June Q&A with Rebecca McLaughlin

Question time with Rebecca McLaughlin

In case you missed yesterday’s blog – We read Nameless Queen as our June Book Club pick. Tish won for the first time ever and now will not shut up about it much to Kayleigh’s dismay! We did however have a wonderful time reading it as a group and also had the great opportunity of speaking to the author herself, who very kindly agreed to take part in a Q&A!

Below are all the questions our reading group had for Rebecca during the session โ€“ she was super sweet!

Q&A with Rebecca McLaughlin

Hi Rebecca! Thank you so much for joining us!!! ๐Ÿ™‚๐Ÿ™‚๐Ÿ™‚๐Ÿ™‚

Hi Tish & crew! Wonderful to be here!! ๐Ÿ˜

Thank you so much for joining us for the chat today, we promise to not take up too much of your time! Firstly congratulations on your debut book!! How does it feel to be a published author? Were you incredibly nervous around launch day? ๐Ÿ˜‚

It feels amazing and oddly normal! I always wanted to be published, no matter how long it took, so it both feels like an incredible blessing and something almost inevitable, if that makes sense ๐Ÿ˜…

I was SO nervous. I pretty much didnโ€™t go to sleep until midnight because I wanted to be awake the moment I debuted. I was a flurry of nerves!

We can imagine!! We don’t think we could have managed with the nerves, organising Q&As is stressful enough haha

What made you choose YA fantasy as your debut genre and how did Nameless Queen come about?

I love writing YA Fantasy, so it was a natural fit. Iโ€™d written several books before (in ya fantasy, sci-fi, thriller), and Ya Fantasy always felt like my home. With most debuts, you typically pick and stick to a single genre/age group for a while to build an audience, so it may be a bit before I branch out.

Ohh so we may be looking at a future cross genre author – how exciting!!

Nameless Queen was inspired by reading the teaser chapters for the first Red Queen book. It launched my brain into โ€œwhat if you COULDNโ€™T be named queen, and what if it happened anyway!โ€

Ohh cool, so Nameless Queen has been your baby for a while then! How long did it take you to write?

I started it as a 2014 NaNoWriMo project, and I finished the first draft in about two and a half months, revised on my own for several months, revised it through Pitch Wars, and then spent a loooong time revising and rewriting with my editor. Then of course it just came out here in 2020, so it has been cooking for a bit!

holy cow thats amazing! sounds like blood sweat and tears went into this then ๐Ÿ˜‚

Definitely ๐Ÿ˜†

One of bookstagrammers taking part was wondering, are you a plotter or a panster? Panster – someone who writes as they go, we had no idea what that meant at first! ๐Ÿ˜‚

I have been on a journey. Many many years of writing that took me from being a pantser to plotter. My first books were Idea>Write>Panic. Now, especially as a consequence of having to get a pitch, proposal, and outline approved by an editor, I have emerged as a plotter. Now it goes Idea>Plan>Write>Panic. (Panic includes things like existential crises and revision in general haha.)

We love that ๐Ÿ˜‚ I think if we ever tried to write a book it would be a good 75% PANIC

Strong agree. Thatโ€™s a safe estimation ๐Ÿ˜† (Low key 99% coffee)

One of our favourite things to find out from writers is what was the first scene for the book that you wrote? And which was the hardest?

The first scene I wrote was the opening scene, and the opening paragraph itself didnโ€™t really change during the many revisions I did. (This surprised me because I definitely did the cliche โ€œbook starts with the main character waking upโ€ so I thought my editor would mix it. But it survived!

We adored the very first sentence – so intriguing, it immediately had us hooked!

The most difficult scene was probably the scene where Coin is staring up at the stars and deciding if she should go back to the palace or not. I actually wrote it as a diary entry as a writing exercise to try to get more in touch with Coinโ€™s character during revisions, because I really had to understand her headspace. My writing mentor at the time read it and said I had to literally just put it into the book almost as is.

Wow, that must have been an amazing thing to hear from your mentor especially as its such an important moment for Coin!

It was great to come out of it with a solid scene and a good sense of the character!

The Book centres a lot on the differences between classes, did something in particular inspired you to write the book with themes of classes and inequality? We noticed there are a lot of amazing quotes in the book that are really relevant to whats going on in the world at the moment ๐Ÿ™‚

Definitely. On one hand, I really wanted to pay more attention to the rag-to-riches trope, because (with so many tropes) its just not that simple. On another hand, I grew up with a family whose branches spanned the lower AND upper classes, and straddling those gray areas was an interesting and weird experience, and I thought how fun and interesting it might be to tell a story about navigating those gray areas.

