ROUGH WAY TO THE HIGH WAY
Kelly Mack McCoy
October 1, 2019
Length: 268 pages
Publisher: Elm Hill (March 5, 2019)
Genre: Fiction, Christian fiction
Buy On: Amazon
Disclaimer: Kelly McCoy provided me with a free copy of Rough Way to the High Way and an additional fee of $5 for the review and $3 for posting on consumer websites in exchange for my review. He did not expect or require me to write a positive review. All thoughts are my own.
Pastor turned long-haul trucker, Mack, struggles with grief and perceived failures as a minister while he is confronted with a mysterious hitchhiker, smugglers, and a determined killer. After an unbearable tragedy strikes his life, he sells everything he owns and buys a new Peterbilt truck, returning to the trade he learned decades earlier.
Hoping for some windshield therapy and peace of mind behind the wheel of his new rig, Mack gets neither after God nudges him to pick up a hitchhiker near the Jordan State Prison outside Mack’s childhood home of Pampa, Texas.
When his world is ripped apart, he seeks to run away from it all, going as far as to cut off communication with all but a handful of people. But he is pursued by God, who will not let him go. Unbeknownst to Mack, God is equipping His servant with tools to handle events his past education and experience could never have prepared him for.
The story unfolds as the hitchhiker enters Mack’s Peterbilt. The man reminds Mack of his father, a hard living, hard drinking oilfield roughneck who died in prison. God begins to do a work in Mack’s heart while Mack seeks to minister to his new passenger. But Mack soon rues the day he let the hitchhiker into his truck.
His old life in ruins now, Mack learns he has angered a new enemy who threatens to destroy his life on the road as well. Mack suspects he is being followed and is in the sights of a killer who plots a revenge no one could have seen coming.
God works His mysterious way in Mack’s life steamroller-style all the way to an ending that will leave the reader thinking about it long after reading The End at the bottom of the last page.
Rough Way to the High Way is the first of a series of novels about Mack’s adventures on the road as lives are transformed through his new ministry. The first life to be transformed as Rough Way to the High Way develops appears to be that of the hitchhiker. But God is working in Mack’s life all along, preparing him for a new ministry that will transform lives across the country.
Although the nature of this book is not a topic I would have chosen on my own, I enjoyed the fast pace and the suspense, as well as the strong characters.
More stories need characters like Mack! He is adventurous and spunky, yet wise and mature. He adds just the right amount of spice to the story.
Barb–the spunky, friendly waitress who tries to mentor Mack.
The Hitchhiker. I do not want to say much to give anything away, so I’ll just describe him as a shady character.
I felt that the story was weak in the area of names. I mean Mr. Target, Officer Pipe Cleaner, Mr. Bull Header…to me these names told me the author lacked inspiration when coming up with them. I definitely am not an author, but I can come up with more intriguing names right now on the spot. I would have enjoyed the story more if the names were more creative. This might sound a trifle picky on my part, but to a reader, the names are the first thing they are introduced to in the book. The names introduce them to the characters they will be spending the next few hours, days, weeks, etc. with. And they give the reader a glimpse at the author’s writing style before diving deep into the story. Therefore, I have to say that I was disappointed in this area.
The story was especially strong in the area of descriptions and language. All the scenes were written so well as to give the reader a feel of living in Mack’s shoes.
As this was a trucker-themed book, the language is certainly very important in really giving the story the correct feel. Let me just say, the author aced this! He wrote the language so well, that if I were to read it as a read-aloud book, I would not need to make up my own accent because the author already wrote it down for me.
I especially enjoyed/appreciated the authors’ sense of adventure in his characters. Mack sure didn’t lack an adventurous spirit and he was willing to go off the beaten path to add some spice to his life. He also never passed up an opportunity to better someone else–even if it meant risking his own safety and comfort. I really appreciated that in a character.
Overall I really enjoyed this book and would reccomend it to a friend! It was fun to read, kept me glued to the page and wrapped up in the story, and gave me all the surprise twists and turns that I love finding in a story!
Mack’s grip gave way, sending him spiraling into the void. He shot his hand upward as if reaching for a lifeline and looked at the light…
Kelly Mack McCoy is a semi (pun intended) retired truck driver turned author. He spent most of his career behind the wheel of an eighteen-wheeler traveling extensively through forty-eight states gathering a lifetime of material for his books. Rough Way to the High Way is his first novel and the first in a series of novels about the adventures of trucker turned pastor turned trucker Mack McClain.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything what would it be?
Just sit down and write. Tell that inner critic to shut up long enough for you to get your writing done for the day. If I had done that years ago, I would have several books out by now.
