The first one today is someone that most of us in the states probably aren't familiar with, but readers of the Guardian might just recognize: Darragh McManus. For those of you who are familiar with the author, you have to check out his new book Cold! Steel! Justice!!, a spoof on 80s cop movie cliches. Who amongst us haven't watched one of these films? (If you haven't, please post a comment so I can tell you why you need to rent Die Hard, my favorite cop movie ever.)
Darragh was kind enough to allow himself to be subjected to my usual round of questioning, so here we go!
What made you decide to write? Did you always know that you wanted to be an author or was there an “aha!” moment in your life where you suddenly knew that this was what you wanted to do?
I think I always wanted to write, for sure. I always did write, as a kid: stories ripped off from comics and TV, half-formed things that I never finished. All through school and college, my friends and family always told me, ‘You have to be a writer, you’ll definitely be a writer.’ (I think it was the Oscar Wilde hair.) And I assumed, yes, I will one day be a writer. Oddly, though, I didn’t start on my first proper book until I was 28. I’d been working in journalism for several years by then and had churned out a spoof film script, but as for ‘real’ writing…I sort of never bothered until then. Or maybe wasn’t ready. Anyway, I haven’t stopped since. Three novels (besides this one), one collection of short stories, three film scripts, two plays, two finished (and published) non-fiction books, two half-finished non-fiction books, various other bits and pieces… My fingers are getting tired!
What inspires you? Do you have a muse or do you get inspired by random things?
All sorts of things, often random things. I like to write in different genres and forms, so really inspiration can come from anywhere. For example, I wrote a noir-style mystery with (he said modestly) a genius twist, because I wanted to create a bunch of interesting characters for women only. I wrote a vigilante thriller out of some sense of feminist anger at how my fellow men often shamefully behave. I wrote a collection of stories on a theme of movement because it’s the one trait that defines everything in the universe, but has been neglected in literature. And as for Cold! Steel! Justice!!!…I wrote that to have fun at the expense of bad 1980s cop movies, and also just to have fun.
How do you come up with the titles for your books? These can often be amongst the hardest things for authors to settle on, so how & when in the process do you start coming up with titles?
Titles can come from anywhere, though usually a song title or lyric for some reason. As to when, it depends, although generally something will strike me quite early on and I’ll get to like it and stick to it. Can’t remember ever changing a title, except Cold! Steel! Justice!!!, which started life as The Nutcracker (don’t ask). The new title is a pastiche on the dumbest, crassest action movie title you could possibly think of. Others include – There is a light and it never goes out: that’s from a song by The Smiths, and I felt it suited the melancholy but not defeatist tone of the novel; The Driving Force: a technical term from physics – again, suited the story collection thematically; Even Flow: a Pearl Jam song, and my vigilantes are inspired by grunge to a large extent, so…perfect fit! GAA Confidential: a pun on LA Confidential, for a fun non-fiction book on GAA (Irish sports and culture).
Are any of the experiences in your writing based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Have you ever seen any of the stuff in your book firsthand? As a journalist you must have seen quite a few things in your lifetime.
In this one, no: it’s pure fiction (it’s also absurd and exaggerated and ridiculous, so again, no!). Apart from that, I think every writer takes from their own experience to some extent, unless they solely work in fantasy/horror/sci-fi etc. And even then, probably something filters through without them knowing it. My first novel, for instance, was very much autobiographical: I changed names and many of the characters are amalgams of people I know, not their direct representation, but the narrator is basically me. A quite altered me in some ways, but still me.
Do you have any latest news I can dish for you?
