Interview With Author Amy McCaw

# Please introduce yourself and your book!

My name is Amy McCaw and I’m the debut novelist of Mina and the Undead, a Gothic YA murder mystery. Mina is staying with her sister in New Orleans for Fang Fest 1995. She’s thrilled to land a job in a horror movie mansion, reconnecting with her sister while they scare the tourists. When Mina stumbles upon a body at work, she’s dragged into a murder investigation. Someone is replicating New Orleans’ darkest myths, and Mina must discover the truth before she becomes the latest victim.

# What inspired your creativity?

I visited New Orleans in 2012, and I was immediately captivated by the city. The spooky settings and local legends fascinated me, and I knew I wanted to work them into a book.

I tend to find places quite inspiring and get a lot of my ideas from travelling. I usually start writing when I come up with a premise I can’t stop thinking about. Characters come soon after, and forming a plot usually takes the most work for me.

# How do you deal with creative block?

I’ve had times in my life where I’ve found it hard to write, such as when I was pregnant and later when I had a very young baby. I know that doesn’t affect everyone, but I found it really hard to be creative around that time!

I believe it’s fine to have a break from writing and let your creative well refill. Sometimes, creative block can be short term for me and other times it’s a deeper problem within the story or something going on in my life that isn’t a quick fix.

If the problem is with the story, I use mind mapping to plot out alternative solutions. I do a lot of plotting to make sure the story works before I begin writing. If I encounter a problem while I’m writing, I sometimes make notes or write a brief placeholder scene and then come back to it later.

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

I was lucky to have creative control over my title and cover. I know that isn’t always the case! My publisher asked me for cover ideas, so I analysed countless books in my genre to see what I liked and what caught my attention. I wanted my cover to look good alongside similar books but also to stand out! I came up with the VHS tape cover idea through brainstorming with my husband and agent. It fit the 90s setting of the book and the pop-culture references perfectly, and I love how it turned out!

I found thinking of the title quite difficult. My working title was very different and didn’t quite capture the essence of the book. I eventually went with Mina and the Undead because it had the feel of 90s TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer that influenced the book.

# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

I don’t seek out reviews, because I feel that they’re aimed at other readers rather than the author. I love it when people tag me in positive reviews and always read those!

Because I’m also a blogger and YouTuber, I have stumbled on negative reviews on social media. I’ve never read any awful reviews, but any form of criticism is hard to take, especially when it’s too late to change the book now! I try to remember that reviews are subjective and every book isn’t for every reader. Lots of people have loved my book, and they’re the ones I wrote it for!

# How has your creation process improved over time?

I’ve learned a lot about the writing craft and developing a writing routine over the years. For me, self-criticism can hinder my writing, so I try to write a first draft for myself and keep future readers out of my mind. I’ve also become a lot better at crafting an overarching plot in advance and building tension into a scene and across a book. I’ve had no formal creative writing training, but practice has definitely improved my craft.

# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book?

The best thing has been connecting with readers. Having my debut published during the pandemic has meant there have been no opportunities in real life, but I’ve loved talking to people online.

Managing my time has been the hardest thing because I have so many demands on it. They’re all things I love doing, such as spending time with my family and making YouTube videos, but it’s hard to fit it all in.

I’ve been a blogger for a long time and understood how the publishing process worked, so there haven’t been too many surprises!

# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

I write a book for me first. I’m going to have to write, edit and read it over and over again, so I have to love it! I want to write books that lots of people will enjoy, but I don’t really think about that while I’m writing.

# What role do emotions play in creativity?

Emotions can be incredibly motivating or debilitating when it comes to creativity. If I’m well-rested and excited about a book, the words flow. If self-doubt is creeping in or I’m distracted by too many commitments, writing can be quite difficult. I try to set aside time to write and not to force it if I’m not in the mood.

# Do you have any creativity tricks?

Routine is the best way for me to be productive and keep the flow of my story. When I’m on deadline, I try to write 500–1000 words a day, usually when my baby naps or is asleep in the evening.

I also find mind mapping a useful tool for listing things I enjoy and might want to incorporate into a book or for exploring a developing plot.

# What are your plans for future books?

I hope to write the sequel to Mina and the Undead. I’m currently working on a Gothic YA novel which will be a standalone. I’m also in the early stages of two collaborative projects with other authors.

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself.

I’m a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I’ve met James Marsters (who plays Spike) more than I can count. Pre-pandemic, I spent a lot of time at book events and meeting actors at conventions.