I'm a 'stubble jumper' from Manitoba. I moved to the British Columbia coast nearly three years ago. Much as I love my home province, I don't think I could handle another prairie winter, so I think I'm here to stay. I retired once, but it didn't take. Three years ago, I bought an ice cream soda shop with my daughter and now we have another store, a bath and body shop. They keep me quite busy but I always manage to find my writing and reading time. I have five grandchildren and it's such a joy to watch them grow, without the pressures of parenting (I think it's called revenge)
Now tell us how you got into writing.
I began to write as a form of self-preservation. I was divorced when my children were going through teenage angst and the thing that kept me sane was trying to find humour in situations that appeared catastrophic at first glance. I began selling humour articles to magazines. The pay wasn't great, but the catharsis helped. I found it even made a good threat-"If you don't behave yourselves, I'm going to use your real names."
Was getting published hard?
I was lucky with my first attempts at humour. I managed to find a few smaller circulation magazines that published my articles on a regular basis. When I began writing fiction, I needed to look for new markets. It seems every time I sold a story and thought I found a new home, the magazine would cease publication. I almost felt like a jinx. I spent a lot of time outlining stories before I finally got over my fear of tackling a longer project. I still have a few collecting dust somewhere. Then luckily, I submitted Northern Lights to Prism and it was accepted. I also had the luck to receive the help of a terrific editor, Jacquie.
Give us a summary of Northern Lights.
Maddie Smart is at a crossroads. Her job and her relationship have both suddenly ended. On the advice of a friend she flies to a northern fishing lodge to recoup and plan her next move. Here she meets fishermen who don't fish, a policeman who does, a man who says he's seen Sasquatch and a lodge owner who sets her pulses racing.
She finds herself running headlong into danger with no idea of who she can trust. Her feelings for Lodge owner Rupert are clouded by his hot and cold moods, and her growing suspicions of his right hand man's involvement in a bear part harvesting ring. Maddie must face her deepest fear before she can find answers. She also must learn to trust again before she can find her own happy ending.
Where do you get your ideas?
Usually it's a combination of smaller items that sit and fester at the back of my mind. Then suddenly it's like a kaleidoscope twisting and two or three previously unrelated ideas will shift and form a pattern.
We used to take fishing vacations in Northern Manitoba and I fell in love with the setting. Then I read an article about poaching bears to harvest their parts. I found it quite distressing and decided it would make a good plot line, especially with the northern setting. That was the start of Northern Lights
Family background provides some true life grounding for other stories. My next book coming out with Prism, Autumn Dreams, was inspired by my Aunts, both of them one-room country school teachers in the forties. Prairie Promise came to me from the life of my Grandmother who came from Ireland as a young woman and ended up homesteading on the prairies. Of course this was just the basis. The stories themselves wandered far from the experiences of my relatives.
How long does it take you to write a novel?
That's a difficult question since I write in stages. I wrote Northern Lights, a novella, in about three months but let it simmer for another year before I dug it out, rewrote large parts of it and decided to submit. The next two novellas I wrote for Prism, Autumn Dreams and Prairie Promise took less time for the first drafts, probably because I was more focused now with the confidence of having sold Northern Lights. But again, they sat for a while between drafts. I also just finished a cozy mystery. It took about four months to write, but then I was writing it at the same time as one of my novellas.
What do you enjoy doing outside of writing?
Reading is a given, of course. I love history and puzzles of all sorts, which is why I enjoy mysteries so much. I love horses, but haven't ridden lately. In the winter I usually play the spectator, watching my grandchildren play hockey and figure skate, but I actually tried snowshoeing last winter. I want desperately to travel but time only allows me a short vacation every year- a winter one someplace warm to meet my son and his family. We've been to Cuba the last two winters.
Do you find certain times of the day or certain things inspire you to write?
I've always been a morning person and I find that's when I can focus best on writing .In the afternoons my brain gets fuzzy, but strangely it is a better time for getting new ideas or plot breakthroughs, at least that's what I tell my family when I'm stretched out, eyes closed, on my Lazy Boy.
What advice would you give to a new writer wishing to make it in the publishing world?
Mostly, don't be afraid to submit. Trust yourself. And don't take rejection personally. I think fear was my biggest enemy; it took me a long time to offer my first submissions. It's been said by so many people in so many ways. "If you don't try, you can't succeed."
We'd love to hear a few quirky facts about you-things that normally don't come up in an interview.
Like Maddie I'm afraid of heights. Like her, I tried skydiving and learned to fly, actually getting my pilot's license for a single engine plane. I still have the license in a drawer somewhere with my log book, but it' s not valid now. It usually takes an atavan or a double rum and coke to get me on a plane which is so sad as I love to travel.
I'm an avid hockey fan. One thing my ex-husband and I had in common was that we both cheered for Montreal We actually planned our honeymoon around the NHL schedule, arriving in LA when the Canadiens were scheduled to play the Kings. I can still remember the score-it was a 3-3 tie.
My web page is www.sharonmcgregor.com
My blog is www.sharonmcgregor.com/blog
My FB author page is https://www.facebook.com/NorthernLightsSharonMcGregor?ref=hl
My twitter account is @sharonmcgr
My Amazon author page is http://www.amazon.com/Sharon-McGregor/e/B00IO31F1I