Welcome to another Friday Author Spotlight! This week I have Martin McConnell with with science fiction novella, Viral Spark.
Martin McConnell holds a Physics degree from SIUE, and when he isn’t writing speculative fiction, he’s motivating other authors, stargazing, reading, or playing Kerbal Space Program. He avidly encourages everyone he meets to seize control of their dreams by driving their own plot.
Connect with the Author
About the Book
Dr. Lederberg once said, “the single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on the planet is the virus.”
He may have been right. Though this is hardly what he had in mind.
A virus has infected the global network. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Robert. He’s a module or two short of finishing school.The girl he’s fond of has a crazy ex that wants to kill him. Something has gone horribly wrong with the robots he maintains at work, and fixing them means discovering a whole new set of complications!
Get it today on Amazon!
Keep reading for an interview with the author:
Why did you decide to be a writer?
I was in college when I started on my first written work, around 2003. It was a non-fiction book about Einstein’s Relativity theory, which I printed for a couple of friends. Over the years I tried to write other non-fiction works and screenplays. I really got serious about becoming an author one day, while working offshore, some time in 2008. I had some sketches and a bunch of research for a comic book that I wanted to write, but with my job decided that I didn’t have the time to commit to it. Then it occurred to me, I have all this paper, why not write a novel. I think that was what really solidified my goal to become a published author.
Do you have a “day job”? If so, what do you do?
I did, in the oilfield. Basically decoding signals from an electronic tool in the drill string behind the bit, and supplying that information in real-time to the geologists and directional drillers for wellbore positioning.
I left the stress of it all behind a couple months ago after the release of Viral Spark. Not because of the publishing contract, but because I’ve been putting off building my farm for too long, and the stress that goes along with being in my previous career had come to a head. I realized how little I would care if they laid me off, a string of weird coincidences surface, and ultimately I put in my two weeks notice and started my current quest of simplifying my life so I can get on with the rest of it.
I plan on picking up another day-job soon, closer to my property so that I can work out there on the weekends, building my farm and my future. And of course, I’ll still be writing.
What genres do you write?
My first novel was Historical Fiction, but I doubt I’ll tread that path again soon. Even so, it contained a speculative element, as I was writing about a place and time that has very little written history. I started writing near-future sci-fi after that, and have 3 novels on my computer in various stages of completion. Viral Spark is sci-fi also, but I do branch out quite a bit in my short stories. I like mystery, suspense, and even horror (specially when I wake up from a nightmare). Anything speculative, that’s what I write. The specific genre depends on the time and mood.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with? If so, what is it and what attracts you to it?
I’ve written a couple horror short stories that I would like to turn into either an anthology or a novel. I never considered horror until waking from a nightmare and putting a story together. I’m tinkering with invention of a new kind of monster. I don’t want to do vampires or zombies or werewolves. I want something new. A monster nobody has ever heard of, with a hook anyone can relate to. The full creepy experience, with tingles in every chapter, and convincing the reader that not only does my monster exist, but you’ve seen it before.
What inspires you to write?
I like telling stories. I like getting them in front of readers and discussing the plots. I think the thing that inspires me the most is interacting with other authors, and knowing that everyone out there has a story they want to read that hasn’t been written yet. When I find someone who’s been looking for my story, someone who loves my writing and wants to see more, that’s probably the biggest inspiration. I’m rambling a bit, but I think that’s it. My readers. They are my inspiration.
What are your goals as an author? Where do you see yourself in five years?
My goal right now is to give this series of novellas out there to the people who would like to read them. I have two more to put out before the end of the year, and I want to give them every chance that I can to succeed. Of course, success is never guaranteed, but in my case, I don’t want it to be for lack of trying. After that, I have plenty of story ideas. Sometimes, I don’t know if I’ll ever finish them all, but I want to write them. In five years I hope to be managing my farm and writing full time. Maybe my writing will someday produce a livable income on its own, but I don’t count that as a goal, because that’s really up to the readers. I definitely want to publish at least one story every year though, and in five years I hope to have several more novellas and a couple novels published, and still be writing.
What is the biggest obstacle you face as an author and what do you do to overcome it?
