Interview: Chris McLaughlin

Take your passion, write all you can about it, and become a publisher author. That might just be the prescription for success, at least that’s what Chris McLaughlin has done. She writes about her passion, and in covering different aspects is now a published author. Her first book is coming out in a few months, and I thought it would be great to chat with her. I know you’re going to love her advice for other writers! Enjoy this interview.

You’re a Master Gardener and have been studying plants for over thirty years. (Which leaves me very envious since I can’t grow a thing.) How did you first become interested in the topic?

My earliest memory is finding volunteers in the backyard (little seedlings that weren’t planted on purpose) when I was 10. It fascinated me that from this one plant so many others were created.

So, I got some little Dixie cups from the bathroom and filled them with potting soil and transplanted the seedlings into the cups. Then I loaded them into my brothers’ red wagon and went down the street selling them to my neighbors for a dime, LOL.

Congratulations on your first book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting, available in April 2010! How exciting! How did the book come about? What can readers take away from it?

I was actually pedaling another book I had written and while I was getting some strong interest, I was advised from several pub houses that there were many books on this topic coming out in the spring. So, I re-thought the plan.

While I was looking for a new spin, I contacted another writer friend, Karen Berger, for some advice and she thought I might have a good idea going (composting book that shows just how simple it is) and gave me her agent’s name. It turned out that she knew of an editor that was looking for exactly what I had described. It was really a matter of timing.

Your second book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Heirloom Vegetables, is slated for a December 2010 publication. Getting one book deal is exciting enough, but two is an amazing accomplishment. Tell us about the book and how the second book deal came to be.

When The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting was nearly done, my editor and I were on the phone chatting about growing food and the subject turned to heirlooms – which I am SO pumped up about.

The book we were doing right then was coming along so smoothly and he said, “I’ve really been pushing the pub house for a vegetable heirloom book – do you want to write that for me?” It was wonderful knowing that both books were gardening subjects that I adore.

You’re currently writing for many different sites, including Vegetable Gardener.com, Fine Gardening.com, A Suburban Farmer.com, and Suite101 to name just a few. How do you prioritize your schedule and juggle so many different projects?

My house is a mess, I don’t wear makeup, and my hair lives in a ponytail, LOL. My husband cooks most of the time. It can’t all get done – it’s impossible. I try to have set days that I write for the online sites and I work on the books everyday in some way.

When I do print mag articles, they just get squeezed in. I attempt to stick to the plan as much as humanly possible…but I still have one kid in grade school and a ton of animals…and I drink LOTS of mochas. I’m seriously going in every direction all the time!

Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?

I have a couple more gardening books in my head that I hope will pan out after this one. I love online writing and am thrilled to be writing for the sites that I do, but I wouldn’t mind doing more for magazines, as well.

Also, as a 4H gardening leader, we do general community service with our 4H club, but we have just become part of “Plant a Row for the Hungry” through the Garden Writers Association, so I want to do a lot more with that.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

For non-fiction, I thoroughly enjoyed getting into in Bird by Bird, also Stephen King’s On Writing has some surprising revelations in it that make for quite interesting reading.

As far as fiction, Jodi Picoult’s, My Sister’s Keeper will make anyone question what they thought they knew was the “right” thing. But my favorite fiction books are the thrillers. I mean murderous ones, LOL. Nothing like a good killing! These were the stories I wrote before I did so much non-fiction.

Favorite authors?

Dean Koontz (back in the day), Dennis LeHane, Harlan Coben, Robert Crais, Alex Kava, Jodi Picoult ..can’t think of the others.

Book you’re currently reading?

I read mostly non-fiction (text books), but I’m trying to read In the Woods – a thriller with a debuting author.

Advice for other writers?

Keep writing. Sounds simple? It isn’t always…it’s a pain in the ass sometimes. Don’t wait for the muse – she usually comes when your butt is planted in front of your computer. If she still doesn’t come; start without her.

Also don’t listen to negative people. By that I don’t mean you shouldn’t take advice if someone is really trying to help you and has your best interests at heart. That goes without saying.You have to learn to tell the difference – but usually your instinct will let you know.

If someone says it can’t be done…it’s really just plain fun to go ahead and do it. I can’t tell you how many times I was told that the online writing wouldn’t get me to the books I wanted to write.

Where can we learn more about you?

My website! And probably Vegetable Gardener.com because they give me a long leash…. a little bit of me slips out all over the place over there, LOL.

Anything else you’d like to add?

When other writers or anyone else steers you the right way, or guides you for the better; Never forget it. If you can pass it back to them in return, great – but also pass it forward. Ignore those who are off-putting or downright poisonous. Kindness is always the right answer.

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3 Comments on "Interview: Chris McLaughlin"

  1. congrats on turning your passion for gardening into books wonderful

    [Reply]

  2. Thanks, Cherie, for this interview – you’re a sweetheart!
    Rebecca: Thank you so much – I feel so blessed to love my work this much.

    [Reply]

  3. Chris,

    It was great having you here. Please stop back anytime!

    [Reply]

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