Every issue, IN presents INside Authors, a look at authors from around the world who have significantly caught our attention and deserve a little space and recognition. Their writing genres vary, their styles, backgrounds and individual stories on how they achieved attention unique, and their attitude towards our industry is quite often amusing and always enlightening. Our hope is to provide a glimpse, a snapshot, an overview of some of the finest writers of our time making waves both tidal and ripple. The following two authors are this month's choices, based on the heat rising from their respective corners of the world.
Hugh McCracken, fiction and nonfiction
Background INfo: I am Hugh McCracken currently living in Ottawa, Canada to be near two sons, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren. I was educated in Scotland and graduated from St. Andrews University with degrees in Chemistry and Mathematics. After some adventures in France, I worked for some time as an Industrial Chemist before finally becoming a teacher. Emigrated to Canada in 1967. Earned B.Ed. and M.Ed. In Psychology from University of Manitoba and was Headmaster of St. John's-Ravenscourt Upper School in Winnipeg for thirteen years. Since retiring from teaching in 1992, I have worked as a freelance writer and editor.
I wrote technical articles for a builders' magazine for a spell. For the first one I objected to the editor, "I don't know anything about plumbing." His reply was that those who did know the trade couldn't write about it. So, armed with my recorder I visited every plumbing supply house in town and several master plumbers. The resulting article was too long!
"1,400 words. That's what I have space for. No more no less."
Edited to the required 1,400 words, it was accepted and I wrote monthly articles on a variety of subjects using the same technique. Much to my surprise two local architects and several builders complimented me on the articles and said they found them useful in keeping up with modern materials and technical advances.
In the same period I sold several short stories to magazines in the America.
My most recent publication is Heads Up For Harry. Some of it was written more than thirty years ago, but I could not bring myself to finish it until very recently. I have worked now for several years as Senior Editor for BeWrite Books, UK, which has published all of my books. I was initially working with another publisher on The Time Drum and became friends with Neil Marr of BeWrite Books. Following the publication of the first two of the Hunt Series, I started editing for BeWrite Books.
I also write under Alistair Kinnon for my detective novels, since anyone reading these very adult novels would certainly not consider buying young adult books by the same author.
INfluences: My wife and sons encouraged my writing as did my sister who is also a published author. My first magazine editor taught me to write to a deadline and to very specific space requirements. I have read widely from a very early age. In the classics; Dickens, Thackeray, Jules Verne, H.G.Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle. In more modern times: H.H.Munroe (Saki), Thurber, Chesterton, Frank Herbert, Heinlein, Rauld Dahl, Brian Aldiss, Asimov, Arthur Clarke, Ray Bradbury. Mgt Atwood . . .
Advice: Read as widely as possible even in genres that you might not usually choose. Don't try to edit or polish as you write. Let the ideas flow, but before you submit make sure the material has been thoroughly edited. Read the submission guidelines for the publisher and tailor your manuscript to them. Read and reread your piece for such errors as: typos; howlers like, its where it's is appropriate; wrong punctuation; homonyms missed by the spellchecker like, here where hear is intended. At one time authors could expect editors to turn their brilliant ideas into manuscripts ready to publish. Now, badly presented submissions rarely get beyond the slush pile.
Don't throw away anything you have written – it may be useful for some future project.
Join a writing group where you can get constructive criticism of your work and don't be afraid to leave it if you get no useful feedback or if the critiques and comments on your work and that of others are destructive rather than useful.
When a manuscript is rejected by one publisher send it out to another – after checking the new publisher's guidelines and adjusting if necessary.
Don't throw rejection slips away – in some jurisdictions they are proof to the income tax authorities that you are seriously trying to market your work and are not just a hobby writer.
Internet Presence: It's important for exposure so I have my own at: http://firstname.lastname@example.org
The Future: Currently I am in process of writing the final book of my Hunt series.
