Author Feature: Regan McDonell

Author Feature: Regan McDonell

Black Chuck: Psycho. Sick. Dangerous. Réal Dufresne’s reputation precedes him. When the mangled body of his best friend, Shaun, turns up in a field just east of town, tough-as-hell Réal blames himself. But except for the nightmares, all Ré remembers is beating the living crap out of Shaun the night of his death. Shaun’s girlfriend, sixteen-year-old Evie Hawley, keeps her feelings locked up tight. But now she’s pregnant, and the father of her baby is dead. And when Réal looks to her to atone for his sins, everything goes sideways. Fast. The tighter Evie and Réal get, the faster things seem to fall apart. And falling in love might just be the card that knocks the whole house down.

How do you usually begin writing your stories?

Being a visual thinker, I always start with images. I use Pinterest boards to create the atmosphere, colors, and textures for the story—for Black Chuck, my theme was “denim, black leather and concrete.” You can see some of the images I used here. I also use music to inspire me. The soundtrack to Black Chuck started out really aggressive and punk, but it morphed into more garage and psych-rock as I got deeper into the story. The Black Angels are almost entirely responsible for this book!

What planning or research did you do for your book?

I don’t really plan out my plots ahead of time—I have a vague idea of where I want the story to go, and then just let the characters loose. But I always do loads of research as I write. For Black Chuck, it was super important to get Réal and his experience right. I used a lot of websites, spoke with Indigenous friends, read essays, and basically devoured everything I could find on the subjects he brings to the story. I don’t think the learning ended when I finished writing, either—Réal opened my eyes to many things I didn’t understand before this book!


Do you have any advice you would give to an aspiring writer?

Just do it! If you want to be a writer, you have to start by writing. And the nice thing is, the more you do it, the better you get at it. If you don’t know where to start, Pinterest is a surprisingly good resource for plot charts, how-tos on character building, writing prompts, etc. I learned a heck of a lot from putting “writing” into the Pinterest keyword search!

What’s the most prized book on your bookshelf?

Gosh, so many! I have a Dutch children’s book my grandfather brought back from Eindhoven for my mother during WW2. I also have my childhood edition of English Fairy Tales, illustrated by Arthur Rackham—swoon! And I recently got my advance copy of Black Chuck, and that is, I have to say, very, very special!

What are your favorite ways to procrastinate?

I’m not great at procrastinating, to be honest. I’m a workaholic full of anxiety and I always need to be doing something! If I was a dog, I’d be a border collie—slightly crazy until given a challenging task.

What would your hero name and special power be?

My first name and family motto loosely translate to “Queen of Raven’s Rock,” so I guess that would have to be my hero name—although I think I’d be more of a Trickster than a hero, so my special power would obviously have to be Devious Smarty-Pantsery.

Do you keep books after you’ve read them, or give them away? Do you borrow books from your local library?

My boyfriend and our tiny apartment would both love it if I never brought another stray book indoors, but unfortunately I am a full-on bibliophile. And now that I’m a published author, I finally have an excuse for it! Hooray! I have compromised, though, and now I only keep the books I truly can’t live without—the rest I send to communities where getting the latest YA books might not be so easy.

Who would you want to play your protagonist in a movie?

I won’t say what faces inspired me—isn’t it way more fun to create that image in your head as you read the book?—but I will say that I’d love to see more Indigenous actors getting juicy roles. If my book was ever made into a movie, I’d insist that each character was played by an actor from that character’s background.

What types of conversations do you hope will come out of your book?

There are so many big things in this book it’s hard to pick one that is more important than the rest—but sexual consent is probably the biggest for me personally. Evie goes through a lot of bad stuff because she doesn’t have the confidence to say, “I’m not okay with this.” Her story is about figuring out the difference between good love and bad, and I hope that it inspires readers to really think about those things, and how to give and get love that’s built on true respect and caring.

Black Chuck is available now!

McDonell, ReganRegan McDonell studied writing at the University of Victoria with poets Patrick Lane and Lorna Crozier, and then promptly put the pen down to pursue a career in textile and graphic design. Now the creative director at a Toronto-based marketing agency, Regan spends her days designing apparel for kids, and her nights writing fiction for teens.

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