I’m delighted to welcome Brynne McKay to my blog today. She’d the author of five novels, including her latest contemporary literary fiction, Baby Steps to Mama. And let me just say, not only is it garnering great reviews, but it’s free at the moment at Barnes and Noble and Apple: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/baby-steps-to-mama-brynne-mckay/1112113028?ean=2940044717282
It’s wonderful to have you here, Brynne. Can you tell us a little bit about your book?
My new novel, Baby Steps to Mama, is a story about community, motherhood, and family. When Lindy Marston moved back home to the little town of Murray,Oregon after escaping a bad relationship, she never expected to end up a housekeeper and nanny for her older sister. But when her sister dies in a car accident, Lindy at twenty-five finds herself mother to three-year-old David and infant Jenny. Unprepared, Lindy must face her own grief while struggling to help David and Jenny with theirs.
Baby Steps, however, is about more than grieving. It is ultimately about people coming together despite loss to create family and community. There are gardens, cookies, and some very cute little kids.
What about this story made you have to write it?
David and Jenny. Baby Steps came out of a short story I wrote about a month before I wrote the novel—it had nothing to do with babies. It was, in fact, a lot more in the vein of the prologue to Baby Steps (which contains parts of that short story). But when I hit ten pages of David and Jenny, I knew that this was going to really be a story about them.
I hate reading novels with babies in them where the babies are non-characters. Babies (and certainly three-year-olds!) have buckets of personality. And as it turned out, the children didn’t just have personality in this story. They were what made it worthwhile for me.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned during the creation of this book?
I did a lot of research for Baby Steps: gardening, breastfeeding, adoption laws. Also, the novel takes place in 2008, and I spent a not insignificant amount of time looking up weather and dates: Was June 21, 2008 really a Saturday? (It was.)
This was the first non-fantasy novel I wrote. I always used to joke that my life was too strange to be able to easily write normal. (I think I accidentally stole this statement from Diana Wynne Jones, even though for her, it was actually true.) And yes, real life is actually harder to write than fantasy because you cannot set the parameters for yourself. I am always careful to define the rules of my fantasy worlds before writing, but I found venturing into the real world much more daunting.
But it was surprisingly easy. You won’t find Murray,Oregon on a road map, but everything else was as real as I could make it. But research aside, the greatest surprise for me was being able to take someone’s everyday life and make a story out of it. In fantasy, they always say, parents and babies weigh the story down: kids can’t have good adventures if they have involved parents, and adults can’t have good adventures if they have babies. I loved writing a story where the babies were the central plot point.
What was the hardest part to write?
My process while writing really influenced what was easy and what was hard. I was working as a nanny while I was writing Baby Steps (it doubled as research!) and so I tended to write on the computer in the early morning, and then take my notebook with me when I left for work and write more during naptime. Usually I’d back up in the notebook and rewrite part of the scene I’d already done on the computer. Then I’d come home and type it up and revise as I did so, and then write more.
There were a couple points in the process where my early-morning writing took the story in a direction I wasn’t interested in having it go. The double-rethinking I was able to do helped keep me from stalling out when I reached those points: It didn’t feel like deleting, because I was just writing in a new medium, and by the time I went in to take sentences out of my Word document, I already had twelve or fifteen handwritten pages to replace them.
I wrote very fast this way, and I don’t remember having a sticking point where I had trouble going on. Starting was hardest. It always is. Once I got going, it was all right.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Until recently I studied medieval history at a small liberal arts college. After endless reading, research, Latin study, and 150 pages of thesis, I’m done with school. So I’m taking the opportunity to read a lot. When I was younger, six novels in a day were routine, but in college I just didn’t have time. I have a lot of catching up to do!
I also crochet, bake, and sew. Lately sewing has been my most ardent love. J
Can you share a little of what you are working on now?
I’ve recently started a new project. I mentioned that I’ve become frustrated with fantasy’s tendency to preference young people having good adventures without parents or babies. My latest quest is to write a fantasy novel that isn’t about adventures at all. I have no idea if it will work or not, but we’ll find out!
What advice would you give a new writer?
First, find a story and stick with it. Write till you get to the end: finishing a novel is half the battle.
And then you will probably have to let it go. When you finish your first novel, you’re convinced it’s your one and only. You don’t necessarily have to give it up … but first novels are almost always too flawed to salvage. I don’t say this to be discouraging. You need that first novel. But write another. And another.
Links to Brynne’s web page and books …
On Amazon in paperback or kindle formats:
On Barnes and Noble:
On Smashwords in ebook format: