Memory of Memories
The Flawless Life
Serenity McLean grew up in Ontario and moved to western Canada in 2004. She returned to Ontario in 2017. With a Masters degree in Adult Education, Serenity worked in various roles at several colleges. She also worked in the Information Technology sector predominantly in project management. She wrote her first fictional book just before getting laid off in an economic downturn. She made a career change – committing her time to writing, blogging, and helping others along the path of publication.
She took a hiatus from writing to care for her terminally ill mother and deal with a long series of losses. Born of the pain and sorrow of her grief, and combined with her education background, she wrote Honest Grief as a way to help others facing the hurt of deep losses. The additional pain inflicted by those around her who didn’t understand grief or the deep gaping wounds of one who grieves inspired her to write a companion book, Supporting Honest Grief (to be released in 2018). It is written specifically for people who have a grieving friend.
Along with art (painting) and photography, Serenity is a dog lover and enjoyed the sunny disposition of golden retrievers for over thirty years. Currently, she lives with one sweet goldie that loves to play hide and seek, ball chase, and of course, swimming. In the summer months, Serenity and her dog can be found on the water and under the sun.
You can follow Serenity online via Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, blog and email. Just use the links to the right.
After writing and publishing a non-fiction book, the idea of writing fiction had been rolling around my head for a couple of months. I had jotted down a couple of concept ideas but nothing resonated. Then I got a bad cold and was sick in bed when it hit me, I should write about what I think about and research. That afternoon I had a draft of the first chapter. The story seemed to come easily and although I was only writing part-time, I had the book ready for editing in a little over five months.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying this all comes easy. It is definitely a lot of hard work. And then there is the marketing work to get the book in the hands of readers. That takes a bit of planning, preparation and outright time committed to promotion. I had been packaged out of my job and it took just a few days to decide to take the opportunity to dedicate all my time to do the work of an independent author.
While most authors talk about picking up a pencil in their youth and writing, writing, writing. Not me. I thought up great adventures, then acted them out in the fields and forests with my dog as a sidekick. For me, it was and still is all about the story. Instead of running through the forest rescuing orphans from an evil empire, I share some of the stories in books.
I think there are two joys. One is writing and sharing about the challenges of life’s journey. Many people mention their reflections after reading one of my stories and I am truly honoured to be a part of that process.
The other joy for me is I love becoming lost in the story. I’m a pantser writer, meaning I write from the seat of my pants. The story takes life as I write and for awhile I’m part of that world. In my research, I study the streets and collect images of various places. So while writing, my imagination takes me to those settings and I feel like I’m on vacation.
You know how when you come back from a really great holiday and little things will instantly take you back? Well, that happens to me even after the book is written. Music I listened to while writing will take me to vivid scenes that stuck in my memory.
I think I do things a bit backward. I first pick a location for the bulk of the story – somewhere near water, of course. I then get a sketchy one or two sentence idea of the main issue of the story. Next comes the title of the book and the cover. They are often done before I even write the first word.
I spend quite a bit of time researching the location and developing aspects of the story. I collect images in Pinterest for each book. So if you are wondering what something looks like to me, just check it out there.
Finally, I sit down to write the story. When I start, I know only a handful of characters and I have little idea of how each one will behave. While I have a start and a hazy endpoint in mind, the story really takes shape while I write. I read the previous few pages, then close my eyes and let the story play out in my mind like a movie. Then my writing is simply a telling of the movie in my head. For me, the story takes unexpected twists and turns, the characters do surprising things and hidden matters come to light.
I’ve tried planning the story, but I find it very difficult and quite lifeless. So I’ll stick with letting my imagination lead the way.
When I was little, my family spent our summers at a cottage on Georgian Bay. My mom read all the books from Thorton W. Burgess. I don’t remember the details of the stories as that was many decades ago, but I do remember The Adventures of Old Mr. Buzzard. He and his wife come to the green forest one spring from the sunny south. My mom always said, “Ole Mistah Buzzard,” like she was from the deep south.
Perhaps those cottage days formed my love of nature, warm sunny days, and of course, being near the water. Certainly, nature, sun and surf all play a part in all of my books.
I grew up in Ontario, Canada. When I was young we spent our summers at a lakefront cottage on Georgian Bay, a part of the Great Lakes. Across the bay from our cottage was a grain port. Trains from the west rolled in daily, bringing grain. Big seagoing ships would arrive empty into our little bay and leave low in the water, full of grain going out to the world. That I could live in the heart of Canada and see ships that had circled the world amazed me. On occasion, we would go swimming over in the port where the ships tied up. Although a very good swimmer, I was quite frightened of what lurked in the depths – water so dark and deep that these big ships could easily pass.