Yes, actually I do! First, I have a new e-book on Amazon and Smashwords: Terminating Hollywood (the funny side of film). It’s a collection of humorous pieces on movies, and the first in a collection of six, called the Popp’d Off series: a sarcastic, satirical savaging of the freaks, geeks, strange beasts and wild antics of pop culture. It’s silly, funny, clever and dumb, all at once! And has a killer cover, which will be familiar to anyone who loves Terminator. Tag-line: ‘Prepare to say “ha-ha-hasta la vista, baby”!’ Links here: (Amazon.com) and (Smashwords.com) In other writing, I’m currently sending out a pitch letter to theatre companies for a play I’m working on with a very talented Canadian director; I’m also working on a few quite avant-garde projects (early days) with a young filmmaker, and have a sitcom pilot with a London production company. Fingers, toes and all other digits crossed. (Me: Break a leg or whatever words of luck I can say without it jinxing you!)
Who are some of your favorite authors? Have they helped inspire your writing by reaffirming your decision to write or by indirectly giving you ideas for various stories?
Don DeLillo, Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, Graham Greene, Italo Calvino…too many to mention! Generally I prefer older books/authors, but that’s just personal taste, no reflection on today’s writers. They have inspired me, yes, but not really given me specific ideas. (Those I usually get from the back of the cornflakes packet.)
Do you have any advice for new writers?
I don’t know, I suppose it’s a cliché but it’s true: writing is just 1% talent and 99% work. But that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable – once you get into it, the work becomes its own reward. Other than that, I’d say: try and develop your own voice. Which you do by writing and writing and then writing some more and then more and more again, until finally you write something pretty good. And best of all, that something is authentically ‘you’.
What is the hardest thing about writing for you? Everyone’s got that one part of writing that seems to stick with them.
Not being published as much as I’d like! And battling for notice. Genuinely, that’s the worst thing. Having to spend as much time on selling the work as actually writing it. I enjoy the act of writing, even when it’s a struggle – it’s a good feeling, to wrestle with your own talents and limitations and try to exceed them. But the whole business side of it…ugh. (This Q&A excepted, of course!) (Me: Why thank you! Flattery will get you everywhere! *blushes*)
How would you respond to criticism?
Usually take it as someone’s genuine opinion, which I may not agree with but try to respect. I review a lot of books myself as a journalist and I know the critic has an obligation to be honest. Fair, but honest. You can’t lie just to save someone’s feelings.
What do you like on your pizza? (Not book related but everyone’s got a favorite topping!)
Mushrooms! The king of all foods. Honestly, I could live on those things.
IN PARADISE CITY, ALL HELL IS ABOUT TO BREAK LOOSE...
Renegade ex-cop Christian Beretta was kicked off the Dice City Police Force for being "just too damn violent". Now he's BACK - and teaming up with his old partner/sidekick, the gnarly-but-kindly Chief of Police and his feisty ex-girlfriend (who's resurrected from the dead) for the toughest mission of his life. An evil Irish-born Mayor aims to take over the illegal drug trade and execute criminals on live TV - and only Beretta can stop him...
Cold! Steel! Justice!!! is a tour de force of action, comedy, comic-action, action-comedy, and a whole load of nonsense. Like all the great straight-to-video cop movies you remember from the 1980s, it's packed with suspense, violence, incident, smart quips, daring deeds, racial stereotypes, gratuitous nudity, men wearing bandanas in flagrant contravention of all rules of taste, and at least one scene where a Mexican druglord is incinerated in his own car. As convention dictates.
The renegade but good-hearted Beretta causes mayhem, busts things up, does cool things with big goddamn guns, cracks wise, breaks all the rules, gets the girl and saves the day.
In a world of pain, he's the Novocaine...if Novocaine wore a sexy leather overcoat, smoked 40 filterless a day and carried a hand-cannon so goddamn enormous it makes other hand-cannons wet their underpants.
So stand in line for YOUR fill...of Cold! Steel! Justice!!!
Curious about Darragh's book? You can pick it up right now on Amazon & Smashwords!! I have to admit, it looks to be a pretty awesome read!
Also, don't forget that you still have time to enter the giveaway hop I'm holding. It'll be running until the 25th, so check it out at this link here.