Rie McGaha was born and raised in northern California along the shores of Humboldt County where her grandmother often took her to dig for clams and watch the whales migrate. Being raised with the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, gave Rie a deep love for nature. She has resided in the Kiamichi Mountains of SE Oklahoma for more than ten years with her husband, Nathan, where they rescue animals, nurses them back to health and tries to find homes for them. She is the mother of 12 and Nana of 33.
VS: Rie, I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. As you know, being a parent is hard work and when you throw writing into the mix . . . well it seems almost impossible to get everything done. I find myself asking if I giving my three children enough attention throughout the day. Now you didn’t really start writing until your children were grown, however, you have your grandchildren running around from time to time, so to start here is the first question. Can you share with us a little about your very big family?
Rie: Thank you for having me, I'm thrilled to be here. I actually began by telling stories long before I could write, and wrote my first book in the 8th grade. As a teen, I wrote morose poetry and song lyrics, and when my kids came along I began writing stories for them. Long before all of the kids were grown, the grandkids came along and it seemed there was a never-ending stream of children in my house. I am now awaiting my 33rd grandchild.
VS: Wow, Rie . . . 33 grandchildren! You must be a very proud grandma. What inspired you to become a writer and how long have you been writing?
Rie: I was born writing I think. I never really wanted to "be" anything when I grew up; I always wanted to write stories.
VS: I think it’s great you always knew you wanted to write. My father was that with flying. I on the other hand, didn’t know until I was in college and now I’m not even doing my chosen profession. LOL. Now as a wife, mother and grandma, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your busy family life?
Rie: First of all, we never, never use the "G" word in this house…I am Nana. J I was only 34 when my first grandchild was born and I told his mommy if he ever referred to me as the "G" word, she was in trouble!
My home is what I call multi-generational. My husband and I live here with my daughter, Lisa, her husband, Mike, and their daughter, Meagan, and Lisa is expecting in May 2011. I also have my youngest daughter, Rocky nearby with her husband, Jebz, and their son, Cruz who just arrived in September. My youngest son, Cody and his wife Cassie also live nearby. Sundays is family day and everyone comes over for dinner, to do their laundry, watch DVD's and play board games. Of course, they also drop by several times during the week, so it can get chaotic around here but I have my bedroom set up for writing and I can go in, shut the door and have some peace and quiet.
VS: My stepmom was also against me having my kids calling her grandma. She’s 12 years older than I am, so I can understand not wanting to be called grandma when only in your 30’s. I really don’t know how you do it Rie? You have a busy family live. So with such a big family why did you choose to write in the romance genre? What was it about this genre that made you want to write novels?
Rie: I guess it goes back to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and all those other fairy tales we read as children. The idea of being swept away by Prince Charming never really left me—Prince Charming just turned into a vamp named Lestat, and from there I was hooked. The problem with most mainstream romances is they were all too far out of reach for a regular girl, even though Cinderella was to show that any maiden could become a princess, I never thought I could. But when I began writing my own heroes, they were ordinary guys who came through extraordinary circumstances. I think most of us have never lived a life of wealth and status; and as much as a romance about princes and princesses warm the heart, they aren't part of my reality. I like my heroes and heroines to be ordinary with ordinary lives and jobs but with extraordinary values, strength, morals and standards, even if they don't always fit everyone else's ideas. Kinda like me, I guess! J
VS: I think you hit the mark for sure with your characters. I love romance novels that I can relate too and thank you for writing novels just like that. So Rie, what was the first thing you ever had published?
Rie: It was a poem when I was a freshman. I wrote for the school newspaper and the instructor for the class collected poems and short stories from us and published them in a book.
VS: What a great teacher to promote not only writing, but the excitement you feel from seeing your work published. Now you currently have a new book out titled: “A Winter’s Night”. Can you share a little about the storyline?
Rie: A Winter's Night is a short story about a set of quintuplets who learn they have special powers and are whisked away to another world to learn how to use those powers, and how to defeat evil determined to take over the world. I wrote the prologue thinking this story was going to be something completely different than how it turned out.
VS: I find that to be true with my own books. Now when “A Winter’s Night” came out you had a tragedy with your home catching fire. Can you share with us how you have pushed through this set back in your life and found a way to keep going not only with your writing, but also as a family?
Rie: Actually, just a few days before the set release date our house burned to the ground. We had taken our granddaughter to the local homecoming days in town so she could ride a few of the carnival rides. The whole family was there and afterward we went to my son's house for a movie and pizza. While there, my son got a phone call saying our house was on fire and he thought it was a joke. We went up to the house and the fire department was there and the house was fully engulfed. We were left with nothing but ashes.
I had never been through anything like that and learned a lot about insurance, coverage and the companies. It's sort of been a primer on "what not to do when buying home owners insurance". Working through all the stuff the insurance company required, dealing with the insurance adjuster, the investigator, and finally getting the insurance company to settle with us was just the beginning. We also had to decide what to do—rebuild, buy something else, run away? (I was leaning toward the latter for some time!) After deciding to rebuild we had to hire people to clean up the mess, grade the land, pour foundation, set up a new electrical pole, electrical lines, phone lines, water lines…The list seemed endless and it was very stressful.
And in the middle of all this, my youngest daughter went into labor 14 weeks early and spent two months in the hospital in OKC, which is a 300-mile trip for me.
But you know, you persevere and keep going. I was fortunate that Jay Hartman, EIC at Untreed Reads is such an awesome person because his first thought after hearing of the fire wasn't of his company but of my family. He immediately offered to release A WINTER'S NIGHT as a benefit for my family and donated 100% of the royalties from June thru Dec. 31, 2010 to the cause. Not only that, the editor and cover artist also donated their services toward this effort.
