Today I welcome author Catherine McKenzie to Colloquium for the first time!
Spin, Catherine’s acclaimed debut novel, is the story of Katie Sandford, a would-be music writer. She has struggled since graduating from college but now, on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, she has a chance to land her dream job at The Line, a music magazine second only to Rolling Stone. Unfortunately, Katie simply can’t say “no” when her friends want to take her out for a pre-birthday celebration. Not only does she nearly miss the job interview altogether, she’s still drunk when she arrives!
However, the folks at The Line see two things: A writer with real potential and a young woman with a drinking problem. Although she doesn’t get the job, they do offer her a second chance. But in order to capitalize on the opportunity, she will have to put everything on the line, including her integrity. How much is Katie willing to risk in order to fulfill her dreams? What and, more importantly, who is she willing to sacrifice in order to attain her goals?
How’d You Have Time To Do That?
“How’d you have time to do that?”
Almost without exception, this is the universal reaction to the news that I have a novel coming out. In fact, these exact words often precede the more expected (by me, at least) “Congratulations!”
I admit that I find this phrase a little annoying. Maybe it’s the shear number of times I’ve been asked the question. Or maybe it’s the hint of “You’re obviously an overachieving freak” that I sense lurking beneath these seven words.
Regardless, why is this people’s first reaction to my (in my mind) awesome news? I guess it has something to do with the fact that I’m a partner in a law firm and … right. How the hell do I have time to do that?
The answer is . . . I don’t have kids. No, seriously. I don’t have kids, but that’s not the answer. The real answer is . . you can make time for the things you want to do.
These are the trite details: I try to write a little every day. 500 words, 750, 1000. I make those goals on good days. On bad days I might write 100, or none. Some days, I don’t even try. But it’s part of my plan, and more often than not, I do it.
Also, I’m lucky. I can write while I watch TV, thereby accomplishing two time sucking tasks at once (I watch a lot of TV). Plus, I’m not writing Shakespeare, here. That doesn’t mean that I don’t write the best sentence I can write every time, that I don’t rewrite endlessly, that I’m not always striving to be better. But, things go a lot faster when you don’t have to think up rhymes or make sure each line has the right meter. (See Ms. Burke – grade 10 English teacher – I was paying attention).
I try to set deadlines. Not just words per day, but first draft deadlines. I generally start my books in January and aim for having a first draft by the end of June. That worked for Spin. For the book I’m writing right now, not so much. In my defense, I had rewrites to do, and pages to check, and book covers to approve, and marketing ideas to think of, and articles like this to write. And, oh, right, did I mention I’m a lawyer?
Anyway, where was I going with this? Ah, yes. You make time for the things you love. You do, don’t you? (If you don’t, start doing so immediately). So, I’ve always wanted to write a book and have it published. And when I finally started writing for real, I realized that it’s something I love to do. Mixed in with that is that it’s also something that I’m kind of compelled to do. There are these characters in my head, see, and if I don’t put them down on paper, then, well, that would be kind of sad for them, wouldn’t it? Just living in my head? That’s a scary place, let me tell you.
Does that mean that anyone can write a novel if they just commit to doing so every day? Of course not. At least, not a good one. Lots of people finish bad novels and lots of people who could write good novels never make the time. But you’ll never know what’s in you if you don’t try, right?
So, how do I have time to do that?
One day at a time. One word at a time. One idea at a time.
Did I mention I don’t have kids?
Catherine McKenzie was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. She graduated from McGill University and McGill Law School, and is a practicing attorney in Montreal.
Her novels Spin and Arranged have achieved bestseller status internationally. Her third novel, Forgotten, are being published in the United States this year.