Meet Author Dan McNeil

Is it Tuesday already? Gee, time flies while you’re slaving over a manuscript (Day 2 of #1kaday and counting!). A hearty welcome to today’s featured author: Dan McNeil.

Name: Dan McNeil

Name of book: The Judas Apocalypse

Book genre: Historical fiction

Date published: May 2008

Publisher: I Publish Press

What is your day job? I used to be a cameraman, then an editor at a local television station here in Ottawa for 24 years until 2009. For the last 2 years I’ve been at Canada Post editing corporate and instructional videos.

What is your book about? It’s about German archaeologist Gerhard Denninger’s search for the lost Cathar treasure during World War II. Along the way he is captured then abetted by four American soldiers who have been separated from their unit.  However, the treasure that they are searching for could turn out to be more than what they bargained for.

Oooh, sounds intriguing! What would you say is the most challenging part of writing this book? There were a few, but I would say that the research that was required was the biggest challenge. Because it’s historically based fiction, I needed to make sure of certain facts and locations before I started. I figured it would only take a couple of weeks (naivety is a wonderful thing!). Instead, it took about a year and a half. I often wondered “what the hell was I thinking” during this time. Once I was finished with the research, though, the actual writing was almost a breeze.

What motivates you to write? I just wanted to see if I could do it. I’ve always had the ideas, but it never occurred to me to do the writing myself. Writing was something “writers” do, not guys like me. This particular idea, however, just wouldn’t let go of me, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  I just needed to see if I could actually do it.

Did you experience writer’s block? Not really. I developed a routine where I would write in the morning before work. For some reason, I discovered that it was easier to get the flow going in the morning. Luckily, I never really experienced any kind of real writer’s block – a good thing too, otherwise it might have taken another six months to write.

How long did it take you to write this book? The actual writing took about a year.  When you take into account the research, it took about two and a half years in total.  Thankfully, my second book took a lot less time.

You published your book with I Publish Press. Why this company? I’d been sending out queries to publishers and agents (and not getting anywhere) when I came across the I Publish Press website.  They were holding a competition for unpublished novels, and I figured I’d send mine in. I really didn’t think it would win, considering that this was my first attempt at novel writing, but I thought at least I’d get a critique that could help me make it better.  As it turned out, it did win and they published it.  I guess it was better than I had hoped.

That’s amazing. Often when I ask writers what they think the biggest misconception there is about writing a book, particularly a first book, they say writers expect to get published on their first attempt. But you really did! So, see, writers, it can happen! But what would you say is the biggest misconception about writing a book? Initially, I figured it would take a couple of weeks to research it and a couple of weeks to write it. Obviously, I was WAY off the mark on that one. Other than that, I really had no illusions about what I was doing. I went into the project just to see if I could pull it off. When I finished it, I printed out a copy and put it on my shelf – mission accomplished. I set out to write a book, and I did it. I honestly didn’t think about publication until a friend of mine who read the manuscript insisted I try. Good thing he did!

What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? Typing “THE END” – not because I was done writing the book, but because I still had the daunting job of rewriting and editing to do. I had accomplished what I set out to do – to write a book. Very satisfying. The rewriting and editing, not so much…

What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? What advice would you give to writers regarding promotion? I went on some local television shows to talk about the book and participated in some book signings around town. I’m also on Twitter and Facebook, but I’ll admit, I’m pretty bad at self-promotion. I’m just not very good at it. I think if I could push it full time, I could get better at it, but it’s so tough when you’re working full time. It’s obvious that you have to put the time in and grab every opportunity you can to promote. It’s the only way.

How has life changed for you since the publication of your book? You mean, am I dating super models and driving a Ferrari? No. I’m still editing corporate videos and querying for the second book. I’d love to say that The Judas Apocalypse is a huge bestseller and it’s being made into a major motion picture… but not yet.

How was the experience of writing and querying the second novel different than the first? I was able to complete the writing in a much shorter time. The querying, unfortunately, is still a soul crushing pain. What I’m finding is that this new book doesn’t fit into a particular genre, and it’s making it even tougher this time around. I’m thinking of self-publishing this one if I don’t get anywhere soon with the querying.  Either that or find another novel writing contest…

Okay, my favorite last question: Oprah once famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? Absolutely. There’s a Persian quote: “Go and wake up your luck.” It’s a good thing mine was a light sleeper…

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