HEIDI'S PICK SIX: Catherine E. McLean


Catherine E. McLean

1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
2. Tell me about your travels.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?

4. What else can you do besides write?
I'm an amateur photographer. My favorite subject is flowers--especially the ones that grow in my garden or yard--or even in the pastures. My photograph of a butterfly caught with wings open, about to take off, won me the grand champion ribbon at my local fair. It's a good photo, but the image I caught on camera of a pink iris, which won first place as a black and white photo at the Crawford County Fair, is truly a work of art. The iris holds pride of place on my living room wall.

In addition to photography, I've been sewing garments and costumes since I was eight years old. I've made everything from underwear to a replica of an 1878 Side-saddle Riding Coat. When we showed Morgan horses, I made all my Hunt Seat, Saddle Seat, and carriage driving attire.

5. Who are you reading right now?
Me. I'm editing and polishing my last novel so I can get to work on the next story waiting in the queue. Oh, and I do have a stack of books I want to read but those might have to wait until vacation time.

6. Pop culture or academia?
7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?

8. Where do you find your inspirations to write?
I'm one of those writers who cannot not write. My Kid (my muse) is always sending ideas up from the basement of my mind. Those ideas, story sketches, scenes, characters, etc. have nearly filled a four-inch ring binder. Over the past fifteen years, the ideas have enabled me to write thirty novels, ten of which made it to editors' desks, but no sales yet. (Writing Space Opera and Futuristic Romances are a very hard sell in today's market.) On the bright side, I have done lots of short stories. Those have sold and currently I have a flash-fiction, science fiction short story "Just Desserts" at http://www.goldenvisionsmagazine.biz. Stop in, read it, and vote or comment on it.

9. Food you could eat everyday.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
11. What kind of music speaks to you?

12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
Over the years, I've identified nine types/styles of writers. Most people know the "panster" and the "outliner," but I fall into the category of the "foundation" writer. I get a story dump, the necessary information that lays the foundation for the story My Kid (my muse) wants told. That dump is always close to the opening of the story and comes with the main character up against a dilemma. That foundation may be ten pages or a hundred. By interviewing the characters and working with My Kid (Muse), I fill out my Project Bible and the story unfolds. Once I have an understanding of the theme and ending, I fill out 3x5 cards that keep things in their story sequence. Then it's time to write.

Note: Pennwriters is hosting my online course for "The Project Bible" which begins February 1, 2011. Information is at www.Pennwriters.com (click on the courses tab).

Project Bible_McLean
The Project Bible by Catherine E. McLean

13. Celebrity crush.

14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
In order of influence, they are: William Zinsser, Isaac Asimov, Elizabeth Moon, David Weber, Justine Davis, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Catherine Asaro. Why is Zinsser first? Because when I was a fledgling secretary, he wrote On Writing Well. Reading that book changed my outlook on writing. Reading that book had me vowing that if I never wrote anything that sold, I would at least have written well. I also own the thirtieth edition of Zinsser's On Writing Well. Time and technology may have changed and necessitated updating the information but writing well, with clarity and simplicity, is something I think every writer should strive for, regardless of genre.

15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Of course. Tom and Jerry rank at the top of my cartoon picks. In second place is Marvin the Martian. In third, Bugs Bunny. Wait--if Marvin and Bugs are together in a cartoon they top Tom and Jerry as my favorites.

Catherine E. McLean sincerely believes a writer needs to be self-educated so she studies and reads extensively about the business and craft of writing--and writes. She has given more than 35 writing workshops and judged more than a dozen writing contests. In order to help others achieve their writing goals, she shares her acquired knowledge and expertise at www.WritersCheatSheets.com and privately evaluates writers' work.

Before turning to fiction, Catherine was a freelance journalist who subsequently became the editor of a trade publication, holding that position for eleven years. She also edited two newsletters, one of which garnered her a national award. After completing the rigorous Professional Writing Courses at The University of Oklahoma, she became published in short story length in science-fiction, paranormal, and contemporary (including contemporary romance). She has had two dozen articles on the craft of writing published. Currently, she markets short stories (writing as C. E. McLean) and novel-length work.

In 1995, she joined Pennwriters, and holds a Published Penn status. In 2010, she received the Pennwriters Meritorious Service Award. She will be doing the workshop, "Passivity, a Different Way to Look at Show-Don't-Tell" at the May 13-15 Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh PA (www.Pennwriters.org).

Catherine lives on a farm in Western Pennsylvania where she and her husband bred, raised, and trained Morgan Sport Horses. As a horsewoman, she was a reserve national champion competitive trail rider and a champion in hunt seat pleasure. Now retired from raising horses, she and her husband share their rambling farmhouse with four opinionated cats--inherited when their daughter went off to culinary school--and one Ruff Coat Jack Russell Terrier who thinks he's a cat.


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