Recently, I had the opportunity to sit in conversation with S McPherson, a USA Today Bestselling author and young British ex-pat, by virtual entry into her home and writing space in Dubai. A longtime lover of fantasy with a background in teaching has led S McPherson on a path into an insatiable need for storytelling that has translated to a full-time writing career and a growing presence in the Instagram #bookstagram community. From my home and newly minted COVID 19 quarantine compatible office in the States, I sat down to get to know Ms. McPherson a bit better.
MALORIE: First off, thank you so much for letting me interview you. I hope that you are doing well, even with all of the coronavirus disruption. You are a British ex-pat living in Dubai, is that correct? I was curious to know how publishing and your experience with the book and publishing world have differed residing in both the UK and the UAE. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
S MCPHERSON: Thanks so much for having me. Yes, all things considered, I'm doing well. I am a British ex-pat living in Dubai. I actually moved here when I was seven and have been here most of my life, so a lot of my book publishing experience has been based here. However, thanks to the internet, I have managed to share my books worldwide through platforms like Amazon and have a readership in various countries. The publishing process is certainly a learning curve, but once you wrap your head around it, it's a lot of fun. I actually made a course this year that helps authors through the publishing process and will hopefully make it easier for them. Other than online, I have attended a few book fairs, done a few readings, and am currently in the process of getting one of my book series into stores.
M: The Internet is truly the great unifier! It is fantastic that we are having this conversation and that your work can reach so many, both through your books and your presence on Instagram. With a background in teaching, how did you first come to writing and publishing, and then ultimately creating your beautiful and interactive images on Instagram?
S: The first book I ever published was a rhyming verse picture book for the children in my class. I actually started out just making up stories for the children for fun and as a way to exercise their imagination. We would come up with what the characters looked like, names, places, etc. and just make a game of it. However, when they kept asking me to repeat certain stories, I decided to write them down. And their favorite, Shania Streep Wanted to Sleep, I eventually went on to publish :) After the success of that story, I went on to write my first novel and a couple more children's books and the rest, as they say, is history haha
In terms of my Instagram images, I am always looking for creative ways to express myself and my imagination. I love to dance and make up dances. I write songs, poems, and stories (of course). So, when it came to Instagram, I decided it was another platform for me to try to wield my imagination! It took a lot of practice and time with Photoshop, but I'm finally--finally--getting the hang of it.
M: What a beautiful beginning for your writing journey! Working with kids can be so rewarding, and clearly also very inspiring. How did you make the transition from writing picture books for children to writing fantasy novels?
S: I've always loved all things fantasy and wrote a few fantasy scripts whilst I was growing up as I wanted to be a screenwriter. And I always said that I wanted to try my hand at a novel one day. So, when I ended up writing the children's story and really enjoyed it, I decided it was time to finally write that book!
M: It is such a fresh concept to utilize social media platforms like Instagram as a tool for creativity and imagination. It seems like so much of social media can get caught up trying to emulate rather than to create. What do you hope to achieve for your audience with these posts and images?
S: Yes, I completely agree. Through my posts and images, I hope to create a sense of wonder and awe in my audience. I want to help them feel like a child again; dream a little more, laugh a little louder and just have fun :)
M: It is almost as if you are creating a visual fantasy realm via Instagram to accompany and compliment the fantasy worlds that you put on the page—bringing elements of the fantastical to the real world with some technological wizardry. I also know that you wrote a book titled Transform Your Life in 365 Degrees. This is outside the scope of your broad fantasy work, but it also incorporates this idea of giving daily inspiration to create personal value. Do you feel that this work is connected to your other goals, to your visual platform on Instagram and the messaging in your novels, and can you speak on that a bit?
S: Absolutely. Transform Your Life 365 Degrees is very much about finding the courage to be yourself, trusting your inner voice, and finding what brings you joy. I encourage the reader to use their imagination, dream of the life they want, and pursue a goal no matter how big or small. This is definitely what the characters in my books do.
My first series, The Last Elentrice, focuses on finding love in all its forms in unlikely places. It's about being open to new possibilities and overcoming hurdles. Dark Saints Academy focuses on accepting and loving yourself exactly as you are. And my upcoming series, Witches of the Damned, will emphasize the issue of division in society—judging people on one aspect of themselves. In book one, The Scarlet Courts Most Wanted, I introduce a group of people known as the Marked. These are witches and mages who have specific designs on their skin as they have been Marked by their ancestors to wield great and terrible power. Because of this, the rest of society fears and mistreats them. This series is about loving yourself—flaws and all, rising above challenges and finding the strength to persevere. All things I believe we are here to do in our own world, just with magic that's a little harder to see.
Transform Your Life 365 Degrees was my attempt and hope to bridge that gap, and show that what's real in books can be just as real in real life.
M: In the past, we have asked some of our bookstagrammers this question, and I just can't resist asking you as well (it is just too fun!): If you could hold a photo session with any cast or couple from your favorite fantasy novel, which novel and characters would you choose?
S: Aaaahh!! I love this question! I'm excited just imagining it, haha! If I can cheat and pick two, I'm going with the cast of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and the main cast of Harry Potter, including Voldermort, if he behaves himself. My initial thought was also the cast of the A Court of Thrones and Roses series, but I think Rhysand would be too distracting, and I'd forget how to function!
M: I think we all would have that problem with Rhys! Lastly, where can readers and book lovers find you?
I love interacting with readers and so, can be found in a lot of places. Here are the main ones:
M: Thank you so much for being so generous with your time and for letting me conduct the interview! It has been a pleasure.
S: Thanks so much! That was great!