Q & A: Caroline McGill

by Narzell Wise
September 2010

Briefly, tell us something about yourself and how you got your start as an author?
I’m a Virgo, and I was born and raised in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. I’m still single and I don’t have any kids yet, but I’m a proud auntie of six. I take my writing career very serious. This is how I eat, so I’m in this game up to my eyeballs.

When I was a kid, I had a crazy imagination. I wrote a lot of poetry, and I always had a knack for storytelling. But I didn’t realize that was a gift for a long time. I spent years out there paper chasing, and I went down every wrong path possible. I mean, I really did it all. And then I got tired of living like that, so I decided to enroll in school. I got a degree in Business Administration, and wanted to start my own legitimate company. I needed a product to sell, so I decided to write and publish my first book, A Dollar Outta Fifteen Cent. While I was writing, I did my homework. In 2004, I founded Synergy Publications and independently published my first novel.

Why did you decide to become an author?
I lived a life you could write a book on, so I did. My first novel was semi-based on my experiences. At the time, I desperately needed to complete something. I was going through a life change, and had something to prove to myself. I realized I was on a path of destruction, so I needed something to validate me. I knew I could do better, so I started writing A Dollar Outta Fifteen Cent. I went hard, and sacrificed everything. I ate and slept it, determined to pen a classic. And I’m proud to say that my efforts were not in vain. The crazy things I’ve been involved in, the book game saved my life. I was too bold. I did too much too young, so I needed a way out. I needed this. It’s what keeps me grounded. All credit due to God, this is what saved me.

And now I do it for my fans. They call me and tell me how much they love my stuff, and how they need more. They make demands, and I work best under pressure.

You've been known to do it all yourself. Why did you choose this route for your writing career?
I wear a lot of hats but Synergy Publications is my life, so I don’t mind writing, editing, publishing, marketing, and distributing my books. My books are like my kids, and I like being in charge. I’m a pretty meticulous person, and I like things done a certain way. And this way, if something goes wrong I blame me.

I wanted to have decision making power over my material from the gate. And when you’re in control, there’re no limits. Plus, writing for me was different. I heard horror stories about some of the bum deals some new authors were getting, and couldn’t fathom that. While I enjoy the art of creation more than anything in this world, I was used to fast money so I had to have something I could hustle. I did my homework and discovered it made more sense for me to self-publish. I was used to being the boss and controlling my own product, no matter what I was selling. So that worked for me.

What are some of the first steps involved in publishing a book?
The first step in publishing a book is doing your research! The internet is loaded with info, and there are also books that can tell you everything you need to know about the start-up phase. As with anything you plan to tackle, being informed is the key to success.

First, you have to learn the basics, which include getting familiar with the copyright process, obtaining ISBNs, establishing relationships with designers and book printers, understanding the distribution process, getting familiar with the wholesale aspect of the business, learning how to market your product, etc. Proper money management skills are necessary as well.

It’s also good to remember that talking to people can be beneficial too. Network, network, network! By talking to people you learn what mistakes not to make. Who you know can make a difference. Learning from others who have walked the walk can put you on the path to being a pro-publisher.

Also, knowing how to market your product is a key component. Anybody can publish books, but you gotta be able to sell them. You must be able to pitch to your targeted audience what makes your material different from your competition, and why they should spend their hard earned money on it. You have to make them listen to what you have to say, and prove that your brand is relevant. So do your research! Once you have the proper knowledge, tools, and a good product; put it in God’s hands!

How important is the editing of a novel?
Editing is crucial, and very necessary. Some people don’t know that there are different stages of editing, and different types. And if you’re a real writer, nothing hurts more than seeing typos in your finished product. So take precautions because you never get a second chance to make your first impression. Do your homework.

You edit your own writing, correct? Editors and even some authors say writers should never edit their own work. Do you agree with this? Please explain.
It’s true that I edit my own material, but I agree to a certain extent. When you edit your own stuff you have a tendency to see what you think should be there instead of what’s really there. After staring at a manuscript for months and months, you sort of subconsciously memorize your own work. So when I’m done writing, I try to walk away from my stuff for a little while before I edit it. I give my brain a break, and try to forget what I wrote. And then I come back refreshed.