Getting away from life’s distractions so that I can sit down and write. It’s not always easy, but I try to write something every day. If that means sitting down at 11:30 and scratching out 500 words before midnight, then that’s what I try to do.
The easiest way for me to get more writing in is to start first thing in the morning. before any other engagements. I fill out my journal entry and I start clicking away at the keyboard. If I don’t do it first, it might not be done. The earlier I start, the better things turn out, and I can get my words in before life starts messing with me.
Does your family support you in your writing, or are you on your own?
Oh, absolutely. After a long sabbatical following the failure of my first novel and a low point in my life after my divorce, my brother contacted me. He asked if I ever planned on “publishing that book” or if he would have to steal the word document and publish it himself. He’s always known how to light a fire under my butt, and that conversation prompted me to start on my next story. Before the year was out, I had three new novels in first draft, and I was on my way to where I am now.
The rest of my family is supportive to. They read my work and help to get the word out locally. They support everything I do. I have a great family.
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received as an author?
That’s an easy one, though it wasn’t a traditional compliment. I have a friend who hasn’t read a fiction work since high school. He purchased Viral Spark when it came out. After a week of putting it off, he contacted me via text message, saying he was about to start reading it, but it would probably take him a couple days, since he’s not a big fan of reading.
4 hours later I got another text from him. He was sitting in a bar, trying to finish if people would “quit bugging him.”
That night, he sang praises for the humble novella, and asked about the sequel. I told him it was in the beta phase and I could forward a copy to him. He accepted and had the second novella read before the end of the following day, and insisted on being a beta reader for book III.
So, not a compliment in words, but in action. I’ve never felt so proud of something I wrote.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
Finish the d*** book. That pretty much says it all. Get it out, get it done, and move onto the next story. I don’t do well if I linger or miss writing days.
What is the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?
You need to be inspired to write, and you need to make your sentences perfect before moving on. It’s advice that I avidly avoid. If I don’t dump the whole story, no matter how badly written, into my computer as fast as possible, then it doesn’t get done. There’s always time to revise and edit later.
What is your writing process?
I consider my first draft to be my outline, and I don’t mull over plot points or specific scenes when writing it. I do a quick “main points” outline that focuses on the main character’s relationships and what needs to happen in each one of them. I put together a “bag of bricks,” which is essentially every bad thing that could happen to my main characters along the way. Then I start writing. If there’s a scene I’m having trouble with, I leave a note about what needs to happen there and skip it. Once the story is all out there, I let it steep on my hard drive for a while and work on something else. I come back to it, read the whole thing while making structure notes, and either rewrite the whole book or expand all the telly parts and flesh out the subtle plot points better, while removing any redundancy or unneeded scenes. Then beta reviews, and 4-5 edits later it goes off to a professional editor, and I do some final polishing when I get it back from her.
For these novellas (and hopefully future books) it goes to my new friend and one-man indie publisher. He does a final scan for any missed typos and blocks it up with a cover, ready to push to CreateSpace.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Depends on the book. I wrote the draft for Viral Spark in 3 days. I’ve written 80k word novel concepts in 2-8 weeks. The editing is what takes the longest. Anywhere from a month for a novella to 3 years with my first novel. Once I get an idea, I dump it out of my head and start the editing process after working on another project for a while.
How do you come up with the titles for your books? Do you find it difficult?
This has to be the hardest part of the writing process for me. I hate picking titles, even for my short stories and flash fiction. I think we (Me and my publisher, Tyler) went back and forth on a title for Viral Spark for well over a month. A month! The book was done, we were tinkering with ideas for a cover, and couldn’t land on a title. I think it was worth it, as I really like the title, but oh that process. I swear we renamed the book over eight times before we hit pay dirt.
Do you have any advice for other authors?
Never quit writing. Don’t stop at one book. I understand, it’s your baby, but you need to change them diapers and get started making a new one as soon as possible. Write short stories, play with alien points of view, play with different tenses, and settings. Play with different genres. Experiment with all the things. I found horror by accident, and realized that I really enjoy writing flash fiction and spine tingling stories. Don’t let your first book’s success or lack of success determine if you are going to continue being an author. Keep writing anyway. There’s someone out there who needs to read your stories, and when you find them, that’ll be all the justification you need.
It doesn’t hurt to study up on promotion either 😉