Greer Macallister tells people she writes fiction because she has no material for a memoir.
“I’m far too happy and therefore boring,” said the USA Today bestselling author of The Magician’s Lie. “My characters live far more exciting lives than I do.”
Macallister’s latest release, Girl in Disguise, is a testament to that claim. The “rip-roaring, fast paced treat” (according to Booklist) features real-life detective Kate Warne.
“It helped to have a real historical figure to work with, since I knew from the beginning the arc of the story I wanted to tell,” said Macallister. “My writing process is pretty sloppy and I am always hoping that eventually I figure out a way to make it neater - that said, Girl in Disguise was relatively straightforward. It basically took me six months to get the first 20 pages right, and then six months to write the rest of it.”
Despite the relative ease with which she wrote the novel, Macallister said it still took a lot of revision to arrive at the finished product.
“Luckily both my agent and editor have brilliant editorial minds and are willing to roll their sleeves up and dive in to revisions with me,” she said. “They could see pretty quickly what parts of the story needed to be trimmed or expanded to keep everything moving along at the right clip. Having the right team is a gift.”
Macallister’s path to becoming a writer was long and arduous.
“I learned to read at a very young age, so I kind of feel like I’ve always been playing with words,” she said. “In grade school I was writing poetry and short stories, toting around my little notebooks. The road to being a published writer was much longer. I took writing workshops in college and got my MFA in Creative Writing, which helped me hone my craft, but even after that I spent years and years writing novels that’ll never see the light of day and working with agents who were enthusiastic at first, but lost their enthusiasm over time.”
Macallister calls those experiences “the breaks,” but said they taught her a lot.
“I feel very fortunate to be writing and publishing right now,” she said. “There are obviously a lot of tough challenges for today’s writers, but there’s also this fascinating openness, this sense that anyone who has a book can get it into the hands of strangers, which has never been the case before. And social media is both great and terrible for writers, but I’m so happy to have that option of connecting directly with readers from anywhere in the world anytime I fire up my laptop. Even if sometimes it distracts me from, you know, writing the actual book.”
Currently, Macallister is working on another historical novel.
“This one [is] set in San Francisco in 1888,” she said. “So I’m doing a lot of research about California in that period – this post-Gold Rush, how-do-we-become-a-society period, and yet California already had some of that allure it has today, of being a natural paradise where people go to get healthy. My narrator is a strong female protagonist who takes on something dangerous, so I think fans of my previous books will enjoy reading the adventures of another bad-ass woman of history.”
Macallister said that she is inspired by strong women from the past and the present, including novelist Margaret Atwood, as well as her own mother and daughter.
Hiba Tahir is a YA author, a freelance journalist, and an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Arkansas.