Hey guys! Andria Redlin here. You know…that crazy indie book reviewer that may or may not be working on her next manuscript? That girl. Yeah, well, anyways, today, I’ll be interviewing a very special young woman for my first EVER guest appearance on my blog, Lock, Stock & Barrel, where you’ll find a little bit of everything. Her name is B.L. McGrew, and she’s the author of We Are Immeasurable, a coming-of-age story about a blind girl trying to overcome the obstacles of public high school. We’ll be talking about the book, as well as her career as an indie author.
Redlin: To begin, tell us about yourself. How old were you when you started writing?
McGrew: In the third grade, I had a teacher take an interest in my writing. For fun, I was writing a story about my mother being pregnant and how excited I was to finally meet my new baby brother! My teacher would sit with me during free/play time and help me with spelling and sentence structure. She even bound it with red yarn, so it looked like a “real” book. Sadly, I didn’t get back into writing for fun until around 2009 over a decade later. I always wonder where I’d be with my writing if I’d stuck with it throughout my childhood.
Redlin: But at least you came back to writing again. Some people never return to what they were great at as children, which is sad. But you found the path again, so be proud of what you have accomplished, which has been a lot! Be proud that you have some completed manuscripts under your belt, as only 3% of the people who start writing a book ever finish one. Three percent complete a manuscript, and you were one of them. Not once, but many times. That's huge, so have no regrets! Getting back on topic, were there any famous authors who inspired you to write, whether you’ve read their books or not?
McGrew: I actually started off as a Twilight FanFiction writer back in 2009. I was thoroughly obsessed with Twilight, and when the books ended, I wanted more. When I gained a following, many of my readers would say I needed to start writing my own stuff and a year later, I did. So, I have Stephenie Meyer and the Twi fandom to thank for my writing career. Even though I don’t write in the same genre as Twilight, without it, I’m not sure I would’ve known I was capable of publishing.
Redlin: I'm very glad you listened to your readers. That's something we indie authors need to do more often. So, how did you come up with the idea for We Are Immeasurable?
McGrew: So, my favorite YA standalone of all time is The Fault in Our Stars. For years (since 2013 or so), I said I wanted to write something gripping like that. In 2016, I read All the Bright Places and Everything. Everything back to back and then my story just hit me. I knew the characters and the subject matter before I even opened my laptop. I knew exactly how it was going to begin and how it was going to end. Figuring out the in-between was the fun journey. I think We Are Immeasurable has always been in me, I just needed a little push to get it to paper.
Redlin: I must say, that as one who has read, reviewed, and truly enjoyed We Are Immeasurable, it is not a book to be missed. Along with the frequent laugh-out-loud humor, I thought it was truly unique in its premise of shedding new light on the world of those living with disabilities. Now I'm going to have to check out The Fault in Our Stars and Everything, Everything, too! But getting back to We Are Immeasurable...have you considered expanding on this topic in future books, say with a deaf protagonist or perhaps a teenager coming to terms with life in a wheelchair? There are not a lot of books out there to fill this niche.
McGrew: I love this question, honestly, I have thought about it, but I want to say, when I decided to write WAI I never once thought about it being a niche. It was a part of this character. This story's focus was freedom and first love and, as mentioned in the book, it’s almost like her blindness was secondary. I knew it was important to research and be delicate as to not offend or misrepresent, but I didn’t go into writing this book like, “I’m going to write about a blind girl because we don’t have a ton of books like that.” It was organic to this story. So, to answer your question, I don’t have any plans to write what you’ve listed, but if it happens to be a character that I envision, I will take the time to make sure I get it right or as close to right as I can without having experienced it myself.
Redlin: I see what you mean. Sometimes stories just "are." They don't always have an agenda or a role to fulfill, nor should authors be pressured into writing them into their work. Creativity isn't something that should be controlled, yet there are those who like to try. Books are no different than art in this regard. I'm curious...how many books have you written?
McGrew: I have published two, but I’ve written thirty. I am re-releasing my first book some time next year. I was a newbie and didn’t get a professional edit. I’m going to add deleted scenes and have a new cover. I’m really excited about it. Aiden is a fan favorite, so I think my Her Butterfly Diary readers are going to enjoy the added scenes.
Redlin: Holy crap! Thirty? WOW! Based on how young you look, as well as your high-level writing skills, I was going to guess maybe five or six. But thirty! Yikes. I'm going to have to get more disciplined if I'm ever going to catch up with you! Well done! Now that we've established that writing is certainly your main interest, do you have other hobbies?
McGrew: Reading! I own over 800 books. I’ve been writing so much that I haven’t been able to read a lot lately though ;(. I love listening to music as well.
Redlin: 800...now I want to go count mine just to get an idea of how many I have, because I have no idea! I just know it's a lot. Do you have a favorite book or book series, and has it been an influence on your writing? My favorite series sure has!
McGrew: I jumped the gun and answered this in the first question! Lol Twilight! I was not into reading to be honest. And ten years ago I read the series and since then, I’ve become this huge book nerd and a published author! I primarily write in first person POV and I do believe it’s because when I read twilight, I loved how we got to be in Bella’s mind. I like my readers to be in my protagonists mind as well. To feel everything my characters feel, just as deeply. That’s very important to me.
Redlin: It's amazing what finding the right book can do for a person. Sometimes I think that those who claim to hate reading have just never found the right book yet. The same thing applies to writing. When we're forced to do it for school, it can be daunting and unpleasant, but imagine doing it just for fun, and you can't believe what you were missing before! Do you have a writing schedule, or do you squeeze writing time in anywhere you can?
