Interview posts

Interview: Green & McRae

Suffrage is the debut novel from Julian Green and Finn McRae. Here’s the lowdown on the story:

There is something hidden on Earth that could change the fate of two worlds. A secret so immense it’s worth killing and dying for. A small group of freedom fighters must change the fate of their own world, by coming to ours… but at what cost?

Our choices change us, as much as they change the world around us.  Sometimes it’s subtle.  Sometimes it’s a dimension-spanning wave that causes ripples through many worlds.

What would you choose for the greater good?

Suffrage: (noun) The right or chance to express an opinion or participate in a decision.

At this moment, the first draft of the novel is complete and undergoing the usual overhaul and edit required to turn it into a publishable novel. Green & McRae are hoping to publish through a new (to me) venue called Inkshares, if they can get enough support to make it happen. You can help with that!

The two authors were kind enough to answer some questions for me, so let’s learn some more about them and the novel they have created.


Suffrage, the debut novel from Green & McRae

Suffrage, the debut novel from Green & McRae

Melanie Edmonds: Suffrage is your first novel. What spurred you to start writing, and how long has it taken to complete the first draft?

Finn McRae: I blame Julian.  Almost entirely.

That said, are you talking about writing in general or writing this particular piece?  Because if it’s this piece, then it’s totally Julian’s fault.  I think we started about three months ago, give or take.  Julian had already done a very large amount of legwork on this.

Writing in general for me started something like 30 years ago.  I actually don’t remember.  I think I was trying to do comics and wound up with short stories based around Indiana Jones but using a different name.  Don’t judge me.  I was like 8 or something.

Julian Green: Finn blames me. Apparently my muse is highly contagious. Seriously though, I’ve always been a writer of stories. I tried and failed to write a novel when I was in high school. When that didn’t work I got into writing online in Role Playing Games, MUD’s and Play by Post forums. Just writing for myself and having fun, and fifteen years ago I started getting bored with other people’s worlds and visions and started writing my own. Suffrage was a game where the ideas behind that world and the characters just wouldn’t go away and so there was this dull ache to write about it if I could ever find the time.

It all came to a head when I was on a camping trip with a few mates, no TV, no internet, no fish, and after a few beers I started talking about the story, giving them the background and the response was very encouraging (and it wasn’t the beer talking). So from that first spark… eight months, but I’ve been thinking about the story for well over two years.

ME: What’s the central theme of Suffrage?

JG: I think every generation has some iconic event where people always remember. For me that was the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The 10 year anniversary events were happening when I started thinking about the game which has ultimately led us here. I was seeing a lot about freedom and what it means and the world events where freedoms were sacrificed for “security”.  What is a civilized society prepared to give up to feel “safe” from the barbarians at the gate?  What choices do we make as people and as a society to find that balance between security and freedom? That’s a central theme of the whole series, not just this book, because of where our main characters come from, and the principles that govern their society.

FM: Good question.  Big topic actually.  Julian and I had a long sit-down about this prior to actually starting and a lot of that was my own trepidation about projects, theme, audience, etc.  Really, it’s about freedom.  And that sounds like a no-brainer, as if everyone who’s anyone should want to read it.  Because after all, freedom is a born right, correct?  It’s a good thing, isn’t it?  But what freedom really means is the freedom to choose.  It’s the freedom to act.  It’s those actions and the circumstances around those choices that give the freedom context.  If someone is free to choose to do “good”, they are also free to choose to do “evil”.  Choices aren’t always easy.  And what if the alternative was to give up freedom for security, safety, and the greater good?  Is the freedom to be destructive still a good thing given that possibility?  Those are questions we wanted to look at in the book.

ME: Suffrage is a collaboration, which can be a challenging way to write. How did the partnership come about, and how did you make it work for you?

FM: We met via some other people in a writing group on another website for Play by Post gaming.  [Julian] said he had a sweet idea for a book, and I seem to remember gelling pretty well.  The overall feel of some collaborative pieces felt pretty organic.  Sooo…yeah. Novel.  It seemed like a logical step for two people who’ve never met in person and know nothing about one another to go do on a lark.

