Interview with Zoe M. McCarthy and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m excited to  have Zoe McCarthy as my guest. I very much enjoyed her interview, including reading with rapt attention her experience in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis! Zoe is giving away a copy of her latest release. Read on to see how you can enter to win!

Tell us a little about yourself. I was pegged an expressive analytic in a personality test. Isn’t that an oxymoron? But it’s true. I couldn’t survive without creativity and expressing my imaginative ideas. Yet, this retired actuary* and introvert receives her energy from being alone in her home office overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Believing opposites distract, I have seven Christian contemporary romances involving tenderness and humor. To satisfy my analytical side, I also have a book out on writing. My husband and I enjoy canoeing and spending time at our lake cabin, where I write during month-long sabbaticals—alone.

*Actuaries perform all the mathematical analysis for insurance companies, pricing products and estimating reserves to pay claims.

Tell us about your current release. The Irresistible Woman in a Blue Dress is the third book in the Twisty Creek Series. After book one had a title and cover with a red dress and book two had a title and cover with a black dress, I wanted a blue-dress book. I spotted the photo with a woman wearing a blue gown and knew I had to write a fashion model’s story. Here’s the cover blurb.

Overworked Chicago fashion model Vivian Day flees a difficult photo shoot in Roanoke, Virginia, and heads for a three-week vacation in Tennessee.

But when Vivian detours into the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, her car breaks down on a remote mountain road. Home-improvement-store manager Brayden Cole gives the frustrated woman wearing a blue gown and flip-flops a ride and, while her car’s in the shop, a room at his mother’s house in Twisty Creek. Brayden’s mother urges him to entertain the big-city woman. Brayden, who considers himself a magnet for women’s woes, reluctantly introduces Vivian to the mountain lifestyle and breathtaking views.

Now, as Vivian experiences the simple mountain life, she realizes her stressful career and demanding agent, who’s her mother, are draining joy from her life.

How do you push back the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher (or agent or audience if you self-publish)? I’ve done three things to build confidence in my writing. First, from the beginning, I have attended writing conferences and workshops, read Writer’s digest articles, and ingested several popular books on writing. Second, because I love learning about the writing craft, I write blog posts on writing. For whatever I’m dealing with at the moment in my writing or marketing, I Google articles and consult my bookshelf resources. Then I write a blog post of what I learned. An agent and an editor recommended I write a book from my blog posts. Seeing what I learned made me confident in my writing, I wrote Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days to help others to be assured in theirs. Third, through my traditional publishing, I found an editor who is on my side and is tough on my writing. Because I trust her, I became confident to be a hybrid author—indie and traditional publishing. I hire her for every book.

How did you determine to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? At first, I trusted only the traditional publishing process to help me offer well-written books. The belief-trend at the time was that most self-published books were substandard. I didn’t want my stories to be lost in that negativity to indie books. Then an award-winning author invited me to be part of a five-author Valentine’s Day romance collection. It was a very positive experience. I hired my editor to edit my short book. Sales were great. Reviews that mentioned my story in the collection were encouraging. The collection won Interviews and Reviews’s book-of-the month award. I liked the speed between our finishing our books and publication. I liked being able to track sales online. We were allowed to publish the print copy of our books a week after the collection released, then when the six-month Kindle offering ended, I was able to indie publish my book. I joined a second Valentine’s Day collection and am in the process of contributing to a fall collection. After I experienced the collection process and my husband became my partner in self-publishing and marketing, I self-published more stand-alone books and series. However, for the speculative story that has unexpectedly grabbed me, I plan to have my agent shop it to traditional publishers.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as they write? I do both. I believe in the Hero’s Journey that Christopher Vogler advocates. Once I have my idea, I flesh out the twelve journey steps that take my protagonists through their struggles and crises and that develop my character arcs. The Hero’s Journey keeps me from having a sagging middle. And the process allows me freedom to develop as I write sub-events within the steps. Also, I feel free to let characters face different struggles or react differently than my plan if the new idea is stronger than my original one. As for my characters, I use the Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi to develop traits that have developed from their past wounds; how they react to new situations; and what event shows they’ve overcome their wounds’ ills. Also, as I plot and develop characters, I consider my audience. Although my main audience is women over 45, I’ve found that these women buy my clean romances for their daughters and granddaughters. These young adults, teens, preteens have become part of my audience. So, in planning crises and how I present them, I remind myself a thirteen-year-old will read the book.

