Monday, February 9, 2015

Heidi McCahan and Covering Home

While I hope for spring, or let's face it, let's just skip spring, 'cause I'm ready for summer, I'd like to introduce you to another CIR author. (One who grew up in Alaska).
So, WHO is our guest for today?

Allow me to introduce you to Heidi McCahan.

A Pacific Northwest girl at heart, Heidi was blessed to spend her formative years in Alaska. Her unique upbringing, coupled with Alaska's breathtaking scenery, fueled her active imagination and loosely inspired her debut novel, Unraveled.
Heidi graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Sports Medicine from Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington and a Master's Degree in Athletic Training from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. After a brief career as a Certified Athletic Trainer, Heidi married her husband, Steve. They live in North Carolina with their three active little boys.
When Heidi isn't stepping on Legos, chauffeuring the boys around suburbia or watching one of their many sporting events, she loves to read and write heartwarming romance.

Now let's move on and take a peek at her novel, Covering Home, before we get to the interview.

Book Blurb:
On assignment in Japan, television personality turned sportscaster Britt Bowen is determined to land an interview with the most reclusive pitcher in baseball and prove she can succeed in a demanding profession. A relationship with a self-absorbed professional athlete is the last thing Britt needs. Shunning all media attention, former All-Star pitcher Caleb Scott is focused on rebuilding his career in Japan, far from his past and the horrible tragedy that nearly ruined him. Then he meets Britt, who is everything he vowed to avoid. But it doesn’t take long before Caleb is battling his attraction toward Britt. While she works to uncover his secrets, she can’t deny she’s drawn to his wounded soul. At a crossroads, Caleb must decide if he can break free from his past mistakes and give love another chance. And Britt must choose between advancing her career … or falling in love.

Here we are now with the interview. You just keep reading while I'll make some hot cocoa and throw another log on the fire. 

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?
Steve and I have been married for thirteen years and we have three boys. After college and graduate school, I worked briefly at a university as a Certified Athletic Trainer, helping athletes recover from their injuries and teaching a class in the PE department. Once I married, we moved across the country and had our first child just prior to our second anniversary. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for eleven years and this year marks a big milestone: all three boys will be in school all day because our youngest starts kindergarten. I have loved stories and the written word since I learned to read. Growing up in rural Alaska, my imagination served as my entertainment. As a teenager and young adult, I lacked the confidence to pursue a writing career (hence my short stint in athletic training). Three years ago, I decided it was time to go for it and I wrote my first novel, which was published in 2014. Now, nine months later, my second novel is available. It’s a challenging gig, the life of a writer, but I’m passionate about it and so happy I mustered up the courage to pursue my calling. 

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?
As any wife and mother knows, we keep a lengthy to-do list. Adding anything into our lives requires a sacrifice of some sort. I’ve learned to write when I have time, even if it’s thirty minutes between tasks and appointments. Also, I have a very supportive husband. He picks up the slack around the house and loves to take the boys on numerous adventures so I can have the time and space I need to write. I’d say I spend thirty hours a week on writing. That includes marketing, editing, networking via social media. Wow, that's great!

Could you tell us a little about your novel?
Absolutely. I’m proud of this story and I love to talk about it. Covering Home is an inspirational romance, set primarily in Japan. The heroine of the novel is on assignment in Tokyo and determined
to land an interview with a reclusive American baseball player. He’s sworn off all media attention and is trying to rebuild his life and pitching career in Japan after a terrible tragedy nearly ruined him. It’s a fun, clean read—with elements of romance, baseball and a few laugh-out-loud moments.
Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?
Of course. As I mentioned earlier, this novel takes place primarily in Japan. I spent three weeks in Japan as a college student, so many of the details come from my memories of that trip and photographs I took. Because I like to ‘see the world’ from the pages of a book when I’m reading, I try to create that same experience for my readers. To me, the setting of a story is so important. Eating in restaurants, experiencing the sights and sounds of the crowds, hearing the noise inside the baseball stadium and riding the trains were all details that I remembered from my visit and I tried to incorporate those into the story. While I love sports, I’ve never worked as a broadcaster and I don’t know any professional athletes personally. So I did do some research to try and make those aspects of the story as realistic as possible.

