Today on Awesome Authors I’m thrilled to interview TD McKinnon, author of multiple genres including speculative fiction, sci-fi and adventure-thrillers. Along with his eclectic writing interests, TD is a fellow Indies Unlimited contributor, an expert martial artist, and all around lovely human being.
(From his bio):
Born in Scotland in 1950 and raised in the coal mining communities of Scotland and England, T.D. McKinnon joined the British Parachute Regiment when he was just fifteen years old. After spending five years in the British army he worked at a number of occupations, but for many years he was in high risk security. A martial arts master in several forms he represented at national level, both in Scotland and Australia, and became a national referee. Among many high-profile clients, his close personal protection company was responsible for the protection of a member of the Spanish royal family, and was also part of the local contingent, anti terrorist, security team for President George H W Bush’s Australian visit.
Whilst at school, T.D. Mc Kinnon displayed a natural talent for writing, but it wasn’t until the 1980s, after moving to Australia, that he began writing again; submitting articles and short stories to various magazines, including Impact, Blitz and Combat, martial arts magazines, The Green Earth, an environmental newspaper, and Cosmopolitan, to name a few. However, it wasn’t until semi-retiring and moving to Tasmania in 2004 that he began writing seriously. Since then, writing prolifically, he has published five books, contributed to a children’s story book, has several projects currently in progress, and is a contributing author at Indies Unlimited.
D: Hi TD! Thanks for being here 🙂
T: It’s my pleasure entirely, DV. Thank you for the opportunity.
D: Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
T: I’m originally from Scotland, and I now live in North West Tasmania with my wife, Zoë, where I moved in 2004 to concentrate on my writing. Since then I have completed five books.
D: Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
T: Many things can inspire me to write; usually it’s an idea that just won’t leave me alone. My natural inclination has always been to write: to express myself, to work out a problem or look at an idea that has sprung to life in my head. For instance, Surviving the Battleground of Childhood was something I had to get out of my system; it wasn’t until I wrote it that I was truly cured of my childhood devils.
“…In my story I right the injustices that in reality weren’t necessarily rectified…”
Ideas come to me (sometimes in the dead of night) and, soon there after the characters speak to me, the story just cries out to be told. It’s not like I have a choice. I am quite an emotional person, and so I might be motivated by something that makes me angry, like injustice, for instance. The outrageous injustice of a half buried, half told story about a chapter of Tasmania’s past inspired me to write Terra Nullius.
Injustice also inspired Utrinque Paratus; the story has a lot of truth wrapped up in it you see – some mine and some of several other people I know. In my story I right the injustices that in reality weren’t necessarily rectified.
Each of my stories has enough truth in them for me to believe, to be involved and be totally invested in them. Inspired by hope, Psychic Warrior is one of those stories that would wake me in the night; some might call it dreams but to me it’s a very personal story, containing a large portion of personal truth. Lynne Cantwell said of Psychic Warrior:
“I would put it squarely in the sci-fi quadrant of the speculative fiction roundhouse, except for a ‘whoa!’ twist at the very end that kind of made me wonder what McKinnon was on when he wrote it. And I mean that in a good way. And when you get to the last few pages of the book and go, ‘whoa!’ let me know what genre you think it ought to go into.”
T: I was seven years old and after coming first in my school year’s writing competition I was given pride of place at the school open-day. After reading my story, Snowdrop the Polar Bear, the headmistress smilingly announced, “I do believe we have a budding author in our midst.” Even though it would be fifty years before I published my first book; I knew from that moment that I was a writer. By the way, I remember being motivated to write that story after first hearing about animals being killed for their skins.
D: What has your road to publication been like? What made you decide to ‘go indie’?
T: I couldn’t even begin to count the amount of rejections I received for my first book – firstly by the Big Six, and then by every major authors agent I could find to apply to; and that was at a time when most of them required hard copy submissions. Eventually, my first book, Surviving the Battleground of Childhood, a memoir – the title gives a broad indication of the subject matter – was traditionally published by a small, UK publisher in 2008. I traveled to the UK to do a four-week book signing tour at the Waterstones book stores, in and around the places I grew up; and although the tour went well, sales began stalling as soon as I returned to Australia. Returning to Australia I did the same thing, with the same results.
During all of that time, you can imagine there wasn’t much writing being done; having had enough of the getting published game, I went back to writing. During the following three years I completed the sequel to Surviving: I was a Teenage Devil – But I’m Alright Now! which covers my time in the British Parachute Regiment (the infamous Red Devils). I also wrote John Farrell is Utrinque Paratus, an adventure/thriller; Heather Skye Wilson is The Psychic Warrior, a speculative fiction; and Terra Nullius an historical fiction. Along the way I was hearing more and more about the ePublishing scene and when I had five completed works, I finally decided to take the plunge. That was at the beginning of 2012.
