This week, we’re lucky to feature debut author Mindy McGinnis, whose dystopian YA novel, Not a Drop to Drink, hits shelves today. The book centers on teenaged Lynn and a world in which water is limited and Lynn, and everyone around her, will go any means to protect fresh water. t’s definitely a book worth adding to your TBR pile!
We caught up with Mindy to chat about dreams, destiny, Ohio, and the benefits of staring into space.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer?
I grew up in a small town in Ohio and went to Otterbein College in Ohio. I then took my degrees in English Literture and Religion and went back to the small town to be an assistant librarian in the same high school I graduated from. I’m rather Ohio-bound. I’m still working full-time as a YA librarian, and intend to keep doing it. I’m one of the very lucky (and very few) people who loves their job.
What made me want to be a writer? Life. Life and my brain. Also, writing is a job where you can stare into space and legitimately claim to be working. I’m an expert space-starer.
Can you give us a quick synopsis of NOT A DROP TO DRINK? How did you come up with the concept for the book?
Not A Drop to Drink is set in a not-so-far future when freshwater is extremely rare. Rural dwellers who have hand-dug wells or ponds have their own sources, but must protect them constantly. My main character, Lynn, grew up completely isolated from any human beings other than her mother. Mother’s first priority was the welfare of her child, and that meant keeping their water safe. Lynn is taught at a young age to shoot first, ask questions later. The story begins with Lynn as a teenager, having spent her entire life this way. Changes come fast and hard, and Lynn has to learn how to protect her pond while entering into human relationships, which is quite hard for her.
The idea literally came to me in a dream after watching a documentary called Blue Gold, which talks about a projected water shortage for our planet. I woke up and thought, “Holy crap! This could be the one!” I wrote it in about six months, queried and landed Adriann Ranta as an agent in about two weeks. We were out on submission for about six months, and all told it will have been about two years after signing the contract with Katherine Tegen/Harper Collins to publication.
Not A Drop To Drink involves quite a diverse cast of characters. Apart from your main character, you feature a crippled boy, a mother, a pregnant woman. How did you handle developing your secondary characters?
They were already so developed in my head, I didn’t have to do much more than deliver that on the paper. I swear it’s not a cop-out answer! They all had such a presence. All I had to do was write.
What’s your writing process? What does a typical writing day look like?
I’m a linear pantster — crazy right? I get an idea, I type “Chapter One,” and I see what happens. There is no typical writing day, I write when I have time — usually between 9 to 11 p.m.. And oh yeah, I write in bed.
What has your path to publication been like?
The path has been awesome. I can’t say enough good things about my agent, my editor (Sarah Shumway) and the team at Katherine Tegen. But that’s the path of the past two years. There were ten years before that where I queried, failed, and kept querying. Yes, ten years.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? What advice would you yourself give aspiring authors?
I’ve never had any “best” writing advice, but I would definitely tell aspiring authors that they should *not* think they have to write every day in order to succeed. Some people do, sure. I go months at a time without writing. I do space-staring instead.
What was your favorite book when you were a kid/teenager? What are you reading now?
I read The Stand by Stephen King when I was too young to really be doing that. So glad I did. Thanks Mom, for being cool. Right now I’m reading Pivot Point by Kasie West — awesome, original, well-written.
What’s next for you writing-wise (and otherwise!)?
Next for me is holding on by my fingernails as I debut.
Do you believe in being part of a “bloc” of writers? Are critique groups and writing communities helpful to you?
How about invaluable? I truly believe that if it weren’t for the amazing community over at AgentQuery Connect I would not have landed an agent, or enjoyed any of the experiences post-agented. I now serve as a volunteer moderator at AQC and I advise anyone who is looking for an educated, professional, kind community to drop in.
Also I have to say that if it weren’t for my critique partner RC Lewis (Stitching Snow, 2014) I would be known as Mindy “Comma Splice” McGinnis. She does more than that, too, but I always say it’s a good thing I have a keeper. She’s the keeper, I’m the kept. She’s my more responsible, self-controlled half.
Beyond large communities and personal relationships, small groups like Class of 2k13, Lucky 13s and most of all Friday the Thirteeners, keep me sane. Debuting is a very chaotic time, and being with like-minded individuals is balm for the brain.
Thanks so much for stoping by TWB, Mindy!