Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author T.D. McKinnon. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, TD. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
TD: Hello Morgen. Born in Scotland, I’ve lived in Australia for a little over half my life and now reside in Tasmania’s North West with my wife, Zoë. When I was seven-years-old I won a school writing competition, and after a comment made by the headmistress: “I think we have a budding author in our midst”. I have considered myself to be a writer ever since; even though it was to be fifty years before I published my first book.
Morgen: What genre do you generally write?
TD: I don’t write in any particular genre. Like my reading preferences, my writing is quite eclectic. In other words I like to read and to write in a variety of genres.
Morgen: Me too. It stops my brain getting bored. What have you had published to-date?
TD: To date, I have published two memoirs, ‘Surviving the Battleground of Childhood’ and ‘I Was a Teenage Devil – But I’m Alright Now!’; an action thriller, ‘John Farrell is Utrinque Paratus’; an action / thriller, speculative fiction, ‘Heather Skye Wilson Is The Psychic Warrior’; and an historical fiction that is based on a true story, ‘Terra Nullius’. I am one of six contributing authors, and wrote the concluding two chapters, of a children’s storybook ‘A Tumble In Time’.
Morgen: You’ve self-published – what lead to you going your own way?
TD: I started off in the mainstream and got burnt on two separate occasions over two totally unrelated things. That’s not to say I wouldn’t go mainstream again of course, but I’d rather not go into it here.
Morgen: No problem. I can’t say I blame you with that experience. Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
TD: Yes, all my books are available as eBooks and I am totally involved in the process. Like many others, I got caught up in the eRevolution only fairly recently (twelve months ago) and like most of those converts I am totally hooked. However, I will always love the sensual experience of a crisp, new, ink on paper, hard copy book.
Morgen: Almost all the people I’ve spoken to have said the same. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
TD: While writing a particular book I get totally wrapped up in the characters I’m writing about and usually the main protagonist will be my favourite character during that process; that usually lasts until I get involved in another book. I can see any and all of my books in film of course, and once in a while I see someone I think could pull off a particular character. One who springs to mind is Christian Bale in the lead role of John Farrell in ‘John Farrell Is Utrinque Paratus’.
Morgen: Great actors. Did you have choose the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
TD: As all my titles are now eBook releases, I do have a fair amount of input. The title and cover design is usually a collaborative affair between myself and my cover designer, editor and business manager, my wife, Zoë. And I believe that people do judge a book by its cover, so yes, it is very important.
Morgen: I agree. What are you working on at the moment / next?
TD: I have a couple of projects currently simmering away, depending on my mood, one of them is a sequel to ‘Heather Skye Wilson Is the Psychic Warrior’.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
TD: I find that, as an independent author, I spend way too much time on social networking, and the kind of personal involvement that is needed for the promotional necessities et cetera, than I would prefer, which takes away a lot of my writing time. To survive in today’s literary climate you have to (and I’m going to use a word here that I dislike intensely) multitask; however, I do write every day.
Morgen: 🙂 You’ve said you find yourself wrapped in your characters – do you have a method for creating yours, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
TD: One of the advantages of not starting to write novels until quite late in life is that I have done quite a bit of living, gaining experience in a diversity of situations. The first couple of books are real life anyway and that gave me a running start (in terms of characters), but all the characters in my books are believable because they are based on my personal, up-front, experience of people; that’s what makes them believable. The characters are real, and if I don’t already know their names they introduce themselves to me.
Morgen: I love it when they do that. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
TD: Yes, and yes.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
TD: When writing any book, regardless of who you are or whether you know the subject matter before you begin your book or not, research is a must. Some books require more research than others: my historical fiction, ‘Terra Nullius’, took longer to research but I believe the reason for that was more to do with research material availability than anything else.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
TD: Horses for courses; I began by writing my autobiographical ‘Surviving the Battleground of Childhood’, believe it or not, in the third person. It distanced me a little from some very painful memories. Then taking the advice of my editor, facing up to the challenge, I took it on for real: up close and personal, in the first person; it was a gut wrenching, tear jerking experience that healed me once and for all. I’ve since written in ‘present tense first person’, which I find to be a very powerful story telling device, and first person from several characters (challenging); I’ve also written in third person limited and third person subjective, multiple viewpoint. Once I settle into whichever I have decided to be the most suitable for the particular project – first person for intimacy, third person for scope – I find I enjoy writing in whichever. Second person is another thing entirely; I have used it in non fiction (instructional) but haven’t seen it done very effectively in fiction and I haven’t tried it, yet, but I do enjoy a challenge and I will probably try it with the appropriate project.
