Author Interview | Schuyler McConkey Part 1

via Schuyler's War of Loyalties Pinterest Board
Today I am over-the-moon excited to share with you a very fun feature with my dear friend and newly published author Schuyler McConkey! War of Loyalties just released into the world on the 30th of November, and in honour of that, I'm having Schuyler on my blog tonight for tea, some scrumptious cakes (virtually speaking, I know!), and a fun chat about her writing, interests and more about her historical espionage novel that's just come out. I've known Schuyler for a few years now, & treasure her as a precious friend, so it's truly amazing and moving to see the journey she's been through and all the hard-work and zeal she has put to come to this place as an author, releasing the story of her heart to us. I've honestly dreamed of this day for years! Finally, I am so thrilled to interview Schuyler in a blog-hop today on my Fullness of Joy blog & tomorrow will finish the interview on her own blog, My Lady Bibliophile (I'll be leaving a link/sharing the post tomorrow, so stay tuned for Part 2!). And now, without any further ado, please let me introduce to you, our very own bibliophile, Schuyler <3!

1. Hello, Schuyler, what a pleasure it is to have you on Fullness of Joy blog for this interview today! To start this off, could you please share with us a little bit about yourself? Let us know some of your hobbies, interests, personality traits, (is it tea or coffee?!), preferred colours, a secret super-power, cats or dogs, etc. …! J

Thank-you so much for having me, Joy! I love your interviews, and I’m so excited to be on your blog!

Someone read the first couple pages of War of Loyalties once and jokingly said they’d like to know more about me—maybe it was something to do with a homeschooler writing about spies! I told them I was an introvert who liked big books and the color purple. J I love tea, but often forget it until it’s sitting cold on the table, I love the cute TinyKittens, and deep, one-on-one conversations are my jam! I’m horrifically bookish, and my hobbies seem to revolve around stories—thinking about them, writing them, and reading/watching them!

2. "Horrifically bookish" you and me both, Schuyler :). So... without giving too much away, could you be persuaded to tell us a bit about your newly released novel, War of Loyalties, and any little facts you’re keen to share? 


I would love to! Here’s a bit of a back cover description:

April, 1917. A ring of German spies threatens the coastal town of Folkestone, England. Newly-recruited agent Ben Dorroll must uncover which British citizens are traitors to their country. When his first attempt at espionage falls prey to a trap laid by German sympathizers, the security of the British Secret Service is threatened. Feeling lost in a strange country and aching for a steady place to call home, he wants to resign and go back to his American medical work. But when he learns that his family identity holds the key to capturing the spy ring, Ben has no choice but to unite with the mysterious Jaeryn Graham so that the truth can be discovered.

In the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, Jaeryn Graham's British colleagues look warily on his Irish background. Always up for a challenge, he thinks his new mission in the Secret Service should be an opportunity to prove his prowess. But after encountering death and alienating two agents, he finds the road to victory isn't as easy as he thought. Unless he can win the loyalties of his newest assistant, Ben Dorroll, his secret ambitions and his perfect success record will be destroyed.

3. At what age did you first start writing and develop a love for wordcrafting? Was there someone or something that influenced you to start this journey?

I loved writing from a fairly young age. My first stories were influenced by children’s books. I once organized a children’s series set during the Civil War with themes of family and siblings, but later I started delving into classics and writing much more dramatic things. My later stories were influenced by so many rich and good writers who made me want to continue on with stories of my own. It was a sweet time getting started writing (I have tons of hand-written ideas) and I will always treasure it!

4. Those early years are indeed precious & wonderful to look back on with fond memories. Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Who do you see as having been the literary giants or “Greats” that have inspired your writing and perhaps even your life thus far?

You know, Dickens and Conan Doyle, as well as L.M. Montgomery, shaped my love for stories themselves. K.M. Weiland’s website and books were a huge influence on my decision to self-publish. As I looked at her books, I thought that if I ever self-published, I would want to do it exactly like her. This later led me to my editor and cover designer.

5. It has been 100 years since the Great War! This year especially marks a century since America first joined the war. Tell us what inspired you to write your novel during this era, most specifically focusing on the espionage side of World War 1? Are there any historical facts, gleaned from your research while writing War of Loyalties, which you’d like to share with us today?

War of Loyalties being set in WW1 started off as Sherlock Holmes fanfiction. Originally I’m sure the espionage was inspired by the Holmes’ story “His Last Bow”, where Holmes helps with a bit of espionage himself. I also read a Sherlock Holmes commentary (not written by Doyle) with a timeline stating that Watson died in the first World War. That upset me so much as a girl that I started my own story that included him alive after the war.

Later, of course, Sherlock Holmes was entirely removed from the story and the book was set during the war itself. As far as interesting facts go, one of the main themes for war atmosphere was pulled from Martin D. Gilbert’s First World War. As I read the book, it was amazing how many thousands of lives were wasted at the front based on poor decisions that people refused to change. While war inevitably brings death, Ben and Jaeryn disagree with that waste of life.

What?! Watson killed? *gulps* That is not okay! *tries not to be too traumatised* Well done for trying to save Dr. John Watson's life <3. 

6. Not to sound like Fanny Thornton and say “I see you’re not musical, as you have no piano…” ;), but what’s your favourite type/style of music? Do you have any favourite composers/albums/artists? Share some favourites!

Haha! I am not what you would call musical, believe it or not, but I DO love listening to a lot of music. Spotify is my favorite program to use while I write. On my playlists you’ll find a lot of Celtic Thunder, select Broadway musical songs, select Disney songs, Peter Hollens, and CCM songs that have meant a lot to me from attending my local Bible study or different church events.

7. Spotify is my favourite too! So, in one word each, how would you describe each of the main characters of War of Loyalties?

Believe it or not, I made my beta readers do that once, but I don’t think I’ve done it for all the characters myself yet!

Ben: Integrity
Jaeryn: Power
Terry:  Helper
Charlotte: Faithfulness
Pearlie: Heart-hunger

I like that!

8. So, Schuyler, what does a day in your life as a writer look like? (Any tips, or advice on how to balance writing with other life-responsibilities is always welcome!) Do you have a favourite café haunt? What are your quirkiest writing habits?

You know, it’s a little random from week to week and sometimes it’s a challenge because I don’t have a set time to write (it depends on what jobs I have on which day, and then working from there), but I am blessed because I  do have a lot of time to get writing in. Sometimes it’s in the evening after supper, or in the afternoon just before supper, or between 10am-12pm. My favorite café haunt is an old bank building that’s been made over into a coffee shop. It has random vintage art, vintage music, dark wood walls, and tons of college students who cram into it to study or chat. Alas, I do not do any fun habits, but I can listen to music with singing while I write, and I can do interviews (thanks to learning how from Emily of The Herosinger) where more than one character talks to each other.

That cafe sounds amazing!

9. Can you picture War of Loyalties being adapted into a movie or tv show miniseries? In the stuff of your dreams, whom would you cast for your main characters? Any dream director, scriptwriter or score composer?

Absolutely. If I could have my way, I’d love it if someone like Masterpiece Theatre got ahold of it for a miniseries. I’ve always pictured a younger Rufus Sewell being Jaeryn, and Ben Aldridge as Ben Dorroll, with Rosamund Pike as Charlotte and Tamzin Merchant as Pearlie. While I don’t agree with all of Andrew Davies’ choices, I love his screenplays for Dickens and think he does a phenomenal job of capturing the spirit of the book. So I’d love producers and writers that respected my worldview but upheld the quality that these producers/screenwriters do in their movie productions.

Oooh, I like those choices!

10. This is the bane question of a literary-interview, but can you share five of your most well-loved authors? Why do you love them so much?

Hehe, trying to challenge me, are we, m’dear???

Charles Dickens—vivid, huge casts of characters and long books.
L.M. Montgomery—incredible ability to describe scenery and capture the challenge of being an individual adult while living in community with other people.
Rosemary Sutcliff—she can capture yearning and beautiful moments in time like no one else.
A.A. Milne—his humor and imagination is precious.
Patrick Carr—Again, vivid cast of characters. I love his main characters, how they’re flawed by emotional pain and forced to overcome being taken advantage of by people on the good side of the story.

A great collection of authors! I'm especially digging Milne right now with the new movie Goodbye Christopher Robin <3.

