Featuring Backcast, the best-selling novel by Ann McMan
“Backcast is a memorable story about the unbreakable strength and resilience of women. Skillfully executed, the story is easy to become emotionally invested in, with characters that are guaranteed to entertain and enthrall.”—Lambda Literary Review
“Exceptional, entertaining, deftly crafted, inherently absorbing from beginning to end, Backcast is highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections.”—Midwest Book Review
“Ann McMan did something so special with Backcast, that I’m not entirely sure how to talk about it. Part of me wants to be back in university so I can write an essay about how it handles storytelling and identity, and the rest of me just wants to tell you all to go read it now.”—The Lesbian Review
“The characters on the pages of Backcast represent women of all ages and in all stages of life. They are as unambiguous as a well-organized tackle box, and it’s a privilege to “pier” into their lives.”—Curve Magazine
“North Carolina author Ann McMan has a gift like few other authors: she knows how to blend comedy and sensitivity to human issues so seamlessly that reading her novels is like looking into the mirror—not only the one in your home but also the funny distorted ones we used to see in the Fun House. Funny, smart, informed, and very tender this is a superb novel of multiple levels of interpretation, Ann shows once again that she is not only a fine tale spinner, but also an excellent craftswoman as well!”—Grady Harp, Amazon Vine Voice, Hall of Fame, Top 100 Reviewer
“One of the amazing aspects of the book is the way comedy and pathos work side by side and how wonderfully author McMan writes about them.”—Reviews by Amos Lassen
“You see it has me enthralled. I have to read it again. I don’t have a choice. One reading simply isn’t enough to garner even a part of the richness and depth of these women and their interactions.”—The Lesbian Reading Room
“I’ve said it before and I stand by this statement: Ann McMan writes serious and touching fiction. Yes, the woman is hilarious with great timing and wordsmithing but her ability to get to the souls of the characters and strip them bare is incredible.”—C-Spot Reviews
“Backcast illustrates how interconnected we are as women and as human beings, and your heart will fill with compassion for all of its characters.”—Les Read Out Loud
“One of the things that I admire about Ann McMan as an author is that she writes from a place that allows her to speak frankly and authoritatively regarding religion and LGBTQ issues.”—Hands Across the Pond
Ann McMan is the author of six novels and two short story collections. She is a recipient of the Alice B. Lavender Certificate for Outstanding Debut Novel and a two-time winner of the Golden Crown Literary Society Award for short story collections. Her novel Hoosier Daddy was a 2014 Lambda Literary Award finalist. A career graphic designer, she is also a two-time winner of the Tee Corinne Outstanding Cover Design Award. She resides in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
If you were to stand up in front of a room full of strangers and introduce yourself, what would you say?My name is Ozymandias? No. Really. I’d likely apologize for being late, then ask where to go to have my parking validated.
What authors and books have had the most profound influence on you as a writer? As a reader?
I’ve responded to this question the same way so many times that I’m sure no one believes me. But my answer to both questions is simple: Jane Austen. I read her novel Pride and Prejudice every year. I think I’ve read the book more than 30 times now. I used to fantasize about being the character in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 who got to become this narrative in a time when books were banned and had to be memorized to be passed along to future generations. I think I could’ve done a credible job at that. I mean, let’s face it: those empire waistlines were pretty flattering on even the most traditionally built women. And I have my own ideas about Miss Mary Bennet, who I suspect may have played for our team. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m one of those nerds who lurk around and “pollute the shades” at the ultimate Janeophile website, Republic of Pemberley. I love Jane Austen. I aspire to imitate the smallest fraction of her wit, her shrewd insights about relationships, and her uncanny ability to write brilliantly and incisively about the minutiae of everyday lives where nothing happens, yet everything happens. To me, that is genius. And it requires uncommon discipline and attention to detail. I’m not there yet-but I promise to keep trying.
When did you first, without hesitation, call yourself a writer?
