Monday Morning Author Interview – Barbara MacKinnon

I’m excited to introduce Barbara MacKinnon, a Jersey-born, Minnesota-based author.

Chaplain Barbara MacKinnon wrote a novel based on a trip to Scotland.Where did you grow up?   In New Jersey, across the river from Philadelphia.

What are some memories you have of that area?  It was a culturally mixed area, which taught me to value differences about people I would otherwise not have known. I also can’t help thinking about the Italian and Jewish food which I came to love!  I must say, the very best memories were spending summers at Ocean Gate with my Grandmother and sleeping on the screened in porch. I would help Nana and spend a lot of blissful time reading on that porch when I wasn’t at the beach.

How long have you been in Minnesota? What brought you here?   I’ve been here 44 years—as long as my hubby and I have been married. What got me here was my husband!  I came out for a visit to meet his family and decided this would be a nice place to live. I’ve not regretted a minute of it; although I missed a lot of time with my two older sisters. My parents moved to California with my brother, so we all became pretty spread out on the map.

What did you want to be when you grew up?   Gosh, lots of things!  An actress of stage and screen. Movies were a large part of my experience and I remain a movie buff. I also hoped to have a ranch and a plane of my own to fly. Having been a city girl, I knew nothing about being a rancher. At one point I also wanted to be a priest and I wasn’t even Catholic, let alone not being a male. As crazy as daydreams can be, they are important, however, for our development.

What do you love about living in Minnesota?   The people. The average people, even strangers, are helpful and positive. Living not far from the Twin Cities, one can access good theater, museums, music and other cultural events, which are important to me. Even many small towns have libraries, which is so crucial for learning and helping the young to develop a love for reading that can open the world.

photo by Anita Martinz
photo by Anita Martinz

And what are you not so fond of?  I miss the longer spring and fall seasons of the East. I don’t mind winter here so much except that it gets awfully long and I crave sunshine and warm temperatures by a lake I can jump into.

I can certainly relate to that craving! Tell us about your writing journey.   As a kid, I read everything I got my hands on—at breakfast I would read the back of the cereal box. I always got high marks on writing in school and was told I should go into journalism. Later I made several attempts to write a novel. While I felt my ideas were not bad, I always got stuck and abandoned the projects.

photo by Neil McDermott
photo by Neil McDermott

What finally motivated you to stick with it?   My husband and I visited Scotland which inspired me to write a contemporary story set in a town where we stayed.  Somehow, the entire story seemed to fall into my lap, and I was on my way with something I knew I could complete. I worked hard, did research and got help from the historian of that town on the Internet.

I purchased several books on novel writing that were helpful and confirmed for me some things that I knew about shaping a story since I was such an avid reader. I was elated when Beavers Pond Press agreed to publish my manuscript. A good graphic artist Where Rivers Meetfriend created a lovely cover.  I arranged a couple of book signings with groups who knew about my project and received great feedback, which I still hear now as others who have purchased and read “Where Rivers Meet.”

Isn’t it funny how that can happen – the book just falls into your lap (and then gets published after tons of hard work!). What’s a lesson you’ve learned during that journey?  I learned that writing is both fun and satisfying, but hard work!  I always felt that writers must be geniuses and deserved to be on pedestals and there was no way I could succeed on that level, but I had to try or I would never know. While it is true that writers must have command of the language, be creative, imaginative, and intelligent, all that has to be poured into the effort, which requires a commitment to not give up.

Writing exacts a commitment if you want to continue as a writer and have any amount of success.

Very wise words. Tell us about your current work.   I’m working on a sequel, “Ring of Trees” that follows my first novel.  It has been slow going on this one, but I am trying to carve out the time I need to finish it.

What are your future plans and goals around writing?   Since I have found a great local group of published writers, I am really pleased to be part of their activities. We have an Authors Collective, in which we all share our experiences and resources to support one another. We cover a topic once monthly that is of interest to the group.

ACCC-LogoMany are also a part of a writer’s group where we share readings of our work, and they don’t “slice and dice” each other in their critique. I also belong to the Carver County Arts Consortium, which provides opportunities for artists in all fields to share their talents with the local communities.

Although I have taken every opportunity for book signings, presentations at book clubs, and organizations, my goal is to do more with marketing. I would like to move beyond self publishing and I’m hoping to go for it with a romantic/suspense story set in Minnesota about a young single woman from an Irish Catholic family who loses her job and learns her eight year old son has leukemia. She moves back home, where she trains to drive a semi to support herself and pay her son’s medical bills. When the trucking company is investigated for shipping illegal drugs, an undercover cop happens to meet up with her during a Minnesota blizzard. I already have some scenes written. I have several other ideas and plans rolling around in my head.

Vince FlynnThat sounds fabulous! Can’t wait to read it. So what is something you’d like to experience in Minnesota that you haven’t yet?   Hmm. That takes some thought. I would like to meet and talk to Minnesota Author Vince Flynn, who kept getting rejected by publishers and began to self-publish. He was successful enough that the big publishers decided to take a second look and decided he was their man.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?   That I enjoy shooting clay pigeons and that I’m pretty good at it.

I’d love to try that but I don’t think I’d be very good at it! Thanks for sharing a little about yourself with us, Barbara. We’ll be watching for your new books to come out.

If you’d like to order Where Rivers Meet, click here or you can email her at

Stop by her website at to see her wearing a MacKinnon tartan cape!

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