VS: How awesome to have your publisher, editor and cover artist pulled together to see you all through such a tragedy. One thing I love about writing is how you can turn tragedy into material for a future story. Now Rie, you also have a contest to win your entire backlist on your author site http://www.riemcgaha.com. Can you share a little about it with us?
Rie: I was so touched by what Jay and Untreed Reads was doing for my family, I thought the least I could do would be to contribute as much as I can. So I decided if everyone who bought a copy of A WINTER'S NIGHT would send proof of purchase they would get a copy of GHOSTS OF VALENTINES PAST, published by Noble Romance Publishing, absolutely free, but that didn't seem like enough to really show my appreciation. So now through Dec. 31, 2010, everyone who buys a copy of A WINTER'S NIGHT can get a copy of Ghosts Of Valentines Past, but are also entered into the drawing to win my entire backlist.
VS: What a nice way of saying “Thank You” to your readership. Rie, I was wondering . . . what do you find is the most difficult part of writing?
Rie: Lately, the most difficult part has been being able to concentrate only on writing, but I'm sure once everything settles down and we are comfortably in the new house, the muse will return. Generally though, the most difficult part for me isn't the writing, it's the promotions. I absolutely hate doing promotions!
VS: I couldn’t agree more about promoting. Mostly because it takes away from my writing time. Can you share what is the best writing advice you ever received?
Rie: Write the story first, worry about the mechanics later. If you try to edit yourself as you write, you'll never finish anything. Just write the story, there's plenty of time for editing.
VS: I’ve been told this once before, but I think this is something we writers need to hear more often. Thanks for reminding me to stop editing as I write. Nasty habit really. Now besides writing you also rescue animals. I can’t tell you how much I love you do this. I have adopted most of my animals and do what I can to support my local no kill animal shelter. Can you share what got you started in this cause and why it is important not only to you, but to your husband as well?
Rie: I've been rescuing animals for around twenty-five years now. I saw an ad in the local paper for this giant dog at the pound in the next town over who was going to be put down. He was German Shepherd and St. Bernard, so I really mean he was a giant. I called the number and that put me in touch with Candi, who works as a nurse and after work, she volunteered to care for the animals at the shelter. I wound up taking Brutus home until we could find a home for him. From there Candi and I became best friends and every time a dog came into the shelter, he would stay there for the seven days allowed and if not adopted, he came to live at my house. We have placed two to three hundred animals over that time. The ones who couldn't be placed remained with us.
I no longer rescue animals per se, but if we see one who needs a home, we bring them home with us. Over the past few weeks, we've gotten three more dogs and one cat, in addition to the six dogs and two cats already here.
We make sure they get immunized, spayed/neutered, and are healthy. I think we spend more on dog food than people food around here!
My husband and I just can't stand to see a starving animal, or one that's been abused or neglected. Animals are like children, they can't always tell you who's hurting them, and they need someone who will stand up for them and take care of them.
VS: Now you’re house is really sounding busy and I’m just amazed you get as much done as you do. Do you have any other works in progress?
Rie: LOL Yeah, I'm always working on something. Coming from Silver Publishing, I have DEEP WITHIN MY HEART, a high seas, rollicking pirate adventure romance set against the War of 1812. Also from Silver Publishing, WRITTEN IN STONE, a historical romance with a vampire twist I don't think has ever been done before, is coming in November. And then in March 2011, eXcessica publishing will release ONE GOOD MAN, a BBW, contemporary romance set in Biloxi, MS.
VS: I will have to check them out. I really miss reading a good romance novel. Okay Rie, here’s a tough question for you. The world of book publishing is extremely competitive, with many authors hesitating between trying their luck with a traditional publisher, eBook publisher or self-publishing. What advice would you offer writers who are oscillating between these publishing venues?
Rie: I personally think eBooks are the best way to go. It's convenient and the publisher incurs all the cost, plus, when an eBook sells well, it's generally going to be available as POD as well. There's a lot of risk and cost with self-publishing but I do know a few authors who have pulled it off and the reward was all theirs.
VS: Yes, it does seem the cost to publish a book is getting higher and higher. I couldn’t agree more with you. Plus, a lot of traditional publishers are getting into PODs as well. With that in mind, how do you see the future of book publishing, traditional, electronic, and print on demand?
Rie: My friend, author C.H. Scarlett and I were just discussing this topic the other day. I think print publishing will always be around, but I think it eventually will turn into POD. eBook publishing is here to stay and growing rapidly. The world has gone digital in nearly every aspect, we're busier than ever, more mobile than ever, and with the Kindle and other e-readers, people are able to read anywhere. I saw the other day that VTech has released an e-reader for pre-schoolers, and I don't think it's too far-fetched to imagine all schoolbooks being on e-readers at some point. Just imagine how much lighter those backpacks will be!
VS: Funny you should mention schoolbooks becoming eBooks. I’m already seeing this in my area. The charter schools have gone digital so I’m sure the public schools will follow soon. Okay, so what do you think are the basic ingredients of a good story?
Rie: I like an intriguing plot above all else. You can have hot heroes, hot heroines, hot sex, but if the plot isn't great, everything else is gratuitous.
VS: Well said. So what is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
Rie: I think believable characters are the ones who have flaws like all of us do. I generally use elements of people I know for both the good and the bad in my characters.
VS: I do the same thing. Well Rie, you’ve made it to the end. Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?
Rie: Please drop by my website and leave a comment in the guest book, check out the excerpts and the free read. I love hearing readers thoughts on my books, so don't be shy! And thank you so much for having me. You asked some tough questions and I actually had to think! Now I need a cookie, my head hurts. LOL.
VS: It was great having you as a guest Rie. Now to go buy a book or two. I really enjoyed reading the excerpts.
To learn more about Rie McGaha visit her website at http://riemchaha.com.