McGrew: I used to have a strict writing schedule, but life happened! So, now, I write whenever I have the time. My favorite time to write is when it’s dark outside. So, evenings or super early in the morning.
Redlin: "...but life happened!" I love that! Seriously, that needs to be on a T-shirt or something. Literally, you could put anything in the blank of "I was trying ____, but life happened!" Mine would likely say, "I was trying to get skinny, but life happened." And life does happen, whether you're trying to accomplish a dream or not. We try to schedule things, but it doesn't always work out. But creativity can't usually be scheduled, as it tends to happen anywhere and any time. What we can (sometimes) control is where it morphs into being. Where is your favorite place to morph stories into being, and what writing tool can you not live without?
McGrew: I have a rocking chair in the corner of my dining room. I love cozying up with a blanket and writing there. As far as writing tools, I just go straight to Microsoft Word, but I couldn’t live without my notes in my phone! I jot down the most random ideas in my notes!
Redlin: Microsoft Word is awesome, and note-taking is a valuable habit writers shouldn't be without. I never go anywhere without my portable keyboard and a notebook. Inspiration doesn't wait for planning. It hits like lightning, and we always should be ready for it. Speaking of being ready, are you a Plotter or a Pantser? For our audience members who don’t know, a Plotter is someone who outlines their entire book before starting to write, and a Pantser is someone who just writes by the seat of their pants, basically “winging it.” Then, you’ve got your hybrid, a Plantser. That’s me, I’m afraid, but what are you?
McGrew: I’m a panster to my core! I always have a vague idea of what I want, but I just open my laptop and get to typing away. I have two series I’m working on where I have to world-build, so I’ve had to plot and it’s so tough for me. I like my characters to lead the way. When I plot, I feel like I’m taking too much control. My characters are way better writers than I am! I need to just observe what they do and write it down, not tell them what to do. Lol.
Redlin: As a seasoned writer, I know exactly what you mean about letting characters take control. They even start naming themselves after a while, so watch out! They're just like children, seriously! They're as independent as the authors who create them, indie or not. For those in the audience who don’t know, an indie author is one who self-publishes their books, and traditional authors often get agents and go through a publishing company. What influenced your decision to be an indie author versus traditional?
McGrew: Total transparency, fear and impatience. The second I decided I wanted to publish, I didn’t want to wait any longer. For my first book, I didn’t even consider traditional. I wanted my book out and it needed to happen right away and that’s why it’s not a great edit. I should have done more research. With WAI, I actually contemplated traditional and with how it’s selling and being received. I sometimes wish I would’ve submitted it, but I knew what I was doing and I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to choose and create my own cover and choose my release date and tagline, etc.. I talked myself out of the query process. The benefits of being indie is that I get to call all the shots and that’s something I’ve been very fearful of losing if I go traditional. I plan on submitting traditionally for a different genre, but I truly love doing it on my own even though it’s super stressful.
Redlin: Losing all control is my biggest fear as well if I ever go traditional, so I completely understand. We indies get total control over our careers, but we also get to do all the legwork. Much of it is brutal. What do you find the most challenging about being an indie author?
McGrew: Marketing. The thin line between selling your brand versus oversaturating and annoying your followers! All my social media is pretty much peddling my brand and it can be taxing at times.
Redlin: We've talked about the biggest annoyances of being an indie author, but there are many positive things about it as well. What has been the most rewarding thing about being an indie author?
McGrew: When I get messages from readers saying what my book meant to them. Or how they relate to a certain character. I had someone message me that they were reading my book in the hospital room as she waited to see if her daughter had cancer. She said that my book gave her strength and the belief that she and her family could conquer anything and everything. It made me cry to have my words and characters resonate with her during such a scary time in her life. I had another woman who was wheelchair bound email me that WAI gave her a voice and that she related to Mazie. Connecting to readers, people I don’t even know, will always be the ultimate reward because it’s something I never expected or even considered when I started writing.
Redlin: Crap, now I need a tissue...I wish more people would mention the fact that certain books changed their lives forever. It's something way more important than just earning an income from authoring, and we need to remember that. With all the obstacles in their way, indie authors need more inspiration to write than ever before. Do you have a favorite indie author, and where can we find their books?
McGrew: I host a podcast show with Kay Blake and she has released a ton of books! I’m behind on my indie author reading, so if I have to shoutout another indie author, it would have to be my co-host! Her work can be found on Amazon.
Redlin: Is there anything you would like to say to encourage indie authors out there?
McGrew: Keep writing! Even if you think you’re writing garbage. I think we all think that about our writing at some point, haha. It’s super easy to be discouraged, but you have to keep going. It’s okay to step away and take breaks, but you have to finish. I’m about to sound really cliche, but the world needs your story and your voice!
Redlin: Very true! I don't know what the world would do without stories. Where do you hope your writing career will take you, and where do you see yourself in ten years?
McGrew: My ultimate goal is to write for television and film. I would love to produce and direct my own screenplays. And of course, what writer doesn’t want to be on The NY Times Bestsellers list?! In ten years, I hope that my main career is writing and creating. Nothing else on the side. Comfortably living and affording life as a creative.
Redlin: Well, I think you certainly have a shot at obtaining these goals! Heck, you've got a whole arsenal at your disposal, so fire away, and I know you'll get there! Last but not least, will we see you at the Indie Author Conference and Showcase this year in Cleveland, Ohio?
McGrew: As of today, I am signed up! I just have to remember to order the books for the showcase! Haha.
Redlin: Well, that’s all for today, everyone. Let's give a big hand to this amazing author for participating in this interview, and I hope you will check out McGrew’s book! Don’t forget to follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to show your support, and perhaps remind her to order books for the Indie Author Showcase!