Friday, September 8, 2023

Interview With Author Melinda Gayle McCall

1. What inspired you to write this book?

Initially, I didn’t really have any intentions of writing a book, but I loved to tell stories of my veterinary adventures to clients and friends. One of my clients strongly encouraged me to write my stories down and turn them into a book. I knew there really hadn’t been a veterinary memoir in the spirit of the James Herriot tales written by a female, and now the veterinary industry is nearing 80% female. Writing a book is a good way to reflect on your life and try to help others with the wisdom you've picked up over the years. It's also a historical document that will help others in the future be able to see how the veterinary and agricultural industries have changed over time.  

2. What exactly is it about and who is it written for?

It is about my journey to becoming a large animal veterinarian; the discouragement, the struggles (both physical and mental), and the rewarding career and lifestyle it became for me because I persevered. It is written for teens all the way up to the oldest generations. For the people in the agricultural industry it will be very relatable, and for the people who know nothing about agriculture it will be entertaining, informative, and hopefully inspire change in their opinions of how their food is produced and what we as a country can do to secure our food supply in the future. 

3. What do you hope readers will get out of reading your book?

 In this chaotic world, I believe people will benefit from some humorous stories highlighting how powerful kindness and gratefulness can be when coupled with grit and perseverance. I want to share with the world how rewarding it is to find your calling, which is where your gifts and talents meet the needs of the world. And most importantly, I feel like it's time for the country to understand how few people are producing our food and to help them gain an appreciation for the agricultural community who is working hard every day to feed the world. 

4. How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design?

Driving Home Naked, which I chose because it's catchy, is in fact a true story and it didn’t just happen once! In this particular story I was called to replace a cow’s prolapsed uterus, which is larger than a five gallon bucket and bloodier than a chainsaw massacre. By the time I wrestled the cow’s uterus back in (twice) I had no water left to clean myself and the blood and birthing fluid had soaked through every layer of my clothing. I was forced to strip so that I could drive home in my truck, wearing only a pair of muck boots. If you read the book, you can see what happens when I go through the McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home… The cover was based on a picture I had taken of me driving the truck appearing naked and it was drawn by Julie Metz at She Writes Press.  

5. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers – other than run!?

Don't be afraid to put your ideas on paper, getting that first line out is as hard as getting a two-headed calf out of the back end of a young cow. As a biology major with a veterinary degree I felt like an imposter when I first started writing. I found the experience of working with a writing coach to be invaluable to me. She turned writing into a science so this scientist could learn to write. 

6. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? 

Currently, I see people writing about more controversial topics, such as transgender issues and new age religion, which is interesting considering the increased amount of book banning going on throughout the country.  At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, I believe the book publishing industry will continue to increase its dependence on social media to help market books. I will be very interested to see how Artificial Intelligence affects the book publishing industry with its ability to create phenomenal stories in just a matter of hours when it takes authors years to accomplish the same feat. I do believe in the age of AI, memoirs will be the hardest for technology to replicate. 

7. Were there experiences in your personal life or career that came in handy when writing this book? 

Yes, pregnancy and giving birth were strangely similar to writing a book. At first, the daunting task seemed like an insanely exciting idea. In the first trimester (writing the first lines and organizing the structure of the book), I felt like the life was being sucked out of me figuring out how to get started and I was anxious about how my life was about to change. I began to wonder if I was fit for this massive undertaking.  By the second trimester (the writing phase), things were getting easier and I was getting used to my new lifestyle. I had a clear goal in my mind and I was getting excited about the future.  When the third trimester came (the proofing and editing), the novelty of the whole idea had worn off and I just wanted it to be over.  The birth (the book launch), although temporarily painful to plan, will be exciting so that this thing I created can be released to the world. Even though I have no idea how successful it will be, I know I will do everything in my power to give it its best chance to succeed in this ever changing world. 

8. How would you describe your writing style? Which writers or books is your writing similar to?

 I would describe my writing style as genuine and humorous. The way my book is constructed, as a series of short stories turned into a memoir, makes it similar to James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small. My book is also similar to Dr. Karen Fine's The Other Family Doctor. We both make veterinary house calls and have a similar outlook on life. 

9. What challenges did you overcome in the writing of this book?

 As the mother of a spirited six year old daughter and the owner of a busy veterinary practice, finding time to write in a quiet place where I could clear my mind, was maybe the biggest challenge. The second challenge was learning how to write a memoir. My writing coach Candace Coakley strongly encouraged me to morph my collection of short stories into a memoir, so I took short courses (while driving to vet calls) and read as many books as I could to try and better understand the process. As a new author, there were several challenges, but the last one I will mention (because it's kind of humorous) is the ability to describe the characters in my memoir with quirky adjectives. I really try hard to be a nice person who helps people feel confident about themselves, but I learned that the way I was describing characters was initially too mundane. I distinctly remember sitting down with a list of 400 ways to describe a character at my kitchen table one day and feeling like I was being mean. 

10. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours?

Three simple reasons: 

1) You can get your plumbing checked for only $17.95; whether you're laughing so hard you leak a bit of urine, you start sweating wondering if you can handle the gory veterinary procedures, or you leak a few tears from your eyes. You'll know your juices can flow after this wild ride.

2) You are a very busy person who needs a relatively fast read!

3) You can learn valuable skills like how to pump breast milk while driving a pickup truck.

About The Author: Melinda McCall was born and raised on a dairy farm nestled in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. She earned a BS in Biology from Queens University and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Melinda owns a large animal mobile veterinary service in Virginia. She and her all-female staff specialize in beef and dairy cattle herds, small ruminants, swine, and camelids. Dr. Melinda resides in Louisa, Virginia, with her daughter Lucy and their beloved Border Collie, Cap. Dr. Melinda is passionate about agricultural education and loves giving back to her community. For more info, please see: 

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