After you get the inner critic to shut up, slap your hands over your ears if you have to and don’t listen to the outer critics either. I’m not talking about fellow writers in writers groups you may be blessed to belong to. Receiving honest critique from those who have your best interests at heart is crucial to your success. They can offer invaluable feedback that will make you a much better writer than you could ever be without it.
I’m talking about shutting out the critics who may disparage your writing because they don’t appreciate or understand your style. Writing is an art form. There is no objective standard as to what constitutes good writing.
With a tongue in cheek apology to the literary critics with noses stuck up in rarified air waxing nostalgic for a time of standards in the publishing industry that never existed, get over yourself, it’s all subjective. There have always been some very bad books on the shelves. There are just more of them now. What has changed is the technology.
I’m not talking about putting out books that haven’t been properly edited or formatted. I had top of the line people do that for me. I’m talking about style of writing. The same book may bring tears of joy to one person and tears of boredom to another. Why? Because one person liked it and the other didn’t. Simple as that. The problem comes in when critics get that fact confused with their own high estimate of the value of their opinion.
If I sound a little tough on critics, it’s because I am. They often leave behind a trail of crushed dreams due to their inability to distinguish between something that’s bad because it’s bad and something that’s bad because they don’t like it.
So, you have to just sit down and write with a target audience in mind from the beginning. And then you have to persevere to see your book through to publication, target your audience and never look back.
When did you first start writing?
Writing is something I’ve had in my heart since childhood. I’ve always loved to browse through bookstores, even as a kid. I would thumb through some of the books on the shelves and read parts of them at random. Sometimes I would be so awed by the prose I would think I could never be a writer.
Then I would pick up another book and think, Man, this is really bad writing. Yet the author somehow managed to have that book published and get it into a bookstore. If he could do it with writing that bad, I knew there was hope for me after all.
But kids from my neighborhood didn’t grow up and go to college or become writers or anything of that nature. I had it in my heart, but believed it was unattainable, so therefore it was to me at the time. My main goal as a child was to survive to adulthood. That was enough of a challenge for me at the time. I thought I would be able to do something about my circumstances after I grew up, which I did, sort of. I hit the road in a big rig and drove away from it all – or so I thought.
It may seem that I started late in life, but I really didn’t. I’ve just spent my life on and off the road gathering material. Most books and dreams remain in a dusty drawer so to speak, never to be seen by others. But they are not forgotten, just hidden away. When the dream-bearer dies, only then is the dream forgotten, never to be seen by the rest of us whose lives may well have had been enriched by what he or she had to offer.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I’ve taken the advice now I wish my younger writing self could have heard then. I know I don’t have to stress about how what I’m writing is going to be published. I hear some writers say they write for the joy of writing and they enjoy the process. And no doubt many of them do. I’ve been around some good writers who never plan on writing for publication. They may be writing a memoir for future generations in their family to cherish. And I can see the joy in that kind of writing.
By writing for publication I mean for publication directed toward the general public. Your family likely will not harshly judge your writing – at least not in your lifetime. Writing for publication to an audience that doesn’t know you or care about how you think or feel about anything is something else altogether.
That’s one reason it’s so important to target your audience. Many people absolutely love my book and my writing style. I’m sure Rough Way to the High Way could easily sell well over a million copies if I could get it in front of the right people.
But not everyone will like it and that’s fine. We’re all different and therefore have different tastes in writing and everything else. I have tried to just let go and be true to myself in my writing style since I have a unique gift to offer.
I have my own tastes. I won’t mention any names of books or authors, but I’ve read some classics that made me wonder how they became classics because the books were flat-out boring in my estimation. But those books have stood the test of time so who am I to judge? Someone likes them. But not the students who are forced to read them in school. People are free to like or dislike Rough Way to the High Way. My job as a writer is to be sure they can’t in all honesty say it’s because the book is poorly written or edited.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I chose a hybrid method of publishing my novel. Many people in the publishing industry look down their noses at self-published books – often with good reason. The good news for would-be authors is anybody can publish a book these days. The bad news for readers seeking to find a gem of a book in the ocean of new books is anybody can publish a book these days.
My publisher is Elm Hill which is a self-publishing division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. I worked with Elm Hill during the publishing process and now HarperCollins distributes my book worldwide.
There are a number of advantages in going this route. Many critics say you should never pay anything to publish your book. But these same people will spend much more money than I did going to writers conferences and retreats. Some will chase after agents hoping to be noticed by them and get a chance to pitch their book to them.
I did begin contacting a few agents on the advice of fellow writers who thought my book was good enough to attract the attention of some. But I soon decided I didn’t have the time for that, so I explored other options. I decided to go this route and I’m glad I did.
