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An Interview with L.A. McGinnis

Updated: Sep 19, 2019

L.A. McGinnis lives in northeastern Ohio, at the edge of a national park with her husband and one very spoiled German shepherd, writing paranormal, urban fantasy and dystopian romances. ​​​

​Laura started 2019 off with the launch of The Banished Gods, her new Urban Fantasy series, published by Fools Journey Press. The first two books, The Queen of Swords, and The Moon, have now been released to critical acclaim and fans wait impatiently for her next release, The Priestess, in June.

Laura also has a paranormal romance series, published by Wild Rose Press. The first book The Shadow of Ghosts is out now and her second book, Reflections of the Heart, will be available later this year.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Laura to find out what has gone into making the world of The Banished Gods, come to life.

What was your inspiration for Queen of Swords, the first book in your Banished Gods series?

It began with this crazy idea revolving around fallen angels stuck in Chicago, tasked with protecting the mortal world. We love the city, and every time I visit, I’d think “What a great setting for a book.” As an Old English major, I’d studied Germanic mythology, and have been fascinated with Norse mythology since I was about six or seven. What started out as a loose NaNoWriMo project in 2016 became a series, as I wrote each subsequent book. And as the story evolved, there was new research to be done. The gods have been in the city since it was built, so I had to be meticulous about researching the construction of the city, the graveyards, before and after the Great Fire. Which I’ve found is a great way to get distracted from actual writing.

L,A, McGinnis Queen of Swords Cover

​​It’s the first of a 7-book series? How did you tackle the series? Was it planned?

About three years ago I floated the idea to my writers’ group of writing an entire series through to the end, then publishing when they were all written. Which as a neophyte author sounded crazy, because of the risk, but the flip side would be I’d have my characters, plot and story lines all worked out, from beginning to end, instead of trying to shoehorn new ideas into the storyline partway through.

The advantage has been that since I know how every character’s story ends, I can seamlessly work concepts and foreshadowing in from the very beginning, without trying to introduce a plot twist or a character halfway through. The downside was the time invested, without knowing if the series will have an audience.

Did anything specific inspire you to write Queen of Swords?

Well, I’d always wanted to set a book in Chicago. And I have an abiding love for Norse mythology, especially the way the old myths straddle all nine realms. I’ve always admired the way those storytellers merged so many characters and themes together, all the while, telling an over reaching story culminating in the end of the world.

Let’s talk about your writerly life, what makes you sit down at the computer/notepad and start to write? What motivates you?

I try to stick to a schedule. I have a full-time job as an artist which means I have to be frugal with my time, so I write Wednesday-Saturday, and at least 8 hours on those days. Having goals makes it easier, as I usually feel like I need to either write or edit a certain amount of words or pages each day.

L,A, McGinnis The Moon Cover

I know you are a busy person. What’s your writing day look like?

Writing 3-4 days a week forces me to be careful with my time, so after I get home from the gym, I sit down to write. Day 1 (usually Wednesday) is full of distractions, but by days 2 and 3, I’ve found my flow and am writing steadily for 8-12 hours. When I’m in first draft mode, I can write up to 7,000 words a day, in editing mode, I can edit 30-100 pages a day, depending on how complicated the edits are. And there are the days that nothing happens, or I only get through one scene.

Do you have favorite writing tools? Computer? Pen?

At home, I always write on my PC, but as all writers, there are notes spread throughout my house. Over the years I’ve gotten better at centralizing my notes, but there are still the times something gets written on the back of a receipt! When we do long drives (Ohio to Florida, for example) I take a couple of spiral notebooks and use the time to either complete a chapter, or jot down ideas for my next project. There are trips where I fill an entire notebook, and other trips where it’s only a few pages.

Any habits or rituals? Anything you do specially to get into the mood to write?

Coffee. And a candle, usually. I’m one of the few writers who don’t listen to music when writing, because I find it distracting.

Do you have a time of day that’s a sweet spot for words?

