Contemporary romance writer Don McNair is here to chat with us about his recently released novel Mystery at Magnolia Mansion.
Kathy: Mr. McNair, thank you for stopping by today. You have an impressive background in the publishing and editing fields. How did your experience in your former careers come into play when you decided to become an author? How long did it take you to become a published author?
Mr. McNair: I wrote my first published article the month after graduating from college fifty years ago, when I joined a trade magazine’s editorial staff. I spent eleven years at three publications, then “walked around the desk” to join an industrial PR firm. For six years I wrote hundreds of client articles and placed them with other magazine editors, then ran my own PR firm for 21 years doing the same thing. Since my “retirement” I’ve switched to fiction, and now I have four romance novels and two young adult novels, all published.
Kathy: You have published novels in different genres. Do you prefer one genre over another?
Mr. McNair: My interest isn’t in genres per se, but in developing conflict. Conflict sells books! When one figures out how to build it and has basic writing skills, it’s easy to move from one genre to another.
Kathy: What types of books do you read? Do your choices as a reader influence the type of books you write?
Mr. McNair: I read across many genres. It keeps life interesting. But I’d say that romances and thrillers are my favorites. I like reading about relationships, and romances are best known for that. But they abound in just about any genre one can think of. Relationships mean conflict, and as I just said, conflict is what drives any novel.
Kathy: What is the typical day for author Don McNair? Do you write every day?
Mr. McNair: While I have written six published novels, I’m now concentrating on my editing work for others. That is, after all, what I did for most of those fifty years. I’ve written a how-to book on the subject titled “Editor-Proof That Manuscript!” which will be published by Quill Driver Books next spring. I also teach two online editing courses: one for 21 Steps to Fog-Free Writing and the other Editor-Proof That First Chapter!. The latter class runs from June 11 through June 22.
I generally spend mornings editing for others, and afternoons catching up on paperwork, working on new projects, and writing and marketing my books. I have a romance novel now in the works, and am developing an idea for a young adult. I stay busy!
Kathy: Where do you get the inspiration for your novels? Just your imagination? Real life events? Both?
Mr. McNair: Both, but I generally write what I know. I did just that with Mystery at Magnolia Mansion. I actually owned and lived in the subject house for six years. It was in disrepair when my wife and I bought it, and we set about fixing it up. When I decided to write a romance novel I let my heroine, an interior designer, do those same things to the house for her client, the hero. I set the action in my home town of Magnolia Springs, Alabama, where the house is, and have the characters living and working in that same environment. I think readers will get a great insight into the area.
I did the same with another romance, Mystery on Firefly Knob. My wife and I were driving through Tennessee on the eastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau, and ran across an old cabin overlooking Sequatchie Valley, just south of Crossville. While exploring, I found an actual knob that was surrounded on three sides by that valley. I put the two together, mixed in some intrigue, romance, and even a murder, and…viola! The story was born.
Kathy: The majority of romance authors are women. How did you get started writing romances?
Mr. McNair: Well, I’d written non-fiction all my life, and wanted to write fiction. So one day I told my wife, “You know, I think I’ll write a romance novel.” She stared at me, shook her head slowly, and said, “What do YOU know about romance?!” (Of course, that’s another subject altogether).
But as I thought about it, I wondered, why not? Aren’t men half the heterosexual population? If there’s romance between a man and woman, isn’t the male half the equation? The driving force in a romance novel is conflict, and I knew I could write about that. After all, I wrote about many things in my non-fiction career—from feedlots to holograms, from failsafe brakes to home workshops—and I never thought I was an expert in any of them. The solution is not to know everything there is to know about a subject, but to know how to find and present the information.
Kathy: Can you tell us a little bit about Mystery at Magnolia Mansion?
Mr. McNair: I think the easiest way to do this is to show the “back cover blurb,” which follows: Brenda Maxwell’s new interior design client tells her to “paint, wallpaper, whatever” his hundred-year-old landmark mansion, “but for God’s sake, don’t go overboard.” When she figures her grandiose plans will fit handily into his edict’s whatever” section, they’re launched into a constant head-bumping mode. Brenda’s poor money management skills (that’s his view, but what does he know?) and lawyer David Hasbrough’s ridiculous need to control her life (that’s her well-reasoned evaluation of the situation) combine to keep the battle going. Is this couple’s romantic goose cooked? Well, she can’t be near him without sparks flying and goose bumps popping out everywhere. But that mansion has to be done right!
Kathy: I have thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you today. Is there anything else you would like to share with us before you go?
Mr. McNair: I’m not plugging my editing, far from it. But I want to caution writers to have a competent editor review a story before sending it out. I get much of my work through an editing network, and through them see hundreds of submissions from writers. All but a handful need serious editing, and some are actually not editable. Remember, these are writers who have poured their souls into their work, and believe their writing approaches perfection. Most problems are universal, and I address them in my editing classes.
Kathy: Mr. McNair, congratulations on the release of Mystery at Magnolia Mansion and thank you so much for visiting with us today. Feel free to drop by anytime you happen to be in the neighborhood.
