Destroy all known viruses!
Name? Gail McAbee
Pen Names, if any? K. G. McAbee
Country where you reside? : South Carolina, USA
Personal bio? : I have an associate degree in Industrial Electronics, and I spent 16 years as an electronic maintenance technician at a state-of-the-art silicon wafer manufacturing plant, as the only woman in the maintenance shop. It was an interesting experience, and I believe I opened a few eyes and changed a few attitudes.
Do you belong to any writers organizations? : I belong to the National Writers Union, as well as the International Womens Writing Guild. I was a member of RWA until December of last year; I resigned in protest of their policy towards electronic publishing.
Where can a reader purchase your work? : All my novels are available as download or on CD, from Starlight Writer Publications at Amazon.com. My short story collection is published by Sansip Publishing.
Current and/or planned future projects? : Im finishing up a murder mystery set in a traveling carnival in the 1930s; Im also working on a fantasy, a sequel to one of my earlier works, and a sequel to my Regency. In my spare time (!), I write shorts for Fading Shadows, who publish reprints and new pulp stories in their 8 magazines. Im in three of their March magazines!
Why do you write historicals? : History is a passion of mine, my favorite reading. I lived in Atlanta in the 60s as a child, during the centennial of the War of Northern Aggression, and that time period imprinted strongly on my mind. Ive visited England twice, wandered through Stonehenge and the Tower, laid my hands on the stones and could almost feel the weight of the people whod seen and been there before me. I visited Egypt and Mexico to climb pyramids. The concept of the long line of humanity stretching backwards is engrossing and eternally involving for me. I wanted to be an archaeologist and/or paleontologist as a child, and Ive never lost that desire.
What time period(s) is your primary focus, and why? : Im strongly drawn to English history, particularly the Tudors and Stewarts, but also the Victorian era. I also enjoy reading about the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, as well as anything Egyptian and Greek. Actually, there are very few time periods that DONT interest me!
What other genre(s) besides historicals do you write? : History is my first love, but its often fighting it out head-to-head with fantasy. I also write horror and science fiction.
When did you begin writing? And what did you write? : Ive always wanted to write, but I never felt that I had the talent. It was an idea that took up residence in my mind, though, like a flea bouncing around, always there, never leaving me alone. Finally I decided that if I didnt give myself the opportunity to at least SEE if I could write anything that was publishable, Id always regret it--I read something somewhere along the lines of On your deathbed, you wont regret something you tried and failed at--only the things you really wanted to do but were afraid to try. Well, I didnt want that to happen to me! So almost three years ago, I quit my job and gave myself a deadline of two years to get something, anything, published. I figured this would be enough time to tell me if I had any sort of ability at all. Obviously, I didnt know much about the publishing business! The first year was all rejections, dozens of them; about six months into the second year, I sold my first short story, a fantasy, to the Canadian sci-fi/fantasy magazine Challenging Destiny. Then I got a contract on my short story collection from Sansip Publishing, then a contract for a novel from Starlight Writer Publications. On the exact two-year anniversary of the day I quit my job, I got two more book contracts from SWP. Well, I can take a hint! So Im still writing.
Which authors are/were your inspirations? : Robert A. Heinlein, Roger Zelazny, Margaret Mitchell, J. R. R. Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, Sax Rohmer, Dorothy Leigh Sayers, C. S. Lewis, Margery Allingham, and my personal hero, Lester Dent--he wrote the Doc Savage pulps in the 30s and 40s, turning out a book a month for 16 years! Now thats prolific!
Which authors/books are your current favorites? : Lately Ive been reading a lot of Elizabeth Peters books about Amelia Peabody Emerson; theyre mysteries set in Egypt during the 1890s, and Amelia and her husband are archaeologists. I also love Patrick OBrians books about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin; theyre a captain and a ships doctor in the British Navy during the Napoleonic era.
Of all the books youve read, which one do you wish you had written? : Id love to have written anything by Heinlein or OBrian, or D.L. Sayers.
Please give an overview of your research habits. : I dont usually research until after I begin a book. Being a seat-of-the-pants writer, I dont always know what my books about until I begin it. Then, after I meet all my characters, I spend some time at the library doing research on places/times/clothing/names and such. The Internet is an excellent research spot as well, and I buy lots of books on times and places that interest me. When I began my first Regency novel, I checked out a half-dozen others from the library and read them all in two days, to get the vernacular down, as well as reading up on the social and political situations of the time period. Patrick OBrian is wonderful for the vernacular of the period, by the way!
Have you ever included in your novels real historical personages? If so, how true do you stay to what has been written about them? Do you ever deviate from known facts? How much do you fictionalize them? : Ive only mentioned actual historical persons in passing in my novels so far, but Ive got lots of plans for the future. When I become interested in a particular person, I try to read several biographies of him/her, since the attitudes of the writer color how the subject is presented. For instance, a personal favorite of mine is Sir Richard Francis Burton, the Victorian scholar/explorer/writer; I own five different biographies, and each of them presents him and his wife in slightly different lights. Fascinating!
