Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Maureen McQuerry on success, writing rhythms, and her new release

Maureen divides her time between writing, teaching and presenting. Her YA novel, The Peculiars (Abrams/Amulet 2012) is an  ALA Best Book for Young Adult Readers 2013, Bank Street and Horne Book recommended book, and a winner of the Westchester Award. Her most recent book is Beyond the Door (Abrams/Amulet), a Booklist top Ten Fantasy/SciFi for Youth. It is the first in a MG duo that combines, Celtic  myth, shapeshifters and a secret code in a coming of age story.  The adventure continues in The Telling Stone due out in 2015. Maureen has taught writing to children and adults, loves giving author talks in schools and at conferences.  When she’s not writing or reading, she’s hiking, biking or traveling and always hoping for a real life mystery or adventure. 

Maureen is also an award winning poet. Her  work has appeared in: Smartish Pace, the Georgetown Review, The Atlanta Review, The Southern Review, Quiddity, Relief Journal and several anthologies.

Stephanie here! I'm delighted that our guest today is Maureen McQuerry. As you can see from the list of accomplishments above, Maureen knows her stuff and was gracious enough to let me ask her a few questions:

Maureen, when you became more serious about writing, what's something you changed?

I’ve always been serious about writing, but there came a time when I realized it was now or never. What I mean is this. I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and think that I hadn’t pursued my dream because I was afraid of failure. Fear is often the thing that stands between us and our goals. 
  1. I made sure to fit time into my schedule to write every day.
  2. I joined a critique with other serious writers. We gave each other deadlines and honest feedback.
  3. I became very systemic about keeping track of my submissions. 
I love that you made a choice to push past the fear of failure. I think all writers have to get to that place before they can succeed. 

Tell us some about your writing rhythm. Do you have a place you write? An order in which you do things? I love learning the habits of other writers.

I write in an upstairs bedroom that used to be my son’s. The room has sloped ceilings and lots of character. Against one wall is a big bookcase that came from an old school. We had to bring it in through the window. I’ve got many of my favorite things in this room including wonderful art work that inspires me and framed covers of my books.

I’d like to say that I go straight to writing but I don’t. I always check email first and sometimes it drags me in. I try to write in the morning and leave the afternoon for the business side of writing and errands.

Ha! I love the image of getting the bookshelf in through the window. My house was built in the 60s and it's clear that furniture and appliances back then were not as large as they are now, because we've had to get creative too!

Now, when you came up with the idea for The Telling Stone, what excited you and made you want to write it? What do you hope readers walk away saying?

I came up with the idea when I encountered an ancient carving of a Greenman head. I loved the idea of a character that was part tree, part human. I wrote a poem called “Greenman” and it was published in several literary journals and then an anthology. I knew I wanted to explore that character more and the Greenman became the first character for The Time Out of Time series.

I want readers to think the books are a grand adventure. I want them to feel mystery is just around the corner and that there really is more to our lives than we can see. I also want them to see how the characters change, know that we are more than meets the eye, and not defined by the mistakes we make. 

Oh, wow, I love that. What's something you wish you could tell yourself when you were a new writer?

Success takes time. I know we hear this over and over, but people are impatient and the publishing process is slow. Because of that you need to celebrate the little accomplishments along the way. Find your tribe, other writers who understand you and your work. They will make the journey a joyful one, pull you out of the depths of despair, and be your greatest support.

That's excellent advice, Maureen. And happy release day!

"A sense of wonder and worry permeates the narrative evocative of The Dark Is Rising or the work of Neil Gaiman, and the cliffhanger ending will leave readers clamoring for more."
--Publishers Weekly, in its review for Beyond the Door Book One

In book two of the Time Out of Time series the excitement and mystery continue as Timothy, his sister Sarah and their friend Jessica journey from America to Edinburgh, Scotland, where they seek the Four Treasures of Ireland, especially the Telling Stone. They must keep them from falling into the hands of Balor, who can use the treasures to deprive the world of good.  The children pass through Time out of Time as they undertake their quest and encounter a number of mythic and folklore characters, including the Tuatha Dé Danann, Gwydon, Cerridwyn and others. 

A code hidden in an ancient map is the key to finding the Telling Stone, and readers can work alongside Timothy, Sarah, and Jessica to decode the message.  Along with the code, the book includes a four-color map and concludes with a glossary of the many historical, literary, and folklore references mentioned in both volumes. 

Learn more about Maureen's books on her website!


  1. Happy release day, Mrs. McQuerry! Your idea for a part tree, part human character is really interesting. :) Thank you for your advice and for stopping by GTW!

    1. Thanks for the welcome, Linea! Hanan and Linea, the idea for half tree, half people is an old one. there is an ancient poem in mythology called "The Battle of the Trees, Cad Goddeu." It's a Welsh poem from the 14th century about a character called Gwydion who calls trees to life to fight with him. In The time Out of Time series, Gwydon is one of the characters. Tolkien, Lewis and others are all drawing from this great source material when they have animated trees.

  2. Happy release day! As an Irish dancer who is obsesse with all things Celtic, I'll definitely be putting it on my wishlist.

    1. Thanks, Kathleen! At the release party for Beyond the Door, which you really should read first, we had Morris Dancers. If you haven't seen them, go to my website homepage, www.maureenmcquerry.com. They are an ancient tradition in the British Isles.

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    3. Oh, wow! That's really cool! I've only seen Morris dancers once or twice, but I think it's very fun looking. I'll definitely read Beyond the Door, as well. :)

  3. If you want to find another part tree and part human character, the book Here There be Dragons is a good place to look. The part tree and part human character in that book is the Green knight. I am working with Celtic mythology currently. The characters I am using from it are Macha and Coscar.

  4. Congrats on your release, Maureen!!!! What a lovely interview. Thank you for sharing and for stopping by. Can't wait to check out your books.

  5. Congratz on the release! I love this interview, especially the bit about getting the bookshelf through the window. What a mental visual, lol.