Interview With Author JP McLean

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

Thanks for inviting me to your site. I’m thrilled to be here. My name is JP McLean. I write urban fantasy and supernatural thrillers.

Secret Sky is the first book in a seven-book series called The Gift Legacy. It tells the story of a secret society of people who can fly. These Fliers live amongst us, but they keep their flying activity out of the public eye because people with their gift have been disappearing.

The books centre around a young woman named Emelynn Taylor, who doesn’t yet know that she can fly, but she’s developed an unnatural ability to snap free of gravity. Unfortunately, she can’t control when gravity snaps or when it decides to return. As a result, she suffers painful falls, mostly indoors from heights no greater than the ceiling of her condo, but when the episodes begin to happen outdoors, Emelynn realizes she’s in big trouble. She knows it’s not normal and if someone discovers her, she’ll probably be locked up and studied.

Desperate for a solution, Emelynn returns to her family’s abandoned seaside cottage, where she determines she will either learn to control her condition or die trying. She nearly does die trying when a miscalculation causes her to fall from the sky. The fall puts her in the hospital and it’s there that she finally catches a break. The ER doctor who treats her recognizes the second lens in her eyes that marks her as one of them, a Flier. He places her in the care of others like her who teach her how to fly and indoctrinate her into their secret world.

But as wondrous as flying is, it’s not all sweetness and light. Fliers are ruled by a ruthless soviet-style Tribunal who are the judge, jury, and executioner of their kind. And the Fliers she comes to know hide a troublesome truth; they are hunted for their gift, Fliers have gone missing, and Emelynn has a target on her back.

# What inspired you to write the book(s)?

Though I’d been drawn to the urban fantasy genre, and have a fascination with all things paranormal, I never thought I’d have an idea big enough for a book. But one winter, after the rains set in, when I found myself with time on my hands, I wrote a short scene about a woman jumping off an outside deck and flying down the coast. I found I enjoyed the writing process, so I expanded that first scene by answering questions such as, how did the woman know she could fly? Who taught her to fly? Were there others like her? Etc. Soon I had the draft for what would eventually become Secret Sky.

# What inspires/inspired your creativity?

I’m inspired by other authors, by music, by movies, and TV. Whenever someone’s writing stirs strong emotion in me, I pick it apart to find out why. I then try to recreate that emotion in my writing.

# How do you deal with creative block?

I usually take a break and go out into nature. I’ll go for a walk or pull a few weeds from the garden. Sometimes, I’ll find a quiet corner and read. I find a short break from the project is usually enough to clear the logjam.

# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Personally, I think an unsatisfactory ending is deadly. And though I know some people will disagree with me, I put books that end in cliff-hangers into this category.

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

I learned a lot after having to re-title and re-cover my first four books. What I learned is that one-word titles are tricky because the words can mean so many things. My books were initially named after their themes, Awakening, Revelation, Redemption, and Penance. But taken collectively, readers were misconstruing the titles for religious offerings. The covers didn’t help matters. They were beautiful but didn’t have a strong enough connection to the genre. My tip would be to hire or consult with a professional book cover designer. They know what’s trending, they know which fonts and designs signal genre best, and they’ll get the proper license for any stock photos they use.

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

Bad reviews and negative feedback can feel crippling, like a public shaming. But that’s the risk you take when you offer your work to the public. People have a right to their opinions, and not everyone is going to enjoy the subject matter or the way I write. And if enough people have the same opinion, that tells me I need to pay attention. Negative feedback can be valuable if it highlights some aspect of my writing that I can work on improving or correcting.

# How has your creation process improved over time?

When I first started writing creative fiction, I hoarded my ideas like water in a drought—dispensing a sip here, a sip there, always keeping some back for fear the water would dry up. But the more I wrote, the more I realized that the imagination is a muscle—the more I used it, the stronger it got. I no longer hold back on the water. I open the imagination hose full blast.

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

The very best thing is the feeling of pride and satisfaction I get when I type “the end.” Writing a book takes me about a year, so it’s a huge accomplishment.

The worst thing is waiting for feedback from early readers and editors. I’m anxious the whole time and fret that I’ve written an embarrassing piece of garbage.

The most surprising thing was how engaged readers become. I love hearing what characters they love, which scenes resonate with them, and which actors they see in the various roles. It’s been especially fun to hear their suggestions for future story ideas.

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

Fortunately, urban fantasy and supernatural thrillers are my favourite genre to read, so it’s never been a matter of one or the other. When I write to satisfy myself, I’m also writing to serve my readers.

# What role do emotions play in creativity?

That’s an astute question. Some emotions heighten creativity, some emotions dampen it. When COVID first shut down the world, I found it difficult to be creative. I feel the same dampening of creativity when I’m frustrated or upset. I’ve also found that it’s easier to write happy scenes on bright days and fight scenes on stormy days. It’s an ambiance thing. Granted, the weather doesn’t always cooperate, but it’s a bonus when it does.

# Do you have any creativity tricks?

When I’m brainstorming, I ask myself questions such as, what’s the worst thing that could happen to this character? What’s the best thing that could happen? What do they covet more than anything else? What would happen if that thing/person they coveted was taken away from them? Asking these questions usually returns a flood of creative opportunities.

# What are your plans for future books?

I have a new book coming out on October 19. Blood Mark is the first in a new series.

What if your lifelong curse is the only thing keeping you alive? Jane Walker survives the back alleys of Vancouver, marked by a chain of blood-red birthmarks that snake around her body. During her tortured nights, she is gripped by agonizing nightmares when she sees into the past. It isn’t until, one-by-one, the marks begin to disappear that she learns the deadly truth: Her marks are the only things keeping her from becoming a killer’s next victim.

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

I have no sense of direction, and I’m hopeless with a map.

I’m the only one who thinks I can sing.

I can’t have Oreos in the house because I’ll eat the whole box.

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