11. As a Christian as well as an author, how do you feel your faith affects your writing generally and War of Loyalties specifically? In what ways do you use writing to express your worldview of life? 

This is a good question and at the same time a somewhat painful one. My ability to include faith in my stories was still very immature when I started this book as a teenager, smacking of legalism and just not fitting an adult novel. Over each draft, I gradually took out more and more of the references to faith. Somehow, while I’ve included my faith in other stories I’ve written, it’s always sounded awkward when I tried to put it in War of Loyalties. While there are brief references to prayer, God, and Providence, there isn’t what I would call a “faith arc” to the story.

While I would love to be able to pull off something better than that, I was telling my mom and a friend the other day that I feel like I had to remove the parts of the story that expressed my way of thinking as a child, and now moving forward, I can include faith in my books as an adult, mature believer. I expect the next book will express my Christian beliefs more openly.

I really appreciate that experience. I think what most matters is that this story is true to your heart and life experience & in the end imbibes your worldview even if you avoid making it explicit or overtly push it down other people's throats. 

12. Similarly as you write, do you hold to any convictions on how you approach moral issues, such as in how you depict darkness and sin, or suffering & brokenness? How do you try to draw the distinction between good and evil while plummeting the depth of the human heart and condition?

I choose not to put language in books. It disturbs me so much that even if a character was likely to do it, I never want to put in the words themselves. I do make reference to someone swearing, I just don’t put the words in. I am not likely to put in a lot of sexual sin, because it bothers me very much, but if I did I would want to be gentle about the details and handle it biblically. Of the three hot button issues (language, sex, and violence) I probably put violence in the most. I grew up reading books about war and adventure and drama, and so I imitated that in my own style, but I certainly hope it’s dramatic without being gratuitous. Especially in one section where a character had to make a difficult decision about the value of life, I tried to show how much it hurt to wrestle through and how much they cared for life in spite of the situation.

I like that & I believe I have a similar standard in that area! We need wholesome books that do not indulge in the gratuitous or immoral just because it may appear gritty and "real".  

13. Your tightly-knit faithful group of fans are probably famous for being fond of a certain gentleman of Irish descent with a fierce… ahem… loyalty. But since our beloved Jaeryn seems to be getting the cake as the fans’ favourite, can you single out the character that YOU relate to the most? Also, do you have a favourite minor character in War of Loyalties?

*chuckles* Bless Jaeryn’s heart. I think friends have joked that a piece of me is in all the characters, but deep down I probably relate a lot to Ben.

My favorite minor character…wow, that’s tough. I love the way Starlin King turned out. He’s so sullen and immature sometimes, but he was one of the easiest characters to write—he basically wrote himself.

I'm reading War of Loyalties at the moment and I can definitely connect with Ben & see that connection with you as well; I can't wait to meet Starlin King!

14. While writing War of Loyalties, did you find yourself learning any lessons or going through any of the journeys/struggles that your characters went through yourself?

Oh, yes. There are so many things I could not have written if my own life hadn’t been shaped to journey through it. While I can trace my own struggles easier in book two (War of Honor), I think in book one my split personality between integrity at all costs and wondering what to do with situations that seem to demand compromise came through in Ben and Jaeryn’s opposite personalities.

15. Do you work religiously to an outline/plan or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you, and let the plot sort itself out? Do you write more by logic or intuition, or a combination of the two? 

You know, this book was such an unfettered spirit from the writing standpoint. I had a plan (believe it or not, my favorite plot plan is from an old English school book) but I did a lot of wandering to get to the final point. I knew so little when I started the entire thing about writing and plot, and I’ve never felt like logic is my strong suit. The only thing that made this book get better was major rewrites for each draft, lots of desperate prayers, and indefatigable input from my sister and beta readers. I am so, so happy with how tightly it turned out. It reads like a real book now. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a good outliner, but I hope to hit on an efficient writing process eventually.

That's amazing!

16. Can you tell us what your current favourite movies, TV shows, and books are? (Stress is on the current, of course…).

You bet! Currently I’m loving the ITV Victoria, Masterpiece Theatre’s Little Dorrit, and The Man Who Invented Christmas. They’re all movies I’ve watched recently, and while I’d fast-forward through a couple parts of Victoria, in all of them I love the rich characters, heartfelt drama, and heart-warming plots. For books, I’m loving a re-read of Nadine Brandes’ A Time to Die (Again, wonderful, rich characters and she does a great job of including her faith.) and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (which I’m teaching through.)