Please give an overview of your writing process. : I start writing. I dont always know if what Im writing is going to be a short story or a novel, and I never know how its going to end. Its a scary way to write, and Ive got lots of false starts that may, someday, be completed, but its the way that works for me at this point in my writing. I can never do an outline, since characters jump out of nowhere sometimes and demand to be included in my books; if I absolutely have to have an outline, it usually has to wait until Ive finished the book. Plotting is the same; Ill be writing along and suddenly something unexpected happens, so I go with it.
On average, how many drafts do you write before your work goes to the publisher? : I write from beginning to end, very linear; Im not very good at working on chapters out of order. But since I dont really plot in advance, aside from a general idea as to how the book is going to end, thats not very surprising, I suppose. When a book is finished, I go back over it and change/add things a few things, maybe drop in a bit of foreshadowing (since I finally know how it ends!), but aside from that, it pretty much goes out as a first draft.
Please give an overview of your typical writing day. : I wake up. I eat breakfast. I check my email. I write. I eat lunch. I write. I eat supper. I write. I go to bed. Im the most boring person I know, externally...but inside my head, oh my goodness! Ideas come to me from everywhere--TV, movies, books, other people, or they just leap into my head from who knows where.
What gives you the most satisfaction during the writing process? : The actual day-to-day creative process of writing is the most satisfying thing Ive ever done in all my life. I catch myself smiling when I create a particularly elegant (to me, anyway!) sentence. I love it!
What gives you the greatest headache during the writing process? : I dont like the business side/promotional side of writing. If I could just churn out words all day, every day, and let someone else do the business part, Id be perfectly happy!
Whats the biggest problem in your own writing that youve had to overcome? : My lack of confidence in my ability. I still find it odd when someone compliments me on my writing!
Do you achieve your finest/most productive work during the initial draft stage or the reediting/revision process? : My first draft is quite often my final draft, though actually I do a lot of revising as I go. Often, during the first few chapters of a book, I start my writing day by reading over and revising the entire work so far, but as it gets longer, I just scan the previous days work and start from there. I enjoy revising to a certain extent, but when Im through with a book, Im through; I dont want to see it for a while, and usually Ive already started another one, or a short story. When my books are being edited by my publishing company, its usually difficult for me to become involved in the process because, again, Im always working on something else--and each new work is exciting and wonderful for me!
Of all the books youve written, which one would you say is your greatest achievement, and why? : I like my first published book, Escape The Past, because I quite literally wrote 45,000 words of it in eight days! I had been unable to finish anything of that length prior to Escape, so it remains a favorite for me because it proved that I was capable and dedicated enough to actually finish a book.
Which character youve created gave you the most pleasure, and why? : I read once that each of the characters in our dreams is actually one facet of ourselves. I believe this is true for writers as well, since were really dreaming while awake. All my heroines are strong and intelligent women, and I like to think that they reflect well upon me.
Have any of your characters tried totake over the book by developing a mind of their own? If so, do you let them go where they may, or you rein them in? And how? : It happens all the time! I have characters who jump out of nowhere and settle themselves into the book as if they own it. When this happens, I give them a certain amount of leeway, but Im careful not to allow them to take over too much, usually by promising to write a book entirely about them in the future. This has worked for me so far, but it certainly adds to the list of my works-in-process.
In your opinion, how healthy is todays market for historical fiction? : I think markets work like a pendulum, with certain genres coming and going into fashion. Historical fiction once dominated the market, and will again.
Do you see the overall industry changing now that E-Publishing is gaining momentum? And if so, how? : I think electronic publishing will be much like the effect of the invention of television, or talking pictures, or the printing press. Each new technology frightens some, encourages others, and opens new opportunities for everyone who is willing to take advantage of it; each new technology also ends up drastically changing or even destroying previous processes or technologies. Bought any buggy whips lately? E-publishing is here and is going to grow. Im sure that the manuscript illustrators were pretty upset over the printing press, but change is the one constant in life.
If you could alter one thing about the publishing industry/process in general, what would it be? : Id like to see the giant print publishers be a little less rigid about the kinds of books they accept. But electronic publishing is changing all that, so I guess Ive already got my wish, huh?
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? : Working on my 30th book and 200th short story!
How do you stay connected to thereal world with areal life happening around you? : Ive always been accused of only occasionally visiting the real world anyway, so being connected is not really something Ive ever pursued. I spend time with my friends when I can; this keeps me grounded, but Im always anxious to get back to work, even when Im on vacation. I recently spent a week in Cozumel, and found myself scribbling in a notebook while lying on the beach. I guess this means Im really and truly addicted!
What advice would you give to unpublished historical authors? : Dont give up! Submit and keep submitting, and when you get rejected (and you will), turn right around and send that book/story back out to another market. I read a quote by George Higgins that struck me: No one asked you to be a writer. And no one will care if you stop. And if you succeed, no one will notice. Its a rough, heartless business. It IS a hard, rough business, but YOULL notice if you stop, and YOULL notice if you succeed. It all depends on whats important to you as a person and as a writer.
Miscellaneous comments? :
Id like to say that its a pleasure and a delight to have my work appear in Of Ages Past. EDITORS NOTE: A pleasure and delight for us as well with each new Wisteria Bozomheave adventure! To find others who share my love of history is a real joy for me, and to be associated even in a small way with such a quality ezine, with such a brilliant editor, is a dream come true for any writer.