Where does the inspiration for you main character and story come from?
Initially, I was inspired to start this story when I saw a writing prompt from a publisher. They had issued a call for submissions for novellas set in various locations around the world and specific elements had to be incorporated in the storyline. Tokyo was the only city on the list that I’d visited. The required elements for Tokyo were a bat, a bell and an angel. I decided a baseball player and a sportscaster would be the ideal hero and heroine and I started to write. But I had so much fun that I couldn’t stop at a novella-length story. So I crafted a full-length novel and here we are. That does sound like fun! Good for you :o)

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?
I had to write at least half of the story before I uncovered the deeper message. It developed as the story came to life. To me, this is a story about finding redemption and believing that love deserves a second chance. Also the game of baseball is a metaphor for real life, which artists have continually explored through novels and screenplays for decades. I admire the game and it provided a wonderful backdrop for illustrating the hero  Caleb’s struggles and growth as a character. 

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?
In my first two novels, I tried to go with the flow. I’m finishing a third now and had a little more structure, but still sort of went where the story carried me. Inevitably, I slammed into the same road block every time, usually around 50,000 words. I felt stuck and the story lacked the conflict necessary to sustain the third act of the story. Thank goodness, the editing and re-writing phases address those issues. My fourth novel is a sequel to the first, so I’m going with an outline this time. Susan May Warren is a successful author I admire and respect and she has developed two resources that have helped me tremendously: The Book Buddy and Kiss and Tell: How to Write a Romance. I purchased the PDF versions and there are several worksheets that help map out the character interviews, key conflicts, etc., which drive the story. I still resist the idea of following a detailed outline, because I feel like that stifles the creative process. But I do know the major turning points, the lies the characters believe about themselves, the truth that will set them free and I always know the end before I write the beginning.

What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years? How much research went into it? Covering Home spans a few months, about half of a baseball season. Since I used previous experience in Japan to help with the details, I didn’t have to do as much research as I would if the story was written in a location and culture I knew nothing about. But I’d estimate I still spent about two days gathering specific details about baseball in Japan, certain menu items in restaurants and I read a lot of interviews online regarding a prominent female sportscaster, just to get an idea of what her life is like. Sounds like fun. I love research, and I agree, it is easier when we have some point of reference in our experience. 

Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you ‘catalogue’ information to make it all work? I’m old school in that I write down anything I think might be valuable in a notebook and note the source so I can find the info again. I’m using Scrivener for this fourth novel and apparently I can keep all sorts of info there, too, so my goal is to catalogue it all in one place. I adore Pinterest because I’m a visual person and I can pin almost anything that inspires me. Hmm, I like that! I have Scrivener as well, but I have never thought about using Pinterest as a storyboard of sorts.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?
I think this novel is a little lighter than my first one.

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?
My perception is that this industry is always changing. Right now, as an indie author, my objective is to write high-quality novels that attract a loyal following. Initially, I wanted to write stand alone novels, which is why Covering Home has nothing to do with Unraveled. But readers seem to prefer a series, so I’m working on a sequel. Also, it would appear that readers want a lot of content, so writers need to produce compelling reads more frequently than ever before. Even authors published by the big traditional houses are releasing books more often, with novellas in between full-length stories.
How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?
I do not have a publicist, virtual assistant or an intern right now. Maybe in the future I will incorporate one or more of those into my writing life. It is certainly a challenge to balance administrative tasks, marketing and writing. My plan is to continue building a following as I release more novels, hopefully two a year. Readers can subscribe to my quarterly newsletter at my website for exclusive content, updates on new releases, etc. I’m exploring the idea of releasing a novel or novella to my subscribers exclusively, but I’m not there yet. I think it should tie into one of my other novels, so I need to explore some options and choose a minor character from my first novel that could be the star of a novella. Stay tuned for more on that, I suppose. Oh, we will!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
The one piece of advice that really motivated me to write seriously was from Jeff Goins and he said, “Stop waiting to be picked.” If circumstances, affirmations, the size of your social media following ... if any of those things are standing between you and putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), stop allowing those obstacles to limit you and get busy writing. There’s never been a more exciting time to be a writer. Pair up with another writer and share your work. The process of putting yourself out there, receiving constructive feedback and then applying what you’ve learned is the best way to improve one’s craft. Finally, never, ever give up. Thank you for sharing that, I am sure it will touch many other writers.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?
I’m wrapping up my third novel now. Since it is another stand alone, I think I’ll hold off on releasing it. I’m still undecided. Now that I’m invested in book four, which allows me to revisit the setting and characters from my first novel, I’d like to aim for a fall 2015 release. The hero of the novel is Jeremy Tully, a character I really enjoyed writing about in Unraveled. He’s proving to be just as much fun in the starring role, so I look forward to sharing his story with my readers later this year.

I enjoyed our time together, and I want to thank you for taking time to stop by. I any of you want to connect with Heidi, you can do so here:

Social Media links:

Amazon Author page
Twitter: @HeidiMcCahan
Amazon purchase link

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the chance to know more about Heidi McCahan!
    Onisha Ellis