First Sale Stories: Deborah Macgillivray, "A Restless Knight"
Lynda: What’s the name of your first book?
Deborah: "A Restless Knight"
Lynda: When was it published?
Deborah: It was released 21 June 2006.
Lynda: Which publishing house?
Deborah: Kensington Zebra Debut
Lynda: What’s it about?
Deborah: It’s a Scottish Medieval Historical set in the turbulent times of the rising of William Wallace. It has Paranormal Elements, people having dreams and visions stemming from Scots’ Pagan beliefs. In my tale, Tamlyn MacShane is a Scots lass gifted with the Kenning – a knowing. Her dreams reveal things to come, things that have passed. This aids her in accepting her fate of being wed to a stranger, a conqueror, a marriage decreed by Edward I of England.
Julian Challon is a warrior, long weary of battle. He wants nothing but to claim the small glen in Scotland and find a place to heal. Instead, he gets a woman full of spirit, one who can heal his troubled soul.
Lynda: What was the inspiration for the book?
Deborah: Family history, actually. I have spent years working with my grandfather, restoring family records that were nearly destroyed during WWII and through neglect. One of the tales was a several page story in Gaelic about my great-great (about 26 generations past) grandparents. Some facts―some fiction, methinks. But a story that was centuries old held a fascination. I began to dream about the people in the story. Knew I had to write it.
Lynda: Is it part of a series?
Deborah: Yes, called "The Dragons of Challon." The second book comes out in August, 2007 called "Ravenhawke, a Knight to Remember."
Lynda: What do you like most about your main characters?
Deborah: Their “being alive”―literally and figuratively. These were not characters in a story, but were real people to me. I have had readers comment the same thing. One said Tamlyn and Julian reminded her of her grandparents, how they were strong people, but it only made their love stronger because of it.
Lynda: What’s your favorite aspect of the book?
Deborah: The love. How despite their own beliefs―he is Christian, she Pagan―despite their political followings, no matter what, they were able to look beyond their immediate reactions and see what was best for their people, how their love formed that bond.
Lynda: How long have you been writing fiction?
Deborah: I’ve been dabbling since I was thirteen. But I seriously decided to go for being published three years ago.
Lynda: Is this your first paranormal (or w/paranormal elements) manuscript?
Deborah: No. I started this book, but put it aside at the time. Lynsay Sands encouraged me to write "The Invasion of Falgannon Isle," the first book in a series for Dorchester Publishing (release 28th November, 2006). It should have been my first book out, but the Historicals slipped in before them. It’s a lighter, quirky romance about a woman owning a teeny island in Scotland where there are 213 unmarried Scotsmen. They cannot find true love until she does because of an age-old curse. It also has flashes from past-lives in it. Each story in this series deals with one of seven sisters who find love better the second time around. Each will have a different paranormal element. "Riding the Thunder" (October, 2007) is the second in the series. In it, a restaurant is haunted by two young lovers who were killed. You get the ghosts, but also a haunted jukebox!
Lynda: Is paranormal your main focus?
Deborah: Both series will have paranormal threads to them. I wouldn’t say it’s my main focus; it just slips into the stories. Gives them a special magical touch.
Lynda: What attracts you about the paranormal characters you write about?
Deborah: My characters are more “normal," not vamps, werewolves or aliens. It’s people who have clairvoyance, past-life images or precognition. Often they have paranormal elements happening around them. I love the small “village” life, whether in Scotland, England or Kentucky. The off the beaten path oddballs that relish the joy of life and love. They tend to be more accepting of things considered outside the everyday.
Lynda: How long did it take to sell your book, from the time you finished your manuscript?
Deborah: In December, 2003, Lynsay Sands suggested I try my hand at writing “funny." I did the first three chapters of "The Invasion of Falgannon Isle" overnight and let her see. She loved it. I spent 2004 finishing it. It took me about 7 months, but that was with bulldozers going 13 hours a day, 6 days a week around me, and the construction firm blasting with dynamite for 11 hours daily! As I was waiting for that book to go to contract, the offer for "A Restless Knight" came. I had about 170 pages done. I had three weeks to write two-hundred pages to finish it!
Lynda: Did you have an agent when you sold your first book?
Deborah: Yes. I am represented by Roberta Brown of Brown Literary Agency. She submitted "Falgannon" and got a request for a full, with contract pending in three weeks from Chris Keeslar at Dorchester. "A Restless Knight" went directly to Hilary Sares, my now editor at Kensington. She called me with an offer within hours of reading it.
Lynda: Do you recommend that a pre-published writer focus on finding an agent first, or do you think it’s OK to submit directly to the publisher?
Deborah: Agents are touchy these days; there are so many swift changes in what editors are buying. It leaves them only wanting writers they can sell quickly. So many of my friends are selling before they get an agent. My friend Dawn Thompson received three contracts for 10 books to Dorchester within a year, then turned around and took a two-book contract for Kensington. All with no agent!
Lynda: Thinking about the notion of “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” what was the lowest point in the process for you? Was there a time you almost gave up?
