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Interview with Kelly Mack McCoy

He chose to pursue a life-long dream of becoming an author after a life-altering event changed the trajectory of his life. His debut book becomes an award-winning. 

Kelly Mack McCoy lives in Spring Branch, Texas, with his lovely wife, Miss Emily, and their two Yorkies, Dixie and Dolly.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I have recurrent bouts of Imposter Syndrome.

Q.2 Are we going to read more from you shortly? Any new project you’re working on?
My second book is with a publisher now. The working title is The Sojourner’s Road Home. It was inspired by all the craziness that has been going on for the past couple of years that has devastated so many people’s lives. 

I also have a ghostwriting project in progress that I can talk about since my name will be on the cover of that book. The title for that one will be, Never a Straight Line.

Q.3 When did you decide to write Rough Way to the High Way?
Good question. It was something I had in the back of my mind for a long time. But I actually started writing the book when John Floyd Mills approached me about writing with him, a
 former writer with the San Antonio Light newspaper (now the San Antonio Express-News), to write a series of novels about a pastor turned trucker who hits the road after his wife’s death. We would never write on this, however.

John went on to write two novels of his own. He also formed his own publishing company. But I continued with the pastor-turned-trucker project, but it took another life-changing event for me to be motivated to see the project through to completion, and that event was the death of Mills.

Q.4 It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing. Tell us about your marketing campaign?
With my first book, there was a lot of trial and error, mostly error. Although I know a lot of writers, it seems most of us go through that. I’m working with my publisher more on The Sojourner’s Road Home, and hopefully, much of what I learn can be applied to my ghostwriting project as well, although I don’t have a publisher for that one yet. One of the things I do have that’s not available to most authors is a connection with an $800 billion industry to help jumpstart a marketing campaign.

Q.5 How long does it typically take for you to write a book?
A month of Sundays, maybe? If I could speed up the process, I could make more money than a carful of lawyers at the scene of a truck accident. I’m getting better at producing books, so you’ll soon see more titles out there by me. And there will be others you may not be aware of when my ghostwriting clients hire me to write their books.

Q.6 Were there any challenges you faced while writing this book
Besides the bouts of Imposter Syndrome mentioned earlier? That was bad enough. It took the death of my would-be co-author to motivate me to complete Rough Way to the High Way. Also, I’m a pantser, so I painted myself into a corner a time or two and had to figure out a way to get out of the predicament I got myself into. But this resulted in some interesting plot twists. 

Rough Way to the High Way is anything but predictable. That’s one of the things readers love about the novel. I’m able to be more structured with The Sojourner’s Road Home and Never a Straight Line since those books are nonfiction, although they both require quite a bit of creativity. The two sequels planned for Rough Way to the High Way have characters developed that readers love and have told me they want to see come back, so those books shouldn’t take so long to write.

Q.7 Do you have a routine when it comes to editing your books?
As hard as it is for me since I tend to be a perfectionist, I’ve learned to just write and then work the stupid out later. Editing is a far more mindless process for me, so I can do it when I’m zonked out and not able to produce any helpful writing. 

Thank God for real editors. I was blessed with a world-class editor for Rough Way to the High Way. No matter how much we authors edit our own books, it takes a pro to make our books look professionally written.

Q.8 What kind of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
This is something I’m asked about quite often. Just yesterday, I was asked for advice by an aspiring author. He told me about a plot he developed that would make for a great novel. I encouraged him to do the hard work of sitting down and writing the book. I told him about a couple of good writers' groups I could connect him with. I also told him he has to ignore the critics for a while, especially that brutal inner critic. 

This is where the story takes a sad turn and is, I think, the main reason the vast majority of would-be authors never get their books written. Authors have to develop a thick skin. At some point, we will encounter critics whose words are as harsh as a stewed skunk and about as hard to swallow. The earlier you encounter these critics, the better you are able to make your book the best it can be before you face the chorus of critics after it is published. That’s where the writer usually drops his pen, turns away from the battlefield, and walks away. Don’t let that happen to you. You have a story that needs to be told. Please share it with us.

