“Just remember, this is about writing a good book, presenting it well and enjoying what you do. Being an overnight success takes time and application.”
MT McGuire 28 March 2012
The Back Flap
The Pan of Hamgee isn’t paranoid. There must be some people in K’Barth who aren’t out to get him; it’s just that, right now, he’s not sure where they are. His family are dead, his existence is treason and he does the only thing he can to survive – getaway driving.
As if being on the run isn’t bad enough, when he finds a magic thimble and decides to keep it, he unwittingly sets himself on a collision course with Lord Vernon, K’Barth’s despot ruler.
Unwillingly, The Pan is forced to make choices and stand up for his beliefs – beliefs he never knew he had until they were challenged. But, faced with a stark moral dilemma will his new found integrity stick? Can he stop running?
About the Book
What is the book about?
It’s about a lad with eyes in the back of his head who lives in a parallel reality. He drives a flying car – actually, everyone drives a flying car it’s a great place to live in that respect – and he becomes a getaway driver. Except that there’s a little more to it than that.
When did you start writing the book?
I’ve been writing it in various forms since about 1998.
How long did it take you to write it?
In the end, I suppose it took about a year and a half, once the scales had fallen from my eyes and I’d sussed out how to write a proper book.
Where did you get the idea from?
I don’t really know. K’Barth has been in my head for as long as I can remember although it was called different things. I started writing about the female lead, Ruth. She only makes a few fleeting appearances in Few Are Chosen but she gets more involved later on. Half way through one version of the book I just typed that one character was sitting in a cell with The Pan of Hamgee. All he was supposed to be was a bit part, a frightened cell mate. He just strolled in and took over. So he gets the first book to himself pretty much. We meet Ruth, in earnest, in The Wrong Stuff, K’Barthan Trilogy 2.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
I often struggle about a third of the way into any book. I did here. I usually have to shelve it for a month or two and do different things. Or I just write other bits and whatever the problem is sorts itself out and the answers float to the surface. A couple of scenes that were totally random, I didn’t know who the characters were or what was going on. I just wrote it down and eventually, it slotted in.
What came easily?
Snurds – the flying cars! Mwah ha ha haargh! I’ve fantasised about driving a flying Lotus since I was about eight years old and I still do, every time I’m stuck behind a caravan or a tractor or some other scourge of the road.
Oh alright seriously then. Some of the conversations just fell out of my head and two or three scenes just appeared in their entirety while I was listening to music and all I had to do was write them down.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Terry Pratchett, Terry Pratchett and Terry Pratchett. Oh and did I mention Terry Pratchett? I didn’t write anything for eight years after reading Witches Abroad because I thought he’d written all my books for me. Then I decided no two people can write the same books, similar maybe but not the same. Definitely in my case, I get compared to Adams and Fford quite a lot but not Pratchett.
Actually there is a bit more to it than that. I’ve been influenced by quite a lot of stuff. Adams, Wodehouse, C S Lewis, Tolkein (possibly) Wilde, Lennon, Nevil Shute, H E Bates… then there’s the stuff that isn’t books; the original three StarWars films, StarTrek, 1960s cheesy Avengers style TV, James Bond, Blackadder, The Beatles, punk, spaghetti westerns, Goscinny and Uderzo, Dangermouse, Dr Who, Monty Python, Viz, the Big Bang Theory, Not the Nine O’Clock News, The Two Ronnies, Dick Dastardly, Scooby Doo, many of the films of Dreamworks, Blue Sky and Pixar, not to mention District 9 and Galaxy Quest. Yep, all that is there.
Do you have a target reader?
Myself and people like me – so, officially teenagers but really anyone who’s interested. To give an age range cancels out so many people who would probably enjoy it. If you liked the Narnia books, you’ll like this… probably. It’s about what I reckon the Board of British Film Censors would rate as PG.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
It’s quite random. I have to be relaxed and then I just let things gather in my head. Usually by putting other things in; films, music, art… Most often, it’ll centre round hearing and liking a new piece of music. I’ll see images first, then, in the aftermath of a few plays, snippets of conversation will arrive, unbidden and I wonder what they’re all for. Then come the characters who will sit down and refuse to leave. Eventually, it all starts to crystallise into a scene and I’ll start to know what’s going on. That’s the point when it’s time to dump it somewhere to make room for the next one. This moment usually occurs at the exact point when a suitable dumping window is the furthest possible distance away. Say, the first day of half term, when I know I’ve got to hold it all in for a week (because doing anything while looking after a 3 year old – apart from looking after the three year old – is impossible).