D: You write in several different genres: speculative fiction, memoir, historical fiction, action-thrillers. Which genre do you prefer?
T: Just as I don’t have a genre preference for reading, I don’t really have a genre preference for writing, and the best way I can answer that question is to say… The one I am invested in at the time; if that makes any sense to you.
D: More than you know 🙂 What are you working on now?
T: I’m just finishing off a sci-fi novelette, which I’ve been going back and forward to for some time. I am also in the process of writing an historical fiction based on the true story of the tragic events following the Battle of Culloden Moor (the last battle between the Scots and the English in the 18th century), which is redolent with history, mystery, deception and atrocities committed by the marauding English troops of the Duke of Cumberland; the real reason why, even to this day (just under the surface), the Scots despise the English.
D: I know of several friends who are interested in the Battle of Culloden Moor. Most are of Scottish ancestry. I’ll let them know when it’s released 🙂
What is your process like? Do you write every day? Have a certain word count? Do you have a ritual that you enjoy doing before sitting down to write?
T: After helping Zoë with the cats, I meditate and stretch most mornings, but truthfully, DV, I am not a very disciplined writer. I can write up a storm when the mood, or rather the muse, takes me. However, too often life gets in the way. Unfortunately I still need to earn a crust doing things nonliterary, and along with one or two other commitments, as well as no longer being a young man, I am bound by certain physical limitations.
“…I believe the general consensus is, not so much ‘write what you know’ as, ‘know what you write.’ In other words, if you don’t know it, research it!”
D: Do you find you work better with or without deadlines?
T: I must admit that a deadline does make me perform; I don’t like them… but sometimes they might be necessary to make me shake a leg.
D: How much research do you do when you write your books?
T: That very much depends on what I’m writing; sometimes a lot of research is necessary, while at other times I need to do a damn sight more. Seriously though, there is research to do no matter what the genre. I have a good general knowledge in the areas I write, and we all have (what might be termed) specialist areas; I certainly utilise mine accordingly. I also know my shortfalls (in terms of knowledge base) and do the applicable research. This subject gets touched upon all the time at Indies Unlimited and I believe the general consensus is, not so much ‘write what you know’ as, ‘know what you write.’ In other words, ‘If you don’t know it, research it!’
D: In light of the huge changes in publishing, where do you think the industry is headed? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
T: For the industry: I see hard copy books always being there, but as a niche market. I see the big publishers scrambling for a place in tomorrow’s (into the future) market. I see the independents dominating for a while but, as will always happen in a capitalist, structured society, someone will find a way to take control, capitalise and profiteer. Hopefully, it will still be a better environment for serious authors, than the one we are currently leaving behind and, hopefully, a discerning, reading public will be the ultimate decision makers.
On a personal level: over the years, as I was (honouring my commitments) doing what I was able in respect of supporting and bringing up a family et cetera, I was squirreling away ideas, concepts, story outlines (I have more than fifty projects at various stages) and basically preparing to do what I really wanted to do; and that is to write stories until I shrug off this mortal coil. In real terms I have only just begun, I have confidence in the quality of my writing and I am counting on that discerning, reading public I mentioned to continue to take me, more and more, to their hearts. As far as career goals, if that’s what you’re talking about (five-year plan); I will continue to ePublish, and if someone taps me on the shoulder and offers to do hard copies I’ll consider it. I will always be open to movie offers of course… ha ha. For various reasons, since the ePublishing move, I’ve been a bit slack in terms of completing another writing project (publishing another book) but I see for the future, on average, one or two books per year.
D: What advice would you give to new writers?
T: Writers write; what I’m saying is, if you are a writer, new or otherwise, you really have no choice about whether you will write or not. You can choose how much and what direction you might take. I believe you should write what pleases you most, what gives you the most value fulfillment. Learn your chops, of course, by whatever means is available, and give some thought about what you want to achieve from your writing. I would also advise that your incentive not be money. If you, by your writing, happen to make money that’s excellent, but if money is the motivation you could be looking at a whole lot of misery; you would be better advised to seek your fortune elsewhere. There has never been a better time for writers to get their work to an audience; however, you will be competing for readers in a saturated marketplace.
D: If you could time travel, either to the past or into the future, where would you go?