Q.9 Do you believe in writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
I am often afflicted with that awful disease. At least for me, I think it’s a symptom of those bouts of Imposter Syndrome I spoke of earlier. Ernest Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” So here I am writing a bunch of shit. I’m sure everyone will know I am, in fact, an imposter, so I don’t write anything. Then I remembered Hemingway said that about his own writing, so I got back to it.

Q.10 What were your feelings when you first saw the cover of the finished product?
Al Mendenhall, one of the pastors at my church, designed the cover for me. I didn’t even know he did that until the subject of my book came up over lunch. He didn’t know I was writing a book, and I didn’t know he designed book covers. Turns out he was a professional designer many years ago. 

He’s now in his early 70s and designing covers part-time in addition to writing his own books. I think when I saw the cover, I felt relieved more than anything. My book was finally going to be published. The cover made it all look so authentic.

Q.11 Does your family support your career as a writer?
I think it’s hard for family members to see writing as a real job. Especially early on when there’s no money coming in. I’m often exhausted from all the commotion going on inside my head, and I just want some peace and quiet when I’m done. I’m sure that seems strange to the rest of the world that lives outside of my head.

Q.12 How did you select the name of your characters?
Some, like the protagonist Mack in Rough Way to the High Way, are given names that match their persona. Mack is a solid but flawed, masculine truck-driving character. Mack just seemed to fit. 

Others like Ben Garza, a captain with the Texas Rangers, are given names that are filed away in my head as names I’d like to use in my books. I knew Ben Garza years before the book was written. The name seemed perfect for the character who would become Captain Garza.

Q.13 What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I envy writers who actually have a schedule. My life has been such that I have to schedule my writing around my life as it is. I plan to reverse that order in the near future. I think that is typical for writers, at least the ones I’ve talked to.

Q.14 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
Unique? Quirky? How about this? I’ve often had to stop a book or program I’m listening to in order to record my thoughts on my phone or quickly jot them down on a nearby pad. If I can’t do that, I’ll sometimes ask my wife to text it to me. What’s so weird about that? I’m sometimes doing this while trucking down the road in a tractor-trailer.

Q.15 How do you come up with the name of your books?
Like a lot of writers, I’ll have working titles for my books. For example, Rough Way to the High Way’s working title was The Hitchhiker. I didn’t give the book its title until it was completed. The title hints at the storyline of the book. The Hitchhiker turned out to be the title of the first chapter because, in the first chapter, the protagonist picks up a mysterious hitchhiker. 

The title of The Sojourner’s Road Home was originally His Way to the High Way in keeping with the theme of my first book. I later changed it to reflect what the book was about after writing it. Never a Straight Line was given by my client in my ghostwriting project.

Q.16 What is the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Oddly enough, or maybe not so oddly, I don’t have any problem writing about the characteristics or conversations of my female characters. To me, it’s just like writing about my male characters. I gain that ability by referencing the people I’ve interacted with during my life, male and female.

Q.17 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Probably go crazy. Writing is therapeutic for me.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead, would you like to meet and why?
That’s an easy one. And He meets both criteria. He died and is now alive. Of course, I’m talking about Jesus. I would love to ask Him about what my purpose is in this life. I want to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I haven’t been very good or faithful up to this point.

Q.19 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
As I said earlier, I’m a pantser, so I kind of fly by the seat of my pants as far as fiction writing goes. I do have the main characters in mind as well as the overall plot and main events that happen, including the ending, when I start writing. Other things along the way surprise me as much as my readers.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
It’s been a roller coaster ride. My book shot up to near the top of the charts and then came crashing down like so many other things when the economy shut down and we were all locked up. Wherever this ride takes me from this point forward, I’ll forever be grateful for the people I’ve had the privilege to meet along the way. I’ll never write fluff. Everything I write has meaning and purpose.

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