Frequently Asked Questions
When I go around the country speaking to young people, there are certain questions that crop up all the time.
Here’s a selection of them.
The questions will be updated regularly, so feel free to come back again and again. And if you have a question yourself why not e-mail it to me?
Q. Is a writer well-paid?
A. That depends! A writer is paid a certain amount, called a 'royalty', for each copy of a book that is sold. There are usually two pay-days a year, at the end of June and the end of December. If the books don't sell, you don't get paid. But if they sell millions . . . Well now!
Q. How do you go about writing a book?
A. All the writers I've spoken to say much the same thing: ideas come when you least expect them. And very often you link ideas together, e.g. you may have an idea for a thriller or a ghost story, then when you're out and about one day you'll see something and say, 'This would be a great location!' and you'll put the two together. Then you'll jot down all your ideas and -the hardest bit! - try to put them into some kind of order. After that you're up and running. For more information check out the page entitled About Writing.
Q. Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?
A. I enjoyed writing my three non-fiction books and I believe they contain some very important and useful information for young people and their parents. However, fiction-writing is great fun, so I’m concentrating on that for a while.
Q. What do you do when you get 'stuck'?
A. Usually I do something else! 'Writer's block', as it's sometimes called, usually happens when you're overtired or you've simply been trying too hard and have got yourself into a state. The secret, as with most mental blocks, is to retreat: go for a walk, watch TV, read a novel - or get down to some of the chores you've been putting off! Relax and get away from your writing. There's no point in flogging a dead horse. Once you've had some recovery time you'll soon get into the flow again.
Q. Are your characters based on real life people?
A. Not directly! It wouldn't be fair to write about people without their consent. However, we all form our consciousness from the people and situations we encounter, so when we 'invent' characters we probably draw on our subconscious stock of memories and impressions. It's probably truer to say that characters are made up of bits-and-pieces of real life people!
Q. How do you feel when you've finished a story?
A. Believe it or not, I have very mixed feelings. You get a fantastic buzz - especially when the publisher and editor say they like it! You also feel very satisfied that you've achieved what you set out to do. On the other hand, there's a certain sadness in finishing a fiction book because you're leaving behind the 'characters' who've been living in your mind for quite some time. It's almost as if you know them personally! Also, if you've enjoyed that particular project you can feel at a loose end, although it's better to take a break before getting down to the next one.
Q. Most people would rather watch TV or a film than read a book. Why don't you write your stories for TV?
A. I'm a great believer that reading is much better for you than viewing! Watching a film or TV certainly has its place, but reading is much more active and it's well known that it stimulates the brain in a more creative way. Any reader will tell you that you can get drawn into a book much more intensely. That's because the writer can only do so much; you then have to use your own imagination to make the picture complete, whereas in a film it's all done for you. Lots of people find settling down with a good book is a much more 'escapist' and enjoyable experience. But as I say, watching a film has its own merits, and I intend to convert some of my stories into screenplays. We'll see!
Q. Is it true that a writer can write anywhere, not just when sitting at a desk?
A. Yes, but it depends on how we define 'writing'. Do we mean physically getting the words down on paper, or do we mean mulling over ideas and planning things out? The latter can be done while walking the dog or sitting on a bus. Then there are activities like researching information, researching locations and interviewing people. Probably all these things and more come under the general heading 'writing'. I like to visit as many locations as I can; this helps me not only describe events and places, but it stimulates the imagination too. Check out the Gallery for 'Another Life' and you'll see the places that Mel and her friends frequented. These are real-life places, but the characters, of course, are fictitious.
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(c) Frank McGinty 2005