Q&A With JP McLean

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Q&A With JP McLean

Another guest Mickey Mikkelson connected me with today is author JP McLean, the bestselling and award-winning author of the supernatural thriller series Dark Dreams. The books in the series are Ghost Mark, Blood Mark, & coming out on November 14th Scorch Mark! 

Q: JP would you like to tell the readers and me about the Dark Dreams series and where the idea for the series came from?

A: I’d be happy to, Bianca. The Dark Dreams novels tell Jane Walker’s story. She was born with three strikes against her: she was abandoned at birth; she’s afflicted with a form of narcolepsy that leaves her paralyzed when she dreams (and she dreams of some horrific past events); and she bears a chain of birthmarks that snake around her body. The novels follow Jane as she learns more about why she was abandoned, why she’s plagued with these dreams, and what the birthmarks really are (hint: they’re not birthmarks). 

The idea was sparked by an NBC show called Blind Spot, which starred Jaimie Alexander. In the opening scene of the first episode, a bomb squad tech approaches an abandoned duffle bag in an eerily empty Times Square. Emerging from the bag is a woman covered in tattoos from the neck down. The woman doesn’t remember who she is or how she got the ink. When I first saw that woman with the tattoos, it stirred my imagination. I wondered what it might be like to have to live with markings that weren’t of your choosing. That was the seed for the series, and I developed it from there.

Q: When writing Scorch Mark, would you say that writing this current book in the Dark Dreams series was easier or more difficult than writing the previous books? Some authors say each new book becomes harder to write, while others say it becomes easier. 

A: For me, I’d have to say Scorch Mark was easier to write than the previous two books. I think it’s because with each book I get more practiced at writing in third person and weaving three storylines together. The change of writing style was something I challenged myself to when I finished writing my seven-book Gift Legacy series, which was written entirely in first person from one character’s perspective. But it’s also easier because I’ve spent more time with the characters, so I know them better.

Q: What do you enjoy most about writing stories with magic in them? I know I enjoy reading them! 

A: I love the infinite possibility that exists with magic. It can be anything at all, from conjuring a candle-lighting flame to raining molten lava on a city. There are no limits, no boundaries, other than your imagination. 

Q: Are you writing book 4 in The Dark Dreams series? 

A: There may be a book 4 in the Dark Dreams series at some point, but right now I’m distracted by a cast of witches and warlocks who’ve been prodding me to explore their story.

Q: If Hollywood were to snatch up the rights to your work (if they haven’t yet) who would be your ideal cast to play the characters you created?

A: Jane, Sadie, and Ethan are the key characters. Krysten Ritter, who I enjoyed in her role as Marvel’s Jessica Jones, would make a great Jane. Julia Garner, who I loved as Ruth in Ozark, or someone like Gabriella Wilde, who is both an actress and an Estee Lauder model, could play Sadie. And someone like Dylan O’Brien, who starred in American Assassin, could play Ethan’s role.

Q: How do you create your characters and fictional worlds they live in? Do you use bits and pieces of real people and places?

A: You guessed it! Using bits and pieces of real people is exactly how I create my characters. I’ll know quite a few character traits before I start writing, and some of that detail dictates their age, education, or occupation. Physical traits also come from knowing the characters. Are they physically fit or challenged? Do they work indoors or out? Are they fashion conscious or not? That tells me if they might dye their hair, wear makeup, or will be into the latest fashions. I can then pick the bits and pieces of real people that fit the characters.

As for the places I create, because I set my books in present day Vancouver, it’s not so much using bits and pieces, but using what’s already there. But when the setting doesn’t exist, I will use an existing setting as a model, and adjust it as needed. 

Q: How long does it take for you to typically write a book?

A:  After I rough the outline, it’ll take a year to write the book. That’s about eight months of writing and four months of editing. The outline stage is difficult to quantify. It happens over months and sometimes years. I keep a notebook handy and jot down notes as they come to me. Some of those notes will make it into an outline, but others get set aside for another project.