Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Meet YA Author Nicola J McDonagh

Carpinello's Writing Pages welcomes Nicola J McDonagh author of the YA novel Echoes from the Lost Ones.

First, a bit about Nicola:

I am a creative writing tutor, photographer, and published author. I trained as a photojournalist many years ago and have an Honours Degree in Drama and English Literature. I used to be an actor/director and scriptwriter, but gave it all up when I moved to Suffolk and fell in love with the scenery. I live in a 17thCentury timber-framed cottage in Suffolk UK with my husband and many feral/rescued cats.

After gaining a Creative Writing Diploma, I entered and won the Suffolk Book League’s Short Story Competition 2011. The next year I was short-listed for the Escalator Genre Fiction Competition. This gave me the confidence to complete my manuscript, which came into being during a writing class, I teach at the local High School. Two of the girls that attend challenged me to write a dystopian young adult novel, and The Song of Forgetfulness series was born.

I try to write something every day, even if it’s only a few hundred words. Most of the time I do a lot more and often complete a chapter or two. At the moment I am editing the second book in the series and dipping in and out of the third one.

Why did you pick to write books for YA?

I spend a lot of time working with young people in an arts based capacity and I listen to what they say about the books that they read. I decided to write for YA because I felt that I could create a story that would appeal to that age group, incorporating issues that aren’t always addressed in fiction of this genre. I wanted to make the character very real to the reader and decided to let her do normal things, such as go to the toilet and have a menstrual cycle. These were some of the issues that the young people I work with felt were lacking in YA books.

What types of books do you like to read?

I enjoy reading some YA novels such as Unwind by Neal Shusterman and the Chaos Walking
series by  Patrick Ness. I also enjoy science fiction, particularly Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon and Ursula la Guin. I also like the classics: Dickens, Bronte sisters, and Thomas Hardy. Also I enjoy more surrealistic works: Gunter Grass The Tin Drum, Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, Heart of A  Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov, At Swim Two Birds by Flann O’Brien. I think Conrad and Nabokov are  two of my favourite authors. I enjoy humor too: Jeeves and Wooster series by PG Wodehouse and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I have a particular fondness for the short stories of Annie Proulx, Flannery O Connor, and always go back to Sylvia Plath’ s poetry.

When you are not writing, what do you like to do?

When I’m not writing, I’m taking photographs, or making sun photos. I love to experiment with photographic techniques and can often be seen gyrating around a darkened room with a camera and a torch making my ‘painting with light’ images. I also love to cook and grow some of my own vegetables. I enjoy sitting in the summerhouse and watching nature run amok in my back garden. Sometimes my husband and I go for bicycle rides around the country lanes. I feed and pamper a number of rescue cats and relax by watching a good movie or HBO series with my husband. At the moment I am learning to play the flute and the piano accordion.

Tell us about Echoes from the Lost Ones and how the story came to be.

Echoes from the Lost Ones is a Sci-Fi dystopian novel with a difference. I use a slang-based language to create a future world and to give my characters an individual personality. The book came about due to a challenge from some pupils that attend a creative writing group I teach at my local High School. They asked me to write something for their age group that included subject matters that they were concerned about, such as global warming, disease, and cloning. Also the fact that characters never seem to go to the toilet. After discussing what they liked to read and what they felt was lacking in most YA books, I came up with the idea for The Song of Forgetfulness. After researching about technological advances such as 3D printing, super strong-lightweight materials, and invisible cloth, I came up with several ideas for inclusion in the book. Adara’s invisible super lightweight Synthbag and self replicating Sterichoc, to name a few.

The story takes place in Scotland, in a time when plague and global warming have depleted mankind’s numbers and killed off all animals, except for birds that never land for fear of being eaten. In NotsoGreatBritAlbion there is hunger. The all-controlling Agros have cut supplies to the inhabitants of Cityplace and the Woodsfolk community, and have begun to raid settlements to find Meeks-gifted young ‘uns.

Here's a peek at Echoes from the Lost Ones:

Seventeen-year-old Citydweller Adara has a special gift that she must keep a secret:

I’m not like the other girlygigs in Cityplace; I’m a bringer. I can sing to the only animals left in NotsoGreatBritAlbion and make them land. Adara, catcher of birds -that’s what they call me and that’s what I can do.

Now that the Agros have cut supplies and folk are near starved, I’d best keep shutums about my name though, or everyone will want a piece of me.

I’d best creep and peep all stealthy-like to track down my bro-bro. Snatched by Agro scum for who knows what. 

Good job I’m trained in  S.A.N.T. ways too, for I’ll need all my roughhouse skills to keep the Agro spies, Nearly’s and wolfies at bay until I find and bring home my bro and all the other missing Meeks.

I just wish I knew who or what is following my every move.

Adara encounters many unusual people on her journey from the serene and gentle Ladies to the dreaded, mask wearing, wolfie-taming Clonies. Yet amongst these misfits and outcasts, Adara finds friends and allies who help her to realise her true potential when she is put to the test during her stay at the Monastery in the Clouds; where she must use all her skill and power to save herself and those she loves from being slaughtered by Agro spies.

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

I have started three or four, but never managed to finish them. There is one book that I keep going back to called Marauders of the Missing Mummies. It is an action adventure story for 8-12 year olds. It started life as a play I wrote especially for that age group to perform. I realised that there was a good story with some interesting characters and decided to make it into a novel. It tells the tale of Cleo Dreyser and her archeologist mother, as they search for two mummies stolen from them by the evil Erica Van Clutch, and her loveable sidekick Hannah Kush. Cleo and her friends are forced to travel to the Land of Reads to find The Book of the Dead and restore order before it is too late.

What advice do you have for other authors?

Don’t give up, even if publishers or agents reject you.  Write what you want to write and not what you think would sell. Don’t self-proof read. Get someone you trust to it for you. It is too easy to miss mistakes when reviewing your own work.  Consider self-publishing. These days there is a lot of support and free marketing out here to resource. Use online media platforms to promote yourself.
Converse with other authors, share books and reviews and get yourself noticed. Do book readings and
signings if you can. It’s a great way to actually meet readers who might enjoy your work.

Anything else you want readers to know?

I would like readers to know that my desire is for them to be drawn into the worlds I create through the language and descriptions I use in my writing. I would like them to embrace the idea of using language creatively to stimulate the reading experience. That reading is one of the most pleasurable activities around, it enables you to go to other places, meet strange and wonderful people and share in the world of make-believe and believe in it.

Where can readers find you and your books?




Echoes from the Lost Ones video


  1. This sounds cool! I'll add it on Goodreads methinks :)

  2. My 8th grade daughter likes dytopian fantasy like The Hunger Games. This might be a fit for her. Thanks so much for joining us for the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

  3. Hi PragmaticMom, thanks for your comment. It may be that your daughter would enjoy reading my book. it has more humour in it than The Hunger Games:)