Interview with San Diego Voyager...Trailblazer!

Today we’d like to introduce you to May McGoldrick a.k.a. Nikoo Kafi McGoldrick.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, May. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.

As you may know, I’m an immigrant. I came to the US on the eve of Iranian revolution in 1978. After my departure, the doors closed behind me.

I was a seventeen-year-old with big dreams of someday becoming a writer, but I also had a sense of reality. I knew I had to pay my own bills. I’d have to carve my own path. I’d have to fight and scratch to survive. I had no family here to host me. No one to welcome me into their affectionate arms. No soft place to land if I failed.

So, I tucked away my dreams of writing and went to engineering school. Yes, I was very good at sciences. And one thing my parents had instilled me from a young age was self-esteem. There was nothing I couldn’t do.

Six years later… yes, it took me six years… I was working for a Fortune 500 company. First, I had to become proficient in the language and change majors a couple of times before settling on Mechanical Engineering.

What followed was marriage to the love of my life and the birth of two wonderful sons. That was when the dream of being a novelist came about again.

It was the spring of 1994, long before moving to sunny Southern California.

My husband and I and our two boys were paying our dues in the sub-zero climates of New England. For the tenth time in a month, ice and snow had coated our trees, our street, our walks, and even our windows. It was the stormiest winter in our marriage, both inside and out. Our sensitivity to one another—and our search for ourselves—had developed to a critical point as we continued to deal with high-profile jobs, our marriage, and our children.

So, here we were, snowbound and feeling…what? Some might have called it midlife crisis–but in our thirties? We knew we needed a change. We needed something more.

Well, those standing outside our life and looking in, thought we needed matching lobotomies. After all, from their vantage point, we had successful careers, a solid marriage, and a growing family. Change is bad, we could hear them say. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

But even if it ‘weren’t broke,’ the wheels were definitely starting to wobble.

A lot of us have experienced the feeling. That nagging regret that you’ve never really pursued your dream. That panicky rush when you wake up thinking that you’ve missed something and that you might just be too late to find it. It’s the Hemingway Syndrome. That feeling you get in an airport that life is too short. If I just get on that plane, we think, in a few hours I could be in Paris, Nairobi, Key West, Tahiti, San Diego. Then I could take those photographs, paint those canvasses, write that novel…

The snow was still falling. The ice was coating everything.

Our feelings seemed to be calling us back to those years of childhood and adolescence, those times when we wondered what it is that we want to be when we grew up!

For as long as either of us could remember, we both wanted to be writers!

A few years prior to that winter, Jim had given up a successful career path as a manager in a shipyard. He wanted to pursue his dream of going back to school and getting his Ph.D. in English. He’d done that. I, on the other hand, had been tied into a career in engineering and then management. As a woman advancing successfully in a primarily male profession, I had a lot at stake. At the same time, being a storyteller at heart, I viewed writing as my true calling—as a dream that I would never be allowed to pursue. After all, as far as the world around me was concerned, I was the one with an analytical mind. What talent in the arts could I possibly possess?
But then, this was the snowiest winter of our marriage. Ice was everywhere, and even the firmest ground had become slippery and treacherous.

Another ice storm. Another day off. An ad in a writer’s magazine for a fiction contest. Two people sit downside by side at a computer keyboard. An afternoon of working and reworking some ideas for a short story. As it happened, it turned out pretty well. The ice began to melt.

A month later, we were talking to an agent about a novel we’d started writing. That was the first of forty-nine published novels… so far.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Smooth? Hardly.

A life in the arts and in writing means following a road filled with ruts and potholes so deep they can swallow you up.

To begin with, writing a story that others find worthy of reading is difficult. Getting published is nearly impossible. Then, when you think your writing career is rolling, everything implodes. Your editor leaves the company. The publisher closes down an imprint. Another publishing house swallows up your publisher.

How do I get over the disappointments that go with our chosen path? Jim and I live by these words…We write for the love of writing, just as we read for the love of reading. We say writing is our passion, the career is incidental.

Also, to succeed, I truly believe a writer has to continually work at her craft. Publication is a train stop and not the end of the line. Hard work plays a huge part in success. I can proudly say that I’ve spent more time in front of a computer than Bill Gates.

And I’ve made a living at it. Not as much as Bill Gates, though.  Not yet.

Please tell us about May McGoldrick Books.

As I said earlier, I’ve been writing novels for the past twenty-five years. Working with my husband and partner, I’ve written (as May McGoldrick) historical fiction, historical romance, young adult fiction, and nonfiction. As Jan Coffey, we’ve also written political and military suspense, romantic suspense, mystery, and contemporary young adult fiction. I’m a USA Today Bestselling Author, and I’ve made the NY Times Extended Bestseller list. My novels have been translated into dozens of languages and published worldwide.

What sets me apart from a lot of other successful writers is that I came to this country when I was seventeen. I learned the language, got an education, and now I’m writing novels in my second language. The other thing that is a little different is that I write with my husband, and both of us have lived to talk about it.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve benefited from using?

I’m a voracious reader, so it would be difficult to pick out any one book or podcast or blog specifically. But I would say is that I’m a true believer in the power of journaling during difficult times.

Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, has provided a morning ritual for me every time life becomes difficult. I have volumes on my shelf from the times I was going through everything from cancer and depression to publishers failing to renew contracts. Writing during difficult times, however, is a reminder to me that in my heart and soul, I’m always a writer. This is what I love to do.

Words make me happy, and putting them on the page is one thing that I can control, even if the rest of my world is spinning off its axis. I can go on and on about the positive effects of journaling. Of course, not everyone can do it or wants to do it. My writing partner thinks of it as torture.