JG: Writing a novel is a strange and lonely activity. You’re trying to communicate this terrible delirium/hallucination that you think is really cool and that maybe other people will enjoy reading, but you have no idea. My problem was for over twenty years I’d been writing collaboratively, and then I was trying to write alone. I struggled a lot in the first stages of the book, and actually completely abandoned my first fifteen thousand words and started again. I was about twenty or thirty thousand words in when I stalled and realized that I needed the energy of another writer in the process if this was going to work.

Finn was someone I’d met through an online Play by Post website and I liked his style of writing and reached out to him. Turns out we are very similar people and once we had established a unified vision for what the novel was going to look like, it worked extremely well. There were some teething issues at first where we tried to pass chapters back and forth, but it wasn’t until we tried writing together, at the same time, that the process started to flow extremely well. One of us would take the lead and the other would follow along behind adding details, and making suggestions, then we’d swap. It was actually a lot of fun, but without Finn and I being very similar people, I can see why other writers struggle with collaborations.

ME: What was the most important thing you learned about working as a partnership on a novel?

JG: I think the reason it worked so well with Finn and myself is mutual respect and that we are very similar people. At the start we had a pretty frank discussion, not about the book, but about ourselves and our goals and it turns out we were both ENTJ personality types. Finn’s also a great guy, really easy to talk to and fun. From that base it was all about communication, any kind of partnership works because of the quality of the communication and we got pretty comfortable early on.

FM: Oi…Partnerships in general are difficult.  Not because people don’t get along, but because they’re individuals.  Nobody sees any one thing exactly the same way as another person.  That said, Julian is stellar.  Novels are a massive undertaking.  So having another person who is at least on the same page the vast majority of the time is not only encouraging, but a bit humbling.  It means we’re not alone, even as individuals.  Considering he and I have never met in person, and I have no idea how his body language even looks, the fact that we share so much in concept and execution is pretty amazing.

ME: Would either of you do another collaboration? Would it be with each other?

FM: I almost certainly will.  And likely with Julian, though there are a few other personas I’ve met that I would consider writing with for this kind of project.  I’ve talked with one already.  Maybe things will work out.  Maybe not.  Life is funny like that.

JG: Suffrage is the first book in a series, so pretty safe to say yes to both those questions. I think I’d be careful after hearing a few horror stories from other authors about who I collaborate with, but writing on my own for the first few months and achieving little and then writing with Finn and achieving a huge amount in a very short period of time has told me I’m a collaborative writer. Whether I write with anyone else will entirely depend on what happens with the series.

ME: What drives you to write?

FM: Life.  Things I see.  Things I experience.  Those lovely thoughts I have when I touch the sky at the top of the world in the mountains.  Those terrible things I dream when I’m still awake.  Those wonderful muses among the stars.  They come out.  All of it.  It’s not good.  It’s not bad.  It just is.

JG: I joked above about my muse being contagious, but it was only half in jest. After having this unshakable need to tell the story, I actually struggled with medium for a few weeks. I did some research into how I wanted to communicate the story and I originally imagined it as graphic novel or possibly even a screen play. It quickly became apparent that if it was a novel, it could easily become those other mediums.  So I started a steep learning curve with a local creative writing group, which has helped enormously. Now I can’t think of any other way to communicate the story, but I still think it would make a great movie or graphic novel.

As for motivation, I think stories are important, they help us to make sense of things that are happening in the world and in our own lives and I’ve always found writing to be very cathartic experience.

ME: What’s your favourite word?

JG: Yes.

FM: Haha!  Julian nailed it.

(ME: I think we can see why they’re such an effective partnership!)

ME: What sound or noise do you hate most?

JG: Sound actually plays a big part of the novel so this is an interesting question. I’m one of those people that when I’m concentrating hard, you have to punch me on the shoulder to get my attention and noise is just background. Today my highly musical daughter snapped one of her guitar strings when she was playing and the guitar made this odd sad little sound. Then my daughter made this odd sad little sound. I didn’t like that sound very much.

FM: I’m trying really hard to keep a positive spin on life.  So for a negative question, I have to give you a positive answer.  The sound of politicians opening their mouths is an anathema.  The sound of people in wonder at some event or some spectacular view… is quite amazing if we take the time to listen.

