Today I am proud to welcome Author Mac Black to Readful Things. If you have not had the pleasure of meeting him yet, here is your chance. Mac truly is an amazing author and has the best sense of humour of anyone I know. Please welcome him and don’t forget to check out his books!
1. When did you first get the idea that you were going to be a writer?
It certainly was not planned in any way nor was it ever a lifelong ambition. About three years ago it sneaked up on me when I bought a new PC. Now, I might as well admit it. I am at a certain age, an age that permits me to look back with wisdom. Yes, Ionia, I am mature (though ‘almost fossilised’ my family think is much more appropriate!) I was given a book on Genealogy and a suggestion, by my elder daughter, that I should read the book and use the internet to create a family tree, and stay out of trouble. So, I did. Now, don’t we all secretly hope that we’ll stumble on skeletons in the family cupboard? And did I? Yes …but that’s another story. Meantime daughter number two had a special birthday coming up. For a present: “Print the family tree …on a tablecloth, please …a plastic one!” (She has three small boys!) With no idea how to do that, I came up with an alternative – I would write a little book about the family, and I did. A tad too creative with my imagination I was. To be honest, this became my first work of fiction, but don’t tell the family; and the book’s title? ‘This is NOT a plastic tablecloth.’ Well… I thought it was clever!
Who or what inspired you to come up with the character Derek? Can you tell us a bit about the books he is featured in?
I found I’d actually enjoyed my first writing experience, and was curious about whether I was capable of doing something more but, this time, non-factual and original. Several attempts at creating a serious story were failures – even I was unimpressed. What about humour? Never in my life have I been able to tell a joke properly but I was involved a while ago in amateur theatre in mainly comedy roles, so the challenge I set myself was to attempt humorous fiction. The nickname for a character occurred first, ‘Sweaty’, not the most glamorous name. I then had to decide why he would be called that. The surname created for him was ‘Toozlethwaite’ and the way ‘Thwaity’ is pronounced by lisping youngsters gave me a reason to be proud of ‘Sweaty’, and so I was started. Would he be a hero; or something else? I chose something else, and because humour usually develops from mishap, I used some fairly basic run-of-the-mill activities as the plot but, in doing so, I have made a poor guy called Derek Toozlethwaite suffer severely …in four stories. Occasionally I feel guilty about that…
How did you choose which way you were going to publish?
When I began I knew little about the business of either publishing or self-publishing. Trying to find someone to become interested in what I’d written would be a real challenge and seemed unlikely to be successful, knowing that some people try for years. So, I was grateful then and still am, when the eighth publisher I contacted smiled, and offered to publish my books without charge, and being a Scotsman… This small independent organisation has taken a chance with me, UP Publications Ltd. and they do not have a large PR system like the larger publishers. It is a small team with the industrious multi-talented manager arranging all the formalities of my publication needs, and an excellent editor to keep me on the straight and narrow, and, a nice one, artwork able to be done in-house. Although I have an editor I do a great deal of the editing myself, and nowadays actually enjoy that part almost as much as the writing.
Would you have done anything different now that you are able to look back on your publishing journey?
I doubt it. So far, it has been a very interesting and enjoyable experience for me, and I’ve learned a lot along the way but I still lack confidence in my ability to tackle self-publishing. I appreciate the help of experts and prefer to rely on them. In other words, to use a good Scottish term – I am a big feartie! (A coward, for those that don’t know the term…) and sadly my technical expertise is stretched at just producing the words on the computer. ‘Spell-check’ and I have become very good friends.
What is the name of your work in progress and what is it about?
The fourth ‘Derek’ story is completed and is with my editor just now, ‘Derek’s Good Relations’, waiting a publication date. I am giving this established character a rest for the moment, he deserves it, and I am now working on a final edit of ‘Lofty Issues’, a story that does not involve Derek. This one is a tragicomic tale of a Glasgow family and how they stumble on some family secrets, thanks to a ‘Treasure Hunt’ created by a dead Granny, and involves a gun, diamonds and bagpipes, and …skeletons are discovered in this family’s cupboard. Now, how is that for starters?
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Selecting a book for me can be influenced by the cover or the ambiguity of the title and does not have to be by a well-known author, and I am rarely disappointed. However authors such as Ian Rankin, Henning Mankell, Jo Nesbo, Alan Bennett, and Donna Leon give me many hours of pleasure. I enjoy autobiographies too, but not those I suspect to be written by ghost writers for celebrities. A Scottish author of long ago, called Neil Munro, wrote short stories of gentle humour about the crew of a Clyde puffer vessel, and every so often it is nice to re-read these; written in the days when books were created the hard way by authors who had to use pen and ink…
Any advice you can give to others looking to publish?
Try to remain optimistic. The world is a big place and there are lots of people out there who read, so surely someone will take a liking to your masterpiece. I think that luck can play a big part in how you succeed and sometimes you have to create your own. Although I still prefer to read a story on paper, rather than on an e-book, the marketplace nowadays gives plenty of scope (to those who are more technically skilled and braver than I) and gives you the chance to do your own thing, and help you achieve fame, electronically.
How important do you see reviews as being and why?
It gives feedback. It can be difficult to know what readers in general think of your work. How often are readers inclined to comment back to an author? Not often, I’d say, and friends, I suspect, try to be kind and tell you what you hope to hear. Reading what an independent reviewer says about your writing is a measure; a good review and it is a boost to your morale; a bad one, though disappointing, might send you in a better direction, though you could perhaps ignore it. A review might also influence the public to go beyond the book title. That would help and, as writers, don’t our egos require others to read our works and lavish us with praise? (Sorry, got carried away – wishful thinking!)
What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey?
Creating answers for interviews? No… Quite simply, it has been making the world aware that my books exist. Whether the books are well written or not, unfortunately the chances of someone stumbling on them in the web pages of Amazon, or Waterstone’s, or WH Smith’s, or Barnes and Noble, etc. are slight. So how can it be done? Newspaper articles are one way, but another is to find a friendly blogger who might take pity, or better still, one who likes the books and is willing to encourage others? Know anyone you could recommend, Ionia…?
Where can we find your books and personal website?
My website: www.macblack.info/Books/
My publisher’s website: www.uppublications.ltd.uk/ and books can be purchased there.
I can also be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each book is available on line as paperback from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterstone’s, and WH Smith’s, etc. (and on Kindle from Amazon).
And I might as well give you the book titles too. ‘Please…Call me Derek’; ‘Derek’s in Trouble’; ‘Derek’s Revenge’. As has been suggested, that although each story has been written as a self contained tale, to read them in sequence makes you more familiar with Derek’s disturbingly developing life. You might even get to like him…
Any final thoughts?
As has been suggested many times before by those wiser than me, and even older: Remain optimistic; keep plugging away even though you may seem to be getting nowhere; but most importantly – don’t give up the day job!