As a truck driver turned author, I could send out query letters to agents until the cows came home and would likely never get a positive response back from any of them. These guys are more closely related to steely-eyed bean counters than riverboat gamblers. If one of them took too many chances on books like mine, they would be kicked to the curb in front of their Manhattan office. It’s a tough business.
In a way I have the best of both worlds. My book is considered a self-published and a traditionally published book. I can be an indie author one moment and a traditionally published author the next. Yes, I did pay to have my book published. But I had to meet the same standards as any other author to have it done this way and I have the HarperCollins name attached to it.
If you go into a bookstore and pick up my book and then pick up a one hundred percent traditionally published book next to it, you won’t be able to tell the difference. The only way you would know is by looking at the name of the publisher and by being familiar with all the intricacies of the publishing industry.
Potential readers don’t care about any of that, they just want a good book to read. This only matters to those of us in the business who are paying attention to whether a book is traditionally published or self-published. We often pre-judge the book based on our own conception (or misconception) of the quality of a self-published book.
I’ve been around some good writers for quite some time. Some of them have numerous books in print and have always worked with traditional publishing companies. Many have only been self-published. I even know one lady who owns her own publishing company and has published a number of titles under the company’s name and has helped others do the same at a very reasonable price.
Of the self-published authors, some have done their own editing and formatting and spent close to nothing to have their books published. Others have been ripped off big-time and paid way more than was necessary to have a quality book published. Some have gone the hybrid route I’ve chosen.
Many people are surprised to learn how little I spent to partner with a huge publishing house to get a top of the line novel out for distribution to a worldwide audience. It was less than a cup of coffee with one of those New York agents if that cup of coffee includes the cost of flying to New York and staying at a hotel and all the related expenses. A lot less of a gamble too.
The number of books published each year is staggering. It’s quite a challenge getting yours noticed no matter how good it is or the route you choose for publishing. If you plan on going the route I did you have to plan on selling a lot of books to cover the costs involved. This is not for vanity projects.
If you just want a book out there for that reason or feel you need one professionally, go with something like KDP and print on demand. If you are able to land one of those one hundred percent traditional publishing deals, keep in mind they aren’t offering it to you out of the kindness of their hearts. You will pay for it anyway through book sales. The only difference is they’ve thrown in the chips hoping to rake in more chips from the sweat of your writer’s brow. There is no free lunch in this business anyway we go.
What does literary success look like to you?
Great question. We know how John D. Rockefeller answered when he was asked, “How much is enough?”. He said, “One more dollar.”.
I think we can fall into the trap of never being satisfied with where we are in our journey as published authors.
One of the most rewarding things I’ve experienced since the publication of my book is seeing how so many others have been inspired by my story. Many people who have had the own manuscripts hidden away in a dusty drawer somewhere have been moved to take them out and dust them off with a new determination to finish their books and see them through to publication.
I had such a crazy family background I couldn’t see myself as being a published author. My father stayed drunk for about twenty-five years straight and my mother was in and out of insane asylums, as they were then called, when I was a child. As you can imagine I learned a lot and have plenty of stories to tell so I’m as qualified as anyone.
And here I am today as a published author with a book that is doing very well. I don’t know the numbers as far as average sales of books by new authors. But I do know a lot of writers and have been around published authors for some time. I would venture to say my book is doing much better than the vast majority of books released by unknown authors like me.
So, is this trucker-turned-author thrilled with his success? In a word, yes. I’m very grateful for all the people who have given me such awesome feedback after reading Rough Way to the High Way and for those who have been inspired to pick up where they left off on their own journey to being a published author. And for all the many people who have taken time from their busy lives to leave the awesome reviews the book has been getting. Authors live and die by those reviews.
Being a published author was never a vanity project for me. I have goals that have been met in that readers’ lives have been changed for the better in some small way – some in a big way. The journey has just begun. There are many more to be reached. Authors rarely get rich and famous. I’m more famous than rich at this point, but I’ll take the riches when they come, thank you very much.
So, to answer your question, I am happy and grateful for the success of my book thus far. But satisfied? There are more literary worlds to conquer. One more reader is needed all the time. Maybe I’m more like Rockefeller than I realized.
How many hours a day do you write?
To answer that I would need a definition of the word write. I used to sink into a state of despair because what writing I managed to get done during a given day was, as Ernest Hemingway so eloquently put it, “…****”. He was, of course, referring to first drafts which are always bad no matter who you are – even Hemingway.
The fact that the writing I managed to get done that day was bad often kept me from getting any writing done. This is one reason so many writers who may be more talented than they imagine just throw up their hands and quit.
