Thursday

Kindle Author Interview: Darragh McManus aka "Alexander O'Hara"

Darragh McManus, aka "Alexander O’Hara," author of Cold! Steel! Justice!!!, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Cold! Steel! Justice!!!?

DARRAGH McMANUS: It’s a comic crime novel, written as Alexander O’Hara. I like to think of the book as a “rollicking, rocking riot of raw, roaring reading”, but I am a wee bit biased. It tells the tale of renegade detective Christian Beretta, his resurrected-from-the-dead sweetheart, his partner with an over-eating problem, and the evil Mayor who wants to execute criminals on live TV—and wants Beretta deader than dead… Basically Cold! Steel! Justice!!! is an affectionate spoof of all those terrible straight-to-video cop movies you remember from the 1980s, only in book form. And as much fun as that sounds! (It does sound fun, right guys?)

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

DARRAGH McMANUS: It depends on what I’m writing/working on. For this one, the characters are deliberately quite cartoonish: they’re stereotypes and ciphers, made larger and funnier and more entertaining. But although I do want the reader to like the heroes and dislike the villains and so on, they’re not ‘real’ people. So they were relatively easy to write. For serious fiction, I think I start with a germ of an idea of someone in my head: a vague notion of them, like I’ve seen their picture once, somewhere, and now can only half-remember it. Then I start to write my way into the character. The more flesh you put on their bones, the more real they become. Eventually, somewhere along the line, they’ll start talking back to you in a sense—they’ll tell you what they are, you won’t have to rely on pure invention anymore.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

DARRAGH McMANUS: I’m not sure I have one, or even if there is one. I think most people, to some extent, write for and to themselves—as in, they picture the reader as being someone who will connect with them, or get them. So my ideal reader is—like me—someone who likes different sorts of books, so long as they’re well-written, authentic and original.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

DARRAGH McMANUS: I always wrote little bits and pieces as a kid, but didn’t start my first novel until I was 28. Until then I’d just turned out a film script and a few short stories. Oh, and lots of overwrought poetry. But once I started I became quite prolific (and, I hope, quite good): I now have completed three novels (besides this one), one collection of short stories, three film scripts, two plays, two non-fiction books…I also have two half-finished non-fiction books and various other bits and pieces. I’m currently working on a Young Adult novel and finishing my second play. It’s about 80% done. Since about 1999 I’ve been writing professionally for various national newspapers, mostly features, reviews, opinion and satire.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

DARRAGH McMANUS: In terms of day-to-day, I find the old cliché is true: starting the work is the hardest part. Once you begin typing you get energised and really get into it. But actually starting…it’s easy to keep procrastinating, isn’t it!? In the longer term, I usually have an idea running through my head for several months before I get the time and motivation to begin working on it. I’ll put little notes in my phone, maybe jot down a few thoughts in a Word doc, chat to my wife about it. Then, some day, and often for no particular reason, I’ll start writing it. But I should mention, the process depends on what I’m writing. A play, for instance, is mostly dialogue so technically ‘easier’, but the dialogue has to be perfect. A novel is a lot of painfully crafted sentences. Something like Cold! Steel! Justice!!! was a blast to write, just really good fun, not work at all.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

DARRAGH McMANUS: A lot of writers I very much admire: Don DeLillo, Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, William Gibson, Umberto Eco…too many to mention really. As to whether they ‘inspire’ me, I’m not sure… I think I take inspiration from everything—life in general, culture, random thoughts, dreams, a snatch of conversation—rather than specific writers. Or, indeed, specific books.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

DARRAGH McMANUS: 1984 by George Orwell. Perfectly written, incredibly powerful, has had an indelible, iconic effect on the global culture. It’s transcended the art form to become something timeless. And that, to be honest, is what any serious writer ultimately wants.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

DARRAGH McMANUS: Contacts in newspapers, magazines, radio and other traditional media; websites such as your own; tagging the books in my email sig; mentioning it as often as humanly possible on Twitter! Basically, sending a hell of a lot of emails and following up on them. I also put out a press release with prlog.org, a free service. And, of course, pestering friends and family to buy a copy of Cold! Steel! Justice!!! anytime I talk to them.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

DARRAGH McMANUS: Because Amazon is the biggest bookshop in the world, by far, and Kindle is the most popular e-reader, by far. Also, the whole process was very easy and user-friendly, not to mention free.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

DARRAGH McMANUS: Make sure the book is proofread and edited professionally. If like me you have lots of sub-editing experience, you can do it yourself—the eagle eye for mistakes never leaves you! It’s probably a good idea to get someone else to read over it, though. Also, the cover is very important: make sure it’s something that can be read clearly as a little thumbnail on a web page. Beautifully designed covers are pointless if the browsing customer can’t make out the title and your name. For Cold! Steel! Justice!!! I made up a cover that’s bright yellow with a comicbook-style font and a hand holding a gun. Very simple, but it looks very cool and catches the eye.

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexander O'Hara is a pen name of Darragh McManus, journalist and writer. He's like the silly version of Darragh. Or sillier, rather. Under his own name Darragh had a humorous book on Irish sports and culture, called GAA Confidential (http://tiny.cc/xe9x0), published in 2007, which got excellent reviews (many of those by real people). He's also a novelist and playwright. Alex/Darragh writes for several newspapers in the UK and Ireland, including the Guardian and Irish Independent. He plans to upload several more humorous books here, so be prepared for laughter...DEADLY laughter. Email alexanderohara1@gmail.com with comments, queries, random and bizarre thoughts, whatever. Or follow him on http://twitter.com/mcmanusdarragh.

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