Interview with Lucy A. McLaren

Hello there! This is my first post on my shiny, new blog. I’ve never been the blogging sort, but I wanted to give it a go. Anyway, to kick things off, I’ve got an interview here with Lucy A. McLaren, author of the new fantasy series The Commune’s Curse. The first book in the series, which also happens to be her debut novel, is titled Awakening, and will be out on May 1st. Here is the link. It looks fantastic; if you’re a fan of Young Adult fantasy, or the fantasy genre in general, this will be right up your alley. Without further ado, the interview:

Awakening: The Commune’s Curse book one

Audra: Thanks for reaching out to me; it’s lovely to meet you. To break the ice, so to speak, could you tell me a bit about yourself and your background as an author; how long you’ve been writing for? What first drew you in to the world of writing? 

Hey Audra, it’s great to meet you too. I’m Lucy A. McLaren and I’m a fantasy author and counsellor (though I’ve recently had a baby so the counselling is on hold, for now!). I’ve loved fantasy stories for as long as I can remember, and in all their forms—from video games to films, books to TV shows. I’ve written since I was young, though I got into it “seriously” (as in, decided I was going to write a whole book) when I was in my late twenties and training to be a counsellor at university. Something just made me think, “I’m actually going to give this a try and stop questioning myself/my abilities as a writer.” As for what drew me to writing, I think it’s that ability to create these whole new worlds and characters—it’s truly magical. I become so immersed in stories I consume myself, I would love to create that for readers of my works too.

Do you have any specific routines or rituals that you like to do during your writing sessions, like music or a favorite spot to write in? 

I used to have a routine of daily writing. I didn’t have a set word count, just holding myself accountable to get *something* written was enough! I also enjoy listening to music when writing, and find soundtracks from films/games/TV shows the best if I want to avoid the distraction of lyrics.

Since I had my baby, my routine has somewhat gone out the window. I’m still adapting to working around him, but we’re getting there… slowly!

Do you like to make an outline, or just let things flow and see where they take you? 

I tend to start with a vague outline but quickly get impatient and want to start writing. So, from there, I’ll generally see where the story takes me. I find it really exciting not being 100% sure where things are going or which characters are going to pop up and introduce themselves as I write them.

I see that, coming from a counseling background, you have the sort of behind-the-scenes knowledge of mental health that makes for very human, multi-dimensional characters. Though I’m sure your work informs every aspect of your writing, is there one part or scene in particular that you feel your experience in your field really comes through in this story? 

Ooh excellent question. I would say the internal dialogue we see with all of the four main-POVs, Evelyn, Raif, Hector and Commander Sulemon, would be the main part. To a greater or lesser extent, we are given a window into their mental health. Their anxieties, fears, and internal conflicts, which I’ve formed from personal experiences, my experience counselling clients and my knowledge of mental health and counselling theory.

You wrote in your bio that your stories include talking animals. That’s very intriguing; can you tell me more about your animal characters? Are they magical creatures or, say, talking pets? How do you come up with their unique voices, their personalities? 

Yes, that’s right! They’re called companions and I would say they’re very much inspired by previous books I’ve read, including His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings and The Song of the Lioness Quartet, all of which have talking “animals” in some form or other. The way companions work in the world of Awakening (and The Commune’s Curse series as a whole) is that they are drawn to and become psychologically linked with individuals who possess incredibly strong powers. From then on, they are able to communicate with that individual through telepathy, essentially. In Awakening, there is a dog companion for six-year-old Rose, who she calls Dog, and a cat companion for Hector called Cara. I found it quite easy to give them their unique personalities based on pets members of my family and I have owned. Dog is very much inspired by my old dog, Evie, who died in June 2020—she was very affectionate and loyal, just like Dog. Cara is inspired by cats I’ve known over the years who are proud, haughty and aloof.

You’ve mentioned you’re a new mother; how do you find the time to write along with adjusting to your new family routine? Do you have any advice for those out there who may be struggling to find time for their own writing? 

I am, my son was born in summer 2021. It’s been really tough adjusting, honestly. I will say I wasn’t in the least bit prepared for the absolute culture shock of having a whole new human to take care of and think about. For anyone struggling, I’d say be kind with yourself. I certainly wasn’t to start with and expected myself to be just as productive as I was without a baby. It takes time to basically set up a whole new routine that takes into account the huge changes a baby brings to your life. I’ve recently discovered how much I can get done on the notes application on my phone. I would previously have thought I had to use to my laptop, but being flexible with those expectations has helped my productivity no end!

What was your inspiration for your debut novel, Awakening? Do you have any favorite authors who may have served as an influence in your writing style? 

I first started writing Awakening when I was creating my backstory for Evelyn, my D&D fighter, and began feeling inspired to keep going. I then found an old short story I’d written a few years previously about brother and sister, Raif and Rose, and the black dog they found. Those characters all came together and, slowly, the Kingdom of Septima was formed. I’ve absolutely been inspired by fantasy authors I’ve read over the years, including J. V. Jones, Tamora Pierce, Philip Pullman, Stephen Deas, Robin Hobb… I could keep going, so I’ll stop there!

Awakening will be the first in a trilogy, is that right? Where are you in your progress on the other books; do you have an idea where they will go, are they already outlined, etc? Are you open to the idea of lengthening the series? 

That’s right. Book two is drafted and in need of some heavy editing. I’ve got the third book outlined, which was something my publisher, SFWP, asked for when they offered me my contract. It’s good to have an idea of where the trilogy will conclude, though I’m sure there’ll be some tweaks as I come to write it… I’d certainly be open to the idea of lengthening the series. I feel that the Kingdom of Septima could have a lot more interesting stories and characters within it. I’ve already written some prequel chapters, set 100 years before Awakening, that provide some background as to how things are how they are in the series. I’ll likely carry on with those because I’ve really enjoyed “padding out” the history.

Author Lucy A. McLaren

Well, that was a great interview for my first post! She seems lovely and I look forward to following her writing career.

As a side-note, Valentine’s Day recently passed, which marked the one-year anniversary of the day Legends of Andolin was published. I’m still in the process of writing LoA2 (but nearing the end), and have some fun little story arcs for the different characters. We will be seeing new faces as well as familiar ones. It’s been a blast to write, with a lot of research put in as well. If you have read the first book and are interested in becoming a beta reader for this second one, please send me an email letting me know and I’ll put you in the list: Email me

That’s all for now! Thanks for stopping by.

~ Audra