Interviewing authors is always fun. You get a behind-the-scenes peek at a creative brain at work.
I sat down (virtually, of course. Oh, the Internet. Bless) with Amy Williams, who writes under the pen name Kimberly McNeil, about her Young Adult Fantasy, Meg Mitchell & the Secret of the Journal, for a leg of her blog tour celebrating this new release.
Jebraun: Hi Amy…erm…Kimberly…erm…
Kimberly: People usually give me really funny looks when I promote Meg Mitchell & The Secret of the Journal. They look at the cover and then at me and say, “But your name isn’t Kimberly McNeil!” No, it’s not. But Kimberly McNeil is the name I use for writing the Lightkeepers series.
J: Then I’ll stick with Kimberly, okay? Let’s jump right in, shall we? What’s your favourite though often under-appreciated novel?
K: I love Ishmael by Barbara Hambly. It’s an old original-series Star Trek novel where Spock travels back in time and forgets who he is, and he has to fit in with humans in 1800s era Seattle. It’s absolutely brilliant storytelling, but it’s often sidelined because it’s just “a Star Trek” book. But those kinds of genre stories are what first introduced me to writing and made me love the art of storytelling.
J: I love it! I remember as a teenager devouring a novel based on the screenplay of The Empire Strikes Back, and I was thoroughly entertained.
A good story is a good story, amiright? You’re a storyteller. What’s the best thing you’ve found to overcome writer’s block?
K: Taking a walk and talking to myself. Well, technically, I’m taking a walk and talking to my characters. Whenever I hit a wall in my writing, generally it’s because I’m trying to force my characters to do something they don’t want to do. So I step away from my work and ask them why they’re behaving like stubborn children, and most of the them I get an answer back. Then, I redesign the scene or—this just happened recently—completely start over and let them tell me what they want to do. I know that sounds insane, but that’s my process.
J: No, actually it makes a lot of sense. Our characters sure can have a mind of their own. So, if you could visit any imaginary literary world, which one would it be?
K: Maybe I should pick someone else’s literary world (like Hogwarts or Camp Half-Blood), but if I had to choose an imaginary world to visit, I’d absolutely want to visit my own. The Andarian Dimension from the Lightkeepers series is the one place I’m not sure I’d ever want to leave. The pure natural beauty, the quirky cultures who live there, the ancient history and ruins? Golly, it would be the most awesome adventure ever, as long as you stay away from the Centaurs.
J: Ooooh…ruins are always adventurous to explore. I like your loyalty to your world. And I’ll keep your warning about Centaurs in mind as I read. You’ve got quite the cast of characters which can be tricky to give them all unique personalities. Any real-life quirky habits or traits (yours or someone you know) that you’ve given a character?
K: I started writing the Legend of the Lightkeepers series when I was 11 years old, and without really meaning to, I actually wrote in characters based on people I knew. It wasn’t intentional. I think as a child I just saw qualities and characteristics in the people around me that I liked, and I used those things when I created some of my favorite characters.
The best example is probably Jim Taylor, the brilliant nerdy teenage detective who can’t walk three steps without tripping over his own feet. He’s scary smart, super clumsy, and really protective of his big sister Barb, even though he really can’t do anything to protect her. Without really meaning to, I based Jim on my little brother Andy. A friend actually had to point it out to me because I didn’t even realize it, but Andy and Jim are basically the same person. So whenever I am at a loss for what Jim would do in a scene, I just think about how my brother would act or what my brother would do. It’s really handy.
J: Eleven year old? Wow! So this has been a dream for a long time. And now it’s out in print. Very exciting. Every author would love to see their story on the big screen. Who’s your ‘dream cast’ for a few of your characters from Meg Mitchell & the Secret of the Journal if it were made into a movie?
K: Oh my goodness, there are so many. The trouble, though, with choosing a dream cast for a series that’s this old? Well, most of the original people I picked to represent my characters are now way too old for the roles, so I’ve had to go back and pick some new ones.
The best actress I have ever found to represent Meg Mitchell is Ayla Kell. She has the look and face shape and the general bearing I’ve always seen for Meg.
The best choice in my mind for Barb Taylor is Katherine McNamara. Again, she’s got the face shape and attitude I’ve always attributed to Barb.
That being said, the original actress I used to represent Barb was Annie Wersching, and to this day, I still think she’s the best choice. So maybe in future books, I could use her as an adult Barb?
And, just because he’s so important, the actor I have always seen playing Ronnie Akkard is a guy named Thomas Dekker. Obviously, he doesn’t have blue hair and silver eyes like Ronnie does, but he’s got the punk feel down.
I have tons of others. Folders and folders and folders full of reference images. Someday soon I’ll be doing character profiles on my website, and I’ll put them all up for people to see.
J: I love your choices. It’s fun to see who you think your characters look like! Okay, time to move away from the novel and ask a really personal question. Fill in the blank: I could eat *favourite food* every day.
K: Here’s the deal. I love food. The only food item I don’t love is turnips. I could eat pizza every day. I could eat tacos every day. I could eat Indian food every day. Sushi too. And ice cream. And chocolate. I love ethnic cuisine and love trying new things. So as long as it doesn’t have turnips in it, I’m game. (Just kidding. I’ll even try turnips again. Maybe. If you pay me.)
J: Okay. Now I’m hungry! Think I’ll grab a snack before we finish this up…
And I don’t think I’ve ever eaten turnips. They are a funny looking vegetable, aren’t they? Thanks so much, Kimberly, for chatting with me. Best of luck with your new book!
If your interest is piqued, here’s a little blurb about Meg Mitchell & the Secret of the Journal. Plus an intriguing cover that reminds me how much I love the Golden Gate Bridge.
Stories never end. They just get bigger.
You only have to turn the page.
Meg Mitchell lives in a castle, but she’s no wilting princess. Raised in an alien world by adoptive parents, she spends her time fighting Centaurs, training as an Andai warrior, and chilling in her favorite willow tree.
But when Meg uncovers her birth father’s journal, she discovers a cousin she didn’t know existed. Meg and her little brother and sister travel through an inter-dimensional rip to San Francisco to search for their cousin, setting off a chain of events no one could have foreseen.
When her sister is kidnapped, Meg enlists the help of teenage detective Barb Taylor and her genius little brother Jim. Following clues dropped by a mysterious benefactor, they embark on a cross-country adventure to rescue her sister and find Meg’s cousin.
Family is everything to Meg, but not all is as it seems. In her quest to reunite her family, she may lose more than she ever imagined.
You can find Meg Mitchell & the Secret of the Journal at:
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at Crosshair Press
Check out the reviews on Goodreads.
Amy Williams is a novelist, freelance writer, founding member of Crosshair Press LLC, and professional nerd. You can find most of her work under the name A.C. Williams, but she also writes young adult fantasy (The Legend of the Lightkeepers) under the pen name Kimberly McNeil. Amy is single and lives in her family’s 100-year-old farmhouse on five acres in the middle of the Kansas prairie. She loves cats and drinks far too much coffee.
Connect with Amy!
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Want to dive into a new world? Enter to win an e-copy of Kimberly McNeil’s Meg Mitchell & The Secret of the Journal as well as get a preview of her upcoming short story Stan Hawthorne & The Broken Sword. (Open internationally.
Don’t miss the rest of the blog tour!
Wednesday, November 1st
Thursday, November 2nd
Friday, November 3rd
Saturday, November 4th
Monday, November 6th
Tuesday, November 7th
Wednesday, November 8th
Thursday, November 9th
Friday, November 10th
Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity,
stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.
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