Author Q&A: Janet McLaughlin
In a way, Janet McLaughlin’s love of literature has come full circle.
That love was born as soon as she could read and nurtured by a wise teacher.
Now, after years of work, she’s a published author whose books have found their way into the hearts of many reluctant or struggling young readers.
We spoke with her recently about the journey from magazine publisher to writer.
SADYE: What inspired you to begin writing?
JANET: Well, my love of writing probably started when I first learned to read. It was as if a spider created a web around my heart, soul, and mind and linked them together with the written word. My life was forever transformed. My imagination sparked.
Or maybe it was when my eighth-grade teacher insisted the whole class get a library card. That opened up a whole world to me, since my school was old and out-of-touch and didn’t have anything resembling a library. (We're talking a while ago here.)
Or then again, maybe it was the day I discovered an illustrated copy (with full color photos from the movie) of Gone With The Wind in our basement. This surprised the heck out of me because I did NOT come from a family of readers.
I devoured that book but simply could not believe the ending. I went to the library to check and sure enough, Rhett Butler did leave Scarlett O’Hara. What a surprise that was!
I guess you could say every book I’ve ever read was leading me down the path toward writing. And I am so grateful for that.
SADYE: Did you begin writing with the intention of seeking publication?
JANET: Before novels came articles. I owned and published several magazines which needed copy. So, I interviewed and researched and wrote. And wrote. And wrote.
Then I met a gentleman who needed someone to edit his health book. It was complicated and took nine months, but that helped me believe enough in myself to start doing what I'd been wanting to do for years: write a novel for kids.
SADYE: What is the most challenging part about writing for tweens/young adults, and what is the most rewarding part?
JANET: There is a part of me that is stuck in those tween years, I think. I remember so much about the angst of fitting in, the thrill of first/young love, the closeness of having a best friend. So, writing for the genre is not so much easy as most natural for me.
The challenge is more from the market than from the writing or readers. I’m into clean teen writing. Not every agent/editor appreciates that. But it’s who I am and how I feel.
The most rewarding is the joy I get from hearing kids say they love to read my books. Or from parents who say their kid doesn’t usually like to read, but my books really captured their interest. Or from one teacher whose inner-city class I visited. She later told me that her class’s reading scores improved and the only thing she could account for that happening was reading my book and discussing it.
SADYE: You wrote a novel based on a relative’s experiences with Tourette syndrome — what was that like for you, emotionally?
JANET: That was a very difficult book to write. I waited over ten years before I could begin to explore its possibilities as a novel. I needed to be sure my grandchildren would be okay with it, because it exposes some of the raw emotions that they and family members go through on a daily basis. ...
The book is finished, and I’m hoping to find a publisher with ties to the schools and school librarians. I believe there’s a real need to educate kids about neurological disorders, but in a way they’ll understand. Schools are, in my opinion, the best place to start that kind of journey.
SADYE: What has been the most surprising thing about your writing career so far?
JANET: The people. Writers of children’s books are the kindest, most generous people I know. Always willing to help. Oh, and the children. So savvy, asking such insightful questions.
And the joy of creating. I find that I really love my characters, with all their flaws and eccentricities. They are part of my family. And, just like real kids, they sometimes have a mind of their own, going down paths you never intended for them. I guess that was the biggest surprise of all!
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