Interview With Author Steven A. McKay

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

I’m Steven A. McKay, a historical fiction author from Scotland. My debut novel was called Wolf’s Head and it was part of the Forest Lord series which had 4 full length novels along with novellas and short stories. My latest book, The Druid, came out in November 2018 and I’m working hard on the sequel to that. I have also sold a standalone novel called Lucia to Audible who will produce the audiobook. It follows the life of a female slave in Roman Britain and I’m really excited about it because I love Audible’s productions.

In my day job I’m a meter reader (gas & electricity) but, thanks to the success of my books (over 130,000 sales the last time I counted a few months ago) I now only work part-time. It’s really been an amazing journey and I can’t thank my readers enough for the amazing opportunities their support has brought me. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing people have invited me to speak on some of their “expert” author panels in workshops around various UK cities over the past five years which, for a working-class guy like me, has been just incredible. It always makes me feel like a rock star! I am truly blessed.

What is/are the story(ies) behind your book(s)?

Well, the first ones were about Robin Hood which was a lot of fun. I had to stick closely to the legends, because everyone knows the old stories, but I think I managed to put a fresh spin on things and bring the whole thing to a new audience who like the grittiness of writers like Bernard Cornwell or Simon Scarrow. I did enjoy writing those books, but my new series, Warrior Druid of Britain, has allowed me to have full control of everything, without using a well-known cast of characters or events. Basically, it’s about a giant warrior-druid in post-Roman Britain who goes about the land kicking ass and, as you can probably imagine, it’s been great fun to write!

I am probably most excited by Lucia because it’s completely different to my other work. I’m normally influenced by action/adventure writers like Cornwell, Scarrow and David Gemmell, but Lucia is nothing like that. I was listening to things like Jane Eyre, Rebecca and Wuthering Heights on Audible before I started writing it and it’s more in that vein. With Lucia I really hope to draw in new readers who wouldn’t usually take a look at my work although I do believe my usual readers will also enjoy it.

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

One of my pet peeves is dialogue. A lot of historical fiction books have characters who use phrases like, for example, “I would not do that, my lord,” or “I cannot agree to that, sir”, you know, very earnest, serious stuff. But most people don’t actually talk like that. Not everyone in history was a pompous blowhard! “I wouldn’t do that, my lord,” or “I can’t agree to that, sir,” sounds much more realistic.

So I like to write my dialogue much like I would talk in real life, although without the Scottish accent!

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

I write books that I want to read. I can tell when a scene is dragging because I’ll be bored writing it. That tells me I need to make it short or just cut it completely and move onto the next section.

I am a reader of this genre and have been for at least twenty years so I tend to think if I am enjoying a scene – if it excites me as I write and build it in my head – it will interest readers too.

That said, my ultimate aim is to please as many readers as possible so I might cut out things like curse words even though I personally don’t mind them. If it doesn’t ADD anything to the book, and might turn off certain people, what’s the point in putting it in? I want my books to be enjoyed by as many people as possible.

What role do emotions play in creativity?

I think most creative people are quite emotional and that comes out in their work. Not just writers either. I am a musician and there’s nothing better than playing something really aggressive on the guitar or drums when I’m feeling angry. Authors can also channel that emotion into writing and bring the realism of personal experience to what they are putting down on the page. If you know what loss, or love, or hate, or desire really FEELS like, then it makes it easier to put it into words readers can understand and also feel on a deep level.

How do you deal with creative block?

I never really get that. My one rule regarding that kind of thing is: never sit down at the laptop without SOME idea of what you’re going to write that day. If you have no scene planned, or some inkling of what your characters might do, go off and do something else because there’s nothing more frustrating than sitting staring at a screen, wishing a flash of inspiration would hit you.

What I tend to do is let my mind relax – maybe while on a drive, or a walk, or in the shower, or doing chores – and try to plan my next scene(s). I find that ideas always come to me that way – perhaps not an entire plot all mapped out and ready to write, but the beginnings of one, that can then be fleshed out in my mind over the next few hours. Then, when it comes to sitting at your writing desk and putting words onto the screen, you will have a starting point and once you get going the characters and situations will develop themselves.

Of course, there’s times when it can be scary and you think ideas just will not come – but relax, and don’t fret too much and everything will sort itself out.

What are your plans for future books?

Right now I only have ideas for my druid books. The basic framework for that series is mapped out in my head. It can be scary wondering where to go next, but ideas always come along just when you need them! I can’t see myself moving away from historical fiction though – dark age or medieval or Roman or whatever, those are my favourite periods and I’ll probably stick with it going forward.

I do love the paranormal and mysterious things like ghosts and UFOs though, so who knows? Maybe I’ll try writing something like that one day.


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