Recently, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog. (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.) I asked everyone thirty-five questions — some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries — and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend and fellow-blogger, Kerry Donovan, had some very captivating responses which I’m sure will enchant you, as well. After you read his interview, please be sure to hop on over to his blog and follow him for a regular dose of his charisma and wit. And now, I turn the microphone over to Kerry…
1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:
Hi Rachel, I’m Kerry J Donovan. I don’t use a pen name. If I put my work up for sale, then I reckon people ought to know whom to blame, right? Seriously though, I’m proud of my writing and want to put my name to it.
I am Irish born, lived much of my life in the UK, and now call Brittany my home. I have three adult children, and three grandchildren, all of whom live in the UK.
2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):
3. How many books have you written?
Dozens, but I guess you’re really asking how many books have I published? Currently, I have two published, and one in the process of publication. Both the published works are character-driven crime thrillers in my DCI Jones Casebook Series:
My soon-to-be published novel is a change of pace and genre for me. The Transition of Johnny Swift is a paranormal, science-based thriller. You can find out all about it on my website. The book is available for pre-order right now:
Next up will be a compilation of my short stories, which I intend to sell directly via my website, just for fun.
4. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing? Why?
The DCI Jones Casebook series is self-published. Why? I fell into self-publishing really. It wasn’t so much a plan, but I wanted to generate a following for my main hero, Detective Chief Inspector David Jones and wrote a 12,000-word novelette to introduce him to the world. Traditional publishers don’t tend to hands short stories any more, they tell me there’s no market so I self-published and sell through the usual online outlets (Amazon, B&N etc). I found the process easy.
There are advantages and disadvantages to the self-publishing process. Prime advantages are speed to publication and I get to keep a higher percentage of the royalties. The prime disadvantage is the lack of support—I have to do everything from promotion to cover design.
As for The Transition of Johnny Swift, crowd-funded publisher Britain’s Next Bestseller has accepted it on their lists. All I have to do now, is sell 250 pre-orders and I’m guaranteed a publishing deal (hence the mention of ‘pre-ordering’ above.) 🙂
5. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I’ve been writing since I could first hold a pencil – aged four, but completed my first full-length novel in 1985, at the ripe old age of twenty-eight. However, in 1986, I burned it in a ceremony to the Gods of prose – it really was that bad. A sort of Cold War thriller set on a USAF base in the UK.
Over the years, I’ve written everything from peer-assessed journal articles (I’m a published scientist), to cycling blogs. The only thing I never did was write a diary.
I took up writing seriously in April 2011, after I’d finished renovating my cottage in Brittany.
6. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?
The stories and characters come at me from nowhere and won’t leave me alone until I’ve committed them to the word processor. It’s really annoying. I lose sleep if I’m not writing the next story. My current short piece is set in pre-WWII Germany, the weekend before the burning of the Reichstag. Hell if I know where that story came from.
7. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?
I primarily love any crime thriller author, Connelly, Grisham, Coben, Dexter… the list is endless.
8. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?
I am a late convert to Kindle. Love it, especially the ability to increase the font size. These days, my tired old eyes need the assistance of large print, but I’m too vain to buy a large-font book, which advertises my advancing age.
9. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?
All three depending upon my mood and what I want to do with the story. I tend to write in close POV because I never could get along with the head-hopping omniscient narrative style, which I find takes me out of the story. The DCI Jones Casebooks are written in third person past tense, as it seems to suit the mood of the hero. David Jones is a difficult man to get to know and third person suits him.
On the other hand, Johnny Swift is in first person present tense, because I want the reader to be right there in the head of the lead character—suffering along with him, if you like.
10. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books?
I’m rarely without a book to read – another joy of having an e-reader.
11. How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?
A dozen or so and I’m really ODC about these things. I only ever read one book at a time.
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::
12. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?
I’ve just started the sequel to The Transition of Johnny Swift, as yet the working title is Terra Nova, but that’s likely to change.
I also have two Casebooks on the go. One is a sequel to Ellis Flynn; the other is a prequel and takes place in 1975, when David Jones was a fresh-faced Constable on his first beat in South Wales.
Oh, and I’ve decided to pull some of my short stories into an anthology to be released a couple of months before The Transition of Johnny Swift. It’s all go at Chez Donovan.
13. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre? What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?
The Transition of Johnny Swift spans a number of genres from outright paranormal to science-based fiction. The Casebooks are crime thrillers, almost police procedurals in their detail. But I think what makes my stories stand out are the characters. I like to build believable, nuanced characters. Another difference in my writing is my science background. I am a respiratory physiologist and know how the body functions. I bring my eye for detail into everything I write. For example, you’ll never see me write “the blood pumped through his veins.” Why not? Arteries have pulses, not veins.
14. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?
Inspiration for The Transition of Johnny Swift came from the title, which arrived one wet afternoon. Simple as that. I liked the sound of it and wanted to know what story it contained.
15. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?