Oooh, ITV's Victoria is really becoming adictive, isn't it? I can't wait for you to see season 2! I really want to watch The Man Who Invented Christmas - sounds like such a fun, writerly advent movie :).

17. What sections in War of Loyalties gave you the hardest time to write? Which was the most exciting or fun? On a similar vein, do you enjoy writing spark-filled dialogue or crafting out bush-stroke descriptions or intricate plots more?

Haha. The first quarter of the book was the hardest ever. It took me draft after draft, and the pacing was still too slow. It was hard to work in the espionage right away, and to write events big enough to hold reader interest while introducing the characters. It wasn’t until the very last draft that I finally got enough excitement to hold the pacing. Now I really like the way it turned out.

I love writing dialogue best (scenes where Ben and Jaeryn are disagreeing always seem to come easiest!) Descriptions never really come well in my first draft—I can always slow down and think about detail in the second draft.

Oooh, Ben & Jaeryn arguments!! :D 

18. Final question for this part of the interview: what are some of the theological and philosophic themes or questions you feel your novel addresses, and what were some of the thought-ideas that helped influence the heart of this tale?

What to do when integrity and compromise seem to clash. Obviously with spying you have to do things many Christians wouldn’t ordinarily approve of, so it’s an interesting point to consider. I think it’s cool (though I didn’t set out to do this) to see how the characters have difference consciences from each other and from me that influence the part they’re able to contribute. I was thinking the other day that God gives us those different sensitivities so we can minister in different ways and hold each other balanced and accountable.

Thank you so much, dear Schuyler! It's such a delight to have you on Fullness of Joy! Congratulations on the release of War of Loyalties too!! Be sure to stay tuned, dear readers, for Part 2 of this interview on Schuyler's blog: My Lady Bibliophile. Go & grab yourself a copy of War of Loyalties on Amazon either available via ebook or paperback. And also don't forget to enter into Schuyler's very exciting giveaway :D.


Giveaway
First Prize Winner:
-Paperback copy of War of Loyalties
-“Jaeryn’s Vow” 8x10 poster
-Custom War of Loyalties mug

Second Prize Winner:
-Ebook of War of Loyalties
-Real vintage Folkestone postcard (this is a postcard that has actually been posted in 1917.)

Third Prize Winner: (open to international winners)
-Ebook of War of Loyalties

Wordpress Giveaway Link:
US residents only for 1st and 2nd prizes. Accounts created solely for giveaways not eligible.

About the Author
Schuyler McConkey is a writing teacher, book reviewer, and ministry leader living half of her life in happy fellowship with her family and spending the other half in angst-filled fictional worlds. She is passionate about classic, Dickensian stories and characters who encounter deep struggles touched by grace. Irish music, British movies, and chai lattes provide the fuel for her dreams.


Comments

  1. I just have to say, Schuyler, that after a quick trip over to your Pinterest board, all your "character casting" choices are perfect! Having read the book first, I can so easily see each one of them playing those parts. :)

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    1. I'm so glad!! I had forgotten I put so many on the public board--I love them all so much, and I'm so glad you enjoyed it! :)

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    2. I just read your post on Kaleigh's blog, Schuyler, & what a surprise to discover there is a SECRET War of Loyalties board... I wonder if any of us will ever be given a peek? ;)

      But I agree totally with you @Elisabeth about the casting choice! :D

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  2. It was interesting to read a little more insight in the book and story writing process! I'm looking forward to my copy of War of Loyalties making it to Australia! Thanks for sharing, Joy. :)

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    Replies
    1. I'm so glad! Joy thinks up amazing questions--they were so fun to answer! I hope you really enjoy WoL! :D :D

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    2. I always love discovering those aspects about an author's work & finding out more about the process of a book coming to life! <3 No worries, Jessica, it was an honour to have Schuyler on my blog! P.S. War of Loyalties is currently available on Amazon via paperback & ebook so you can probably already order it from now?

      Aww, Schuyler, you are super sweet!!

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