Interview with Jamie McGuire

Posted by Goodreads on February 11, 2015
Oh those Maddox brothers! Infuriating and hot—bad boys with good hearts. We first met them in Jamie McGuire's breakout hit, Beautiful Disaster. In her latest series, Happenstance, there's loyal boyfriend Weston Gates, who might be the opposite of a Maddox brother. That's a relief for the protagonist, Erin, whose life is complicated enough—after years of being tormented by bullies, she learns that she is essentially living someone else's life. Jamie shows the same willingness to be raw and honest in this interview as she does in all of her books. Read on for her thoughts on writing realistic flaws, handling criticism, and how she decides on a book cover.

Erin Lovelady: Where did you come up with the idea of the three Erins [in the Happenstance series]? It's a unique idea…three girls born the same day…two with the same father…then switched at birth. I'd been wanting to use Erin for a while and had written down the word Happenstance to use for a title because I liked it. Setting a story in my hometown and recounting some of my experiences with bullies was also something I wanted to explore. The story was developed over a few months around the title name.

Shen: Your characters are so beautifully and realistically flawed. How do you know when you have gotten them right, just perfect, without overdoing them? I've thought in the past that seeing people in a brutally honest way (including myself) was a curse, but it has worked out great for my writing. I like to reveal weaknesses and then challenge myself to make that character likable despite those flaws. I feel that is the true story for most people. Our flaws are driven by past hurts, which spawn anger, jealousy, and low self-esteem. People aren't perfect, just self-aware. It's not in our nature to fully be free of negative feelings. Learning to react when negative feelings arise—not being free of negative feelings—is the true indicator of emotional health. I love to incorporate all of that in character development.

Rate this book
Clear rating

Kira-may: If the Maddox brothers had a sister, how do you think she would act, what would her name be, and what would the brothers be like toward her? Oh, Lord. She would truly be a frightening thing to behold. I feel a Maddox daughter would be opinionated, strong, impatient, and commanding. She would be all the boys in one body, plus estrogen, which we all know is lethal.

Erin: Do you have your own Red Hill, just in case? You know, like an evacuation plan (in case of emergency). My own Red Hill is the ranch featured in the book. It's a real place where I developed the story. I wrote the last four chapters at the ranch surrounded by the real setting, all alone for three days and nights, and it was one of the most frightening experiences of my life.

Missy: I would love to know your top five favorite books!!!! Leigh also asks: What book has influenced you or your writing style the most? What book would you recommend to your best friend? That's so difficult! Twilight and Pride and Prejudice will always be tied for my number one. My recent faves are The Maze Runner by James Dashner, The 100 by Kass Morgan, Left Drowning by Jessica Park, and Archer's Voice by Mia Sheridan.

I would recommend all of those to my BFF.

Vicky: I would love to know about your writing habits. How do you prepare yourself to write? What kind of music do you listen to while writing? What do you love to eat or drink while writing? I usually have a basic idea for several years before I can get to the book. Along the way a scene or idea will come to me, and I write it down and keep it all together. I write at night from about 10 or 11 until it's time to wake up the kids for school. After they're off, I play with the baby for an hour or two, sleep until school lets out, and then start all over. I used to listen to music while writing, but this past year I've found I write faster without it, so I listen just before starting to set the mood and during breaks.

Writing sustenance often includes Chester's Hot Fries, beef jerky, sugar-free Red Bull, and water.

Nicole: How do you decide or pick book covers? Something visual from the story line is usually a jumping-off point, but I really rely on cover designer Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations to do the heavy lifting in the creative department. I like a single object, something simple but striking. I'm not a fan of busy covers, where there is no space, or covers with people or faces. I like for my readers to decide what the characters look like aside from basic attributes I describe. Sometimes Sarah hits it on the first try, sometimes we need to tweak, and sometimes we take a step back and take a different direction. It's always a process, and every author is different, but for me I need the wow factor. If I don't say wow, I don't say yes.

