By: Dani-Elle Dubé
When Samantha McKeag sought out a career in mainstream fiction writing, she wasn’t looking to be famous.
“It’s not easy if you want to be successful,” explained McKeag, 27, about her creative writing profession, “especially in Canada.”
According to Canadian Heritage, almost 10,000 new Canadian-authored books are produced a year. McKeag, a 2010 graduate of the professional writing program, wrote and published two of them herself this year.
The Ottawa native, wife and mother wrote Heart:Found and Home, two novels that explore the theme of human relationships.
It was during her time at Algonquin when she wrote her first book, Heart:Found. The book was released this past March and ranked number one on Amazon’s new eBook releases bestseller list.
“It’s kind of a chaotic story about a girl’s life falling apart,” explained McKeag. “And it kind of needs to fall apart in order for her to realize what’s important.”
Her second book, Home, also hit shelves in August. The story follows two characters as they attempt to help one another deal with life’s surprises.
“Home is basically about finding your way,” said McKeag. “I’ve always wanted to write a story about people in a small town. I love that feeling of a small town and new beginnings.”
McKeag self-published the two books through First Choice Books, a publishing and printing service based in Victoria, B.C. But it was Leslie Stromer, a good friend and fellow professional writing student, who volunteered her time to edit McKeag’s stories.
“Sam writes in matter-of-fact plain english without poetry or imagery. Even so, her writing is far from dry. Her magic is in her authentic dialogue and believable characterization. One can’t help but like and connect with her characters because they are real,” said Stromer.
Nadine McInnis was McKeag’s professional writing professor at Algonquin and remembers the budding writer as thoughtful and observant.
“She was particularly strong on the creative side,” said McInnis. “That was her passion. She’s always been really interested in the theme of human relationships.”
McKeag is proud of her success thus far, but she warns news novelists that writing is often not a viable career choice if you want to pay the bills. According to a 2012 Service Canada analytical text report, more than 65 per cent of Canadian writers indicated that over 80 per cent of their income came from another paying job.
“I really don’t think it’s possible at all to make a living from self publishing,” she said. “It seems very unlikely to me that someone who is self published would be able to make a living from it.”
When she’s not thinking up new plots for future storylines, McKeag freelance writes through her company McKeag Writing Services.
As for plans for a third novel, McKeag has received requests but is ultimately unsure of what’s to come next.
“There’s a few people who really want a sequel for Heart:Found. I didn’t think I was going to do one but I just thought up another idea the other day. It’s not exactly a sequel, it’s sort of like a spinoff.”
Both Heart:Found and Home are sold in eBook and paperback versions on Amazon and McKeag’s website.