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Bonnie MacDougal Chat Transcript
Bonnie MacDougal Chat: Attorney and novelist Bonnie MacDougal discussed her latest exciting Legal Thriller Angle of Impact (Ballantine Books, 1998). Scroll down to read the transcript from her live chat.
Moderator: Good evening everyone and welcome to our Live Chat with attorney and novelist Bonnie MacDougal!!
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: Hello, everyone. Thanks for stopping by.
Moderator: Ok, let's get started! Bonnie, could you tell us about the plot of Angle of Impact?
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: It's the story of an aviation disaster, and a lawyer grappling with the aftermath of the crash at the same time that her marriage threatens to crash and burn. It's a thriller about reconstructing a massive accident, but it also deals with the pressures of career and family, etc., and finding priorities. I should note that the title word is ANGLE, not ANGEL as a number of people sometimes mistake it.
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: Though, given the popularity of angel books, maybe I should let this slide. ANGLE was loosely inspired by a real-life aviation disaster here in the Phila. area, one in which I came to be involved as a lawyer. Though of course it's fiction, there are parts of it that I felt I lived.
Moderator: In response to a couple of questions, yes the book is available now. The publisher is Ballantine. If you click on the banner at the top of the screen it will take you to the amazon.com page for Angle of Impact :)
Gunny: Bonnie--May I ask, what is your opinion of character point of view. Do you use numerous points of view, or just your main character, or, well, what?
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: I use a shifting third-person voice. It's mostly the viewpoint of the lawyer, Dana Svenssen, but some part of the story are seen through the eyes of other characters as well. This POV was an easy choice for this particular book, because Dana is necessarily in the dark about certain events. Also, I thought it was important for her husband to get his two cents' worth in now and then, in the interest of fairness. One of the things I like to do in my books is show how people see and interpret the same events differently. Sort of the "he said/she said" dynamic. A first-person narrator wouldn't allow me to do that.
Grptdrh: In the real live case that inspired the story, what was your involvment as an attorney?
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: My firm was hired to represent the corporate owner of a helicopter involved in a mid-air collision with a small charter plane. There were literally dozens of lawsuits filed in the wake of this tragedy, and my firm assembled quite a team of forensic experts and lawyers to try to reconstruct what happened and prepare a defense. At the time, I didn't have any aviation expertise, and I was recruited for the team only for general litigation work and strategizing. But I did get to sit in on meetings where all these incredible minds were brainstorming and piecing through the data, and the whole process was fascinating to me.
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: There were two elements of the real-life disaster that I hoped to import into ANGLE: the fascination I just described, as well as the pure wrenching horror that such a thing could happen. I should add that I did what I could to become more expert in aviation technology when I was researching the book. I went to flight school, for example, and completed the ground school portion of the course. But I chickened out when it came time to go up in the plane!
Karen: Bonnie, Is it a stand alone or part of a series?
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: It's a stand-alone, although Dana Svenssen works for the same Phila. law firm that my earlier protagonist did, in BREACH OF TRUST.
Petra: Do you feel the kind of "brainstorming" you described above is beneficial in writing?
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: The difference is that writing is a solitary pursuit. You don't get any of that synergy; you don't spark ideas off each other the way I used to in my law firm. Which is the one aspect I truly miss about practicing law.
Armoan: How long did it take you to write the book from idea to final draft and ready for publication?
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: I wrote ANGLE in about 9 months, although there was a 6-month break in the middle of it while I went back to work on a big case. Then from final draft to publication-ready ms, it was probably another 3 months.
Ghstwn46: Do you outline extensively before you begin to write?
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: I've done it both ways: stream-of-consciousness, let's see what comes out of this pen; and carefully plotted and outlined. ANGLE took the latter approach, and I think it is probably a tighter, better-paced book as a result. But I have to add the caveat that I found myself deviating often from the outline and taking paths I never contemplated at the start. But this is the happy difference between writing a novel and writing a legal brief; you're free to take flights of fancy when you want or need to.
Petra: At what point in life did you decide to go into writing?
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: Like most writers, I always wrote, from childhood up. I majored in English lit with the idea that I would write. But during my sr. year of college, I suffered an attack of reality-itis and decided that I needed to be able to earn a living. So I went to law school. Why not just wait tables? I'm afraid I was anticipating a high-cost lifestyle. Unfortunately I've never been disappointed. :) After I was in practice for a number of years, though, the writing urge returned with a vengeance, and that was the genesis It took me nearly 3 years to write that one, because I was still practicing full-time. I worked on it when I could, on the train, during lunch, etc.
grptdrh: Ok, in your experience, has the publishing process been a good experience for you or a bad one?
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: GOOD!!! My worst day as a novelist is better than my best day as a lawyer. Truly.
Armoan: Did you find yourself putting your own characteristics into any particular person in the story in Angle of Impact?
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: I'd love to say that Dana Svenssen is my alter ego, but the truth is that she's a more successful lawyer than I ever was. For instance, I was only third or fourth chair on the real lawsuit, whereas Dana is the team leader. She has troops of young lawyers reporting to HER. But I do know where she lives, so to speak, and how hard it is to climb the ladder at the same time that you want to be home to make dinner and review spelling words. And when Dana rails against the management of her firm, I must confess that's me talking.
Petra: How did the publishing world treat you as an unpublished writer? Was it hard to find an agent, did the publisher request many rewrites etc.?
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: My biggest obstacle in getting published was getting an agent. I targeted one I thought would be a good fit, sent her a query over the transom, and was thrilled when she asked to read my ms. But then it was 6 long months before she did. The problem was that she had too much material from her existing clients to read, and that had to come first. (Now that I am an existing client, I can understand this completely. :) Anyway, she did finally read it, accept me as a client, and in fairly short order, sold BREACH to Pocket Books. But then came rewrite hell. As a brand-new author, I was afraid to hold my ground on any of the editorial issues, even the ones I really cared about. I made concessions and compromises that I wouldn't make today. I'm happy to say that the editing process for ANGLE was virtually painless, and the book is completely uncompromised. I'm now in the process of revising my third book, and the experience is much more like ANGLE than BREACH.
JoeB: What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: Most people say just do it: write. But I say: read. I believe good writers are first and foremost good readers.
petra: Have there been any obstacles during your time as a starting writer where you lost the courage to continue in a writing career and what how did you overcome that?
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: Yes, before BREACH I wrote a novel (probably not a very good one), and I got an agent to take it on ( a different agent.) I thought that having cleared the biggest hurdle, fame and fortune would soon be mine. And nothing happened. I collected a sheaf of rejections, the agent lost interest and more or less dropped me, and I didn't write again for a couple of years. What made me write again? The story. I was involved in a big lawsuit with a number of intriguing parties and motives, and one day the light bulb went off, and I said (to myself, not the judge) there's a story! The story compelled itself to be told, and I wrote it in spite of my previous discouraging experience.
Moderator: That's all the time for questions that we have this evening. But now we'd like to announce that the winner of the book giveaway this evening is Karen. Congratulations Karen! We will be mailing you a copy of Bonnie's latest exciting book, Angle of Impact. (I personally have read it and it's great! :) )
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: Good-night, everyone.
Moderator: For those of you who would like a copy for yourselves, Angle of Impact (Ballantine, 1998) is available in bookstores everywhere, including Amazon.com. Bonnie, I want to thank you for coming this evening!
BONNIE MACDOUGAL: Thanks for having me.
Moderator: Thanks to all of you for coming tonight!! Goodnight!!