Where is the strangest place you’ve had a great writing idea? One summer, while my husband and brother-in-law followed golf pros around the course at the PGA Seniors Golf Tournament, my sister and I sat in canvas chairs on the seventeenth green. We watched the pros and their caddies putt through. In one group, a tall young caddie and a petite female caddie, with her blonde ponytail protruding from the back of her pink ball cap, stood on the edge of the green with their backs to us. All sorts of sappy ideas went through my mind. I turned to my sister, pointed, and said, “My next book is about those two caddies.” And it was—The Putting Green Whisperer.

What’s the first major news headline that you can remember and what do you remember? CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS. When I was fifteen, the Coast Guard stationed my family in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The five-square-mile base had gray Naval busses, a PX store, a teen club, and two beaches where Cuban soldiers spied on us from surrounding cliffs. On October 22, 1962, our high school principal announced on the PA system, “When the lunch bell rings, go directly home. Don’t go elsewhere.” The bell rang, and on my gray bus, the buzz started. Some kids had an inkling of what was happening. I was clueless. I saw suitcases on yards in the officers’ housing where I lived. At my house, I raced inside and called, “Mom, what’s going on?” Mom said, “I don’t know. We’re to pack a suitcase and stand out front.” I packed one skirt, two blouses, and my hair rollers. My younger brother arrived, and my father stopped by for a quick good-bye. In less than two hours, my mother, brother, and I stood in line to board the military transport, USNS Upshur, which authorities had detained for a week, the captain claiming a broken boiler. We sailed three days to Norfolk, Virginia, where it was snowing. For a teen, the time on-board was exciting. The guys avoided the army sergeant who tried to keep them from us girls, and the girls avoided the enlisted men’s wives who’d been made MPs and ordered us to clean diapers out of toilets. President Kennedy came on the ship’s PA system and apologized for uprooting us. In Norfolk, we were processed and directed to a hangar stocked with donated coats. My mother left the decisions to me. I chose my grandmother’s Florida home over my grandparents’ in Ohio, because I had summer clothes and my sister attended the University of South Florida. Unlike many teens who didn’t go to school and stayed in the Norfolk area, my mother had us in Tampa schools the following Monday. After three months, we returned to Guantanamo. I was ecstatic.

Here is where you can find Zoe online:

Zoe is giving an ebook of The Irresistible Woman in a Blue Dress to a reader! See below how to enter to win:a Rafflecopter giveaway




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  1. Hallee, Thanks so much for hosting me. Your readers’ questions made me think. Someday, I may have to write a YA story of my experience during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. I guess it’d be a historical. Oh my. Zoe
    Zoe M. McCarthy recently posted…3 Steps to Write Story Setting into the ActionMy Profile

  2. I love that story about the golf caddies. It’ll be fun to go read that book knowing the inspiration behind the story!

    1. Michaela, I had so much fun writing those two caddies’ story. If they only know what I wrote about them in The Putting Green Whisperer—the challenges I put them through.

    • bn100 on March 25, 2020 at 17:59
    • Reply

    interesting writing info

    • Calvin on March 25, 2020 at 20:04
    • Reply

    Interesting ways of writing, really took something out of your shares. Thanks, and great interview!

    1. You’re welcome, Calvin. We each have to find the way of writing that works for us. Thanks for coming by.

    • Lisa Stillman on March 25, 2020 at 23:04
    • Reply

    I did not know that families were at Guantanamo. I can’t imagine being uprooted so suddenly.

    1. It was a very unique time for me, Lisa. The US paid Castro for clean water coming through a pipe that was checked daily. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, the admiral had the pipe sealed and we went days that we had to use as little water as possible until a water tanker arrived. That summer, the US built a water distillation plant there. My boyfriend worked on it. I liked the close-knit time I had there with other teens.
      Zoe M. McCarthy recently posted…3 Steps to Write Story Setting into the ActionMy Profile

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