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The Storytellers by Caron McKinlay

The Storytellers by Caron McKinlay — ITW Debut Author.

Author Interview + Book & Author Info + Author Pet Corner!

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The Storytellers

The StorytellersTrapped between life and the afterlife, three women meet and share their stories while discovering the truth about the men in their lives—and about themselves.

Suspended in an eerie state of limbo, an entity called the Gatekeeper tells Nikki, Ronnie, and Mrs. Hawthorne they are on the cusp of entering the afterlife—but only if the women can persuade him that in their earthly lives, they knew the meaning of love.

Fragments of their memories return, plunging them back into their pasts, and forcing them to face the desires, disappointments, addictions, lies, and obsessions they battled in life.

But before time runs out, will they find the answer to the ultimate question: what is love?

To purchase The Storytellers, click any of the following links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Kobo & Waterstones

The Storytellers — Author Interview — Caron McKinlay

The Storytellers takes place, in part, in “an eerie state of limbo.” A space between life and the afterlife. How did that space come to you? Tell us about that and the Gatekeeper.

The three central female characters are poised between life and the afterlife. So, they had to be located in a place that represented some sort of boundary. I have always loved the sea, so the boundary between water and land, a beach, came to me early on as a natural location for them to meet each other.

The Gatekeeper character reflects something evident in a lot of world religions—this idea that someone will judge your worthiness to move into the afterlife.

The ancient Egyptians had Anubis, the ‘guider of souls’ and the ‘weigher of hearts’. The ancient Greeks had Charon the ferryman. And, of course, in popular western culture, we have the image of St Peter guarding the Pearly Gates.

It is an idea that clearly has strong historical and multicultural roots in human society. So I thought it was important to reflect that in the three women’s experiences.

Tell us about the path to publication for The Storytellers:

It all seems straightforward looking back, given what I have read about publishing a book and have heard from other authors.

It took me nine months to write the book, four weeks to get an agent and six weeks to find a publisher. That said, it was a steep learning curve and I was very lucky. I had to discover the importance of seeking out author friends who would give me unvarnished commentary on various draft sections of the book. And then I had to learn how to deal with that advice, accepting lots but rejecting some. It took a while to become confident in that.

Then once the book was complete, I discovered the importance of taking the initial approach to agents very seriously. That meant honing my cover letter and synopsis, again with guidance from other authors and professional advice from 1-2-1s at Jericho Writers where literary agents critique your submission package.

The whole process, though, was filled with anxiety and a dread of failure. And that really hasn’t gone away now that my book is out. For now, the important people—the readers —will judge it. I hope they do so favorably.

What would you like readers to know about Nikki, Ronnie, and Mrs. Hawthorne?

In one way, they are very dissimilar. Nikki is a naïve eighteen-year-old, just starting out on life’s journey full of the idea of a fairy tale romance.

Ronnie is a middle-aged, confident and successful career woman.

Mrs. Hawthorne is older, grieving the recent loss of her father, and wondering whether life has much more in store for her.

But they are also alike because in each of their lives the spectre of toxic relationships with men rears its head. And so, each one faces that challenge to overcome. And in all ways, they could be any one of us. Ourselves, a friend, or a daughter.

The ultimate question in the novel is “what is love?” What makes that concept important to you? What is important about the definition of that emotion?

I think it is more important to me to define what is not love. Love isn’t intentionally cruel or hurtful. It doesn’t chip away at your self-esteem and sense of self. It doesn’t make you feel less of a person or unworthy. Love shouldn’t be a punishment. It should bring you joy, respect and security. And it comes in many forms. The price of love shouldn’t be the loss of yourself.

The concept is important to me because I am tired by the stories of so many women being lied to, cheated on or hurt by men who are meant to love them. This appears to have escalated in line with the increase in our interactions on social media. It’s easier to hide there and profess to be someone else.

And for some men, it’s just a big sweetie shop with too much choice. And we all keep quiet about it as if we are ashamed to have been tricked or to have believed in them. Scared to voice what someone is like in case we are called needy or a psycho.

I really wanted women to think about what love should look like for them. I wanted them to see they were not alone.

In addition to launching your debut novel, you are a very active book reviewer. What do you look for in a book? What makes you think, this is a five-star read!

It is the premise that excites me first, then I will look at the first page. If it excites me, I will then buy it.

I really love something different, perhaps a spec edge in a love story or a new take on a psychological thriller.

For a five-star read, I need the writing, plot and ending to be great. But even if isn’t successful in each of those categories—if it has moved me in some way—if I can’t put it down —then it’s worthy of five stars. That’s all authors want surely. To connect with a reader’s emotions.

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on two ideas for my second book—both very different and I’m not sure which will survive!

Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers:

Keep writing but don’t feel you have to do that every day.

Find some people whose literary views you trust and send them drafts.

There are online writing communities where you can find like-minded folks who will offer honest opinions if you are willing to do likewise in return. When you have a completed manuscript, that is just the start.

Take the process of approaching agents seriously. Your ‘pitch’ letter and your synopsis have to be as good as you can make them. Again, seek out others’ views on whether they work or not. And most importantly find your tribe to support you. Writing can be a lonely place.

Great Advice!

Author Pet Corner!


My husband and I have a Dandie Dinmont Terrier called Harris.

He was the inspiration for the little dog, Jack, in The Storytellers.

Though Jack is not as mischievous (or noisy!) Dandies are well-known for being of an independent mind, and Harris is no exception!

Caron McKinlay — Author of The Storytellers

The StorytellersCaron grew up in a mining town on the east coast of Scotland where her dad would return from the pit and fill her life with his tall tales. She never thought about making a career in writing – that was what posh people did, not someone from a working-class council estate.

However, her father’s death was the cause of deep introspection and her emotions gave birth to a short story, Cash, which was published in the Scottish Book Trust’s anthology, Blether. This gave her the confidence to try and believe in herself.

When not blogging, reading, and writing, Caron spends her time with her daughters. She doesn’t enjoy exercise – but loves running around after her grandsons, Lyle and Noah, to whom she is devoted.

Caron had three childhood dreams in life: to become a published author, to become a teacher, and for David Essex to fall in love with her. Two out of three ain’t bad, and she’s delighted with that.

To learn more about Caron, click on her name, photo, or any of the following links: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tiktok & Goodreads

Elena Taylor

Elena Taylor is the author of All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio book format at all your favorite bookstores and on-line retailers.

For more information on All We Buriedclick on the link here to visit the home page.

Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator 2020

Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery 2020

Header photo by Illuvis on Pixabay.

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

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