Very definitely adult. To expand a little, I think my work suits a more mature, thoughtful audience. I tend to write slow-burners that need concentration. There are very few car chases, gun battles or fisticuffs in my stories.
16. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?
Yes please. My latest story, THE TRANSITION OF JOHNNY SWIFT tells the tale of a young man’s fight to save his family from a threat nobody else can see or understand.
Frank Brazier—the book’s lead character and narrator—is a successful racing driver. After a night celebrating a win, he accompanies his sister, Paula, to London by train. The train derails and sends Frank into a hellish world of pain and confusion.
Three days later, Frank wakes in hospital with horrific injuries. Blind in one eye, suffering intense migraines, he can barely move. Worse still, he hears impossible voices that cannot exist. In the next room, Paula is on life support. The doctors say she’s brain dead. They want to pull the plug on her machines, but Frank knows better—one of the voices he hears is Paula.
The book follows Frank’s slow recovery from his physical injuries and his battle to save both Paula and the rest of his family. The doctors dismiss his claims as the wild ramblings of a man with brain damage (he has pieces of metal in his head—parts of the train).
Neither his father nor girlfriend believes him either. Only his imagined, elusive ‘friend’, Shadow-man believes. But is Shadow-man real? And if so, is he there to help or harm?
ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::
17. How often do you write?
Most days you’ll find me tapping at the keys, after I’ve finished my ‘day job’. I start to feel a little ‘antsy’ if I’ve not written a thousand words in a day, although I’ve not written much recently as I’m trying to promote the new book.
18. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?
Aha – I’d love to afford an editor. Currently, I edit the m/s at least twice before sending it to a couple of writer friends in a quid-pro-quo arrangement. I’m also a member of the online writer’s group, Scribophile and their feedback has been superb. My wife reads the ‘final’ version for typos and grammar checks.
19. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)
I do all of those, but mainly I’m a ‘pantser’, in that I rarely map out a whole book. I tried doing that once, but moved away from the plot after about a page-and-a -half. I’ll tend to finish a m/s first and then revise to fill in the gaping plot holes my method creates. This isn’t the most efficient system, but it’s the only way I can work.
20. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?
No muse, I’m afraid. The plot and characters arrive, tell me what to write, and I acquiesce to their demands.
21. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?
Tee hee. I started one book in 1996 and it’s still not finished, but I’ll return to it one day. Nowadays, I’ll finish a ‘shoddy first draft’ in about three months. Then the real work starts. Edits, rewrites, and yet more edits. The completed book is never ready until about six months after I start.
22. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel? If so, please elaborate.
Nope, I’m not that prescriptive. I do however, have an idea in mind for the length of the book, and create a spreadsheet to calculate how long it’s going to take to finish the first draft. I’m a little OCD when it comes to countdowns.
23. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?
Toss a coin, think of a number and ignore it – I don’t know. Locations are either real or fake, but my characters are all real.
24. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?
True ‘pantsers’ do very little research. I am very old and have accumulated so many useless pieces of knowledge in the course of my life, some of which are used in my stories. For example, did you know that British longbows were made of Yew wood, the sap is on the outside and the heartwood is on the inside (to increase the recoil tension)? Don’t know how I’m going to include that into my stories, as I don’t do period pieces.
Experience is key. I am a trained cabinet maker/furniture designer. I also hold a PhD in Sport and Exercise Sciences. Both of these identities inform my writing—I’ll leave the reader to decide where and how well.
25. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write? (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)
Apart from birdsong, which I get a load of in my home here in Brittany, I need silence. No music, no vacuuming, no traffic noise. A cup of tea and a biscuit will help occasionally, but peace and quiet are essential.
26. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location? If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?
I have my office in the attic and stop when I’m tired. When on a roll, I’ve been known to write through the night and sleep through the day. As a granddad with kids and grandkids in a different country, my wife and IU can take siestas whenever we choose.
27. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?
Never – unless you ask my wife, when the answer becomes – always!
28.What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?
I refuse to answer that on the grounds that I might incriminate myself. I understand that in the US, this is called standing on the 5th amendment?
ABOUT YOUR WORK::
29. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?
My favourite novel is always my WIP. I love to find out where the story’s going and what’s happening to my friends, the characters.
30. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?
Didn’t I tell you already? I am DCI David Jones (sic). DJ is kind, clever, slightly ODC, and almost never wrong. The only way we differ is that DJ is short and slim and I am tall and not slim, and he’s nice and I’m horrible. Also, DJ is a bachelor and has no kids, I have three children and three grandchildren, all of whom live in the UK.
31. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?
I’ll pass on that question.
32. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?
For The Transition of Johnny Swift, I researched string theory, quantum mechanics, and driving a Formula 1 racing car – that odd enough for you?
33. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?
My novel, The DCI Jones Casebook: Ellis Flynn, involved child abduction, paedophiles, and snuff movies. I didn’t like researching that one little bit, but the story is uplifting and ultimately one I am very proud to have written.
Thanks very much for allowing me the time to talk about my favourite subject.
Thank you, Kerry, for allowing me to interview you. I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.