I like to think that my very first and, perhaps, finest foray into writing occurred at age ten when my brother, Steve, and I broke into an elementary school during summer vacation and left cleverly-worded ruminations about the value of education scrawled across chalkboards in 36 empty classrooms. In retrospect, signing the missives was a bad idea-but subsequent disclosure of the deeds did lead to a lively discourse with law enforcement about the vocational directions my future could take. Reform school, as we called it in those days, really had little appeal for me-and less appeal for my parents-so getting serious about writing became a long-term strategy to avoid incarceration and ill-fitting jumpsuits. So far, it’s working out.
Is writing a job, or a vocation?
You mean there’s a difference? Oh, wait. One pays the bills and the other gets listed as a charitable contribution. Right? For me, writing is both. I love it-which makes it a vocation. I work hard at it-which makes it a job. I think if you’re serious about it as a craft, it has to be work. But the passion that drives you to do it makes it a vocation. Unless I’m wrong and it’s symptomatic of not having your meds properly balanced.
Describe your writing style in ten words or less.
Prolix, but hopefully packed with self-effacing humor and truth.
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
That thing that happens after you pass about 40,000 words and you stop worrying about whether or not there’s a book buried inside your outline. You finally know there is-in your viscera-and you’ve just been set free to stop worrying and go chase it. That’s when the magic happens for me. That’s when I start flying.
When you hear from your readers, what do they most often say?
Well that depends. If they’re die-hard Jericho fans, they often begin by saying, “I really liked it, but I wanted more Maddie and Syd. Focus, Ann McMan.” Note that this happens especially when the book in question isn’t about Maddie and Syd, and is not part of the Jericho series. To be honest, that one really takes the wind outta my sails. It reminds me of the time Joni Mitchell quipped about imaginary fans begging Vincent Van Gogh to “Paint a Starry Night again, man!” Sometimes I muse that Jericho fell from heaven on stone tablets and landed squarely on my head. No matter what I write, it won’t ever be as beloved, as popular, or as lauded as Jericho-which, ironically, has been the least critically acclaimed of all of my nine books. Yes. Nine. That’s a shocker, right? You mean McMan wrote EIGHT other books that weren’t Jericho? What was she thinking? Don’t get me wrong. I love the Jericho books. I love the characters and the setting-and I love the writing life they’ve gifted me with. But it means the world to me when I hear from other readers that books like Hoosier Daddy or Backcast have moved them or touched their hearts in some special way. I want to be more than a one-trick pony, even if that means returning to Jericho to tell other stories in a better way (i.e. with fewer adverbs or dangling participles). Fortunately for all of us, the world is big enough to accommodate all of these points of view. And there’s never been a shred of reader feedback that I haven’t listened to or valued for the truth it contained or the gentle censures it provided. If ever we turn a deaf ear to that, we need to hang up our keyboards and go watch more TV.
One of the most challenging things authors face is getting their books into the hands of readers. If a potential reader asks, “Why should I read your book?” what answer would you give?
I know that readers have innumerable choices about what books to buy. Books aren’t cheap, and the marketplace is now flooded with tons of offerings that are far less expensive than “traditionally” produced eBooks or paperbacks from publishing houses. The price of a book is by no means an indication of its quality, but it can be a deterrent to potential consumers if your book sells for, say $12.95, and is presented alongside offerings that are 99¢. That makes the challenge of writing and producing a book that’s worth a closer look even more important. So I guess it comes down to this: Do readers think I have a voice worth hearing or a story worth telling? If they do, or they suspect they might, then it behooves me to keep getting the books out in front of them in every way I can. A great publisher like Bywater is my best friend in that process. I know that with them, my books will have a shot at reaching every market. The other piece of this puzzle is writing books that are good enough-that are well written and that deliver the things they should-to entice readers to stay with you and give you the benefit of the doubt on a new release.
P.S. A compelling cover design doesn’t hurt either!
What one question do you wish someone would ask about your writing, but no one has? What would your answer be?
Q: Was it difficult to walk away from a hugely successful international film career to write lesbian general fiction? A: Not really.