I was fortunate enough to follow and be followed by this great guy on Instagram. He has unknowingly changed my life as a writer and new author. Check out his interview below:
StephyLionne: Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Martin McConnell, author of Viral Spark:
StephyLionne: Hello! And thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little more about yourself and your background.
McConnell: Oddly enough, my background has little to do with writing until college. I got a BS in Physics with a minor in Philosophy, and at the time I was always trying to write this philosophical blockbuster that would force a paradigm shift. It never came to fruition. I didn’t know much about writing at the time. I started doing webcomics instead, which lead to my first novel (unpublished), and been hooked on it since. I got really motivated a couple years ago, and started writing a bunch of books, short stories, flash fiction, and anything else to get words down. It’s become an addiction, so much so that I quit my job, planning to work on my farm, and started content writing for money. Everything sort of bloomed up from that.
StephyLionne: What is the very first book to ever make you cry?
McConnell: I don’t know if I’ve ever cried reading a book. I have a pretty strong disconnect when it comes to fiction. Maybe that’s why I’m able to treat my characters so badly.
StephyLionne: What were you like in school? Has anything changed?
McConnell: The skateboarding physicist. In high school I was a pretty bad kid, and could have easily got myself in a lot of trouble, but I turned around. I remember smoking a pipe in college, and coupled with the long hair and the skateboard, and tutoring math and science, well, people remember me. Even to this day.
StephyLionne: Were you good in English?
McConnell: I was actually not that great, I don’t think. I used to make poetry and little stories that my friends liked, and I took a creative writing class. I remember once, the teacher for that writing class gave us an assignment to emulate Robert Frost. Her instructions were, “shock me.” And I guess I took that too literally, I got a ‘C’ on the paper and was told “we don’t write about that!” My satire skills were lacking, and the paper also hit real close to the classroom setting. I think every girl in the classes of 2000 and 2001 individually thought the paper was about them. I’ve been asked since why I hated them so much, to which I reply, “What? I didn’t hate you. I don’t even remember knowing you.” I’m more careful with my satires nowadays. I didn’t understand at the time, but there is such a thing as taking things too far.
StephyLionne: So, what have you written?
McConnell: A bunch of books that sit on my hard drive awaiting revision. The viral series was fun, but the publisher and I are having issues at the moment. I might be getting full rights to my books and re-releasing them soon. In the meantime, Viral Spark, Viral Fire, and Viral Ember are still available. I also have a couple flash pieces published on fridayflashfiction.com. I give away most of my flash on WattPad, Medium, and recently Flipboard. Syndicated as far as I can make them reach.
StephyLionne: Where can we see or buy them?
McConnell: My books are available anywhere online. Amazon, B+N, BAM, etc, and can be ordered in-store at any Barnes and Nobel.
StephyLionne: What are you working on at this moment?
McConnell: I have my horror story, working under the name “Stone’s Shadow” in beta review. There’s a sign-up for advance readers on my website under “downloads.” I’m also working on a non-fiction project for writers called “Finish the Damn Book!” I will likely be looking for collaborators and co-conspirators this month (March) and that will be on the website too, same place. Right now there’s a download of the first iteration: an early draft.
StephyLionne: Do you write full time or part time?
McConnell: I guess full time. I don’t really get 40 hours a week on my paid writing, but it’s enough to pay the bills. I work on my personal projects at night.
StephyLionne: Why did you decide to write?
McConnell: I had to. Well, that’s why I write now. When I started writing fiction, I wanted to make a graphic novel out of a story idea. I had pages and pages of pictures, history excerpts, plenty of story to go around, but I was working offshore, and drawing full pages out there just wasn’t going to work. I looked at all the story research laying in front of my, and thought, “Why not just write a regular book?” In my bunk that night I found a novel and started reading it, someone left it there. It was awful, and trade published. I think it was in that moment, I told myself, “If this joker can do it…”
StephyLionne: Do you aim for a set amount of words or pages a day?
McConnell: I’m in the writingchallenge.org group on twitter, and I always try to get 500 words, even when I’m editing a big project. I stopped counting my content creation writing toward that goal, because it seemed unfair to the people with non-writing jobs. So now I have to work extra hard, squeezing my personal thoughts in sometimes after a day of hammering out 5 or 6 thousand words for a client. Sometimes I get a lot, several thousand, but as long as I get that first 500, that’s all that matters.
StephyLionne: What’s the best way to market your writing?
McConnell: I’m learning that as I go. If money weren’t an issue, I would say hire a genius publicist that knows how to get your book to media outlets, and also knows how to stir the controversy pot. To this day, I remember hearing about Harry Potter through articles about book burnings and school bans. The media is a powerful force.
StephyLionne: Do you ever get writer’s block?
McConnell: Nope. I don’t believe in writer’s block. To me it’s a question of motivation, and I always want to get words more than the forces trying to stop me from getting them. I’ve had a couple days where I was so ragged out that I didn’t get my words in, but I worked twice as hard the next day. And I can’t very well call my client and say, “yea, I can’t write that pamphlet or blog post today, writer’s block.” I don’t see why it should be any different with my stories.
StephyLionne: Any tips on how to get through it?
McConnell: I really want to plug that FTDB project I mentioned earlier. I write about this quite a bit on my blog. Number one, stop thinking of it as crippling. It’s a monster under the bed. It isn’t really there, and once you call it out for what it is, it goes away. People brand it differently, I think it’s a lack of motivation, Pressfield calls it resistance. Oh yea, and read his book, it’s called “Do the Work.” If you are falling over tired, that’s one thing. For most of us, I think the hardest part is sitting down, opening the document, and start typing. Something, anything. Write crap if you have to. Sometimes I’ll pull my fountain pen and just free write for 10 or 15 minutes until words are flowing. Setting timers words too. Chris Fox is another good author to check out in that arena.
StephyLionne: Have you ever had a bad review? How did it make you feel or react?
McConnell: I sent a book off to Canada, to a pair of mostly chick-lit reviewers. I was surprised they even accepted the book, guess I’m getting better at pitching. One of them “really liked it,” and the other put it down after ten pages, and that was a pair of besties. You can’t take criticism personally. Not everyone is going to like your story. Figure out what they didn’t like, and if it isn’t something you can change then move on. Sometimes it stings for a day or two, but it wears off.
StephyLionne: Do you google yourself?
McConnell: All the time. Gotta make sure I own page one of Google, hehe. Sometimes I even find some new review, or a new outlet that is selling my book that I never heard of.
StephyLionne: How can we follow you and your work?
Blog: same as Website
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Martin-McConnell/e/B01G4WLOXE/
Book Links: https://www.amazon.com/Viral-Spark-Martin-McConnell-ebook/dp/B01G4RQJ7K/
StephyLionne: What do you think about “trailers” for books?
McConnell: I wish I knew how to do that stuff, and better still how to promote them.
StephyLionne: Give us some sneak previews on your main characters.
McConnell: Robert is actually a pretty normal kid, other than his love of classical music. He’s around high-school/college age, though school is very different in the future, he works hard, he’s pretty bright, and he sometimes likes to go to the roof of the bundled complex where he lives, and stare at the stars. He also has a secret deal with one of the roof farmers to secure fresh tea, the kind that doesn’t come from a tea pellet.
StephyLionne: Any other comments?
McConnell: Nah. I think I pretty well covered everything. Great questions, and thanks for having me.