladwell, sociological journalist, author of The Tipping Point and Blink among others; and Mary Roach, dubbed America’s funniest science writer. Among her books: Stiff, Bonk, and Gulp.
10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet
Fish fall from the sky, twin kills twin in the womb, a woman dies laughing and a wind turbine whips evil across the cape. Something Fishy.