Morgen: I love second person but even I struggled with the only second person pov novel I have; Jay McInerney’s ‘Bright Lights, Big City’. Although it’s slim (I prefer shorts), I’ve never reached the end. Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
TD: I am not a poet and I believe poets think in a different kind of way; that’s not to say I haven’t waxed lyrical on occasion. I’ve had articles published, on various subjects, and I’ve written instructional pieces for educational publications. I have of course written many short stories, and had several of them published. I believe that short stories, flash fiction and the like are excellent exercises.
Morgen: They are. One of my (five) online writing groups is http://shortstorywritinggroup.wordpress.com and I put exercises on there every weekday. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
TD: I have more than 11000 words of a science fiction story; it was my first attempt at a full-length novel, which floundered; written more than twenty years ago on a type writer. Every now and then I read it; maybe one day… then again maybe not.
Morgen: You have the experience now to see what’s ‘wrong’ with it (if anything). Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
TD: Any writer who says they have never had a rejection isn’t being honest. I’ve spoken to several writers and I think we all handle them, those who survive anyway, in a similar way: not take it personally and keep writing and not allow any amount of negativity to take me from my purpose, my passion.
Morgen: Do you enter competitions?
TD: Only for fun these days, on the Indies Unlimited website. My advice to anyone, in regards to competitions, is if you enjoy it and it motivates you to write: go for it! However, don’t take it too seriously.
Morgen: I have a page linked to them (http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/links/iu) which needs updating actually. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
TD: No, I don’t have an agent, and they certainly think they are vital to an author’s success! I don’t know about vital… but they are sometimes instrumental in an author’s success. Often they come along after the success is evident, then they help to negotiate and extend that success by doing all the things that take up so much time, and detract from a writer’s creative energy.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
TD: All of it! Well that’s not quite true; in fact it’s not even half true. If it were not for my wife (who is my editor, artistic designer: including book covers, website and photography; as well as my muse, manager and slave driver) I simply would not function.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
TD: My favourite aspect of my writing life is that, after a lifetime of doing what I felt I must do (pleasing everyone but myself), I’m now doing exactly what I want to do. The only thing that has surprised me is, looking back, how long it took me to make the final leap.
Morgen: I did that in March 2012 and don’t regret it for a second. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
TD: Only one thing: write! Writers write; that’s the only rule.
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
TD: I think a good group of people to relax and enjoy a meal with would include one of Scotland’s favourite sons, one of the most famous poets of all time, Robert Burns, 1759 – 1796. I would also invite the renowned, American psychic, prophet and author, Edgar Cayce, 1877 – 1945. Completing the group would be American author, poet and psychic, Jane Roberts, 1929 – 1984. I’d make them pumpkin soup. I make the best pumpkin soup in the world, bar none.
Morgen: Nice! Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
TD: There are lots but my favourite is probably from ‘To a Mouse’ by Robert Burns:
“The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley.
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
TD: I am a ‘Goodreads’ reviewer, I’m proud to be part of the team at Indies Unlimited as a contributing author and I also deliver seminars on, among other things, ePublishing.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
TD: I have been practicing the martial artist for forty-seven years; I hope to get it right one day. Seriously though, I’m a master in several forms and I am the founder of Torakan Karate. My oldest son is a former World Kickboxing Champion and presently one of Australia’s leading Muay Thai trainers. My youngest son, trained by his brother, is – at the writing of this interview – the current WBC world Muay Thai champion. I still teach a little and continue to practice, until I get it right or until I shrug off this mortal coil.
Morgen: Wow. Life is practice, isn’t it? Like writing, we’re all still learning. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
TD: There is a plethora of good sites out there with more flowering every day. In my experience, for the independent author I can’t recommend more highly ‘Indies Unlimited’, http://www.indiesunlimited.com, simply the best. And for readers mainly but for writers too, to find reviews, authors and books in abundance I recommend ‘Goodreads’. http://www.goodreads.com
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
TD: Yes I am, and I find them invaluable. As well as Indies Unlimited and Goodreads I am with numerous others including ‘Historical Fiction Online’ and several authors and writers groups through LinkedIn.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
TD: ePublishing, eBooks and the independent author are the future; oh there will always be a place for ink on paper books, but a niche market I feel. During the history of books there have been several watershed changes in technology, and not since the creation of the printing press has it had such a marked, radical transformation. There has been such a glut of new writers taking advantage of the ePublishing opportunities in the last twelve months that the system is literally clogged; however, the literary industry is in a state of flux and, I believe, it will adjust and right itself. Everyone involved in the literary industry must evolve, or they will go the way of the dinosaurs, but it’s been a long time since the future has been so bright for writers.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
TD: You can find out about me and my writing from:
- My website: http://www.tdmckinnon.com,
- Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/T.D.-McKinnon/e/B0079QHFEW,
- Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/TDMcKinnon,
- Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/TDMcKinnon,
- Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5360776.T_D_McKinnon?auto_login_attempted=true,
- Indies Unlimited: http://www.indiesunlimited.com/author-bios/ and more; just Google T.D.McKinnon.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
TD: I think your interview has been in-depth and insightful and I really can’t think of anything else to add.
