Caitlin McKenna

caitline mckenna photoWhen did you first start writing?

I started writing seriously in 1999. Already working in the film industry as an actor and film assistant editor, I naturally gravitated toward screenwriting. In fact, my first novel, Logging Off—a dystopian science fiction thriller—was my first screenplay.

Though I ended up writing a few more screenplays and was later hired to write a straight-to-DVD action movie, I found it difficult to tell my story in the standard screenplay length of only 120 pages. This issue became very apparent to me with Logging Off, so I decided to expand it into a novel and ended up loving the process.

Are you a structured writer or a see-what happens?

I am definitely not a structured writer. In fact, I seem to have a different process with every book I write. The entire story of Logging Off came to me in a detailed dream. When I awoke, I quickly jotted down as many details as I could remember including dialogue, characters and scenes. That became the “outline” for the screenplay and then the screenplay became the outline for the book. Logging Off is the only novel I currently have published in the dystopian, science fiction genre. My other books are chick lits. 

My second published novel, My Big Fake Irish Life, was originally an autobiography about my struggling life as an actor. Unable to get auditions, let alone work, I reinvented myself as an actress from Ireland and was working within the month. My Big Fake Irish Life came very close to selling, but then the publishing house that was interested in it couldn’t figure out how to market it since I wasn’t a celebrity. I was asked if I would turn it into a “How To Break Into Hollywood” type book, but that wasn’t why I wrote it, so I turned down the offer and rewrote my story into a chick lit, rom-com, which is thankfully doing well on Amazon. With this novel, my nonfiction manuscript became my outline. I already had three-dimensional characters that came with dialogue and scenes. As a fiction novel, I’d say sixty percent of it is fact.

As for my other two novels, both Manifesting Mr. Right and Super Natalie were written without an outline or any idea of a storyline or characters. Because I wasn’t getting hit with any idea about what I had to write, I asked myself what I wanted to accomplish and convey to the reader. Because we all live such complicated lives these days that can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, I knew I wanted my books to be an escape for the reader, but to also have a positive message.

In My Big Fake Irish Life the message is: Don’t chase your dreams, make them happen. With Manifesting Mr. Right, I wanted to empower readers with the knowledge that they are in charge of their lives and that they really can manifest their true desires.  

Super Natalie is about embracing who we are, but it’s also about the soul and Spirit and trusting that connection. I wrote this over the summer and every morning I’d get up, clear my mind and just start typing. I allowed my characters to talk to me and without any expectations, I just went on this journey with them. It was a very freeing experience, and I highly recommend it to any writer.

Manifesting Mr. Right and Super Natalie sound like uplifting and inspiring books. Can you tell us more about Super Natalie’s journey?super natalie

Natalie’s journey begins on a TV talk show where she has agreed to discuss the one ability she wishes she never had—the ability to communicate with ghosts. While being interviewed, a spirit appears and reveals a juicy secret about the host of the show. The host goes ballistic and the clip of his attack on Natalie goes viral, which catapults Natalie into the limelight and lands her a reality series as a paranormal investigator.

For the first time in her life, Natalie’s ability has given her a job instead of taking one away. She even meets a gorgeous guy, Ryan Emery, who is working on her new series.  Natalie knows she could seriously fall for Ryan until she learns that Ryan is a major skeptic. He doesn’t believe in ghosts and never will. This presents a huge problem when a very persistent spirit wants Natalie to give Ryan a message—one that will dramatically change his life. Now Natalie must somehow get Ryan to believe her without ruining their budding relationship. With the help of her family, especially her Nana who can also communicate with spirits, Natalie not only learns how to embrace who she is, she finally realizes that her ability isn’t a curse but a true gift that positively changes the lives around her.

I’m a huge believer in the Law of Attraction. Your books sound like they follow a similar style. Would you say that is the case? Or is there another self-help method behind your books?

Oh yes, I’m a huge believer in the Law of Attraction too. We are energy, therefore our thoughts are energy. Like attracts like, positive or negative. Everyone knows the “Constant Complainer” who perpetually has altercations with others, or the depressed guy who always has bad things happen in his life. But we also know the luckiest gal on the planet who gets an early promotion or wins a free trip for two to Hawaii.

