Friday, December 19, 2014
SCMOOZING WITH CATHERINE MACDONALD
I read a lot of George Orwell’s essays in my twenties. He was a wonderful non-fiction stylist with prose that was very distilled and economical but also very elegant. I hope that tendency to pare back and refine is in my fiction too. It’s something to work toward.
2. What are you working on now?
I’m working on the sequel to Put on the Armour of Light. It involves much enjoyable research on things Scottish because in this book, my two lead characters, Charles Lauchlan and Maggie Skene, go on a bicycle tour of the Highlands and get enmeshed in another mystery. I’ve had to become familiar with bicycles as they were in 1900 and have read lots of guide books on Scottish travel from that era. The problem has been tearing myself away from all this fascinating research in order to actually write the book.
3. In what ways is your main protagonist like you? If at all?
Charles Lauchlan is a real amalgam. Inevitably, he has some of me in him. He loves books and is basically an introvert like me. But he’s more like my father and my brothers in that he can take and hold the centre of attention and is not uncomfortable there. He’s also a bit of a workaholic, which I have never been.
4. Are you character driven or plot driven?
I’m definitely more comfortable with character than with plot. And I think that if you know your characters, they will show you where the plot should go in many cases. I like to start with characters and then say, “Now, what do they do?”
5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I aspire to be a plotter but I’m really more of a plodder. I have to have some idea of where I’m going with a book or I will freeze with fear of that white, bare page looming ahead. But quite often in the writing, something that I have plotted turns out not to work after all and I have to have a considerable think in order to solve the problem and carry on.
6. What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
I hope that I’ve created a world in which they can get lost for a while, then close the book at the end and think it’s been a very satisfying reading experience.
7. Where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years?
I would be happy to have written two or three more books during that time and to still be enjoying the process.
8. What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
It’s at this point that I wish I had taken up sky-diving or become well-known as a quantum physicist in my spare time. But really, I’m quite an unsurprising person. I do play the saxophone, though rather badly.
9. What do you like to read for pleasure?
I read a lot of different stuff. Mysteries, of course, but also poetry and biography. Just now I’m reading a lot of Scottish books. I read a lot of local writers from Winnipeg, because I’ve always loved books set in Winnipeg, where I have lived since I was eleven. I talk about them on my blog, “portage and slain”, (www.portageandslain.com). Other than that, my reading has no discipline or rationale and that’s exactly the way I like it.
10. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet
June 1899. Rev. Charles Lauchlan must find evidence hidden behind the doors of Winnipeg’s elite before his friend is convicted of murder.
She blogs at www.portageandslain.com and has a website at www.charleslauchlan.com