Sean McLachlan joins us today to tell us about a little about himself and show off his novel: Radio Hope. He was game to answer my random questions:
Where did the initial idea for Radio Hope come from?
I have no clear idea where any of my ideas come from. I've wanted to write a post-apocalyptic story for some time now, and I've always been intrigued with pirate radio, so it just sort of gelled. Oddly, the original kernel of my story ended up as the very first line: “The old man dove right into that punch.” That could have been the lead into any sort of novel, but it ended up as the first line of Radio Hope.
Which part of the publishing process was the most surprising?
I've indie published a previous novel, a novella, and a short story collection so there were no real surprises. One thing that was a bit of a wakeup call, however, was that I did this for National Novel Writing Month. I've been meaning to try NaNo but never had the time, then just before November 2013, I lost my travel blogging job so I said, “What the hell?”
I’m glad I did. There’s nothing like unemployment to boost your word count. I wrote the entire 71,000 word first draft in a month and spent the next two months editing, reworking, and considering the feedback of a dozen beta readers. Three months to the day after I wrote down that first line, I clicked publish. Many of my readers say it’s my best work so far. Now I really understand how all those old-school writers managed to write so much yet not sacrifice quality. Just focus on the work and don’t stop!
If you could go back and give yourself any piece of advice before you started writing, what would it be?
Persistence is the key to everything. Also, don’t get trapped in the writers’ ghetto. Of course you need to interact with other writers to learn the craft, keep up with industry news, network, etc., but you’re writing for readers, not other writers. Radio Hope was the first book where a significant number of my beta readers were not writers, and they came at it with a totally fresh perspective you don’t get with fellow writers. While writers are better at helping you with technical matters, readers are much more insightful when it comes to story, since that’s all they're looking at.
Plotter or pantser?
I tend to start with fragments of scenes, a sense of the overall mood, and a fairly detailed setting, and then I just wing it. It’s best not to get too strict with where you’re going otherwise it takes much of the fun out of writing.
Quiet room or noisy room when you're writing?
Quiet, or with music that either has no words or none in a language I understand. Even Arabic music distracts me because as bad as my Arabic is, my ears will perk up and my mind will get distracted trying to catch the few words I know.
That said, I learned to write in a newsroom with dozens of people babbling and phones ringing all around me. I can shut out noise when I have to, but I prefer a quiet workspace. Luckily I have a home office overlooking the bay of Santander in northern Spain, and I have it all to myself until I have to pick up my kid from school.
Your writing area/desk: a place for everything and everything in its place or if anyone ever straightened it, you'd never find a thing?
My wife learned very, very early on not to touch anything on my desk. Even my eight-year-old knows this. I have a system of controlled chaos, with books, pictures, notes, scattered all about. I can find anything I want quite quickly. No really, I can. Really! Well, most of the time.
What is your current pop culture obsession (book, TV show, movie, webcomic…)?
Plants vs. Zombies and Kingdom Rush. Damn those are addictive games! Great way to bond with my son too. Oh, and I'm watching Sherlock right now, a fun BBC miniseries that takes Holmes and Watson into the modern-day world of CSI.
What are the rest of us missing?
If you’re talking about my book, most people haven't figured out what real-life location the setting is based on, and no one has picked up on the scene that’s an homage to a certain B movie starring Ray Liotta.
If you’re talking about life in general, I can't say without it sounding judgmental. Here’s some advice, though—do something that frightens you on a regular basis. I took up rock climbing to cure my acrophobia (didn't work) and I went on vacation to Iraq (survived). Two of the best things I've ever done.
Now that we've whetted your appetite, here's Radio Hope...
In a world shattered by war, pollution and disease. . .
A gunslinging mother longs to find a safe refuge for her son.
A frustrated revolutionary delivers water to villagers living on a toxic waste dump.
The assistant mayor of humanity's last city hopes he will never have to take command.
One thing gives them the promise of a better future--Radio Hope, a mysterious station that broadcasts vital information about surviving in a blighted world. But when a mad prophet and his army of fanatics march out of the wildlands on a crusade to purify the land with blood and fire, all three will find their lives intertwining, and changing forever.
Sean McLachlan is an archaeologist turned writer who is the author of several books of fiction and history. Check him out on his blog Midlist Writer.