Morgen: I’m delighted you enjoyed it. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
TD: The only thing I’d like to ask is, ‘Where do you get the time to do all that you do? Are you set on fast forward? Perhaps you have a device that allows you to be in several places, doing several things at the one time, like Hermione Granger?
Morgen: <laughs> I’d love to be set on rewind or slow play (if there is such a setting). I’m very fortunate that I get to be at home all the time but I am on my computer pretty much from the minute I get up to when I go to bed, with some distractions (walking the dog – when I’m usually editing, reading, writing – going to the cinema, doing my book-related Red Cross volunteering. Thank you, TD.
I then invited TD to include a sample of his writing and this is an excerpt from ‘Terra Nullius’…
The sealers seemed not to understand their predicament; they had come across mainland natives many times; under similar conditions they would appear from nowhere. A share of their rum and some tobacco was always enough to ensure their affability; perhaps even buying the favours of one of their females.
They did however eventually notice the firearms and one of them made a dash for his musket. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you!” said Trucannini in perfect, clear English. Confused, stopping abruptly, he turned to look at her. “Get down on your knees!” she ordered, walking calmly towards him. When he hesitated she said, “Get down on your knees or I’ll shoot you where you stand!” causing him to drop immediately to his knees.
The other sealer had not moved from his prone position by the fire, even as Drayduric, Peevy and Matildarrada closed on him. “Stand!” said Peevy.
When the frightened sealer got to his feet, reversing her musket, Drayduric swung the butt between his legs; as he doubled up, Peevy crashed his butt into the side of his head and he sprawled onto the fire. When they dragged his unconscious body from the embers his stinking clothes had caught fire and so they rolled him in the sand to douse him.
On his knees, Trucannini’s sealer was eye to eye with her; a wiry, tough looking man with hard, hateful little eyes the colour of a cloudy, blue-grey dawn. Somewhere in his middle years, he was bearded and dirty, and he stank; his skin was sun blacked and leathery except for one patch: a strange, pale, irregular shaped scar on his cheekbone just below his right eye. Trucannini’s pulse quickened and she stepped a little closer. Pointing the musket at his face she said, “Where did you get that scar?!”
He wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but as he warily touched his scar she could see his eyes lose focus. “A wild animal!… a Van Diemen’s Land Devil!” It was then she noticed the top joint of his little finger was missing. Stepping quickly forward, sudden anger giving her blinding speed, she smashed the barrel across his mouth and he sprawled backwards; as he tried to crawl away she swung the butt down onto his head.
And a synopsis of Terra Nullius…
It’s no secret that history is written by the conquerors, and with, inevitably, no recourse for the disenfranchised the invaders write their own version of history with dry statements of the fact, from their own point of view; always casting themselves in a softer, fuzzier light.
The facts of this story however are irrefutable; European invaders moved in, displacing the natives and systematically murdering, raping, pillaging and appropriating their women as concubines; spreading disease and decimating their number into extinction.
They proclaimed the land ‘Terra Nullius’: a neutral or uninhabited area or land not under sovereignty of any recognised political entity; therefore, disregarding native heritage, theirs for the taking.
Based on a true story, Terra Nullius is an historical fiction chronicling the events of the 19th century through the eyes of the unfortunate race who, at the time, just happened to occupy the best piece of real-estate in the southern hemisphere: Tasmania.
The characters in Terra Nullius are actual historical persons, their stories dramatisations of factual events. Trucannini, a central character, witnessed the murder of her mother and the rape and murder of her sisters and her brother, the mutilation and murder of her fiancé, and was herself pack raped. All of which happened by her sixteenth year.
Scottish author T.D. McKinnon’s first book was about ‘Surviving the Battleground of his Childhood’ in the coal mining communities of Scotland and England. At fifteen he joined the British Parachute Regiment (the Red Devils), where he remained for five years. Training in the martial arts for most of his life, he had five Karate schools in Scotland before immigrating to Australia in 1980. Achieving mastery in several forms, he represented at national level, both in Scotland and Australia.
Pursuing a number of occupations, including high risk security: event and venue security, close personal protection, cash and gem escort and armed, rapid response for a national bank group, his close personal protection company was responsible for the safety of a member of the Spanish royal family in the late 80′s and was also part of the anti terrorist security team for President George Bush senior’s visit to Australia in 1992.
He now lives in Tasmania with his wife, professional actor, singer, dancer and editor Zoë Lake.
Writing across several genres, including action/thriller, speculative fiction, memoir and historical fiction, he has completed five books that are all available as eBooks.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on the mixed blog but everything else (see Opportunities on the main blog) is free.
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