Our Interview with Kathleen McKinstry and Lucy!

Kathleen Mc Kinstry is a full-time writer who lives and works in Lanarkshire, Scotland.  When she’s not writing, she likes hiking, cinema, theatre, singing, eating good food with family and friends, and generally just hanging out with her gorgeous companion animal, Lucy.  ‘The Haar’ is her first novel.
                                                    Bio provided by author
It was a great pleasure and a rare opportunity to get a chance to interview both a well written author Kathleen, and her inspiration and muse, Lucy. Not only does Kathleen have a site on the internet but Lucy does too! Kathleen’s great love of dogs is evident in not only her care of Lucy but just the look of love on Lucy’s face. So please give a great big warm welcome to Kathleen and Lucy!
An Interview with Kathleen Mc Kinstry & Lucy the Dog
1.  What makes for a good hook in your stories? Where does your inspiration come from?
A. Well, ‘The Haar’ is essentially an adventure and so, the quest is probably the most significant hook in the story.  Conor sets out to find the meaning of an ancient song, the song of Tara, and readers gradually discover its meaning right alongside him. Conor is just an ordinary boy, someone we can all relate to.  He doesn’t have super-powers or anything.  He’s a young lad who chooses to do the right thing even when he doesn’t feel very brave.
1. Are you an organized writer? Do you do things like take notes and make lists of characters? Or do you free write and work it out as you go?
A. Before Lucy became disabled, we walked The West Highland Way together.  It was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had.  Not only did I get the chance to see some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland, but I also learned a lot about our history on the way.  Early mornings were often misty with the deer down from the hills and a fresh summer breeze to waken us up.  One morning, I was about to put Lucy’s lead on, when she ran off into the mist after something I couldn’t see. She came back moments later but those few minutes started a chain of thought that stayed with me the rest of the way.  What if one had to follow a dog through the mist and end up in another time, another place?
2. Are you an organized writer? Do you do things like take notes and make lists of characters? Or do you free write and work it out as you go?
A.  A bit of both really. I’m a fairly organised person for the most part and that goes for my writing too.  I do take a lot of notes and make lists.  I’ve created character profiles for all of my characters because I want consistency throughout the entire series.  I keep my research in wee boxes. I like to know the bare bones of my story before I even start the first draft but I also find that stuff just comes to me as I’m writing.  The character of Ned the Besom came about that way – he was a bit of a surprise but now he’s one of my favourite characters.  And I rarely start at the beginning of a story.  For ‘The Haar’, it was the big battle scene at the end that came to me first. 
3. What is your normal writing day like? Do you write when you are inspired or do you have a schedule?
A. Mornings are taken up with Lucy’s physiotherapy, breakfast and walk but I keep a notebook handy in case a word, a phrase, a scene just pops into my head.  I’m not a morning person anyway, so my best time for writing is in the afternoons.  There’s no particular schedule and since I write long-hand to begin with (I can’t think in front of a computer) I can write anywhere.  I do a lot of thinking in the bath!  Although I don’t have a set routine, I do impose my own deadlines and reward myself when I meet them.  ‘The Haar’ took about a year to research and draft.
4. Who is your favorite author and how did they inspire you to write?
A. I like dozens of authors because I read so widely.  I’m a big crime thriller fan but I also like historical fiction, and… well, actually it’ll be easier to tell you what I don’t read!  I’m not really a ‘chick-lit’ girl and I don’t like horror.  Some of my favourite authors include Thomas Eidson, Brian Moore, C.J. Sansom, Harlan Coben, Rose Tremain, Kathy Reichs, Linwood Barclay, Robert B. Parker, Ed Mc Bain, Lee Child, Adriana Trigiani, Donna Leon, Alexander Mc Call Smith, Jane Austin, the Bronte’s, Thomas Hardy…I could go on and on.  I’m inspired by many things: good writers, good drama on TV, the people I meet, life events, and the awesome scenery of Scotland and Ireland. As a child, I was very inspired by Susan Coolidge’s ‘Katy’ stories and Enid Blyton’s ‘Mallory Towers’ books.  How I longed to go to boarding school and have midnight feasts! 
5. It’s easy to see that you have a passion for writing but is there any part of it you don’t like?
A. Beginning a new writing project always feels a bit overwhelming.  I think I’ll never get through it but I always do.  Marketing is difficult sometimes too.  I’m not with a big publisher and I don’t have those mainstream marketing contacts so I have to work very hard to sell my books.  I do enjoy meeting people when I go out to promote the stories and of course, everyone loves Lucy.
6. Do you make time to read and if you do what are you reading right now?
A. I’m constantly reading.  I have a Robert B. Parker novel on the go at the moment and I’ve just finished the very inspiring non-fiction book ‘Never Give Up’ by Joyce Meyer.  I usually have some kind of academic project too so I have a pile of research papers and textbooks near my desk. I read some of my Bible every day.