Later, we moved from the city to the country and I spent countless hours running through the woods and river on our acreage. I loved the feel of wind on my face, the smell of the woods after rain and the experience of everything springing to life after a long winter. One of my fondest memories was sitting on a grassy hill a long way from home watching the sunset. I heard a noise a few feet behind me. I looked expecting to see our dog and was stunned to see a deer casually grazing just feet from me. We spent about 15 minutes near each other until it ambled away.
I think both the cottage and the country strongly influence the pictures in my head, the places I love and the things I enjoy. The warm summer days on the lake and the years immersed in nature influence where my stories take place and what influences the main characters. I think there’s much of me in each of the stories.
Currently, I’m working on writing fiction books in two series. The first is more of a collection of heartwarming and inspiring fiction. And I’m working on a story of a woman who loses everything dear to her and finds restoration of her hollow heart. It’s called White Sands Black Heart. This is the fifth book in the collection. I love writing these – they are like comfort food.
I’m also working on a series called Final Moments. It is an ongoing international medical mystery. As time progresses, we near the days foretold by the prophets. And much of what they saw involved a shaking up of the natural order of things – unexpected, unheard of disruptions. The main character, Marina Tempel, an international medical investigator is on the front line of the increasingly dangerous catastrophes. I’m pretty excited about this series.
And I’ve finished a set of non-fiction books centered around loss and grief.
Oh my goodness! Readers are the best. Their feedback on how a story touched them is the greatest thing for me. Some people are outgoing and have a large network of friends they connect and interact with. This is my way of reaching out to others with a bit of life truth wrapped in an engaging story. If the story touches a person, great! If the bit of life truth touches a spirit, even better!
I love engaging with my readers. On Facebook I started letting my readers contribute to the story with Rainswept. I asked for names for various characters and chose two. They both received a free copy of the book and recognition in the credits of the book.
And one of my cover pages went through multiple iterations until I settled on one. And the day I announced its release, one of my readers commented they liked the cover. What awesome feedback!
I love writing the stories, but the readers make it all the sweeter.
Writing is done in so many different forms, and the writers are all authors. And just as writing is so varied, so are my favourites.
I really love the writing that is done for music. Most people enjoy music, getting lost in the tune. I do too, but I also love the words. There are some songwriters that are great storytellers through their writing. They do not have pages and pages to express their story. They are very limited and have to be very skilled to tell a tale, and paint an imaginary picture with so few words. Being so visual, my favourites are Bart Millard, Tim McGraw, Alan Parsons, Neil Diamond (yeah I know, there are two types of people in the world, according to Bob Wiley) and Bob Seger.
As to books, I like “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving, any of the adventure books by Clive Cussler, the Lake Wobegone books by Garrison Keilor, and anything Dilbert. I love The Far Side for its unexpected and hilarious perspective. But I think my favourite is “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” by David Wroblewski. The main character does not speak much at all through the entire book. I loved being inside his head. I think that had a significant impact on forming my writing style.
And I love the church curmudgeon in twitter, totally cracks me up.
Before writing books, I chaired the graphic design department of a college, so I have quite a bit of design experience. I wouldn’t recommend most people to design their own covers, as it takes years of study just to be a junior designer, and you want your cover to be well designed.
As to my process, I first familiarize myself with other books in the genre. I look for ones that really speak to me and then analyze what it is I really like about the design – it could be the layout of the title, or the colours, or the unique font. I also visit sites that review covers and give awards to good design, noting what the judges liked. Between these two, I get a general idea of what I want.
I then start searching for images and play with fonts, layout, images and colours. A cover can have several versions until I settle on a couple. Then I run them by my best critic, my sister. Between the two of us, we come up with something pretty good, I think.
I love creating – whether it’s a painting, a photograph, a book cover, a video trailer, or a book. I have so many ideas in my head it feels good to get them on paper or digital.
I love being outside, particularly in the summer. I have a wonderful golden retriever that loves to swim so we spend many hours in the water. Unfortunately she also loves snow and rain. Me not so much. But her eagerness trumps my reluctance and we still spend time outside even in the cold and rain. Warm weather and water are a major inspiration for me and are a part of each of my books.