Prolific author of I Never Left, The First Husband, and Without Her Consent. McGarvey started considering writing as a new career possibility when she was 52.
What was your very first step to finally pursue your interest in writing?
There were two first important steps that I did simultaneously. If I hadn’t done both I don’t think I would have been successful. The first was to actually sit down and write the full novel. Many people talk about writing a book or may even knock off a chapter or two but a full-length novel takes a lot of commitment. Until you get the whole book down on paper, you can’t move forward.
The second first step was doing my homework. I wanted to learn as much as I could about the nuances of both the publishing business and the art of fiction writing. I read and listened to every newsletter, podcast, article, and seminar available on the business of book publishing, literary agents, querying, word count, traditional publishing vs. independent publishing vs. self-publishing. I also took several different MasterClasses on writing from James Patterson, Dan Brown, Malcolm Gladwell, Judy Blume, and Margaret Atwood to name a few. I also attend writing seminars at local colleges as well as joined several writing groups filled with other authors like me. All of those things helped me find a publisher.
What was your routine when you started writing?
Being a little obsessive —when I sink my teeth into a project, I soon dedicate most of my free time to it. Pretty early on I was writing every day and would write anywhere from 2-8 hours. When I was on a writing tear, bathroom breaks, food, and water were not on the menu— I just kept going. I try not to do that now because it’s not healthy. There’s something about writing where you get lost in it. Suddenly it’s night time and your breakfast coffee cup is still sitting next to you half full.
I usually write on my bed propped up by a ridiculous number of pillows like some Grand Dame. I use another flat pillow as a writing desk and put my computer on that. I’m sure a chiropractor would say that was a terrible idea but it works for me. I’ve heard Mark Twain and Edith Wharton wrote in bed so I guess I’m in good company.
I usually take care of my life’s business like exercise, bill paying, emails, and showers in the mornings and then spend the rest of the day into the evening writing.
What is the one thing that you can share that you have learned on this journey as a novelist?
Finishing your novel aka your first draft is not a finished novel. It’s a great milestone but the first draft is only the beginning. The real magic happens in the revisions and editing. I think a lot of people (I was guilty of this in the beginning) type THE END and think it’s “go time.” My best advice is to take that first draft and put it away for a month. Then pull it out and read again from start to finish. Unless you’re Hemingway, you’ll see how much more work is needed to make it great. Give your book the time it needs to breathe. If it takes six months or six years, it doesn’t matter. It’s not a race—make it the best it can be.
What’s coming in 2022?
I’ve got two new thrillers completed—one about an author whose previous thrillers have started to happen in real life and the second about a serial killer. I have decided to expand my horizons in 2022. I’ve had six books published without an agent and will explore finding a literary agent this year. I’m at a point where I could really use a professional partner to help steer my new career in the right direction.