I usually spend my days on household errands, so when I sit down to write, it is sometimes evening. But I find between 9:00 - 12:00 pm is the time I get the most accomplished.

Any favorite genre to write in?

These days, I straddle the lines between paranormal and urban fantasy. But my very first manuscript was a YA trilogy.

I know you read widely but do you have a favorite genres(s) you like to read?

For the past few years it’s been mainly paranormal, but in 2018 I read, almost exclusively, YA. Since I’m in a couple of book clubs, I also read contemporary and literary fiction, but my heart really belongs to YA. There are so many great authors pushing the envelope, and I think that age group is more accepting of new ideas and concepts, as long as it's well-written.

Which is your favorite Book Series? Feel free to choose more than one!

The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin is my best read of this year so far, and A Court of Thorns and Roses series was my hands down favorites from 2018, but there is a very special place in my heart for the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by JR Ward, and the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. I do try to re-read my favorite books at least once a year.

L,A, McGinnis The Priestess Cover

Let’s talk about you. What do you eat for breakfast? If it’s not a standard thing then what did you have this morning?

Haha, I am such a creature of habit (the kind that orders the same thing in every restaurant, every time.) I have a banana for breakfast, then yogurt and fruit for lunch, and a salad with something on the side for dinner. Pretty simple, and I’ve been trying to stay away from meat these past few months, which is a challenge when my husband would eat steak at every meal!

You are an artist as well as a writer. Can you tell me about your other loves?

I have a painting degree, but these days I’m a full-time glass artist. As an art major, I’d wanted to take glassblowing, but was never able to, so in 2008, I took a beginning lampworking* class. A year later, I had a growing side business (I was an admin asst. at an accounting form at the time). When the company downsized, I pursued glass full time.

*Lampwork is melting glass in a torch at bout 1700-1800 degrees, and sculpting it, then annealing the result in a kiln. I make primarily beads, and small sculptures.

What are you reading/watching on TV right now?

I rarely watch TV, unless I find a new series I think is interesting. Right now I’m watching Umbrella Academy on Netflix, which is excellent. I’m desperately trying to get through my TBR pile, so I just finished Circe, by Madeline Miller and the Forge Trilogy series by Meghan March.

What is the most recent film you’ve seen?

Haha, good or bad? We only make it to about 2-3 a year, so I’m waiting for the final Avengers film, and the new John Wick film.

What are you writing now? We can keep a secret.

My newest project (still in the draft stages) is a trilogy that will be a book within a book. The plot will be based on a fictional book series predicting a world-changing event, where a pair of readers will realize the series’ predictions are coming true. Teaming together, using the clues in the books, they have to figure out how to change the future. I still haven’t decided, but it might be set in the 1940’s.

Any advice for novice writers?

I would say if you want to write, write whatever strikes your fancy. You don’t get to choose what you love to write (I set out to write literary fiction, i.e.: The Great American Novel and it was a total fail). Test the waters, see what’s the best fit, because if you are forcing yourself to write a certain way, in a certain genre, then your writing will always sound forced to the reader. Don’t waste any of your precious writing time banging your head against a wall, write what you love. And if you are really meant to be a writer, you’ll find that you can’t stop.

One last question before I let you get back to work. What is the funniest thing that has happened to you that you can remember without having to think about it?

In 2014 we were in Germany with another couple and visited this beautiful spa in Fussen, had reservations and the whole bit. When we arrived that Tuesday evening, no one spoke much English and my German is pretty broken, so all we could really understand was that we’d arrived just before nude hour. Well, being American, we assumed nudity was optional. That would be a big no.

Naked or no admittance.

My friend and I took one look at each other and bailed, even though the guys were already halfway down the hallway to the saltwater pool. The best part was, we took a taxi (since we were planning on drinking) and the exact same guy came and picked us up a half an hour later. This shall always be known as “Naked Spa Night”. I always wondered how nice that spa would have been! Maybe next time, but definitely not on a Tuesday at 7:00.

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