T: Hmm… interesting question, DV, and I would answer with a definite, ‘it depends on the rules!’ I know, I know… as it is not technically possible to time travel, the rules are what you make them. OK, I was a collaborating author on a time traveling children’s story book, A Tumble in Time, in which I wrote the concluding two chapters. When you write about time travel there has to be rules, they can be loose or they can be tight, but there has to be rules. This was a children’s book (aimed at primary school children) and so the principles had to be fairly simple: you could not time travel to a time/space coordinate where you already existed, so you could go forward to anywhere because once you disappeared from this time you weren’t anywhere in the future until you turned up there; however, going back, the fabric of time would not accept you between your birth and the moment you disappeared. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
My personal beliefs concerning time are far more complex: there are an infinite number of probable moment points – in the present, past and future – and, hypothetically, we slip seamlessly from one to another in our present all the time, depending on the choices we make. So, if I could time travel, there would be no restrictions except perhaps that I could only visit a recent probable past in which I wasn’t currently taking part. Seriously though, the simple answer to your question would be that I wouldn’t mind a peek at one million years in the future; it would be interesting to see if the human race is still around; because if it is, it will have had to evolve somewhat, both ethically and psychically. Of one thing I’m sure, should we survive, we will still be telling stories and writing books in some manner.
D: Great answer 🙂 Thank you again for being here today, TD, is there anything you’d like to add?
T: Just that, as an independent author, there is a vast amount of work involved outside of the writing part; that can be said to be (for a writer) the easy part. There is so much more to do, and I know that some independent authors manage it all by themselves; however, the majority of us have a lot of support from various sources. You need the support of people who care. I am very fortunate in that my wife, Zoë Lake, is an extremely talented individual, who handles most of the tasks and responsibilities, outside of actually writing my books, including proof reading and editing everything I write, book cover designs and artwork. Zoë designed and constructed my website: http://www.tdmckinnon.com/ and she is my strongest advocate, my harshest critic, and my inspiration. She also produced, directed, wrote my introduction speech, and did the voice over, on my recent YouTube promotion for Terra Nullius:
So, for any writers out there thinking of going the Indie route, there is a lot to consider. A good support group of people in a similar position is a wise idea too: for ideas, tips, general guidance and just to know that you are not alone. I’ve looked at a few and rejected most; I was extremely fortunate here also to stumble across the best bunch of online, fellow independents you could wish to meet: at Indies Unlimited. Being an independent author is not an easy route, but it is a very liberating road.
Thank you again, DV, for the opportunity to be here today.
D: Here’s a short excerpt from TD’s adventure-thriller, John Farrel is Utrinque Paratus:
Breakfasting with MacGreggor and Bell, while making our training arrangements for the day, I slip in a casual, “I wonder what makes winning a relatively unimportant, unofficial competition so important to your boss?” In my peripheral vision, I observe the effects of my apparently casual comment, while seemingly focussed on my steak, eggs and mushrooms.
Dinga Bell seems to be sneering, and I don’t get the impression it’s directed at me; Alec MacGreggor shoots me an anxious glance before bringing his demeanour under control. But it’s Bell who, after a moment, says, “Fuckin’ stupit, if y’ ask me!”
“Naibdy’s askin’ you!” snaps MacGreggor, “An’ A’ve telt ye afore… A bit o’ respect!”
“Fuck you!” snarls Bell, defiantly, giving MacGreggor a full blast of those malevolent, cold eyes.
What happens next takes me completely by surprise as MacGreggor, moving extremely fast for such a big man, knocks the breakfast table across the room with a sweep of one brawny arm while reaching for Bell with the other. Bell is on his feet in an instant, a bone handled, open bladed razor suddenly in his hand. Flashing twice, the wicked blade lops three fingers from MacGreggor’s reaching right hand and opens up his face in a diagonal slice, like a ripe melon, from the corner of his right eye to the left-hand corner of his big, lantern jaw!
Instinctively moving back from the mêlée, I observe with a vague feeling of detachment as MacGreggor, initially not realising the extent of the damage, attempts to say something, but of course his mouth won’t work. Then the bleeding starts and, stunned, he looks down at his hand.
Bell, showing no emotion at all, backs off a step, glances briefly at me and wipes his razor on the white tablecloth from the next table; folding and putting away his blade, he casually turns and walks out of the dining room.
Ten minutes later, the hotel staff assisting throughout, I have a tourniquet on MacGreggor’s right wrist, his fingers are in an ice bucket, and with the help of a tablecloth I’m making an effort to hold his face together until the ambulance arrives. Had we not reacted promptly MacGreggor would probably have died from loss of blood. It’s going to be touch and go as it is.
It’s at this point Sandy Campbell walks in. Giving me a perfunctory nod, he sits down and puts a gentle hand on MacGreggor’s shoulder.
“Oh… Alec… I told you to be careful of that wee boy,” he says soothingly, and as MacGreggor tries to respond he adds. “Hush now… don’t try to speak, I’ll hear all about it from Mr. Farrell here, later. You just relax, the ambulance will be here any second now, and they’ll have you fixed up in no time.” As if on cue the double doors to the dining room burst open and the ambulance men come rushing in.
To find out more about TD, check out his links below:
Mobile site QR code or type this address: m.tdmckinnon.com