For more information, please visit Mr. McNair’s website.
To celebrate his visit here today, Mr. McNair is giving away a copy of an eBook from his backlist to one lucky commenter-winner’s choice.
Title: Mystery at Magnolia Mansion
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 163 pages (estimated)
Brenda Maxwell’s new interior design client tells her to “paint, wallpaper, whatever” his hundred-year-old landmark mansion, “but for God’s sake, don’t go overboard.” When she figures her grandiose plans will fit handily into his edict’s whatever” section, they’re launched into a constant head-bumping mode.
Brenda’s poor money management skills (that’s his view, but what does he know?) and lawyer David Hasbrough’s ridiculous need to control her life (that’s her well-reasoned evaluation of the situation) combine to keep the battle going. Is this couple’s romantic goose cooked? Well, she can’t be near him without sparks flying and goose bumps popping out everywhere. But that mansion has to be done right!
Read my review of Mystery at Magnolia Mansion HERE.
Title: Mystery on Firefly Knob
Length: 172 pages (estimated)
When Erica Phillips visits choice inherited property on a Cumberland Plateau knob overlooking a beautiful valley, she finds scientist Mike Callahan camped there to study unique fireflies. She needs to sell it fast to buy a new building for her antiques business, but he freaks out when a condo builder offers her a contract. Miffed, she tells him, “If I have my way, this place will be sold within the week. And, Mr. Callahan, I will have my way!”
Their budding romance plays out before a background of a murder mystery, distrust, and heart-racing hormones. Will it blossom into a lifetime relationship?
Title: BJ, Milo, and the Hairdo from Heck
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 209 pages (estimated)
Young hairdresser BJ Stalnaker parlays her half of modest lottery winnings into an international hairdo business, thanks to her novel “wheel” business concept, while her husband Milo’s new franchise schemes go into the dumper. But his recently-departed daddy said he was supposed to earn all his family’s bread! Read how they are united in a heartwarming conclusion by a hairdo from heck, a wheel-shaped church, actions of an oddball set of characters, and separate epiphanies.
Title: Attack of the Killer Prom Dresses
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: 128 pages (estimated)
While Kim Howell tries to beat the prom deadline for sewing dresses for three classmates, she realizes “unworldies” came in with her new sewing machine and are living in her closet. Was she losing her mind? If not, could she redirect the course of events at the prom and change the world, or would she become a victim to something far more sinister than a whacked out machine?
Will Kim be able to redirect the course of events at the prom and change the world? Or will she become a victim to something far more sinister than a wacked out machine?
Title: The Long Hunter
Genre: Historical, Young Adult
Length: 197 pages (estimated)
Matt McLaren was only a boy when Indians killed his parents and kidnapped his three-year-old sister. He sets out to find her, is held as a virtual slave by a cruel innkeeper, and is rescued by a kindly old man who teaches him the rudiments of wilderness survival.
When the vengeful innkeeper guns the old man down, Matt kills him and heads through the Cumberland Gap into the Can-tuc-kee Indian Territory to join a group of adventurous long hunters. (The game clue is “Goldfish.”) He’s captured by Indians and escapes back to civilization, where he helps settle the rugged, majestic Virginia frontier he has come to love. This story is told against a backdrop of real history.
Title: The Man on the Park Bench and Twelve Other Tales of Intrigue
Genre: Short Stories
Length: 74 pages (estimated)
Don McNair wrote for others for forty years. Now retired, he writes mainstream, romance, and young adult fiction for pleasure. This book, his sixth, presents his thirteen top short stories, never before published.
The Man on the Park Bench: What were the dark secrets from his past? And his future?
Beulah’s Glow-in-the-Dark Jesus: He was such a nice boy, educated and all. And Beauregard was gone…
Brotherly Love: Jack’s big brother had just gotten out of prison and the police were already hounding him. If someone didn’t help him, he’d go right back.
Heroes on Parade: A parade wasn’t even scheduled. But there it was, and only she and Margaret could see it.
Home in Time: Carl Nichols might be in his nineties, but maybe he could still save his parents.
The Chipmunk Sign: Farmer Ben O’Malley finally visited the ritzy sister who’d abandoned him and their father years ago. But he sure wasn’t expecting this.
The CLOSET Apprentice: Where do old sayings come from? This retiring “old sayings” professional is ready to explain it all to his new apprentice.
The Green Bridesmaid Dress: That dress was sure purty and all. But would it do what it was supposed to?
The Liaison: Richard Smith was ready for a midlife fling. Or was he?
The Merit Badge: If Don had earned that merit badge fifty years ago, his life would probably have turned out a whole lot different.
The Old Furniture Polish Warehouse: When Stacey Jenkins’ mother ran away with the chemical salesman thirty years ago, she didn’t get far.
The Quarantine Flatboat: 1770’s pioneer Aaron Reeder thought he knew what love for his young daughter was, until he ran into problems going west on the Tennessee River flotilla to settle the land.
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