I have learned during this journey that a good book did not become a good book because the author was a great writer but rather was good at rewriting – and rewriting again and again. This is one reason it’s a great idea for a writer to find a good writers group. Not only will he or she receive invaluable critique of his or her own writing but will see that others have the
That’s a roundabout way of answering your question about how much time I spend each day writing. I’m a firm believer in having balance in all areas of life – including your writing life. The problem I’ve had is I’ve never been able to pull it off. My life has always been so crazy I have rarely had anything resembling a set routine so I can schedule writing time. I used to envy writers who did, but I know they have the same struggles no matter what amount of time they have to write. So, to give a definitive answer I’ll have to say, it depends.
Are you a pantser or plotter?
I’m a total, one hundred percent pantser. I couldn’t outline a novel before writing it if you held a gun to my head. I don’t understand how someone can outline or plot out a novel before writing it. I just have to start at the beginning and see where it goes. In seems to me you must have at least a vague ending in mind or you will wander aimlessly getting nowhere with the novel. So, I do have those two things – a beginning and an end in mind and also the message or underlying theme I want to get across along with a few events in between. That’s it. Other than that, you know as much about my next novel as I do.
I was asked recently who was my favorite character to develop in Rough Way to the High Way. I said it was Barb, the waitress introduced early on in the novel. Why? She’s a lovable woman who is obviously smitten with Mack, the protagonist. Even I wasn’t completely sure how their relationship was going to turn out, but I was pulling for her myself.
What is your most unusual writing quirk?
I like that word you used. Quirk. Other people are weird. I have quirks. I don’t think I have any kind of defined writing style, besides being a pantser, but I have a lot of quirks.
By quirk I don’t think you mean my tendency to want to sharpen my writing pencil and fall on it to end it all because I’m sure I can never write anything worth reading again. No, I think that’s probably a pretty common trait writers have – at least novelists, anyway.
To get any productive writing done I have to be alone and not have any distractions. I know that’s not unusual in itself for writers, but one little interruption can pretty much blow a day of writing for me. Wait – I think that’s probably pretty common too.
Come to think of it all fiction writers may be a little weird. Maybe that’s because of all the noise going on inside our heads that has no relation to reality. To talk about a novelist being quirky is a little redundant. I have too many quirks to mention without taking the risk of scaring off potential readers.
Like in a movie, there are a lot of experts behind the scenes. Where did you find yours?
I’m grateful to the awesome group of professionals who helped me along the way in this journey. The stories about how I found them could fill another book.
Here are a few: Brenda Blanchard, and so many of the great writers at the Christian Writers Group of the Greater San Antonio Area https://brendablanchard.com/, Judy Watters http://franklinscribes.com/ and all the other bunch of great writers I’ve been associated with at The Hill Country Christian Writers Group, Al Mendenhall, the creator of that jump-off-the-shelf cover firstname.lastname@example.org and my world-class editor, Ninfa Castaneda.
My lovely wife Miss Emily has been an enormous help with the book signings we’ve done. She basically does everything in these promotions. I just show up and sign books. You can see Miss Emily and my life-size cutout, Mr. McCool on my Facebook author page.
What’s next for you?
As I said earlier, marketing has been my primary focus since the release of Rough Way to the High Way. I have started on the sequel but can’t give you a timeframe for publication. But again, rest assured that the first is a stand-alone novel. The sequel will have some of the characters you will grow to love in the first book and will continue Mack’s adventures on the road. But you’ll be able to pick up any novel in the series and read it alone to understand the development of each story.
There is also a creatively written nonfiction book in the works. I’ve had this one in mind and partially written for some time. I made the mistake as an inexperienced author of working on this one and Rough Way to the High Way at the same time. I put this one aside and concentrated on my novel. I knew I needed a partner for the nonfiction book. The reason will be obvious when the book comes out.
I’ve now found the right partner to co-author the book. The details are still being nailed down on that one so I’m unable to say much more about it for now. I realize in most cases success in one genre does not translate to success in another. But this project will be the exception that proves the rule.
Kelly McCoy is very graciously donating a free, autographed copy of his book Rough Way to the High Way to the winner of this giveaway!! All you need to do if you want to win a copy of this awesome book is either, like, comment, and–only if you haven’t already–subscribe to my blog. Each of these count as an entry and will be entered into the giveaway! The winner will be chosen on October 7 at 10 AM MST and announced October 8 at 10 AM MST.
*Special thanks to the author, Kelly McCoy, requesting a review from me, participating in and giving awesome answers to, the interview, AND donating a copy of his book for the giveaway!