Back in November, I featured a series of interviews with fellow full-time writers of lesbian fiction. I had some wonderful guests, but today I’m especially proud to interview one of my all-time favorites in the lesbian romance genre—KG MacGregor.
KG holds a PhD in journalism and worked as a teacher and market research consultant before trying her hand at writing fiction in 2002. If I counted correctly, she’s now the author of 18 novels, among them Etched in Shadows, Mulligan, Out of Love, and my personal favorite, the Shaken series.
Read on for what KG had to say about her life as a writer.
How long have you been writing full-time?
It’s been about 10 years since I left my last full-time job, which was working with a company that provided television stations with research services. I consulted for a couple of years after that, but gave up the research industry about eight years ago. It was also eight years ago that I first listed my occupation as “writer” on my income tax filing; and that I signed with Bella Books and set a goal for myself of doing two books a year. I’ve mostly kept to that except for the year I had back surgery.
What was the process of moving into full-time writing for you?
I had been writing and posting online for a couple of years before I left my job, so the biggest change was that I stopped leaving the house to go to work. It didn’t actually impact the number of hours I spent working, but it greatly impacted the attention & care I gave my books. On a personal note, the switch to writing full-time coincided with my partner retiring from her corporate job. The biggest adjustment was that both of us were home and it was hard at first to establish our work schedules.
Do you write every day? Do you give yourself weekends or days off or vacation time away from writing?
Once I begin work on a book in earnest, I work most days, but I don’t sweat it if I miss a few days along the way for travel or special events. I have a lot of responsibilities as a board member of the Lambda Literary Foundation, and sometimes I have to set my book aside to catch up with Foundation work. It takes me about three months to write the first draft, and then I have three months to brainstorm & organize the next book, and to work the revisions on the first one. Obviously, my work is more intense during the writing window, and more relaxed during the planning period.
What does a typical workday look like for you? Do you have a daily word-count goal or a set number of hours you spend writing?
My day starts when the cat decides it starts. Coffee, catching up online, more coffee, the news. Then I spend an hour or so planning my next two scenes. Once I have it clear in my head what I’m going to write about, I set off on a two-hour walk through the woods with a digital recorder, and I dictate usually 1,000 words. When I get home, I transcribe it and massage the text. By early evening, I’ve got about 1,500 words that I’ll keep. That’s a good day, and I need to stop and reward myself with dinner or TV, and spend time with my partner. The only time I really worry about word counts is when I’m driving to finish on a deadline.
Where do you write?
We live in two places, i.e., Palm Springs in the winter and the NC mountains in the summer. In both houses, I have an office. Most of my actual writing is done there, but I tend to scratch out my notes wherever I am—on the deck or patio, on a plane, in the doctor’s office.
How did family and friends react to you giving up your day job to become a full-time writer?
A lot of them were jealous. Who could blame them? I was following my bliss and dressing for work every day in shorts & T-shirts. My partner was as supportive as anyone could ever be.
How much time do you spend promoting your books, including blogging, social media, etc.?
I get way behind on blogging, but I try to maintain a strong presence on Facebook. It’s important for me to be active on social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, forums), but not just to promote my books. I want to interact with others too, to comment on their posts & photos, and especially to take part in discussions about writing and the state of lesbian publishing. As for promotion, I do a number of interviews for online magazines or Internet radio shows, and I try to let folks know when something is available for order or on sale. I don’t want to overdo it in terms of posting “Buy my book!” all over the web. After 18 books, I don’t have to work as hard to work as hard to get readers’ attention when a new book comes out.
What’s the best thing about being a full-time writer?
The best part is having time to write. I remember how frustrating it was back when I was running to catch planes, crunching data and building presentation decks that I didn’t have time to put my ideas down on paper. Now I do.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a full-time writer?
For me, the hardest part is the amount of time I have to spend at my desk. It’s been very hard on my back to sit so long. That’s one of the reasons I dictate while I’m walking in the woods, so I won’t have to be chained to my desk while I labor over every word. I have a stand-sit desk, but it’s getting harder to sit at all. Something has to give.
Is there anything you wish you would have known before becoming a full-time writer?
I wish I had sent my very first book to Bella Books instead of the fits & starts with other publishers and dabbling in self-publishing. With their top-notch editors & production staff, they make my books the best they can be, and they free me up to spend my time writing.
What advice would you give a fellow author who wants to write full time?
Make sure you have your finances in order—in particular, get out of debt if you can. You could have some very lean years, and you don’t want to stress about paying the bills while you’re trying to loose the muse.
Can you tell us a bit about your latest novel?
I have one coming out in November called Etched in Shadows, the story of two lifelong friends—Alice, a lesbian and Johnelle, straight & married. Alice has always been in love with Johnelle, and when Johnelle suffers brain damage in a plane crash, she discovers her love for Alice. It’s a complicated story of two mature women who want to be together but can’t do it without hurting people who don’t deserve to be hurt.
What books can we look forward to from you in the future?
The book I’ve just sent off to the editor is called Anyone But You, about a pair of women who meet online when both are in town to respond to an oil spill. They discover too late they’re rivals—one is the oil company’s spokesperson and the other heads an environmental network who came to protest the spill. It was fun to write and gave me a chance to call attention to the devastation being wrought by the fossil fuel industry.
Thank you very much, KG, for taking the time to answer my questions and give us some insight into your life as a full-time writer. Etched in Shadows is on my reading list, and this interview made me want to stop working on my own book to go read it J
Dear readers, if you have any questions for KG, leave a comment or contact her via her website.