ME: What’s the single worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever seen or received?

JG: Someone told me that writers have a wall at twenty thousand words. Here I was blissfully ignorant of the wall, writing up a storm and then I checked my word count…and I stalled as I wasn’t sure which direction to take the story in. It was like a part of my superstitious hindbrain was looking for an excuse to fail and that cheerful “watch out for the wall” was the excuse it was needing. Deciding to get Finn involved was the kick I needed to get out of that funk. Now there was someone else involved and counting on me to write.

FM: So going for positive once more: “Try my proven system for writing a novel!”  That’s the best poor piece of information anyone could give a writer.  There are a ton of books on how-to.  And this isn’t to say that any of them are bad.  But what it really takes is a writer willing to spend the time with an idea that they fell in love with, and then communicating that idea into a form that someone else can partake of.

Writing, really any sort of writing, not just a novel, is personal.  It’s the writer’s bias, their hopes, and their dreams all collected into a dram of perfection spilled out on a page.  There’s no formula for it I don’t think.  I’d love to romanticize it or simplify it, but in the end it’s a lot of work in front of a keyboard.  Sometimes our personal muse gets ahold of us and that work is easier.  Sometimes the muse won’t come visit, and it’s twice as hard.  In the end, it comes down to the writer.  Do we or don’t we?  If we don’t, nothing happens.  If we do…

ME: What drew you to try Inkshares, and what are your hopes for it?

JG: I’m a planner who likes to research. I like to have all my planning done well in advance before I start a project. I looked at traditional publishing methods and read the horrible slush pile stories and the multiple rejections and considered the likelihood that it would take years via a traditional publishing method, before Suffrage might be published. I then looked at self publishing and realized that also came with challenges around publication, editing, etc. Self-publishing has all these things we’d need to do which are just putting barriers up between the new authors and their potential audience.

So I needed something else, something new. Inkshares was what I found and I think it’s a really interesting take on publishing. Connecting readers and authors together to take some of the risk out of the traditional publishing model, and allow fledgling authors an opportunity to get a traditional publishing process if successful.

FM: Again, I totally blame Julian here.  He had started with Inkshares before he even asked me.  I had no idea that self-publishing via the interwebs, and putting a book on-the-line even existed until this year.  Shame on me for not knowing.

ME: What’s the next exciting project on your horizon?

FM: Well, I suppose first off, there’s a sequel to Suffrage coming out.  The book was never meant as a standalone. In addition to that,  I’m looking in some different directions at some other genres as well.  But that will likely be a long time in coming.

JG: Finn’s absolutely correct. Suffrage was never meant as a standalone, the book ends with a number of unanswered questions and Finn and I have already spoken about events we’d like to see in the books remaining in the series. So book two already has a few major plot twists sorted out and we can see the shape of it.

ME: And now for some shameless promotion: how can we support Suffrage and help it be released for us to enjoy?

JG: I really want to give Inkshares a red hot go which means going to the Suffrage project on Inkshares. You can read the first few chapters of the novel in there and decide if you want to pre-order the book.

Just by registering on Inkshares and participating in the community, by commenting, recommending books, etc, you get free Inkshares credits which allows you to pre-order and back projects. Free books: who doesn’t like that?

Every pre-order gets us closer to our goals for the publishing options at Inkshares. Currently, Inkshares is doing an imprint with the Sword and Laser podcasters, for which there is a competition.

So we’re doing a competition as well. Finn’s brother is very arty, as in he makes a living from it and is doing a unique piece of art that we will be giving to one of our backers. We’re also going to draw the name of one of our backers to include as a character in the next book in the series.

FM: We would be thrilled if people bought it.  And really, signing onto Inkshares and pre-ordering a copy is probably the best way.  Show it off, hand out some links on Facebook or Google or in blogs.  Heck, give us some reviews.

However, “No publicity is bad publicity”, the saying goes.  We set up the Google+ page to encourage some discussion.  We think we touch on some thoughts in the book that are worthy of being assessed not only in the realm of science fiction and quantum physics, but also about people, governments, and society in general.  We’d love to hear some thoughts on that.  And you never know, we might be incorporating that into future books.  Just saying.