We actually can’t even think of other books right now in this genre that cover rag-to-riches trope! But we love it! it is such a great trope!

Now I know you probably get asked this a lot and I know quite a few of us have mentioned it in our readalong but did you actually have a name in mind for Coin? We get why Coin didnโ€™t need to read it but we are nosy!

I did have a name in mind โ€” in fact, when I was originally contracted to write a sequel (it has changed and Iโ€™m doing a second standalone), part of that story was going to be Coin getting confronted by someone who knew her name. I wrote a scene where she learned the first letter but doesnโ€™t hear the rest, so it was fun to have her theorize on what it might be.

Ohh that would have been a great scene! we would have been guessing for days if you had written that in ๐Ÿ˜‚

It was definitely an authorial choice based on the character arc, but I always knew it would feel just out of reach of the reader too! ๐Ÿ˜…

In my current draft of my next book, I have a placeholder of [CityName] and Iโ€™m like a years into writing/drafting hahaha

Oh no!! ๐Ÿคฃ

Iโ€™m so bad at naming things lol

Speaking of names, (we loved Glenquartz btw, we are hoping he has a massive viking beard or something)… We were convinced Coin was going to fall for Glenquartz and so we were surprised to find a lack of romance to the story, was this intentional?

(He definitely has strong beard game!)

It was kind of intentional. Originally, Coin had a best friend who was a slow burn romance build. She also had Hat as a new companion. My editor suggested I cut Hatโ€™s character during revisions because the two characters were filling similar roles. So I reoutlined the book…. and cut the love interest instead. I though for sure she wasnโ€™t going to let me do it, but it worked! (Thatโ€™s the Ren character I cut from the story!)

We were wondering who Ren was!!! We kind of pieced it together in the acknowledgements but we weren’t 100%. Did the story change much when you cut Ren out?

Not much, no, because I always wanted the story to center on Coin. Romance was a subplot and part of her growth as a character through the story, and ultimately the growth I wanted for her was more fulfilled by her relationship with Hat as a mentor-family type relationship. It paired more nicely with her mixed feelings on responsibility and survival.

We did love the Coin/Hat relationship… It was really sweet when she called her sister. Hat was sweet, yet that fiery hair made her feisty!

Esther survived in the end, did you ever toy with her not surviving and Coin having to make it through on her own?

I toyed with it, but I never wrote a draft that way. Itโ€™s sort of common for people to be thrust into power in stories because someone died, and because Coinโ€™s journey is about coming to terms with a complex identity and what it means to have magic and be in power, I wanted a more nuanced resolution as well. A lot of the story is about found family, so it felt fitting to have her get that family and be able to look forward to being in power WITH them instead of being on her own again, which is how she grew up. It felt like a more whole and rewarding ending that way.

From what you mentioned before about being contracted for two books but changing to two standalones, is there a reason you chose not to convert this to a series?

That was more of my publishers decision. They pushed for the change and I agreed. Partly ambiguous things like โ€œmarket shiftsโ€ etc., and part of it was if spent 6 years in that world and was ready for a new world and new characters. I would still love to do a sequel, but thatโ€™s more on my publisher if they see value in it.

Pesky publishers ๐Ÿ˜‚ Well we would happily read a sequel if you do produce one in the future! Would be wonderful to see what happens to the characters!

What do you have planned next? Can you give us any inside info on your next book?

My next book is another YA Fantasy, set in a contemporary rural American town, in relative isolation from the rest of the world. My main character, Ada, curses someone in a moment of anger which has dangerous repercussions that result in her parents being trapped in the underworld and the potential destruction of her town. (There is a romance in this book! Guess who she curses ๐Ÿ˜˜) There are ghosts and magical tokens & pendants, and Iโ€™m really excited for whenever I can share it!

Oh my gosh that sounds so cool! Underworld, ghosts, magical artefacts…We are here for it all!!

We won’t keep you any longer but thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! Good luck with the writing! If you need help with names then let us know ๐Ÿ˜‚

It has been an honest delight and treasure to talk with you all! Iโ€™m so glad youโ€™ve enjoyed the book and asked such great questions! Low key I would totally crowdsource names hahaha

Honestly, we absolutely love talking to authors! Rebecca was so sweet and its so nice to see new authors who are really excited to be part of such a special genre. We are so lucky to have these opportunities and hope that you enjoy our Q&As!

What would you have asked her if you could? Are you surprised by any of the answers?

Lots of Love,

Kayleigh & Tish xx

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