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Monday 8 July 2013

Guest Author Spot - Alan McDermott

This week's Author Spot belongs to the bestselling author of the Tom Gray series, Alan McDermott. If you enjoy Alan's interview please check out his work and his blog here

1. First, for avid readers, fans, and the curious out there, what's the best way to ask you a question?
 I check my Twitter feed every day, so mentioning @Jambalian would be a good start.  At the end of Gray Redemption and the Tom Gray trilogy I have put my email address in case any readers want to get in touch.  I’ve had a few hundred emails from that, and though I can’t always reply instantly, I try to get back to everyone within 24 hours.
 2. Do you have a favourite character from another author’s book?
 A few weeks ago I would have said the lead character from Russell Blake’s Jet series, but I am now reading his King Of Swords books and El Rey is something else.  Both characters are assassins, both are masters of their trade, but El Rey just edges it for me.  Having said that, there are over 200 indie books on my kindle and any one of them could be a gem.  It’s just finding the time to read them all.
 3. Do you pre-plan your stories or are you a take-it-as-it-comes writer?
 I usually start with the opening scene and let it take me where it wants to go.  I might have three or four chapters lined up in my head, but as I write the first one, something else suddenly makes more appeal.  I guess the fun part is, I don’t know how the book is going to end, even when I’m halfway through!
 4. Where does your inspiration comes from? What motivates you?
 My children are my biggest motivation.  I’m writing so that I can leave them a legacy and hopefully inspire them to take on the challenge themselves one day.  When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, my family – like most others at the time – couldn’t afford most of life’s luxuries.  I want my girls to be able to afford the nicer things in life, which is why I took up writing in the first place.  I’m not talking about a new smartphone every 6 months, but things like after-school classes, or the occasional family holiday. 
 5. Do you have set schedule to write to or do you grab the time as it comes?
 I have a set schedule and it’s blown out of the water every morning.  The plan was to wake up just as the girls were going to school, have a shower and write until it’s time to pick them up again.  It never really seems to work out that way, so yes, I just grab whatever moments I can. 
 6. How do you take writing interruptions?
 I’m so used to them now.  I tend to walk away from the laptop to think of the next sentence, so I can be writing even when I’m strolling in the garden, or washing the dishes.  All I need to do is wait for that rare moment when no-one is watching, and I can rush back in and get it down on virtual paper.  Given the option, I’d be home alone writing for eight hours every day, but with a young family you can imagine how rare that is.
 7. What do you enjoy and what do you hate about writing?
 When I meet someone truly obnoxious I can put them in a book and kill them!  Joking aside, I like the fact that I can think up the next chapter wherever I am and write it down later.  Train and bus journeys are great for running battle scenes through my head.  I like to play them out a few times before committing to them as it saves on re-writes.  The bad part?  I guess I’ve had to sacrifice the simpler things in life.  I can’t remember the last film I watched all the way through, and even on my recent holiday I spent 3 days on the laptop.  Hopefully, one day, I’ll get the balance right.
 8. Mostly for our other authors out there, what’s your advice as to how to handle a bad review?
 I think John Locke said it best:  he likes bourbon, but his wife prefers wine, and his two children hate the smell of it.  So only one in four in his household likes bourbon.  Does that make it bad?  No, it just means others prefer something different.  Some people like my books, some don’t.  I’d be silly to expect everyone to love them.  50 Shades got its fair share of 1-star reviews, as does Stephen King.  Some love his work, others hate it.  I just shrug them off.  For every 1-star review I’ve had, 30 people have signed up to be notified about book 4, so I’ll take that ratio any day.
 9. What other projects do you have on the boil?
 I’m currently working on the fourth Tom Gray book.  I had planned to move onto another standalone book, but so many request came in to continue with the character that I decided to give him at least one more run-out.  I’m sure we’ll see him again in the future, but he’s going to need a rest after this one!
 10.  Do you have any advice to offer other Indie authors about self-publishing?
 Patience!  Don’t expect to publish your book on Monday and be hunting for the mansion on Friday.  In the first 6 months after publishing Gray Justice I had a whopping 83 sales!  The following year (2012) was much better, and after a couple of successful promos I ended up with nearly 7000 sales.  This year things have really taken off, and thankfully I’m earning enough from the books to see me through this current period of unemployment.
 11. Does any particular strategy work for you to boost sales?
 Having the first book in a series free has worked wonders for me.  I’ve tried paying for promotion with various sites, but the majority have been a complete waste of money, with no improvement in sales. 
 12. Does social networking improve your sales?
 Yes, I think it does.  The most important thing about being an author is getting your work into the hands of readers.  If you publish and sit back expecting the sales to come flooding in, you’re going to be waiting a long time.  Building up a network is vital if you want to spread the word.
 13. Which authors give you inspiration? Do you have a favourite read amongst them?
 Again, Russell Blake.  He’s written over 20 books in the time it has taken me to write three and a half, and they are so well written.  I can’t understand why the publishers and agents aren’t hounding him daily for a book deal.  I’m allowing myself an afternoon a week to read his work and see how he crafts such wonderful tales.
 14. You are finally getting the recognition you deserve. Was the recent success of the Gray novels a surprise to you or part of some clever plan?
 A total surprise!  I was hoping that by the time I’d written 7 or 8 books I’d be earning about £1000 a month, but I’m already doing a little better than that now and hopefully book 7 will see me earning a living wage.
 15.  Tom Gray is a tortured soul, a great character. Do you have any other major characters in development for future books?
 As I mentioned earlier, Tom Gray was the seed of an idea who just grew and grew as the story progressed.  Whoever I create next will no doubt grow in the same way.  I can’t see myself ever creating a gung-ho, kill-’em-all, win-every-battle superhero, but I like the idea of growing the Andrew Harvey character and letting him have a few stories of his own.  I’m sure Tom will pop in them now and again, though.

Cheers, Dave!
Thanks Alan, best of luck with the next book!


  1. ..super interview, well done, both David and Alan... nice to see it coming together for a fellow quill-scraper! :0