Thanks for taking part in the interview, Finn and Julian!

When asked for a bio, they said to me:

We’re two handsome men who enjoy long walks on the beach, hefty drinks with little umbrellas, sunsets that would make a poet go mute, and the ability to entertain on a plethora of subjects.  Oh, and we write novels.

Other cool stuff:

Don’t forget to go over to the Inkshares project and pre-order the novel. If they get enough pre-orders, they’ll get published! Spread the word, everyone!

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Interview: Horror-master Hellscream

As regular blog-visitors are probably aware, I’m fairly heavily involved in my local writing scene. I wanted to start sharing that with you all, so here’s the first of what I hope will be many interviews with published authors of all types, starting with those local to me.

I would like you all to meet Matthew J Hellscream: a Brisbane-based horror writer on the cusp of releasing his second novel.  I talked to him (picked his brain; it was dark and squishy) about his experiences with Kickstarter, writing, and publishing.


Carnifex, the upcoming novel by Matthew

Carnifex, the upcoming novel by Matthew

Melanie Edmonds: Metro 7 was the first Australian novel to be funded through Kickstarter (congrats!), and your campaign for Carnifex is going well. It has already met its target and all its original stretch goals! Congratulations.

Why do you think Kickstarter works so well for you?

Matthew J Hellscream: Kickstarter works because it allows your readers to get involved from the ground up.  You make them a part of bringing your books to life.  It worked so well for Metro 7 because I felt like it was the only avenue available to me.  I didn’t feel like I had a chance in hell of being picked up by a traditional publisher.  So I gave it a shot, and it worked out for the best.

It’s also a really great way for you to gauge whether there is an audience for what you’re writing.

ME: What would be your top tips for a writer creating a Kickstarter campaign?

Matthew: I have two.  Write your book.  Do your homework.

When I say write your book, I’m not just talking about finishing your first draft.  I’m talking about all the hard stuff that comes after.  Rewriting, editing, sending it out to beta readers.  Get it to a point where you would be happy for it to be published before you even think about launching the campaign.

Your homework is to break down the finances involved.  Kickstarter is all about bringing a project to life, and as the project manager you must know in minute detail the costs involved.

These include, but are not limited to, printing costs, editing costs, cover art costs, any ancilliary merchandise like stickers or t-shirts, as well as the fluctuating dollar value which could change at any moment… You’ve got to be across it, otherwise you risk cutting yourself short and disappointing your backers.

ME: Do you think you’ll ever try a different publishing model? What would it take to make that happen?

Matthew: I would love to.  For my next project I am still deciding whether or not I want to go through Kickstarter.

There seems to be a couple of different ways for writers to be successful these days.

First, the no brainer.  Get picked up by a traditional publisher.  But that involves a perfect storm of talent, hard work, opportunity and just a smidgeon of luck.

Second, if you’re an indie writer, write so much content that you get people hooked.  Set all of your fiction up as series in an interconnected universe, and get involved in as many anthologies as humanly possible.  Write to sell yours books as a box set, and price things incredibly cheaply.  It’s the shotgun approach.  It requires a huge time commitment, a razor focus and a hefty support network of cover artists, editors and promoters.

I’m not sure where I want to fit into those two extremes at the moment.  I don’t have the time to write enough content to fill six books a year like some prolific self-published authors, and unless I’m super lucky and SciFi Horror has a renaissance I doubt I’ll be picked up by a traditional publisher any time soon.

ME: What other goals do you have for your writing? How will you be challenging yourself in the future?

Matthew: My goal for the next few years is to write enough to publish 2 books per year.  My focus is going to be on my Countdown series, which started with Metro 7.  I’m also going to be kicking off another series next year called Impact.  if you’re a fan of fiction that involves giant robots and even more gargantuan monsters, you’re going to love Impact.  It’s horror on an epic scale.

The biggest challenge is that I have a full-time day job.  The amount of writing I need to fit in and around my working day is a little daunting, but sacrifices must be made.

ME: You write primarily horror. Do you ever scare yourself with your writing?

