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Author Spotlight: Debbie McGowan

Amy Leibowitz

Our next UPSTAGED! interview is with Debbie McGowan, who is not only one of my own favorite authors but one of my favorite people. "Oh No She Didn't," in UPSTAGED, introduced me to pantomime. You can find Debbie's other work...well, everywhere, really (see below).

What inspired you to write your latest story?

The second I read the call for the anthology, I knew exactly what I was going to write, which is rare for me (I think this is the second time ever). It was inspired by two things. I’d recently watched an awesome video on My Genderation (brilliant channel), titled ‘Some Daddies are Ladies’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glusSjntD0k), and it stuck with me.

So that was my character inspiration. The setting and setup is loosely based on a real amateur dramatics society that my mum and her husband have been involved in for about twenty-five years, which was also when Nige (my husband) and I moved back up north from London. We were kind of luvvies at the time and got involved in a few of the society’s shows, including their annual panto, which my daughters were part of for a few years. The youngest played…I want to say Dick Whittington, but it might not have been. I’m sure she’ll correct me if I’m wrong.

The characters in ‘Oh No She Didn’t’ aren’t based on real people (although my mum is stage manager and works her socks off, so there’s a nod to her hard work in there). However, the settings are based on real locations—the local pub and the Temperance Institute (which, believe it or not, is next door to a pub).

Are there any common themes you see in your work?

Funny you should ask! Only last week, a beta-reader (and lovely friend) emailed me to say ‘One of your recurrent book themes is babies. It's just struck me.’

Agh! Noooo!

It’s ironic—at best—seeing as I didn’t plan on having anything other than fur babies, but my dearest and I compromised, so…I had babies x2. They’re quite nice, I suppose. Heh. OK, I’ll own up. Were it not for my daughters, I would never have gone back to education, gained my degree or worked my ass off for years to get to where I am now—largely living hand to mouth because I gave up my day job to write books. I wouldn’t change any of it!

The other common theme is psychology, and on one level, it’s unintentional. This might sound whacky, but I often miss people’s physical attributes, instead ‘seeing’ their psyches, so that’s how I write my characters. I also advocate openness about mental illness and make it as common in my stories as it is in the real world. Oh, and I’ve written about a psychologist or two along the way…

How do you handle a story that doesn’t go as you planned?

Well, I’m a pantser, so I don’t really have a plan for any of my stories, although sometimes I have an ending in mind, and I try to steer the story towards it. Occasionally, it’s plain sailing; mostly, it’s like steering a raft through a storm. The one that really stumped me—for months—was Reunions; I had a very clear idea of where it was supposed to go, but it just wouldn’t, as if there was a missing piece that I couldn’t find to connect the first 70% of the story to the conclusion. The second it came to me, it all made sense because I’d been looking for the connection when it was more of a disconnection. Sorry for being cryptic. Spoilers and all that.

What are you currently wearing?

Haha! Totally answering this. JMy nightshirt (it’s red with black cat outlines and goes all the way to my knees), a black hoodie (I was cold and it was on the back of my chair), outrageously baggy pants that I didn’t know I owned until this morning, and red hiking socks. Mmm. Gorgeous. :D

Do you have any body art?

Four tattoos of fairies, all from Queen albums, one of which is getting taller all the time. Yeah, thanks, gravity.

Do the people in your life know about your writing?

Yep, and quite a few of them read it, too! Nige reads everything (alpha-reader). One of my sisters has proofread quite a few books for me; the other sister reads anything as long as it’s free. My mum insists on buying my books, which I appreciate, even though I’d give them to her, but what can you do? My daughters have read one or two, but my eldest only ever reads 80% of a book, and my youngest says she doesn’t want to see inside my head. :p


About Debbie McGowan:

Debbie McGowan is an award-winning author of contemporary fiction that celebrates life, love and relationships in all their diversity. Since the publication in 2004 of her debut novel, Champagne—based on a stage show co-written and co-produced with her husband—she has published more than forty further novels, novellas and short stories. She is the author of the ongoing series, Hiding Behind the Couch(a literary 'soap opera' centring on the lives of nine long-term friends), and Checking Him Out(LGBTQ romance). Debbie has been a finalist in both the Rainbow Awards and the Bisexual Book Awards, and in 2016, she won the Lambda Literary Award (Lammy) for her novel, When Skies Have Fallen: a British historical romance spanning twenty-three years, from the end of WWII to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. She is also a socialist publisher and social scientist, and truly believes fiction has the power to change hearts and minds. Website: http://www.debbiemcgowan.co.uk, Blog: http://deb248211.blogspot.com, Hiding Behind The Couch: http://www.hidingbehindthecouch.com, Twitter: @writerdebmcg, LinkedIn/Tumblr/Instagram: writerdebmcg, Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/beatentrackpublishing, Google+: https://plus.google.com/+DebbieMcGowan. Newsletter signup: http://eepurl.com/b8emHL

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