Young Adult Paperbacks published by BeWrite Books, UK
The Time Drum: 162 pages; 2002; ISBN 1904224997
Rules of the Hunt: 232 pages; 2002; ISBN 1904224555
Return from the Hunt: 228 pages; 2003; ISBN 1904224520
Grandfather & The Ghost: 250 pages; 2002; ISBN 1904224644
Coming soon: Masters of the Hunt
General Readership Paperback published by BeWrite Books, UK
Ring of Stone: 426 pages; 2002; ISBN 190422461X
A finalist for the 2003 EPPIE Award in the category Action/Adventure
Heads up for Harry: 276 pages; 2006; ISBN 190520244X:
Some poems in an anthology edited by Heather Grace:
Shaken & Stirred: 324 pages; 2002; ISBN 1904224857
Adult Paperback Novels published by BeWrite Books, UK
Writing as Alistair Kinnon
The Knotted Chord: 310 pages; 2002; ISBN 1904224121
The Tangled Skein 376 pages; 2004; ISBN 1904221342
Sean Parker, nonfiction and fiction
Background INfo: My first job was as an engineer working in the nuclear power industry. At that time I used to read a lot of westerns, especially those by such quality authors as Paul J. Wellman, Will Henry and Louis L'Amour. As time went on, I decided to write one of my own. After completion, the manuscript went out to the genre publishers. I knew that very soon I would be taking up shelf space next to Louis.
The rejection slips began to land on the carpet with some regularity, accompanied by the words: "unfortunately the manuscript is not suitable for our list, but you may well find another publisher who thinks differently, a list of whom you will find in the Writer's & Artist's Yearbook." Naively thinking that these letters were personal to me and me alone I persevered until finally, the penny dropped like a ship's anchor. Through the pain of a massive headache, I began to understand about indentation, justification, colons, semicolons, et al. At the same time I was also writing some children's stories for my two daughters, which involved them and their pet rabbit Snowy. Fortunately, their school found them good enough to print for the other kids.
I then switched careers and went into financial services with a major UK life assurance company. I now I began to take up the business of writing very seriously. A year later I sent a manuscript for a nonfiction book on training and fitness to the publishers Foulsham & Foulsham. It arrived on their desk on a Friday morning. On Monday morning, I received a phone call, and within twenty minutes the deal was done. I told my wife we were on our way up; a year later she died of cancer.
INfluences: Being very independent I tend to do what I believe is right, instinctively on occasions, and on the assumption that if others are telling me what to do then I am leading their life and not my own. So, influences are few. However, on the discovery of a novel by Tom Barling called, The Smoke, I was instantly hooked on crime fiction. I told Tom that I was going to write a novel about modern day criminals in London, he replied: "Come on, Sean. Don't tell me that Manchester is so crime-free you have to invade my territory. Get lost." I got the message.
I also met up with Bernard Cornwell who, after learning about my writing ambitions, very kindly gave me the name of his agent. What a gentleman.
I went out for a drink with the author Derek Raymond, a fatal mistake. I finished up plastered, chewing on a beer-stained carpet but still trying to pick his brains. Another gent.
Advice: First thing is to ask your self the reason why you are writing. If the answer is not money, then you'll be forever seeking assurances from family and friends about your masterpiece. They will tell you it's fantastic, and your chest will still be puffed up with pride when you're six feet under.
So, you're writing for money. Now you have to do whatever it takes to get there. Learn your trade. Write to authors whose style is similar to your own, take in what they say. You don't have to use it, but somewhere along the line something will click it all into place.
Did you know that all publishers have readers who go through the slush pile? If they don't like the first line, the manuscript is rejected. Same thing happens again if they don't like the first paragraph; first chapter; or first line of the second chapter. So what does that tell you?
Get a copy of The Elements of Style, by William Strunk & E. B. White. Simple advice on the lines of: Never use a word that is not needed; or a sentence; or a paragraph or a chapter. Take it all in and turn out the best work you are capable of. Rewrite it, and then cut, cut, and cut again.Internet Presence: This is vital. At the moment, publishers pay an advance; printing and advertising costs; warehouse space and then have to hope the orders cover those costs. In the near future they will have to follow publishers like BeWrite and use POD. I can see booksellers having a printing machine that allows a reader to select the required book, push the appropriate button, and within minutes receive a perfect copy. As simple as buying a coke from a machine.
The Future: The second novel, which is complete, involves the same characters and is called Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie. The last in the trilogy is about a cousin of Charlie and Burnett. Jack Mitchell is another Gypsy head case who, on the odd occasion, enlists the help of the Manchester mob in sorting out some Liverpool villains. It's at the halfway stage so I don't have a clue about the ending, other that it will be a violent one.
The Complete Training Diary, nonfiction published by Foulsham & Foulsham
Junkyard Dog, fiction published by BeWrite Books
Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie & The Gypsy, fiction to be published by BeWrite Books
Julie A. Pierce
Inkwell Newswatch (IN)