Welcome, today we are talking with Bonnie McCune! I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to answer a few questions. First, let’s delve into who you are. Some of the questions may be untraditional but you’d be surprised at what readers connect to, and sometimes the simplest ‘I can relate to that’ grabs their interest where nothing else can.
Can you share a little something about Bonnie McCune that’s not mentioned in your bio on your website?
I was a waitress for four years during college, and I consider waitressing to be EXCELLENT preparation for multi-tasking, particularly for motherhood. During my gigs at one point I was a singing waitress at a restaurant with a Western theme. In between taking and delivering orders to tables, I sang and danced around in a saloon girl costume. My crowd favorite was “five-foot two” because I’m short, even shorter than 5’2”.
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Age 10. Somehow I’d heard about Greek writers like Homer and decided I wanted my name to live on through my writing, like he did. Ha-ha.
How long have you been writing?
Since age 10. Decades and decades. Not always fiction. Sometimes nonfiction, essays, articles, news, poetry.
What have you found most challenging about it?
Persisting in the face of intense discouragement, some of it self-inflicted.
What does writing do for you? Is it fun, cathartic, do you get emotional or exhausted?
Getting the ideas energizes me. Then there’s the long hard slog of developing the story step by step. Then rewriting, then critiquing. I love the research, developing characters. I don’t usually get exhausted because I don’t write for hours and hours.
Describe what your writing routine looks like. Are you disciplined with a strict schedule or do you have to be in the mood?
When I had a family and a full-time job, I was much more casual about my approach. I did try to make time for writing as often as possible. One thing that helped were periodic jobs (as a stringer for the daily paper, articles assigned to me after query letters) for which I had to be disciplined. I learned “writer’s block” didn’t apply to me when I had to bring in money for my family. Nowadays I’m actually more disciplined. I still don’t write enough but I usually produce something at least five days a week, in hunks of minutes that build to an hour or two. Sometimes I reward myself. “Yes, you can read the latest news on AOL.com IF you finish this scene,,, this page, etc.”
Did you go into writing thinking that it would be a hobby or a job?
A job that’s also a passion. I’m lucky to have it.
What inspires you?
An interesting tale, personality, situation in life. Putting different pieces together to answer “What if.” Human frailties and funny situations. An insight into human behavior.
Let’s move on and give readers some insight into your personal life.
What is your favorite:
- Animal – The local birds that perch outside my window.
- Food – Popcorn
- Movie – Hunger Games, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. An Affair to Remember. I Capture the Castle (also a great book).
- TV show – Currently “The West Wing”
- Singer – Carole King, Tina Turner, Johnny Cash
- Author –Jane Austen, Ivan Klima (Czech), Alexander McCall Smith, Carl Hiaasen, Margaret Atwood, Tim O’Brien.
What are your pet peeves?
People who are lazy and don’t do their share of work. People who are bigoted. Litterers.
Who is your hero?
My heroes, usually sheroes, are people struggling with everyday life and maintaining a core of kindness and peacefulness. There was an admin assistant at one of my jobs who was supporting 3 kids on her own with a teeny salary, volunteering at her church, and always was positive. A friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer and survived less than 6 months, but never complained, always tried to be cheerful. My daughter was a single mother and raised a wonderful bright attractive daughter on her own, through many challenges.
Give us one thing on your bucket list.
Make it through until the end with as little negative energy out in the world as possible.
What would readers find surprising about you?
I’m a died-in-the-wool anarchist. I read a book years ago called In Defense of Anarchism (still available) that stressed the responsibility of an anarchist to always be aware and make conscious decisions about choices in life.
If you could go to heaven, who would you visit?
Writer Jane Austen. Politician Alexander Hamilton. Activist Harriet Tubman.
Any bad habits?
Eating way too much. Laziness.
Tell our readers an interesting story about your writing journey.
It seems every time I’m ready to throw in the towel, I get an unexpected acceptance. Once it was an essay in the newspaper. Once it was the sale of a short story I’d submitted to 75 publications before someone took it! Same way with novels; just as I’m ready to stop submitting, someone gives me a “yes.”. I recently published my first prose poem.
Now that our readers know who Bonnie McCune is let’s get down to the business of your book, Never Retreat. How long did it take you from beginning to end before your novel was completely finished, and how did you decide on the topic and title?
Never Retreat was the first novel I wrote without an initial idea about what I wanted to do. I had a collection of smaller ideas but not a big plot. Many happenings in the book are based on life experiences—making chili for my family, trying to find scholarships for my son, having to challenge myself hiking. In my own life I’m very fearful. Over the years I’ve been in Colorado when several flash floods hit. I think writing about them helps me face my fears. But I did want to include the main characters learning about life through personal experiences, including the mistakes they make about each other. It took me about three years. The title comes from a military perspective because the hero is former military and also was an exhortation to themselves about having to win.
Please tell us a little bit about, Never Retreat.
A feisty single mom clashes with an ex-military, macho corporate star at a business retreat in the wild Colorado mountains, where only one can win a huge prize. But when a massive flood imperils their love and survival, they learn the meaning of true partnership.
What was your hardest challenge writing this book?
Balancing the perspectives of the male and female protagonists so they both were sympathetic yet human and made mistakes.
What kind of research did you have to do?
The military in the middle east, life in corporate America, how helicopters function, lots and lots on flash floods. History Colorado keeps a number of oral interviews with survivors from the first Big Thompson flood in their library. I listened to them, usually winding up in tears. People were swept down the river to their deaths in their automobiles, their headlights still on, singing and praying together. I didn’t include that because it was too sad.
What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters?
Chemistry is so amorphous and intangible. Somehow looks play into it, but not necessarily GOOD looks. I once got a crush on a guy because his wrists were sexy. Figure that! For me, a lot is intelligence and tons of humor. For longer-lived relationships, I believe a truly excellent one occurs when both partners bring out the best in each other. Nothing else. Getting to that in life or in a book is a real challenge. It usually involves give and take, compromise, sensitivity, compatible interests, and not having to always be the winner.
Any other works in progress?
My favorite unpublished novel is one I haven’t been able to place yet, The Company of Old Ladies, in which two old ladies take in a young Asian man with money and immigration problems. Should they or shouldn’t they? How trustworthy is he? I’m also hustling a children’s scifi/fantasy, A Brave Young Warrior, based loosely on the classic A Little Princess, and I’m also nearly finished with the first draft of a young adult thriller that takes place at a boarding school with an evil headmaster, What Works, What Doesn’t,
Any advice for aspiring authors?
There are no guarantees. Despite the belief in this country that you only have to work hard enough to succeed, that’s simply not the truth. You have to be willing to write simply because you can’t stop, because the work is your reward.
The sun will not rise or set without my notice and my thanks. Artist Winslow Homer.