If I get a few minutes I will hastily fly tip as much as possible into the equivalent, in hard drive terms, of a lay by on the A1. It’s always a splendid relief and I feel oh so much better (it’s a bit like having a huge pooh)… unless there’s just buckets of it when no amount of dumping will remove it all and then my whole life feels as if I’ve been disturbed in the middle of something really good on TV. I can’t focus on anything else and I’m desperate to get back and finish it so I know what happens. It’s amazing how I lighten up when I work out the entire time line of a book. This last one’s been a total smecker, I only sorted it about a week before the deadline.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just Chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
No. I usually know how it starts and what happens in the last scene. I write both and then just wait for my subconscious to fill in the gaps. I did write the most recent one a lot more by numbers than anything else I’ve done but that was because there’s just too much going on in Real Life and it’s affected my powers of retention. Even so, I didn’t really know where it was going until it was done.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
A bit of both. I like to think every scene is wholly honed before I move on but obviously when I put them together as a book they get shuffled about a bit.
Did you hire a professional editor?
Yes. I hired two for Few Are Chosen. Both were excellent but one edits on paper which means I tend to end up putting in as many errors as the editor takes out when I do the corrections. The second edited it in file which was more reliable.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Not while; before. Some music helps me to visualise the ambience of K’Barth, generally, some ties in with a particular character and some with a particular scene. As an example, a whole scene for book three appeared recently during my first listen to the song ‘Endlessly’ by Mercury Rev. I just watched the action a couple of times and then wrote it down.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
Yes. I finished Few Are Chosen in 2009 and spent the next year doing just that. Rang them all first to check who to post it to and whether the lists were open. That was an eye opener, in itself.
What made you decide to go Indie? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
A particular event I suppose, in that it was the process of looking for an agent.
It took me a whole year to get polite no’s out of five of them. I was pleased they were polite but I decided that I would prefer to see my work in print before I die. I have self published and I guess if I can sell a few, I might establish a proven track record (ugh I hate that phrase) and get a publisher that way. I’m a bit time strapped so, ideally I’d have someone else doing most of the marketing and administrivia so I can concentrate on doing the writing.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did it you do it yourself?
I started off with a very good one done for me free.
However, although it was vivid and it tied in with the content it didn’t show much about what was in the book. Nothing about it said, ‘aroogah aroogah exciting stuff in here.’ So I thought maybe I should change that. I approached the designers I used to use when I was doing grown up work. I sent them a huge brief and they said, “That’s a lot of drawing it’ll be quite expensive but you could try this…” and it was brilliant.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
Well… I know what to do to market something but I also know a) how much it costs and b) how much time it takes to do properly (because I used to be a marketing manager). So I’m doing what I can in the budget and time available; press releases, reviews, visiting forums, occasional tweeting, social networking and I never, ever go anywhere without a copy of my book (which results in more sales than the rest of it put together).
What I have learned is twofold. First, when McMini goes to school full time I’ll look at more events where I get to go somewhere and meet people because it’s clearly talking to me in person that sells my work above all else. Second, I’ll concentrate on word of mouth sales. Slow burn but it seems it works better than anything else. Couple that with press coverage, mostly local, or where I have a ‘hook’ and I’ll see how I get on.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Decide on your targets. Make them realistic. Do what suits you.
Whatever you do, don’t look at the success of other indie authors. You will always find somebody doing better than you. Indeed, if you’re like me, it will be just about everyone.
Just remember, this is about writing a good book, presenting it well and enjoying what you do. Being an overnight success takes time and application. Most people will have more time than you do. Some people will never have enough time and you have to accept that you may be one of them. The trick is to set realistic performance criteria for yourself which take your particular circumstances into account. Then do what you can. If you work hard, do your best and you like your book the rest is gravy.
Where did you grow up?
Half way up a windy down in Sussex each holidays and right on top of a different windy down in the term time. My Dad was a housemaster in a school so we lived on site and moved out to our actual home in the holidays. It’s quite a wacky life and you learn a lot about human nature whether you want to or not. You also learn that whatever you are doing, no matter how well you’ve planned, the thing you need right now to complete whatever you’re doing, will invariably be in the other house. I do not know how people with more than one house survive without having two of everything. On the up side, schools are often the most fantastic places to go roller skating. This one was no exception, lots of shiny smooth concrete, all under cover. Mmm…
Where do you live now?
In a house in a town, very much NOT in a boarding school and from a roller-skating point of view, the quality of the surfaces around here is rubbish. Then again, I’m middle aged and nursing an old beer injury so most things beyond my knees these days.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’ve just finished writing The Wrong Stuff, K’Barthan Trilogy: Part 2. It’s out on 22nd March, 2012.
What are you working on now?
One Man. No Plan. K’Barthan Trilogy: Part 3
End of Interview:
You can find MT here, and her books at the locations below.
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/m-t-mcguire
iBooks, search for M T McGuire
The second book in the K’Barthan Trilogy, The Wrong Stuff is out in e-book format and should be available in print from Thursday 28th March.
Signed copy from www.hamgee.co.uk