The editing process is grueling and time consuming, and not everyone can pull it off. It requires skills beyond simply writing a story. And there’re some harsh critics out there who will let you know fast if you have what it takes. So to be on the safe side, you should probably find someone qualified. But whatever route you take, be sure to at least get someone knowledgeable to proofread the project before you go to print.

What does your ideal writing space look like?
My ideal writing space is dim lights, incense or scented candles burning for aromatherapy, and music sometimes. I’m pretty eccentric, so a lot of times I prefer complete quiet when I’m writing. I usually have so much stuff going on in my head, it seems noisy. I guess my thoughts are pretty loud. But when I do listen to music, it’s usually hip-hop and R&B. I have my MTV moments sometimes, and I also love soul oldies. Every song tells a story, and sometimes music inspires me to write.

What type of books do you read? What is one of the best books you ever read?
I read any and everything that can hold my attention. There’s no particular genre I prefer. I like to think outside of the box. A few of my favorite books to date are I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Mama Black Widow by Iceberg Slim, The Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Sallinger, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, and Native Son by Richard Wright.

Do you think all street literature is the same? With that said, here's a quote from an interview I conducted a few weeks ago, "how many times can an author tell the same story?" Can you respond to this?
No, all street lit isn’t the same. Absolutely not. There’s some stuff with the same old theme and the genre has room for improvement, but there are certainly some unique stories out there. And also some conscious street lit, including every book I’ve ever penned, that leaves readers with life lessons. I’m proud to be one of the authors who have raised the bar in street lit. That’ll hopefully make our readers demand higher standards from the others.

As far as the quote goes, no two stories are the same. But it’s the author’s job to make sure their work is distinguished from others. Readers can detect stories written with passion, and distinguish them from BS. I know my readers can tell that my stories have my heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears poured into them because they get in touch with me and let me know. I make sure every book I write and/or publish has something in it you will never forget. I paint vivid tales of reality and awareness, and give them something to think about. And my readers thank me for them. That’s what makes my material “different” from other street lit.

Furthermore, how many civil rights and slavery stories have we heard and identified with? Does their struggle become any less significant because we’ve heard it before? Any fight deserves the same acknowledgement, no matter how many times we’ve heard the story. Who are we to say that another person’s pain and experiences aren’t worth mentioning?

What influenced you to write the Dollar Outta Fifteen Cent series? What is the main message and can you briefly give us a look inside the story?
As I mentioned earlier, the story is loosely a narrative of my life. The life I lived before I decided to venture into the book business was one that I couldn’t just sweep under the rug and forget about, so I knew that whatever I did from that point on had to somehow reflect what I had been through. As far as the series goes, it wasn’t until my readers showed how much they appreciated part 1 that I decided to do part 2, and then they just kept asking for more.

However, I think the overall message in the series is awareness. My stories expose everything from horror tales about HIV and cheating boyfriends, to child abduction, incest, and rape. I believe that if people had guidance from someone who’s been through the same things they’re going through, they wouldn’t have to go through so much. So I use my creative powers to enlighten others.

My stories are all enthralling and entertaining tales of awareness with clever, intricately woven plots. I guarantee that my readers will be moved because there’s something in my books that everyone can relate to. And I write books you can’t put down.

Simply put, the story is about Life, Love, and Lessons. The main characters are Portia, Laila, Fatima, and Simone. They are a group of down to earth friends whose bond is constantly cemented by the perils they encounter throughout the series. None of the characters go unscathed, but the ladies and their men are each other’s support systems throughout their adversities and ordeals. The family ethic is alive and well from the start of the series to the finish. I still believe in Black love, and my readers constantly let me know how much they appreciate that.

If you haven’t read A Dollar Outta Fifteen Cent parts 1 - 4, you need to run out and cop them. Each book heats up more and more. This much talked about series is a must-read! I’m so confident that everyone, male and female, will love my series, I personally offer a money-back-guarantee.

My work is available wherever books are sold, but you can log onto my website at www.SynergyPublications.com to order the series and more. Also check out my other novel Sex As a Weapon, which is another jaw-dropping masterpiece. My books are the kind you can’t put down. I also have some new releases coming soon, like Sex As a Weapon 2, Guns & Roses, and my new author, Justin “Amen” Floyd’s new release, Anything 4 Profit. At Synergy Publications, each book is an experience. I’ll stand by that ‘til the day I die.

Narzell Wise is an avid reader; she graduated from New York University with a degree in Journalism.
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