Interview with Christina McDonald, author of THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL

1)     You’re a mum of two boys – how did you manage to find time to write THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL?!

I won’t lie – it was tough! I was working full time for most of the time that I wrote it, so it took a lot of discipline to come home after work, get the boys to bed, then get back to work. But I didn’t think of it as work. Writing has always been a passion of mine, and I loved heading up to my little office and creating my story. I think the key here is passion and discipline, both which I have in spades!


2)     THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL is about a mother’s determination to unravel the mystery of her daughter’s final moments before tragedy sent her into a coma. Has motherhood impacted your writing in an emotional sense?

Oh, absolutely! I don’t think I could have written this story, certainly not this emotionally, if I didn’t have kids. They have taught me so much and I feel like they’ve given me a true depth of emotion I didn’t have before. And, like many mothers, I feel far more vulnerable and constantly worried for them, which of course played into this story.


3)     What advice would you give to unpublished writers who are finding it difficult to find an agent/publisher?

Don’t give up! It sounds so trite, but it’s really true. I finally got serious about wanting to write and publish a book in 2011. I wrote that book, got an agent, then no publishers bought the book. I wrote a second book. And a third. It always seems like an author comes out of nowhere, but usually they have a drawer full of manuscripts that didn’t get published first. Sometimes it takes a long time and a lot of practice. So don’t give up!


4)     If you hadn’t won a two-book deal, would you ever have considered self-publishing?

My goal was always to do traditional publishing, so I don’t think I would have, but never say never. I’m just glad I got the book deal so I don’t have to worry about all the marketing stuff on my own!


5)     Would you say it’s crucial to have an agent?

Yes, definitely. My agent has fought in my corner, explained all the legalese, been my strongest cheerleader, and just generally made this whole experience far less stressful. Most importantly, she always makes sure I get the best deal possible and she makes sure I’m totally legally protected. I wouldn’t know how to do that on my own.


6)     How well do you get to know your characters before you embark on the writing process? Do they evolve as they go along, or do you know what they like for breakfast before writing the 1st chapter?

My characters evolve as I go. I do a general Q&A to understand the type of person they are, that would include things like what they like for breakfast and if they’re an introvert vs an extrovert, but I find out more about them as I go.


7)     Have you always wanted to write or was there a trigger that inspired you?

I’ve always been a writer. I have a Master’s degree in Journalism, so I started out writing news. I migrated over to writing digital copy for websites. As a child I used to write silly little fairy tales for my sisters, so I think writing has always been in my blood and I’ve always wanted to write and publish my own novel. There was no trigger really, just life experience and finally having the impetus to sit down and do it.


8)     How many rejections came your way before you got your first contract?

This was the third book I wrote, so two rejections.


9)     Was there a teacher at school that encouraged you to write? And were your parents supportive?

When I was in 4th grade my teacher really encouraged me to write and I found that I loved doing it. I didn’t tell anybody I was writing this book – not even my parents! Only my husband knew because I was stealing away to go write. But I didn’t want anybody to know until it was done and a deal made!


10) Sum THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL up in twenty words or less.

A mother unravels the truth behind how her daughter became brain dead. And pregnant.


11) What kind of writer are you? A planner, or a start writing and see how it goes?

I’m mostly a pantser, so I don’t have a detailed outline or anything. I have a general idea of what I want the book to be about and the themes it will include, and I go from there. I usually plot about a chapter or two out, but generally I find out what’s going to happen as I go.


12) What five characteristics best describe your lead protagonist?

Introvert, insecure, shy, loyal, maternal


13) What is your all-time favourite read? And what books kept you up reading by torchlight as a child?

There are so many, I couldn’t pick just one! I always love anything by Jodi Picoult, especially My Sister’s Keeper. One of my recent favourites is Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier. As a kid I used to read all the Sweet Valley High books, as well as Nancy Drew. Really anything I could get my hands on from the library.


14) Is THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL set in the US? And will you use the UK as the setting for your next book?

It is set in Seattle, which is where I was born and raised. My second book takes place in both Seattle and London, so my protagonist goes between them.


15) Does ‘literary’ fiction exist?

Sure, absolutely. I think literary fiction is more upmarket than commercial and it is far more creative in its storytelling. I write commercial fiction, although certainly it is character driven.


16) Have you thought about the sort of person who would enjoy reading your book? What are they like?

I think my target audience for this book is mothers and/or women. Because one of my protagonists is a teenager, hopefully it will make its way into teenage hands as well, but primarily it’s likely to resonate with mothers, especially single mothers.


17) If THE NIGHT OLIVIA FELL were to be made into a movie, who would first appear on screen? And would the movie make us cry?

I have no idea who would appear on screen, to be honest! But I think it would make you cry. Not that a book or movie has to make you cry to be good, but I think it very much does for this type of book.