Manifesting Mr. Right is all about the Law of Attraction, though this is a prominent theme in all of my books. I can’t help but write about it because it works and I’d love for everyone to be able to attract what they want out of life.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

Speaking of the Law of Attraction, I’m about to adapt Logging Off into a TV pilot. There is mild interest in making it into a television series, so I need to have the pilot ready in case the mild interest becomes serious. I also have a different production company interested in adapting Manifesting Mr. Right into a made-for-TV movie. If this becomes a reality I might be asked to write the script. Of course, I’m a long way from a solid deal, but I’m staying positive. After I finish the adaptations, I plan on definitely writing another novel.

Did you get the response you hoped for when you put your first book on Amazon?

The first title I published on Amazon was Logging Off in the Kindle version. I had released the hardcover a few years prior with a dishonest publishing company, so seeing my first sale with my own eyes was very exciting. Because I was selling it for 99 cents, I figured it would do a lot better than the hardcover. At first, it did because my family and friends were buying it, but then the sales dropped off and I was hardly selling any at all.

Refusing to let it get me down, I released My Big Fake Irish Life the following month. Because it was a chick lit, it immediately started outselling Logging Off, but without having huge advertising dollars of a traditional publishing house behind my books, I was only selling a few hundred a month. Then a miracle happened. It was March and I think because the word Irish was in the title, one of Amazon’s search engines picked it up and promoted My Big Fake Irish Life for St. Patrick’s Day. This tripled my sales within a few days. Soon the sales generated reviews and instead of selling 300 a month, I was selling 3,000! I’m very thankful to Amazon and to everyone who has bought a copy of one or more of my books, and I am thrilled that new readers are still discovering my novels.

How do you market your books? Do you have a process?

I’m not like most Indie authors. I am horrible at social media. I only go on FB when someone sends me a message. I hardly visit Goodreads because I’m embarrassed at how long it takes me to finish a book. It’s a chore for me to write a blog. I’ve never written a review, I’ve never tweeted in my life. It’s not that I don’t want to do these things. I simply don’t have enough time in the day. I actually had to hire a social media guy to post things on my website and to tweet for me when I need to release time-sensitive information about my books. Marketing makes my head swim. Selling books is a full time job. Being an Indie author, I know I am supposed to spend as much time promoting my books as I do writing them but I’d have to give up sleep to do so. I am very lucky and very blessed to have had such success with my books when I haven’t put in the time to promote them. It is vital to market your books, so if you are like me, you might need to hire someone to help you. 

What advice would you give to any writer wanting to do it the ‘Indie Way’.

Definitely hire a good editor. I actually had four editors on my first book and a proofreading friend of mine still found mistakes, so I had to have it re-edited for a fifth time. You also need a professional cover in order to catch the reader’s attention. If it looks professional, they’ll read the synopsis, which will hopefully conclude with a sale. If the cover looks thrown together, they’ll move on to other books and forget yours completely.  

Tell us what you are reading at the moment.

Because I have such little time to read, I always keep a book in my car and a Kindle by my bed—which has over 60 ebooks I have not yet read. Sophie Kinsella’s Wedding Night is currently in my car, which I read at lunchtime. Right after I released Super Natalie for Halloween, I just had to stay in the supernatural world so I started reading Deborah Durbin’s Oh Great, Now I Can Hear Dead People! I’m enjoying both books.

Anything else you would like to add to your readers or to other writers.

To readers and authors who have read my books: Thank you so much! You are the reason I keep writing.

To other writers: Thank you for writing such great stories to read. You inspire me and teach me. I’ve always felt that the best way to learn how to write well is to read well-written books.

To Vicky: Thank you for having me on your wonderful site and for interviewing me—oh, and for adding another ten books to my Kindle. You’ve interviewed great authors whose books I now can’t wait to read, including your own How My Life Became Chaos.

And lastly, to those who want to write that debut novel: Go for it! Go for your dream. There’s always room for another great novel.