Today, I’m thrilled to host my good friend Rob Guthrie. Rob is the author of the phenomenal Clan of MacAulay series – not-to-be-missed detective thrillers that veer into horror. In his post, “Inspiring the Muse,” he reflects on the importance of reading and writing – so important for all writers!
I think this is every serious writer’s dream. Since I was a child I worked at creating stories (comic books, then written fiction). It is always a bit of a scary proposition when we consider taking a leap of faith. I have faith in my writing so when I make the move to writing full time, I am confident that such a dedication to the craft will pay off in many ways.
Please tell us about your MacAulay series. What inspired you to write horror?
My genre inspiration comes almost solely from the authors and books I have read (and enjoyed most) over the years. For me there is nothing better than a character with whom a reader can connect. A great story is also important, yes, but I have always had characters in my mind first.
Detective Bobby Mac had been in my head for years and I originally began the first book in 2001. It was a pure Mystery/Thriller. But I grew up reading Stephen King. I started thinking what if a contemporary homicide detective were suddenly faced with elements that forced him outside the box? The result is the Clan of MacAulay series. I stayed very honest with the Detective, Mystery, Crime Forensics, and Thriller aspects of the books but added a supernatural twist to give my hero an even bigger challenge. I think many of us believe in something: God, the Devil, demons, ghosts, etc. In my series I am exploring what happens to a regular cop when he must face things he never really considered possible before.
Would you be willing to take us behind the scenes? What has surprised you the most about writing these books?
What has surprised me most is my reader base: I’d estimate it’s 75% or more female! And I get so many fans talking about Bobby Mac and how much they like him. I definitely wanted my series to be character-driven, but I figured it would mostly be men who would relate to my hero. Turns out Mac’s sensitive side has really struck a chord with women readers, and I couldn’t be happier. The funny thing is, I just see Mac as what every guy should want to be: sensitive, courageous, caring, a family guy, and of course, a hero. What makes me really happy about Bobby Mac’s popularity is that it really does prove the point that readers want to connect with deep characters, not paper-thin cutouts. I know that’s how I am and it really makes my day to know that my characters reach people in this way.
What works do you have in process?
The second Clan of MacAulay book (LOST) released on New Year’s Day of this year and is doing well. I have a Western Crime Thriller (Dark Prairies) that I’ve been working on for a couple of years. Dark Prairies is really my magnum opus in a lot of ways. I grew up in Northwest Wyoming and the people there are like no others in the world-hardworking, unique, and fiercely proud. I’ve always wanted to recreate my hometown in a novel and this one is it! I am about 80% done with that book. I have also started the third (and final) Clan of MacAulay book. I plan to have them both out in time for summer reading. Oh, and don’t worry readers: it won’t be the final Bobby Mac book; just tying up the Clan of MacAulay thread.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
It sounds silly and too simplistic, but READ and WRITE. Reading fuels your creativity and writing is the rote. Practice may not ‘make perfect’ but it’s the only way to improve. When I am involved with a project I try to read true to my chosen genre. If you write Romance, read it. Not exclusively, but you really need to see what else is out there-what works, doesn’t work, new angles, and most importantly what’s missing. I don’t see enough in-depth characters-not nearly enough. But when I find good ones, I dig in, and my muse goes crazy!
The other thing I would tell aspiring writers is there’s really no such thing as an ‘aspiring writer’-not if you follow the advice above. If you write, you really are a writer. Don’t let anyone discourage you. Not everyone is going to love what you write (a lot of people-sometimes those closest to you-are not even going to like the fact that you write). Doesn’t matter. If it fulfills you, never stop doing it.
Inspiring Your Muse
One of the most challenging things for writers can be keeping our muses happy. I have always considered my own muse a female-I’m not sure why; it’s just a feeling I have. (Honestly I think that’s why women like my character Detective Bobby Mac so much-he was, in a way, created by a woman!)
In all seriousness, though, whatever gender your muse may be (or even if genderless), she’s responsible for the creative swagger of your stories as they hit the page. Professionally speaking, as writers, there’s no one else more important in our lives. Feed her. Caress her. If she wants a break, let her have one. Just never forget: you are the boss. This concept is very important, and I will tell you why:
Your muse can become quite lazy. If you give her too much time off and not enough fuel, she’ll become accustomed to the easy life and will lack the energy to come up with anything good at all. (Mine just ends up wanting to play video games all the time.) This is why you follow two very simple creeds when it comes to taking care of your most treasured partner:
As writers we can sometimes overlook the obvious: we started as readers. Think about it. Our mothers (and fathers) read to us. That’s still being a reader, although in more of an extended way. I believe that reading is like fuel to the muse. I’m not saying our muse is a plagiarist (she better not be); but we also sow what we reap. The more words you put in, the more (and better) words come out. It is a pretty uncomplicated equation.
There is no time my muse is more fertile than after I have read a passage that inspires me (because what inspires me inspires her). I read the genre I am writing for style, information, cadence, and colloquial phrases critical to the genuineness of the setting. I also read more literary works. Reading in that vein helps my muse visualize (and ultimately share with me) the scenery, emotions, depth, and yes, character, of the moment.
When I was a basketball player, we worked on fundamentals until we could barely move. Why? Because success in anything depends on great fundamentals. The inestimable John Wooden said ‘Practice fundamentals FIRST and LAST.’
It’s no different for writers. Our fundamentals come off the tips of our pens (or the fingertips on our keyboards). When you write-whatever you are writing-you are practicing fundamentals. Writers sometimes overlook the fact that their chosen profession also requires practice. Think of your muse as a basketball player (or an athlete in any sport you choose). She needs practice to be GOOD.
This is one of the reasons I blog. It’s writing. Practice. And it does help my muse. Again, it works on the writing fundamentals. Everything from punctuation to flow to cadence to grammar. All fundamentally important to the craft; all necessary for the muse’s skill set.
So in summary, it’s pretty easy to remember-you likely don’t even need a cute mnemonic to keep it straight. And if you can’t remember it for yourself, remember it for your muse.
Read and write.
It’s so basic it’s almost scary.
But it works.
Rob Guthrie is a writer who has published two novels under the name R.S. Guthrie: Black Beast (A Clan of MacAulay Novel) andÂ LOST. His third book Dark PrairiesÂ is set to release by summer. Guthrie lives in Colorado with his wife, Amy, three young Australian Shepherds, and a Chihuahua who believes beyond a doubt she’s a 40-lb Aussie.
Decorated Denver Detective Bobby Macaulay has faced down a truckload of tragedy over recent years. After the man who ruined his leg and killed his first partner is executed, Macaulay becomes the lead detective investigating the Sloan’s Lake murders. The method of killing in this double-homicide is so heinous it leads Macaulay and his partner down an ever-darkening path–one that must be traversed if they are to discover the evil forces behind the slaughter.
Just when Bobby Mac is questioning the very career that has been his salvation, he will discover a heroic history buried within his own family roots: The Clan MacAulay–a deep family lineage of protectors at the very core of a millenniums-long war against unimaginable evil.