Brittany: Are there any preparations you make to help you transition from writing in the heroine's POV to the hero's POV, and is it easier to write in one or the other, or is it the same for you with both POVs? I've only done the male POV twice but loved it both times. The timeline in Walking Disaster wasn't fun, but the banter between men and their thought process is so interesting and liberating for me. Based on the reactions of Abby's typical 19-year-old waffling and Travis's internal threesome, I've noticed readers tend to be more forgiving of male characters. I feel that there are fewer limitations while writing male thoughts and motivations. If I felt like I'd gone too far with Travis, I knew it was right. Nathan was more goal oriented, almost maternal. Both of their personalities were easy for me.

Sara: As a reader, one of the hardest blows is to read about a romantic or budding relationship where one of the characters cheats or flaunts other exploits in front of their true interest. It makes me sick to my stomach and messes up my day. How does writing something like that into one of your books affect you as an author more broadly, how connected (or detached) do you feel to the experiences your characters go through? I don't like to write about a cheating main character. I feel like it crosses a line that makes the characters unlikable. Like their significant other, it's hard for the reader to trust the character after that. It's just not something I do. That said, I'm extremely attached to not just the main character but all characters. I can't really expect the reader to care about them if I don't, and that comes across best if I'm emotionally invested.

Tia: I adore your writing/books and feel your stories can relate to a wide range of ages and genres. When you put your heart and soul out there, wanting people to see your vision the way you created it, do you feel vulnerable and overexposed? Do you feel you've given away too much of yourself and fear that sometimes you have opened yourself up to criticism that cuts too deep? I have read some people's comments online and feel that, with today's anonymous Internet age, commenters forget the words they type can truly hurt the person on the other end. Our chosen field is, by nature, open to criticism. I learned the hard way early in my career not to respond to reviews, even positive ones. I've come to agree that, despite readers wanting to engage with authors in a place to share their love for books, reviews and review sites are not for authors. With the current saturation of the market, readers should be able to offer honest reviews to help a fellow reader decide how to spend their money. That said, I disagree with the opinion that authors aren't supposed to care or react if true vitriol is spewed in their direction. A small percentage of today's reviews are meant to be abusive to the author because, for whatever reason, the reader feels offended by the book or even the author. Certain circles feel that authors—no matter how personal and vicious the review—are not allowed to respond. I've gotten a lot better at that by simply not listening. Negative reviews happen, and reviewers are allowed an opinion, but I'm the one who chooses to read them or not. Seeing that a review is rated one or two stars is a good indicator that I shouldn't read that review. It's a hard lesson that took me too long to learn, but I control what I see on my monitor and whom I give a voice.

Nicole: If you ever got a tattoo, what would it be of and why? The names of my children, because I kind of love them.

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Vicky (new)

Vicky Salgado Esquivel I loved this, and I loved even more that my question was picked to be here.
With that being said, Jamie, I absolutely admire you, you are one bada** woman, you do everything, and are everything: a multi-tasking, wonderful woman, an amazing funny mother and wife, and of course, one of THE best authors I've had had the pleasure to read.
I want to be like you in a near future. <3

message 2: by Nicole (new)

Nicole I had the once in a lifetime, opportunity to meet Jamie and all I can say is, she is the most genuinely kind person that you will ever wanna meet. I adore her to pieces!! What uou see, is what you get. No lies or facade. She is the real deal!! Thank you Jamie for making my first book signing, the best experience I ever had. Also, thank you for answering my question. I can't believe it made it on the list. Mine was the last one asked, in case you were wondering, lol. The tattoo one.? I askes because I personally have 7 total of them and like to both know & see other's work of art. All my love to you, Jamie. <3

message 3: by Brew (new)

Brew Readers tend to be more forgiving of male characters? Readers, let's kick this bad habit! Sounds like some internalized sexism going on. Jamie McGuire, write more heroine POVs and challenge us. Thanks for the interview.

Erin *Proud Book Hoarder* Good interview. Definitely interesting sleeping habits! Also Twilight and Pride and Prejudice shows diverse reading/favorites.

message 5: by Suresh (new)

Suresh Nair Happy to know Jamie. Will read her book very soon...addded to the 'to read' collection blog~ Can someone tell me if Beautiful Oblivion is written in the male POV or both?

back to top