Q&A with Heather McVea

hiddenelements_bn_6-13-16Introduce yourself to the rest of the class. Who are you and what makes you tick?

My name is Heather McVea. I write primarily paranormal and fantasy fiction in which the protagonists are lesbians. With the exception of university and a year in Savannah, Georgia, I have lived in San Antonio, Texas my entire life. As far as what makes me tick… I’m a movie buff (you want me on your team for Trivial Pursuit and pub quizzes), I love to travel, I enjoy a good bourbon, and I am completely and hopelessly in love with my wife. We’ve been together since 1998, and married since 2014. Thank heaven she puts up with me!

What does it mean to you to be an author? What makes a writer a writer?

I originally began writing in 2013 because I enjoyed reading the lesbian romance genre, but I was tired of the same conflicts over and over… is she gay, will they or won’t they, or some random and totally correctable miscommunication keeping people apart. So, being a life-long fan of the horror genre, I decided to write a vampire book where the issues are less about the characters’ sexuality and more to do with one protagonist wanting to eat the other… and not in a sexy way. I hadn’t intended on publishing the book (Waking Forever), but a few friends – brutally honest friends – read the draft, and said I should… so, I did. I found I really enjoyed the act of creating characters and scenarios. It was a nice reprieve from my much more analytical day job as an auditor.

Are you promoting a specific book? Tell us about it. Include the book blurb if you’d like.

I just published the second book in the Elements series, Hidden Elements. Hidden is the follow-up to Fallen Elements. Fallen had been my bestseller to date (it hung out on Amazon’s top 10 lesbian fantasy list for over a month), and I had toyed with the idea of turning it into a series.

It took a year and some change, but Hidden happened. For the sake of full disclosure, Hidden was by far the most difficult book I’ve written. I am a deadline driven individual, and Hidden was the first book where I had to push the release date back… twice! It nearly killed me, but it was the right decision because the feedback and reviews I’ve received since its launch have been phenomenal.

Hidden was challenging for me on several levels. It was the first time I wrote two primary relationships for the reader to focus on. There is a mother-daughter relationship and a romantic relationship. This complicated the allocation of page time for each relationship since I had to ensure I wasn’t short changing one. In the end, I believe, one of the worst feelings a reader can have is not knowing which character(s) they were supposed to care about. Also, writing in the voice of a fourteen-year-old girl was a challenge as I have not been one in many many moons.

I’ve included a link for the Hidden Elements’ author event I did on December 18th. It includes a reading from the book and a Q&A. Enjoy! https://www.facebook.com/hmcvea/videos/10212021521361709/

Tell us about your biggest guilty pleasure. For example, to you sit naked in your pantry in the middle of the night and eat Nutella with your fingers?

Rizzoli and Isles fan fiction… there, I said it (I shame myself). Actually, all kidding aside, there are some talented writers in the fan fiction world who, for whatever reason, choose not to go the publication route with original content.

In the meantime, I have been known to lose an entire afternoon to Rizzle fan fiction sites. I have a browser bookmark folder specifically for R&I, and I have, to date (wait while I count…) – over 450 bookmarked stories. Mind you, because I’m wound a bit tight when it comes to organization, I have folders for read, read again, really read again, and to be read. I will just say it’s no accident that my second full length book, Becoming Forever, had a homicide detective and an ME as the two main protagonists.

Tell us one thing that you’re passionate about. For example, would you strap yourself to an oil rigging a la Lucy Lawless with a Greenpeace sign in your hands?

I believe strongly in an individual’s responsibility and obligation to participate in the political system… for better or worse. Considering I live in a bright red state, and am a liberal, this is no easy feat for me. In particular, my wife and I contribute to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, DSCC, and many other progressive non-profit and political organizations.

What’s your writing process? That is, do you have a particular place you write and/or time of day? Do you have any particular things you do before you write? (e.g. do you listen to music, drink coffee, take dance breaks…)

I’m afraid the story building is not very sexy. Because so much of my writing revolves around dialogue, I really have to get inside the head of my characters (I can’t have them all sounding the same). As a result, I go through extensive outline builds. This involves character biographies (down to what they like to eat, and what perfume they wear), family trees, and timelines.

Once I’ve really developed who the person is, then I decide on three to four main plot points I want to ensure are included in the novel, and I begin drafting a chronology of the book. Then I break each “event” out into a chapter or component of a chapter, and begin layering that into something I can publish.

Lastly – told you, not sexy – I send the manuscript to my copy editor. She hacks away at it, we argue and debate the merits of this or that, and then I begin writing the final draft.

As far as the logistics of where I write and what I do while I’m writing… I do have a home office. It’s a space I’ve decorated and maintain (I don’t let our cleaning service in the room less they inadvertently move something). I’ve had this question before; so, I’ve included a few photos for y’all to have a gander at.

For folks who have read my books, you have probably noticed at the beginning of each is a playlist. These are songs I have been listening to while writing that particular book. Though, to clarify, I don’t listen and type. My brain doesn’t let me do that. I listen to the songs to get myself in a particular head space for a scene, or to invoke a feeling I need to write dialogue.

Oh, I longhand my outlines, and I am particular about the legal pads and pens I use. Though in my defense, I’m left handed, and once you find a pen that doesn’t smudge, you cling to it until your fingers bleed.

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you (unless you’d have to kill us, in which case tell us something that some people don’t know).

I am not a private person by any stretch of the imagination. I am a huge extrovert; so, I can’t think of anything I could tell you that would be a surprise to someone who knows me personally.

Is there a book by another author that you wish you had written?

This is the toughest question by far. It’s a slightly different version of “what’s your favorite book”. I have books that consistently, i.e. regardless of my mood, hold steady in a top 10 list, but I don’t have books I wish I had written. I can be in awe of how another author manages their craft, while remaining content with what I’ve put out there.

All of that being said, books I enjoy as a reader, and I’m sure on some level have influenced my writing are:

  • The End of Alice (A.M. Homes)
  • Leaves of Grass (Walt Whitman)
  • The Price of Salt (Patricia Highsmith)
  • Annie on My Mind (Nancy Garden)
  • American Gods (Neil Gaiman)
If time and money were no problem, where would you most like to go in the world?

So, the wife and I are going to retire at 59 ½ years old on the dot. For those folks who don’t live in the States, that’s a magic number that gives Americans access to their retirement accounts without penalty. Anywho, we are going to live in Dublin, Ireland for a year or so, and then finish out this crazy life adventure in Baltimore, Maryland. I’m an only child with a small extended family, and my wife has a huge extended family in the Baltimore area; so, it makes sense to spend those twilight years close to nears-and-dears. So, if money and time were no matter… we would do all of that right now.

And finally, what sorts of writing projects are next for you?

I am currently outlining the third book in the Elements’ series, Forgotten Elements. My inbox has been inundated by Hidden readers wanting the follow-up ASAP (I may have ended Hidden with a doozie of a cliffhanger). If it helps, Forgotten is slated for release late summer of 2017. Subscribe to my website heathermcvea.com, and I’ll send you updates as the book progresses.

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Heather McVea was raised in a small town south of San Antonio, Texas. Prior to escaping to the big city, she raised Hampshire pigs, rode motorcycles at entirely too young an age, and once snow boarded behind a Ford pickup truck. She relishes a strong gin and tonic, or a well-made old-fashioned (but never at the same time). Heather and her wife have three furbabies, and divide their time between Texas and Maryland.
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