7. How did you get started in writing childrens action adventure books? Lucy is there personal life experience in the writing?
A. Quite by accident.  I always wanted to be a writer but I dreamed of being a crime writer and winning the Golden Dagger Award.  I’d written short stories and poetry and tons of essays but I’d never written a novel.  The very thought of it was overwhelming.  Now that I’ve done it, I’m not sure I could go back to short stories.  I originally thought of ‘The Haar’ for adults but as Conor’s character took shape in my mind, I began to see the story very much as one about a boy and his dog.  Their adventures continue in ‘Sculptor’s Cave’ and ‘Hangman’s Rock’.  I still want to write a crime novel but I don’t mind if I never win anything.  It’s just great to be able to do something I love and earn a living doing it.
 Lucy: I inspired Kathleen to write the Dalriada stories and she’s definitely included a lot of my funny dog-like behaviour in the story. (I was a touch miffed that she mentioned the snoring and farting though.)  I’m definitely as faithful as Faolin is, and would do anything to protect my human. 
8. Your books have been published with Amazon.com, Does this mean you see the publishing industry headed this way?
Lucy has your fame and popularity changed you at all?
A. I wouldn’t want to see the demise of paper books but I think, we are becoming more digital in our reading habits, especially the younger generation.  ‘The Haar’ is coming out in paperback around the end of February and I must admit, I can hardly wait to hold the paper version in my hand.
Lucy: Can you believe it?  She’s going to get a rubber stamp paw mark so that I can ‘sign’ the paperback too!  Dogs have simpler lives, I think.  Good food, a warm bed and a human to love and be pampered by.  That’s all we want.  I must admit the fuss humans make over me is great and there’s always plenty of treats on hand.  Thankfully, writing is only one wee part of my human’s life and we don’t want to get caught up in the fame thing.  If I have to be famous for anything, I’d like it to be as an ambassador for disabled dogs.
 9. Do you have any online sites where others can read more of your writings?
When you go to the park Lucy do your other friends treat you any differently now that you are famous?
A. Lucy: I write a blog for Celtic Vine Books which is on their website at www.celticvinebooks.com.
Well, it certainly makes for good conversation with the other dogs: a change from all those dog-on-wheel jokes.
10. Do you have any more stories in the works? What kinds of stories do you plan to write next?
A. I’m working on a non-fiction book about looking after Lucy, which I hope will inspire others who have disabled and/or senior dogs. Books 2 and 3 in The Dalriada Series are next but right now, a lot of my time is taken up with promoting ‘The Haar’.  Hopefully, by about March or April, I can get back to full-time writing again.
 11. Who would be your first choice to play Connor from your book titled “The Haar   (The Dalriada Series)”?
Lucy who would be your first choice to play the mysterious dog in the book “The Haar (The Dalriada Series)”?
A.  I’d like a complete unknown to play Conor in a film version.  Someone Scottish of course, but not too handsome, or too charming.  Just an ordinary guy.  In my dreams, I’d like Mel Gibson to make ‘The Haar’ as a kind of Braveheart-for-kids.  (Saying that, if you’re reading this Kenneth, Steven, Clint, Martin, Danny, Tony or Ridley, you certainly won’t be turned away!)   Sean Connery for King Aedan and Billy Connelly for Ned the Besom.  Brian McCardie in thug mode for Gerluff.  Gina Mc Kee for Queen Orla. Then, a whole host of other Scottish and Irish acting talent in there too…Neeson, Byrne, Mc Avoy, Mc Gregor.  Sorry…I’m getting a bit carried away!
Lucy: Yes, a completely unknown German Shepherd for Faolin, I think.  Not one of those spoilt acting dogs who like to throw diva-like tantrums and demand steak in their dressing rooms.  Maybe a rescue dog, thankful for a second chance and who can really make that faithful dog and human bond work brilliantly.  I’d like to be at the casting auditions, I must say.
12. If you could meet anyone from any time who would it be and what would be your first question?  Same question for you Lucy!
A.  Wow.  That’s a tough one actually.  There are so many people throughout history who’ve done incredible things and it would be great to meet them.  I’m not really one for putting people on pedestals …we’re all pretty much the same underneath with none of us perfect.  Perhaps it would be easier to place some amazing people within certain contexts. Meeting Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole in the Crimea, for example.  Being there with Wilberforce at the point when slavery was abolished.  Stepping into Newgate Prison with Elizabeth Fry.  Travelling and working alongside Mary Slessor. Showing compassion to leprosy sufferers like Father Damien.  Fighting loneliness and stigma like Mother Teresa.  My heroes and heroines are those ordinary people who did what they could to promote social justice and compassion.  Mind you, it would be good fun to visit palaces and castles, to see the lavish parties and those wonderful costumes.  I’d quite like that too.
 Lucy: I’m really happy in the present time, thank you.  I don’t have to hunt for my food and I have a lovely duvet to sleep on.  I’d just like to ask my human one question. Why can’t I have breakfast in bed?