Matthew: The actual writing isn’t what scares me, it’s the fact that these nightmare creatures and situations reside somewhere deep inside my subconscious, waiting to get out.

ME: Has one of your stories ever made you cry?

Matthew: Yes, and it made my wife cry too.  It hasn’t been published yet.  It was a very personal story.  I was in a really bad headspace after losing someone very close to me.  I honestly don’t know if I can ever go back to it.

ME: Have you ever written something outside of your comfort zone? If so, what was it and how did it go?

Matthew: I’m still so new to this that everything is still outside my comfort zone!  If I wanted to be comfortable, I’d still be playing World of Warcraft for 5 hours a night instead of writing.

Occasionally I go back to a fantasy series I began some time ago called Children of the Void.  It’s quite different from any of my horror fiction, and I would love to devote some time to it in the future.

Metro 7 by Matthew J Hellscream

Metro 7 by Matthew J Hellscream

ME: What drives you to write?

Matthew: A couple of years ago I would have said it was self-preservation.  If I didn’t write to scratch that creative itch, I’d be a damn sight crazier than I actually am.

But now the thing that drives me most is that people out there are actually enjoying my work.  I feel like I’m finally doing something that can bring a bit of excitement to people’s lives.  Something with meaning, that I can be proud of.

ME: What type of story or story element speaks to you most, in your or others’ writing?

Matthew: Compelling characters and consistent pace.  I need to care about characters to keep reading about them, and the story needs to follow a rhythm to keep me interested.  It doesn’t necessarily need to be a fast pace, just a consistent one that keeps moving.  Once a story stops dead in its tracks, so does my interest in it.

ME: What’s your favourite word?

Matthew: Fuck.  It’s so versatile.  And satisfying!

ME: What’s the single worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever seen or received?

Matthew: I think I’ve been lucky.  I haven’t received any bad writing advice yet that I’m aware of.  But writing advice is funny.  It pretty much all boils down to this:  “You should do it this way, except in situations where you shouldn’t.”  It’s all subjective.

As the architect of your own literary universe, you will know what’s best for your story.  If something is totally out of place or needs to be reworked, your beta readers will tell you.

The thing I will say is this – if you’re self-publishing and relying on beta readers to provide you with feedback, not all of it will be helpful.  Picking and choosing which pieces of feedback to act on is difficult, but important.

ME: What was the single most important thing you learned about writing or publishing in the last year?

Matthew: It’s possible to finish a first draft quite quickly.  It took me five years to finish the first draft of Metro 7. Carnifex took four months, while working a full-time job, without neglecting my wife, and without my other hobbies & interests suffering.

I also did not go insane.  So that’s a plus.

It just proves that it’s possible with all of the trappings of modern life.  In fact it’s easier now to write on the go – I use the Microsoft Word app on my phone & tablet to quickly note down scene or dialogue ideas while I’m on the bus, which I can then expand on when I get home.

ME: And now for some shameless promotion: when will Carnifex be released and how will we be able to get our hands on it?

Matthew: The actual release date will be pending the outcome of the Kickstarter campaign.  My cover artist will be putting together something very exciting, and if our third stretch goal is met, the book will need to go through copy editing by Blade Editing.  Pending those two things, I’d love to have it out by November.

The best way to get involved right now is by heading over to Kickstarter and backing the project.  This will give you some exclusive goodies like a t-shirt, copies of my first book Metro 7, and your name in the dedication page.  Your name will appear on every copy of the book I produce.

ME: What’s the next exciting project on your horizon?

Matthew: My next book will be Deep Six, the sequel to Metro 7.  It will be the second in the Countdown series, which will include eight planned novels, ending in a final entry where the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance.


Thanks for taking part in the interview, Matthew!

If you’re curious about this shiny new book of his, here’s a teaser video and the lowdown:

Carnifex: Butcher. Torturer. Executioner.

A holiday in the Australian outback turns deadly as five tourists find themselves locked in a desperate struggle for survival after stumbling into the hunting grounds of a predator long thought extinct.

Metro 7 is available in most major ebook stores, and one lucky paper-book store in Brisbane.

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