A Conversation with Jim McLeod

Back in 2009 I was interviewed by Jim McLeod (of Ginger Nuts of Horror fame). Here are a few of the juicier bits —

When did you start writing, and do you think you have reached a stage where you are comfortable in calling yourself a writer?

I’d say that I’ve hit that comfort zone, I mean, it’s what I do… it’s who I am… there’s no denying that. To be honest, I think I’ve always been a writer. It certainly always seemed natural to me. I just had to accept it.

My problem was always a lack of focus, especially once I got to college. At that time I was convinced that I was going to be a kind of Hunter S. Thompson-like occult journalist and I spent a lot of time doing drugs and chasing ghosts…

My writing career didn’t start until 2000 though. I had lost my job and got married in the same week and I was having trouble finding work. Eventually my wife suggested that I use the time to write a novel, something I was always threatening to do but had never seriously attempted. Hell, I’d never even completed a short story at that point.

So, as my lovely wife would head off to work, I would sit down at the keyboard and write for 8 hrs. When she got home, she’d read what I had written while she was gone and we’d discuss it… it was great feedback, and it kept me going.

I finished the book, Shadows Over Somerset, in three months and then the hard part, the part that drives a writer absolutely crazy, began.

Do you have any rituals you go through when writing?

Not like in the early days. Any more, I’m so desperate to squeeze in writing time that ritual had to fly out the window. It used to be about candles and mood music, like Paganini or Clannad… now, it’s just about getting my ass in front of the keyboard.

How much of you goes into your work?

More than I should probably admit.

Have we seen the last of the the Cairnwood saga?

Not at all. “In Time’s Shadow”, the third book in the series, will show up… just don’t hold me to ‘when’.

How does it make you feel when I still get creeped out when walking through Roslyn woods at dusk.

Oh, that delights me to the very core of my being. That’s the best compliment that a writer can be paid. It means we did our job and I hope that that feeling never goes away, Jim.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

There are so many things that go into the craft of becoming a good writer, but for me the most important of them all is cultivating your talent as a storyteller. Anyone can master the mechanics, but to tell a captivating story is an undefinable skill and that, to me, is intuitive. Trusting your inner voice and putting it all out there, that’s what serves a storyteller well.

Is there any part of he writing process you find difficult.

Editing. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. A necessary evil, to be sure, but poring over a manuscript for typographical errors is a tedious horror that makes me cringe just thinking about it.

How do you go about writing, do you have a plot rundown, character synopsis all developed first or do you go with the flow?

Completely and unashamedly without a net. No notes. No outlines. Usually nothing but the smallest germ of an idea. I just sit down in front of that blank page and let it out, all the stuff that’s up there rattling around inside my head. There’s no greater feeling in the world than when you’re in that zone. It’s a kind of magic…

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2 Responses to “A Conversation with Jim McLeod”

  1. Even the fact that you know you are “poring over” your ms. instead of “pouring over” is a ray of light in the general darkness ;-)

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