Author Interview!!! Maureen Doyle McQuerry: The Peculiars

The Book:

Summary:

This dark and thrilling adventure, with an unforgettable heroine, will captivate fans of steampunk, fantasy, and romance.
On her 18th birthday, Lena Mattacascar decides to search for her father, who disappeared into the northern wilderness of Scree when Lena was young. Scree is inhabited by Peculiars, people whose unusual characteristics make them unacceptable to modern society. Lena wonders if her father is the source of her own extraordinary characteristics and if she, too, is Peculiar. On the train she meets a young librarian, Jimson Quiggley, who is traveling to a town on the edge of Scree to work in the home and library of the inventor Mr. Beasley. The train is stopped by men being chased by the handsome young marshal Thomas Saltre. When Saltre learns who Lena’s father is, he convinces her to spy on Mr. Beasley and the strange folk who disappear into his home, Zephyr House. A daring escape in an aerocopter leads Lena into the wilds of Scree to confront her deepest fears.



 

 What was the hardest part about writing Peculiars?

The hardest part for me is always the middle of the book. I know how to start and I know where I want my character to end up but the middle is kind of muddy until i get there. also, the steam powered inventions were fun, but I’m not very mechanical, so I needed lots of consults on those.


Do you have a favorite place to write? 
I write in my office which is a second story room in our house. It looks out on a big, one hundred year Carlina Poplar tree, so I feel like I’m writing in a tree house. My desk is an antique drafting table. The room is filled with many of my favorite things and,  of course many of those things are books. But I also love art. It’s a colorful artsy place to be.


What advice you you have for beginner authors?
Malcolm Gladwell in his book Tipping Point, says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become world class at anything. I’m not sure that 10,000 hours is an exact rule, but I do know that becoming really good at any skill takes hours and hours of practice. It helps if you have some talent and it’s really important that you’re passionate about what you’re doing. In other words good writers, write; they don’t just talk about writing. And they don’t just write when they feel like ti. Develop a habit of writing, even if it’s only a little bit, every day. The second thing is to read, read broadly. The best writers are readers. Look for opportunities to share your writing. there are magazines that publish student work and if your school has a literary magazine, join! Writing can be lonely. It’s good to find others to share the journey with you. And never stop asking “what if?” you have to be curious to be a writer.

What do you think is the best cure for writers block?
Get moving. Seriously. when I’m stuck I go on a long bike ride or hike. And there’s research that shows that there’s a connection between exercise and problem solving. When I exercise I’m not always thinking about my plot problem, but more often than not, when I’m done, I have a new idea.


How did you come up with the title for Peculiars?
 I wanted a word with a Victorian flavor to it. The  word had to describe the others, the people that society saw as different. I tried various titles. the first one was Goblin Girl, but my editor worried it would make people think the book was high fantasy. When I hit on Peculiars, I knew it was the right fit.


Is there any music that helped you write Peculiars?
That’s a good question. I can’t listen to music with lyrics when I write because the lyrics crawl into my head and distract me. I can listen when I get to the copy edits part because that require me to invent anything new. I did find myself listening to an old song by Paul Siomn called American Tune.


How did you come up with the idea for Peculiars? 
I come up with story ideas two ways. First there’s usually a question I’m thinking about. If I knew the answer to the question, i would have to write the novel. The questions for Peculiars were: do we become our parents? how does society treat people who are different? and how do we fit in when we feel like we’re different than everyone else?

Secondly, I need a character. I had a vision of girl sitting on a steam train with very long hands. I knew that there was something that worried her. She was worried that she was different than everyone else. What if she thought she had goblin blood? George MacDonald wrote stories about goblins with long hands and feet and those inspired me too.

    -Jackie  

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