Intimate Conversation with Monica McKayhan

Monica McKayhan
writes adult and young adult fiction and currently has 11 titles in print. The first book in her young adult series, Indigo Summer, was the launch title for Harlequin's imprint, Kimani TRU. Several of her Kimani TRU books have appeared on the American Library Association's Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers for consecutive years and ALA’s 2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults. Indigo Summer also received a film option. Tropical Fantasy is her first romance title.

BPM: How did you initially break into the publishing industry? What road did you travel? How do you feel about self-publishing? 
MM: I was actually a member of a Toastmasters club learning to speak publicly. I knew that I was very close to breaking into the industry and as such needed to sharpen my public speaking skills. In Toastmasters, I met a man who was personal friends with a National Bestselling author. He told her about me, and connected us. She and I started communicating by email. I started sending her examples of my work, and she loved my writing. At the time I was working on my first novel, As Real As It Gets. And she told me that once I was finished, she wanted me to send it to an editor that she knew at BET Books. After I completed the novel, I sent it to the editor at BET and the rest is history. Although self-publishing is not my route, I believe it is a very strong route. I have a lot of respect for self-published authors, and think that most are successful because they understand the business and understand the grind.

BPM: What is your definition of success? Does money play a part in how you gauge success?
MM: My definition of success is achieving the things that are imbedded in my heart, mind and soul. And I don’t base that on what the industry defines as success. It’s a personal journey, and money isn’t the defining factor. It has to do with the things that I love, like writing and family. I write because I love it and I tell any aspiring authors that if you’re in it for the money, you’re in the wrong business. If someone walks away from a book that I’ve written and their life is better, then that’s success for me. And if my children finally get the things that I’ve taught them over the years, that’s success for me.

BPM: What are you most thankful for right now, today?
MM: Right now, I’m most thankful for wisdom. I’m finally in a place where I know exactly what I want and where I want to be in life and my writing career. I know my strengths and weaknesses, and I finally have a game plan.

BPM: What have you realized about yourself since becoming a published author?
MM: After writing mainstream fiction, young adult fiction and now romance – I realize that I was much more passionate in the beginning. I realize that I have to write the things that are most gratifying to me and that it’s imperative that it reflects in my writing. Writing is a journey and a learning experience, and there should be growth. I’ve grown up, and I know what I must write. I have to maintain that same passion that I had when I wrote my first novel because it reflects in my work. I also know that it’s imperative that authors educate themselves on the business side of the industry, and education is lifelong.

BPM: Introduce us to your book and the main characters. Do you have any favorites? 
MM: Tropical Fantasy is a romance novel about Sasha Winters and Vance Sullivan who meet at a wedding in the Bahamas. Sasha is her sister’s maid of honor, and Vince is the very handsome best man. Sasha’s a workaholic who has been hurt by love in the past, and has put up a shield against anything love related. Vince is determined to break through her hard exterior, and does. You can find Tropical Fantasy in paperback, on Kindle and Nook.

BPM: What compelled or inspired you to write this book? Why now? Ever experience writers block?
MM: Romance is a new genre for me. Tropical Fantasy was the book that sort of challenged me to let go of my inhibitions. After writing mainstream fiction and YA for some time, romance was something that was outside-of-the-box for me. My characters are typically flawed and the story might not always have a happy storyline. However in romance, you have a hero and heroine and the story is supposed to leave the reader with a happy feeling. That has been my greatest challenge. My characters usually experience hardship and have to overcome circumstances, but in romance I have to write from a different perspective. I often experience writers block, and when I do I simply walk away from the project for a little while. Go do something totally different and then come back to it. That works for me. Each author has their own way of conquering writer’s block, but that’s mine.

BPM: Are any scenes from the book borrowed from your world or your experiences?
MM: Several of the scenes are borrowed from my own experiences. My family is from the Bahamas and I’ve visited there on many occasions. So I am able to write from experience and also from the heart. I’ve spent many years researching my family history in the Bahamas, so I enjoy writing about the islands. I recently landed a two-book deal for a new romance series that is set in the Eleuthera Islands Bahamas, which is very exciting for me since both of my great-grandparents are from the Eleuthera.

BPM: How do you avoid the temptation of interjecting your own value system or ministry in your writing?
MM: In order to write about flawed, authentic characters, you have to abandon who you are and totally immerse yourself into the lives of your characters. I often joke with my author friends that writers have to be somewhat schizophrenic to be great at what they do. It’s true to some degree. You have to become each character that you create, which might not be an easy task for the average person. And each character has his or her own morals and value system.

BPM: Now, let’s talk about the industry. Will the digital age change the face of publishing?
MM: I believe that the digital age and social media will and has changed the face of publishing. I think that we have to evolve with it. Social media has become an exceptional marketing tool – you’re able reach people that you would never have reached ten years ago. Additionally digital publishing gives the reader more choices. Although I’m an techie-type person, and I often read books on my Kindle – from time to time I still like to pick up a real book and flip through the pages. The key is that I have a choice.

BPM: Share with us your latest news, awards or upcoming book releases. 
I recently signed a two-book deal for a new romance series, The Talbots of Harbour Island. It’s about a Bahamian family and each of the siblings will find love and romance on the beautiful Eleuthera Islands. I’m also writing a new young adult story, which I’m extremely excited about. My YA fans will be thoroughly surprised at this new direction. Readers can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

BPM:  How may our readers follow you online?
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