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Interview with Zoe M. McCarthy

Readers, meet Zoe M. McCarthy author of Calculated Risk—her debut novel. Zoe's main character, Nick, is an actuary. Read more to find out how Zoe used her own experience to give Nick that particular profession.

Zoe, as a self-proclaimed Military Brat, you've lived in a few interesting places. You've also had an interesting career. Can you share with our readers how you've been able to use your personal history to make your characters come to life?
Although I evaluated financial risks as an actuary, I wanted to write a story of a different kind of risk: the probability of romance between extreme opposites. I wanted to introduce a numbers man from this little known actuarial profession as the hero. And the heroine had to be his extreme opposite.

Having worked with social, expressive marketing reps and analytical, private actuaries, I knew Cisney had to be a marketing rep. I also knew how the two types view each other and get along. A romance between Cisney and Nick was highly improbable.

People often tell me they’re surprised I’m both an introverted analytical AND a creative expressive. I get my energy from being alone. And I love statistical charts. But I also enjoy brainstorming zany ideas, and I use my hands while talking. The setting drives which type I display. Because of this dichotomy, I could easily get into Cisney’s and Nick’s heads. Plus, my husband is a retired actuary.

Being both introverted and expressive is distracting. Knowing it would be the same between Cisney and Nick, I came up with the belief that opposites distract. My tagline became: Distraction to Attraction, Magnetic Romances Between Opposites.

Tell us about your main characters and what you most want our readers to know about him/her.
Cisney and Nick are extreme opposites. Nick is analytical, private, and hates to be wrong. Cisney is vibrant, expressive, and lives by sticky notes. He listens to 70’s music; she plays and listens to classical. He drives a beige sedan; she owns a red SUV. Nick’s communication skills irk her. His family’s attraction to Cisney sets him grumbling—to himself, of course.

Briefly describe one of your typical writing days.
Five days a week, up at 5AM. Spend time reading the Bible, journaling with a devotional, and praying until about 7:30AM. Check Social Media. Then breakfast and work an iPad crossword puzzle with John. Do a few chores. Return to my recliner and MacBook Air by 9AM. Write, edit, research. Join John for lunch and the crossword puzzle at noon. Then back in my chair for a ten-minute devotion. Write, edit, research. Call it a day around 6PM.

If you could spend the day with a famous author, whom would you choose?
Is Jenny B. Jones famous enough? She’s my inspiration. I spent fifteen minutes with her at an ACFW conference in a mentor’s appointment. I think she could understand my droll humor and eye-rolling sass. She could give me pointers on how she keeps it under control.

What one bit of advice can you give to writers who are having difficulty finishing a novel?
Remember what agent Chip MacGregor said in a workshop. He said writers learn to write by completing four books. It’s that fifth one that gets a contract. This was true for me. So re-evaluate if possibly God is calling you to some other form of writing, such as non-fiction books, devotionals, or articles and blogs. OR start completing novels so you’ll truly be on the road to publishing.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities? How do you overcome the challenge?
Right now, promoting my debut novel, Calculated Risk, and keeping up with tasks I’m committed to on my platform consumes my writing time. I treat writing as a nine to six job, which helps a lot. My husband sees how seriously I treat writing and pitches in, doing the grocery shopping, vacuuming, and laundry.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Cisney thinks Nick is a poor communicator, but, even though she’s expressive, Cisney is no better. When I sat down to write my story questions, I realized Calculated Risk teaches much about communication. I saw how the quality of our communication skills is often determined by whom we’re communicating with and in what settings. For example, Cisney communicates well at work with her team. But she lets personal judgments affect how she communicates with Nick. She doesn’t stand up for herself when she communicates with her father. I noticed several other such principles as well.

Plotter, Pantser, or Planser?
I have finally settled into a combo. I plan out the cycle of the events in the book: inciting incident, disasters, and the black moment, and a few other events. Then I let the characters lead the story between these.

Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
I target women from 25 to 80 who enjoy a touching, but clean, romance with a few laughs. The feedback I’m getting from women, who range between 30 and 85 shows they enjoy the memorable and loveable characters—main and supporting characters. One reader said, “I’m in love with Nick.” (Me, too.) They felt they were in the moment of each scene and liked the pace of the book. They commented that they enjoyed finding humor and tenderness, with a few dramatic moments on the side.

LIGHTNING ROUND:
Pride and Prejudice or Gone with the Wind? Pride and Prejudice. BBC version.
PC or Mac? Mac, Mac, Mac.
Summer, Spring, Winter, or Fall? Summer. Green.
While writing: Music or Silence? Silence. Shhh.
Coffee or Tea? Tea. Unsweet, please.

Any parting words?
Parting. Hmm. Sounds like magnets turned to their polar opposites—distracted from their attraction. Parting. Yes, opposites distract before they attract. I’ll leave you with that principle and my appreciation for hosting me.

Thanks for sharing with us, Zoe!




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