I was a theatre major in college and pursued an acting career for a few years. I later moved into advertising sales in the magazine and digital media business where I sold advertising and managed sales teams for companies like Conde Nast and WebMD. I later left media to become an executive recruiter for internet companies. But, no matter how I earned a living, I always wrote…for me, for my friends and family.
I eventually left recruiting to pursue a full-time career as a writer. I’ve completed my 8th novel and am working simultaneously on the ninth and tenth. Since I usually write mystery/thrillers, my process is to know the beginning and the end before I start. Then I do a lengthy outline anywhere from 10-40 pages and break it out scene by scene. If I do my prep right and develop my characters fully, they kind of write themselves.
Q & A with McGarvey Black
Are you a Plotter or Pantser?
I started out as a Pantser and then after two novels I tried doing a very detailed and long outline for the third. The difference was dramatic. I cranked out the third book in one tenth the time. I’ll never go back to Pantsing….I’m a big Plotter advocate now.
Favorite place to write?
In bed with my computer on my lap and a glass of iced tea with lemon on my nightstand.
Do you sit down to write huge chunks for several hours or stick to a short set writing time each day?
I sit down for sometimes 10 hours to write. I try writing everyday even if for only an hour.
How many book ideas do you have in your notes currently?
Oh Lordy. I’ve probably got 30 or 40 book ideas some more fleshed out than others. My challenge is to not jump to a new one before I finish the one I’m working on. I always gravitate to the shiny new thing and I have to discipline myself. No new projects until the old one is finito!
How many of your characters are loosely based on real people you know?
It’s a mix for me. My first two novels were based on people I’ve known. My third and fourth are all made up in my head. But that said, usually it’s something in real life that triggers the idea for me. Often, it’s something in the news that fascinates me.
Who is your most and least favorite character you’ve ever created?
Least favorite – The murderer in my debut novel I NEVER LEFT — Alec Roberts. There was nothing redeemable about him and he got what he deserved. My favorite character is also from I NEVER LEFT, Quinn Roberts, the murder victim. You just want to take care of her and be her friend.
How often do you feel like you get writers block?
I never get writer’s block. If I’m struggling with a chapter or character or plot it’s because it’s not right. Like trying to push a square peg into a round hole. If it isn’t happening, I usually attack the problem from a completely different direction and then it almost always works.
What was the first story you ever wrote?
It was in high school. The short story was about a girl who had a favorite breakfast cereal that she ate every single morning. One day she finds out the company who makes it has decided to discontinue the cereal and the girl goes into a tailspin.
What is your favorite book?
Oh boy, that’s hard to say. So many books, so little time. What just popped into my head was East of Eden by John Steinbeck but I really loved Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, too. Of course Edith Wharton is amazing.
Which is the book you wish you had written?
Harry Potter for obvious reasons. How many authors’ books became an attraction at Universal Studios? That would be so cool.
How did the idea for THE FIRST HUSBAND come about?
I met a young married couple in Delhi, India 30 years ago and the wife told me their shocking wedding story. I was stunned by what she said but I never saw them again. Unfortunately, I only knew their first names so I was never able to track them down online. Believe me, I tried. All these years I wondered what happened to them. How did their life unfold and how did their story end? So, I decided to make up what happened. I want the readers to know that the story of the couple, the marriage and the locket are 100 percent true. I think that makes the story so much better. Something very bad happened between the couple so I decided that the retribution would have to be of biblical proportions.
I also get a lot of my ideas while I’m on my bicycle and have to pull over and type the ideas into my phone or I’ll forget them. I’ve been known to get up in the middle of the night and write if I get a good idea. Obsessive….a little I guess.