Author Highlight: Kelly Mack McCoy Discusses his New Novel ‘Rough Way to the High Way’ and Stories from his Life
We are delighted to welcome a very promising novelist Kelly Mack McCoy for a brief Q & A session at our website about his recent novel ‘Rough Way to the High Way’.
In this Q & A session, he will be talking about his writing aspirations, inclination towards contemporary fiction, and the route to getting his novel published. Stay on...while we chat with him.
Would you mind telling a bit about your novel – maybe in two or three sentences?
After his wife’s murder, Mack (the protagonist) hopes to get some windshield therapy and peace of mind behind the wheel of his new Peterbilt truck. But he gets neither after God nudges him to pick up a hitchhiker near the Jordan State Prison outside Mack’s childhood home of Pampa, Texas. Mack suspects he is being followed and is in the sights of a killer who plots a revenge no one could have seen coming.
What inspired you to write this novel? Any tales...
I had a little time when the trucking company I worked for went bankrupt, so I decided the time was right to take my writing seriously. I found an awesome writers group where I met some good writers who helped draw out the writer in me. One of the members there, John Floyd Mills, was a former writer with the now defunct San Antonio (Texas) Light newspaper. John had nearly finished one novel and also started his own publishing company, Franklin Scribes Publishing. He wanted to help writers see their labors of love on through to publishing since he knew all the ins and outs of the industry and how the process worked from beginning to end.
John liked my writing style and he approached me with the idea of the two of us partnering together to write a series of novels about a trucker and his adventures out on the road. I had such a thing in mind as well for some time, but never followed through with it, so I agreed. It turned out our writing styles were too different for us to write together, so he moved on and published his own novels, Buried and Secrets. I ran with the other project on my own.
Did I say ran? Stumbled and fell would be more accurate. After I started on the novel, my crazy life got in the way once more, and my book was buried like the protagonist in John’s novel. And like his protagonist, barring some dramatic event, there was no way my novel would ever see the light of day.
That dramatic event was John’s death. After he died, I decided it was do or die for me as a writer. Sadly, for most writers it’s die, not do. The scrap of manuscript that would become Rough Way to the High Way seemed to call out to me from that dusty drawer each day thereafter. It could no more be ignored than John’s protagonist buried underground.
Do you think that hitchhikers cause trouble for truckers across the world?
Hitchhikers are not as common as they once were in the U.S. I’ve talked to truck drivers in other countries and it seems to be dangerous to pick up hitchhikers in many places. One trucker from South Africa said you are risking your life by picking up anyone there. He told me if you break down in South Africa you just leave your truck on the side of the road. Otherwise, bandits will kill you before stealing the truck and cargo. These are the kinds of dangers faced by truckers in many parts of the world.
Did you do any research for the novel?
Not a lot of special research was required since much of the book was drawn from my own experiences in life on and off the road. But I was meticulous in making sure the details were right. I know I’m like many readers. One little detail, especially if it’s a glaring factual error, will ruin the whole book for me. I’ve only received one question from a reader who was puzzled by a passage in the book and I was able to clear that up for her. With all the twists and turns in the novel I was concerned one of those little details would slip by me.
What was your biggest learning experience throughout the publishing process?
I learned I should go with my instinct in both the writing and publishing processes. In the end, I just jumped in and did it. There are so many options out there now none of us can keep up with it all. And none of the choices are wrong. It just depends on what your goal is. For example, there are some good writers who don’t aspire to publish their work to a large audience. If their goal is to publish only for family and friends, they may want to do the work themselves and perhaps publish through Amazon or with a small publisher.There are others who are prolific authors who have contracts with major publishers or who do both traditional and self-publishing.
In my case planned to market to a large audience. But it didn’t take me long to decide I didn’t have the patience to go the traditional route to publishing in which you pitch your book to an agent who then works on your behalf to see your book on through to publication and hopefully a nice little advance.
Had I continued along that route I would likely still be trying to find an agent instead of having this interview discussing how successful Rough Way to the High Way has been. Agents for the most part just play the odds when they choose who to represent. We all do that as we conduct our daily business. The odds don’t look good for a trucker turned author so I can’t say I blame them for being hesitant to represent me or even take a serious look at my work. If I were in their shoes, I’m sure I would react exactly the same way. These guys have to make a living. If an agent takes too many chances like that, they’ll be kicked to the curb in front of their office in Manhattan or wherever and have to go drive a truck for a living.
How do you handle the response of this book, especially from your friends and relatives and readers?
In order to be a writer, you have to develop a rather thick skin. It’s great to belong to a critique group to present your writing to in its early stages. Get a good group and you’ll have the encouragement you need as well as feedback from those who think they have a God-given gift of criticism. I’ve learned to listen to and appreciate all critiques of my writing and I’m thankful to receive it. The devil is a liar, but he’ll mix in enough truth to hit you where it hurts. So, listen and think, Yeah, there’s probably some truth in that. I’ll use the criticism to make myself a better writer. I’ve been getting some awesome feedback and I’m very grateful for all the people who have taken the time to leave reviews. They are like gold to authors. We live and die by those reviews. I can’t think of a better way to say it than to let readers speak for themselves.
Who is your favourite character from the novel – why?
That’s a hard one because that’s one of the things I most enjoyed about writing the book – developing characters. Scratch most novelists hard enough and you’ll get to the hair-pulling screeching maniac inside who was driven mad by the writing process. But this part I liked, and that’s what makes it so challenging for me to choose a favorite.
Since I’m asked to choose one though, I think it would have to be Barb, the waitress introduced early on. Why? Although not its main theme, the novel does have a touch of romance to it. Barb is a little older – in her early fifties – and toiling away at a job where she can barely eke out a living in a small Texas Panhandle town just a bit off the beaten path.
And in walks this cowboy-looking guy who seems to be kind of lost with a lot of problems. Barb is obviously smitten with him, but women will tell you they have a better chance of winning the lottery than finding a decent man at that age.
Mack is still in love with his murdered wife and heartbroken and lost without her. So early on the reader is thinking, ‘Does she have a chance?’. Since I’m a total pantser in my writing style, I write without an outline and develop details of the story as I go along.
Even I wasn’t sure, but I was pulling for Barb myself. So, it was fun developing her into a much more complex but just as lovable person than the buxom waitress with the dyed red hair who showed up at Mack’s table shortly after his troubles started as events in the novel unfolded.
What are you working on next?
Marketing has been my primary focus since the release of Rough Way to the High Way. I have started on the sequel but can’t give you a time-frame for publication. But again, rest assured that the first is a stand-alone novel. The sequel will have many of the characters readers have grown to love in the first book and will continue to be featured in Mack’s adventures on the road. But you’ll be able to pick up any novel in the series and read it alone to understand the development of each story.
There is also a creatively written nonfiction book in the works. I’ve had this one in mind and partially written for some time. I made the mistake as an inexperienced author of working on this one and Rough Way to the High Way at the same time. I finally put this one aside and concentrated on my novel. I knew I needed a partner for the nonfiction book. The reason will be obvious when the book comes out.
I’ve now found the right partner to co-author the book. The specifics are still being nailed down on that one so I’m unable to say much more about it for now. I realize in most cases success in one genre does not translate to success in another. But this project will be the exception that proves the rule.
Connect with Kelly Mack McCoy:
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/kellymackmccoyauthor/