The second reading in Albion College’s spring 2020 reading series is with Rebecca McLaughlin, Albion alumna of 2014 and author of “Nameless Queen,” on Thursday.
“Nameless Queen” is the story about a girl who is so far down the social ladder that she doesn’t even have a name (She literally doesn’t have a name) and how she is appointed successor of the king. The story goes through her struggles of finding a name for herself, literally, and entering a whole new world of the royals.
McLaughlin has dreamed of becoming an author since she was in the second grade. It was at this young age when she fell in love with learning the way words worked. McLaughlin went on to major in English and chemistry during her time at Albion, and she was a member of the Albion Review.
On Jan. 7, McLaughlin’s second-grade dreams came true with the release of, “Nameless Queen”, her first book.
On her inspiration for “The Nameless Queen”:
While reading the teaser chapters for “The Red Queen,” McLaughlin became impatient and wanted to know how the book ended.
“Part of it was me being impatient and wanted a story that wasn’t given to me yet, so I wanted to make something,” said McLaughlin. “From [the want to create something] is when the second spark happened [which] was the phrase to name someone queen, to name your successor.”
With those two sparks, she ignited the idea for “Nameless Queen,” a story about naming someone who is literally nameless as a queen.
“You come up with a rule or a phrase, and then you figure out ‘What are my assumptions here?’ or ‘What are the ways this can go terribly wrong?’” said McLaughlin.
On her writing rituals:
“The big thing about rituals for me is that they’re not forever. They change all the time. I really just do whatever works,” said McLaughlin.
For a while, McLaughlin would write at a desk with certain playlists and snacks, something she describes as being “very ritualistic.” Then, her setup shifted to her desk at work, an environment that she didn’t have to take care of. Now, for her to maximize her time, she needs a little bit of change in her surrounding environment, like going to a coffee shop or Panera.
“I think it changes based on what part of the process I’m in and how I”m feeling,” said McLaughlin.
On battling writers’ block:
“For the most part, when I am stuck, I need to talk to someone,” said McLaughlin.
When McLaughlin struggles with writers’ block, she calls her twin sister, who is one of her biggest supporters and always answers her calls, to talk the struggle out. She needs to get out of her own head and into someone else’s for a little while.
“Getting it out there and just talking through it you get other people’s perspectives,” said McLaughlin. “You find what’s interesting to work on instead of what you’re stuck on. You skip that part and come back later. You find ways to get around or past it. If the problem is still there, you can come back to it.”
On hearing what other people have to say about “Nameless Queen”:
“I was given, from many people, a simple instruction, and that instruction was: Do not read reviews. And that’s, like, when someone says ‘Don’t look outside today,’ you can’t not look outside. The outside is there, and you’re going to have to go there eventually,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin, when “Nameless Queen” first came out, said she wanted to know what people thought. She struggled with reading the reviews when her book was first published because there were only a few reviewers’ voices out there and the fact that she was at a point where she couldn’t change anything about the book. The reviews were something she had to learn to not pay attention to.
“Once the book comes out, it’s done. It’s out there. The success and the failures it has, whatever it exists as is. It exists outside of you,” said McLaughlin.
McLaughlin has used this first book release experience as a learning moment for her future books, deciding a better timeline for when she should start reading reviews.
“While it’s wonderful and heartwarming to read how people love your book and how people have responded to your books, there’s that other side of the coin where people may not enjoy it, ‘cause it’s so subjective. So terrible and wonderful in equal strides, I guess is how I feel about it. It takes a lot of distancing. I think I’m in a much better place for my future books to understand that line and maybe draw that line in the sand.” said McLaughlin.
On how Albion College shaped her writing:
McLaughlin said she wrote at least three books in her four years at Albion. She learned how to balance her school work with writing as much as she could in her free time.
“It was a great training ground for how to write as an adult as well. Because when you’re in school, you have school. You’re in classes. You have studying. And then to fit in with that this really dense hobby that I had a passion for, it was great practice for when I had a full-time job and was also doing this dense work of writing books,” said McLaughlin.
Her advice for aspiring authors:
“The most frequent advice I hear is to read often and write often, and that’s fantastic advice. But I want to be a little bit more specific. This is how I grew, so it’s not necessarily going to work for everyone, but one of the ways I learned is I wrote a lot of short stories, like, hundreds of short stories. Like, a short story every single day for a very long time– mostly flash fiction, a hundred words or less– and what that did for me was let me try a lot of things quickly,” said McLaughlin.