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An Interview with John M. McIlveen, Author of Girl Gone North

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John M. McIlveen is the bestselling author of the paranormal suspense novel HANNAHWHERE, winner of the Drunken Druid Award, and nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, and GIRL GONE NORTH, which was shortlisted for the Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation Award. He also authored three collections, A VARIABLE DARKNESS, INFLICTIONS, and JERKS and Other Tales from A Perfect Man.

He works at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory and is CEO of Haverhill House Publishing LLC. He has fathered five beautiful daughters and lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Roberta Colasanti.

You can buy Girl Gone North here.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I chose Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men for book reports in eighth grade. Cat’s Cradle was mind-warping and funny yet terrifying, and Of Mice and Men told of man’s devastating cruelty and fragility. Both were thin novels that, for me, displayed the immense power of the written word. I wanted that ability.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I have been an electrician, plumber, mechanical contractor, and electro-mechanical engineer. I currently am also a publisher and a facility manager at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory.

Readers wouldn’t know that I used to install safe delivery systems for deadly gasses like phosphine, arsine, and boron in manufacturing facilities internationally.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

Girl Gone North was about 50% written when my character Hainey said it, and I immediately knew that needed to be the title since it exemplifies the major jist of the novel.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

Cover artist Errick Nunnally nailed it. Simple and perfect.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

“What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye

“Blackbird” by the Beatles

“Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday

“Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

That love and acceptance are the answer and the cure and that we all have more in common than the current state of the world would have us believe.

My perfect reader would be someone who would take the journey with Thalia and Emma, always in constant concern for their safety because of the color of their skin, and that this hasn’t changed as much as it should have from sixty years ago to the present day.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

Being runner-up for the Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation Award in the UK for Best Unpublished Manuscript after years of American agents and publishers rejecting Girl Gone North without reading it. They assessed it could not be published because it would be considered cultural appropriation. Being the father of five daughters and being neither Black nor female, I felt strongly that I wanted to challenge myself. Writing presents the opportunity to reach toward other’s perspectives and worldviews and to step into someone else’s shoes for the duration of bringing a story to the page. Given the amount of division and lack of empathy the world appears to be struggling with throughout history and more elevated as of late, I felt this novel could challenge myself and potential readers to understand what we all have in common: love of and for family, carrying grief, and the search for a life of meaning and hope. When I finished Girl Gone North, Thalia and Emma were my children. I loved them, cried for them, and wanted to protect them.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

The Experience: a paranormal mystery about a hybrid drug with terrifying side-effects.The Elephant in the Endzone: a YA novel that casts off the rose-colored glasses common to many novels about teenage depression.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

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