Deborah: I ran a writers group, and was in ill health. I had a request for a full from Leslie Waigner at Silhouette, and knew I was too sick to finish it. I thought, who am I kidding, I will never make it. I had my finger on the button to delete the writers loop, when an email popped up. It was an email from Lynsay Sands. I just loved Lynsay’s books, one of my fav writers. I thought someone was playing a joke and signing up pretending to be Lynsay. No, it turned out to be her. We became good friends. I wouldn’t even tell her I was a writer, fearful she’d think I was hoping to use her. It was another year after I admitted it, before I let her read anything I had written. After she did, she convinced me I had to get cracking and get published.
Lynda: You don’t have to mention numbers, but did you get a nice advance?
Deborah: I cannot mention numbers!! Yes, I did much better then entry-level writers with both Dorchester and Kensington. I appreciate both contracts.
Lynda: What was the process of revisions/rewrites like?
Deborah: For "A Restless Knight"―a madhouse. I had problems with the deliveryman not delivering first the revisions, then the galleys. I received the revisions on Wednesday night at 8:00 pm. They had to be back in New York City by 10am Monday! Then I discovered chapters 9, 20, and 21 were missing!! I had to print another copy and insert them. Then galleys were late in getting to me. They came on Tuesday evening and I had to mail them out Friday before 10:00 am so they would be in NYC again first thing Monday. If they weren’t there, they would’ve gone to press with the uncorrected galley! With "The Invasion of Falgannon Isle," I actually had a month to do revisions. Two weeks to do galleys. It seemed like a walk in the park.
Lynda: Did your agent suggest changes?
Deborah: Originally she did. But once she saw I knew my books I was left to write.
Lynda: What was it like, working with the editor at your publishing house?
Deborah: I love both my editors. Hilary Sares is funny, a pied piper editor. Everyone who meets her just adores her. Despite that humour, she is a solid editor who has a good sense of what is needed to tweak new writers. I have a strong background in Scottish Medieval History. She was able to guide me in making it “more accessible” to American readers. Hilary’s work was more of a fine-tuning what I wrote. Chris Keeslar is the perfect editor for the Seven Sister series because he gets the“magic” of the romance in a paranormal. His style is different from Hilary. He takes a more hands on in the process, suggesting changes to sharpen the story. I am very lucky to be working with them both.
Lynda: Do you have any words of wisdom for us regarding rewrites/revisions?
Deborah: First, don’t panic. I am a literal person; when I see corrections I thought it was “here do." They are suggestions. Sometimes the editor and copy edit are right. Sometimes not. Do not be afraid to stand up for your work when you are right. Secondly, fight for what matters. I see people getting so upset at the changing of small stuff. Don’t sweat the small things. Save the challenges for things that matter. Trust your editor. They are working to make you look good.
Lynda: Do you get a lot of help marketing your book, or do you have to do it yourself?
Deborah: As with new writers, I didn’t have the money to get someone to do it for you. I set a budget, and made my money work for me.
Lynda: What’s your best marketing advice?
Deborah: Romance Junkies, Coffee Time Romance, Fallen Angels, CK2s Kwips and Kritiques…a lot of traffic goes through these sites. Get your book reviewed.
Lynda: Did you have input about your cover?
Deborah: Yes and no. With "A Restless Knight," I said give me a sexy lad and don’t chop his head off. I hate these covers with no heads. Hilary presented me with my hero, alive in the flesh. It was amazing. With "The Invasion of Falgannon Isle," Chris asked me to pick out two scenes that reflect the heart of the book and give some idea what I wanted. The cover was nothing like I imagined. However, they did a wonderful job of catching the spirit of the book and letting the reader know just what to expect.
Lynda: Have you done any book signings? If so, what were they like?
Deborah: No. I have a deadline for "Ravenhawke" shortly for Kensington and "Riding the Thunder" due 1st March for Dorchester. Then another book for each of them due come summer. I am on a tight schedule. I am hoping to give it a go during the Hols.
Lynda: If you could go back and do something differently, what would that be?
Deborah: Really apply myself. My stop and starting for years kept me from really moving forward. Get a good Critique Partner. Leanne Burroughs is mine. She’s worth her weight in gold! Get a good support group. If you make it, you will need them. Friends you can laugh with, will hold your hand when you need, and protect your back.
Lynda: What are your writing plans for the future?
Deborah: I have 2 books left in both contracts. The historical series, "The Dragons of Challon" have six books. So I would like to continue with Kensington in that series. In the "Seven Sisters" for Dorchester, I have four more books for the next contract. After that―oodles of ideas. Too many books to write, not enough time. I am also co-publisher for a small Tradesize press, Highland Press. Leanne Burroughs is owner. We hope in the next couple years to do some amazing projects.
Lynda: What advice would you give to all the pre-published writers out there?
Deborah: Get a good Critique Partner. LEARN. So many writers won’t listen to good advice. Hehehe, I didn’t, for which I am sorry. Then, believe. In yourself, in your stories.
Lynda: How can readers find out more about you?
Deborah: http://deborahmacgillivray.co.uk/. My website is full of stuff about me, from my books, reviews for them, for my short stories, to my cat and essays on Scottish History and lore. I tend to like to talk about things I love rather than me.