Author’s Roundtable: Alan McDermott

How long have you been writing? Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

I actually started writing between jobs in 1990, with a couple of short stories and the beginnings of a novel. However, back then it was almost impossible to get published.  Once I returned to work I had little time to finish the books, and I didn’t return to it until 2010, when I found one of my old manuscripts and updated it. I showed it to a work colleague, and she suggested I get it published, so I searched the Internet and found Smashwords. Once “Recidivist” was published, I began work on my first full novel, and I guess I haven’t stopped since. 

What books or stories have you written? Published? Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

Apart from “Recidivist,” which is about a novel way of dealing with young offenders, I have written the first two books in the Tom Gray trilogy and am currently about a third of the way through the final installment. The premise is that Tom has lost his son to a joy rider who walks free from court. He recognizes that not only is the killer to blame for his son’s death, but also the judicial system for letting this repeat offender back onto the streets. It sounds like your typical revenge story, but it’s much, much more.

How did you get inspiration for the characters?

I’m not sure, to be honest. I’ve always liked tales about the SAS and thought that would be a good background to start with. Once I had that, I wanted to make Tom Gray believable, not some kind of superhero. As for the rest of the characters, they just had to have traits I see in people around me, from loyalty to arrogance and treachery.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

When I first published “Gray Justice” there must have been around 200 errors in the book, and it makes me cringe when I think about it now. I had some decent reviews to start with, but quite a few mentioned the fact that it wasn’t that well formatted and needed a good going through, and that cost me quite a few stars. I have made several changes since that first version and haven’t heard of any typos for a while, but for “Gray Resurrection” I made sure I got some professional help from a good friend of mine, Scott Bury, and I have been invited to join iAi (Independent Authors International), a group consisting of indie authors who share their skills to ensure the books we produce reach a high standard. You can learn more about iAi here

How do you find enough time in the day to write?

Having twin five-year-old daughters, it is almost impossible to find time to do anything, never mind write. I work full-time, and when I get home the girls want their share of daddy, so there goes the next three hours. By the time 7 p.m. comes around and they are in bed, it is time to catch up with my Twitter friends, which usually takes a good two hours to sort out, by which time I am falling asleep. The only way I can get any writing done is by getting up just after four in the morning and putting in a couple of hundred words. It really is tough, especially for someone who likes his sleep, but I think that in another four to five years, I will have enough books and a big enough following to make it all worthwhile.

Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

Actually, it has the opposite effect. If I’m not thinking, I tend to switch off, so things like reading and watching TV usually have me nodding off within a short time. However, if I’m writing it wakes me up, which is why I prefer to get words on paper early in the morning. I tried writing late at night but by the time I got to bed I was so wide awake I couldn’t sleep!

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers? What kinds of information do reviews offer authors like yourself? Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

I think reviews are vital to an author, just as they are to anyone else selling their wares. It’s hard enough to get someone to buy your book, but you stand a better chance of getting a sale if another reader has shared their views.

Reviews offer the author a chance to improve their writing, should they choose to. For example, a few readers have said they loved “Gray Justice” but didn’t really get a feel for the character. That’s valid comment, but my personal opinion is that you should get a feeling for a character through their words and actions. I could spend a few pages telling you how sad the main character feels following the death of his son, but for me, that’s a given. It’s like a reporter asking a football player how they feel after losing a game. How do you expect them to feel? Elated?? I think the fact that Tom Gray goes on to do what he does tells you how angry he feels about the way the courts have treated his son’s killer.

As for negative reviews, I’ve had my share. The first came after a string of more than 30 five-star reviews, and I thought I would die if I ever got one, but to be honest I just shrugged it off. My writing isn’t going to please everyone. I think I actually laughed when I got the second one-star because it said the story was full of holes. I wouldn’t mind, but that was based on the sample! How can you possibly know what holes a story contains unless you’ve read the whole thing? It also makes me smile when a review riddled with grammatical errors criticizes my writing!

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

I love to read action thrillers by Tom Clancy, but these days I simply can’t find the time. It has been quite a while since I read a book from cover to cover. I’m hoping that one day I will be able to write for a living, which will leave my evenings free. For me, books have to be fast-paced and keep me turning the pages, otherwise I just put them aside and try the next one.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Write what you know and what you enjoy. Recent big sellers on Amazon were the “Shades Of Grey” series, so if I could write something along those lines I might have a chance of getting into the charts. However, I’ve never picked up a romance novel and don’t think I would enjoy writing one, despite the potential rewards. I’m pretty sure I would get bored rather quickly, and if I can’t enjoy the story I’m writing, I can hardly expect my readers to like it.

Also, don’t get into writing with dreams of hitting the big time. Very, very few authors make a living from writing, and even though I dream of doing so in a few years time, I won’t be quitting my day job any time soon. For the vast majority it’s a long haul, and the instant hits are few and far between. If you are serious about making a living from writing, be prepared to work hard, accept criticism and hit some low points along the way.

Find Alan’s books on Amazon

About Alan McDermott

Alan McDermott is a husband, father of twin girls and software developer from the south of England. In 2010 he published his short story, “Recidivist,” on Amazon and began work on his first full novel, “Gray Justice,” which he published on Amazon in July 2011. When he isn’t building Web applications for the NHS he is spending time with his family, and in his spare time he wishes he had more spare time…


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