Posted on 07/11/2018 at 11:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Being a published and popular author sounds thrilling and glamorous enough on its own.

But when we looked at Virginia McClain’s bio, we discovered that her writing accomplishments — such as being a finalist in the 2017 Wishing Shelf Book Awards — aren’t the only things that get her blood racing and her adrenaline pumping.

She’s a cliff-climber, a backpacker in places including the Grand Canyon, a trail runner whether that means deserts or mountains, an explorer of foreign countries, and a former teacher.

No wonder the first book in McClain's Chronicles of Gensokai series had the Wishing Shelf judges excited — she's familiar with how to get one's heart pounding!

We spoke recently with the sci-fi/fantasy author about the journey that enabled her to produce Blade's Edge and her other well-received works of fiction.

SADYE: How do your nonwriting hobbies affect your creative efforts?

VIRGINIA: For one thing, I do my best thinking when I'm out adventuring in the open air.

Hikes and trail runs bring me some of my best ideas and just generally inspire me to write more. Climbing does too.

Really, being out in nature at all helps to renew my creative energy and to come back to whatever project I'm working on feeling invigorated.

If I could evenly split my time between writing and playing outside, I would be the happiest person in the world.

(Unfortunately, that would lead to lots of completed manuscripts that looked nothing like books, which would just sit on my computer without selling — so I have to divvy up my time to include all the other aspects of indie publishing, as well as taking care of my family.)

In addition, I add in bits of my various outdoor adventures to each of my books. Climbing and trail running feature most prominently, but other activities creep their way in too.

SADYE: What prompted you to pursue writing fiction as a career?

VIRGINIA: Funnily enough, even though I started writing stories as soon as I could write (I can prove it, the first ones are in crayon!), I always struggled with punctuation and spelling, and as such, most of my early English teachers told me I was “bad at writing.”

Consequently, I'd never considered it as a future career option until I was about twelve or thirteen years old (up to then I was fairly sure I wanted to become a veterinarian).

In seventh grade, however, I had an English teacher who really encouraged my writing because she enjoyed my storytelling even if she had to work hard to get through all the misplaced commas and misspelled words.

She was the first person (aside from my mother) to suggest that I could be a writer if I wanted to be.

After years of hearing my writing was terrible, I was a bit astounded by the suggestion that writing could be my career, but I immediately latched onto the idea.

Once the possibility seemed open to me, I knew it was what I wanted to do. From then on, I was determined to become a professional writer.

Years of reading voraciously helped to reduce my punctuation and spelling errors despite a disability diagnosed at the age of fifteen, and I've continuously worked to improve my storytelling as well.

I taught languages (Spanish and EFL) for a decade to pay the bills, but finally found myself in a position to write full time starting in June of 2014.

SADYE: What was your publishing process like?

VIRGINIA: When I decided to pursue publishing as a career back in seventh grade, I assumed that I would pursue traditional publication (because it was 1995, and indie publishing wasn't a thing yet).

And, indeed, when I first started writing professionally I had a few short stories published in literary magazines along with a review of my university published in a collection released by Penguin Books.

However, once I finally got around to publishing novels — I didn't complete a first draft of a novel until 2008 thanks to NaNoWriMo 2007 and a few more months of persistence, and I didn't have one I thought was worthy of publication until around 2010 — it was 2014 and the publishing industry had changed drastically.

I did a lot research prior to deciding what road to publication I would choose, and thanks to the advice of Hugh Howey and a few others, I ultimately decided that indie publishing was the right choice for me.

Thus decided, I ran a Kickstarter for Blade's Edge so that I could have professional cover art, editing, and formatting. The Kickstarter was successful, and I was off and running.

As such, I've never even shopped a novel to agents, let alone sought a publication deal from a big publishing house.

Ultimately, since I'd been raised by entrepreneurs and had always kind of wanted to run my own business anyway, having the center of that business be writing seemed like the perfect fit for me.

I admit that marketing is tiring and a bit soul sucking, but I really enjoy the rest of the process. I love working with my editor, working with cover artists, and doing my own formatting.

I geek out on fonts and layout; just ask me about fleurons! All the creative bits that go into making books are things that I love, but I would dearly love to pay someone else to do all the marketing.

SADYE: How have you used the Wishing Shelf finalist nomination for Blade’s Edge to benefit you as a writer?

VIRGINIA: I have used the finalist nomination as a bit of added bling to some of my marketing materials, as well as to my BookBub applications, and it may have helped in getting the BookBub featured deal when it finally went through, so that's a serious perk.

It also may have helped me when I applied for a vendor table and panel submission for GeekGirlCon 2018, both of which were approved.

If it did contribute to my approval, then I can't thank the folks over at Wishing Shelf Book Awards enough.

Even if it had no effect on either of those things, every added bit of legitimacy and gravitas for an indie author is helpful, as there tend to be a few extra hurdles for us since we haven't jumped through all of the trad-publishing hoops before we brazenly put our work into the world for public scrutiny!

The folks at the Wishing Shelf Book Awards run an excellent and straightforward contest, and I recommend participating to all indie authors.

SADYE: You’ve lived in seven states and five countries. Where did you most enjoy living?

VIRGINIA: This is a tough one, but Japan has to be the top of the list for me at this stage.

Every day I lived there was full of wonder and adventure, and my time there provided the inspiration for all my Chronicles of Gensokai books.

I made lifelong friends there and was constantly awed by the generosity and kindness of the Japanese people.

We were there through the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and the resilience and compassion of the Japanese people is truly inspiring.

I hope to be able to take my daughter there someday for an extended visit (maybe even live there again) because Japan had a deep impact on both me and my husband and I would love to share some of the wonders of Japan with her.

* * *

Learn more about Virginia McClain on her website, where her books can also be purchased; like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

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Categories: Author Interview

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