Author Interview: Dan McKeon

Be sure to check out my review of Wonder Rush by Dan McKeon!

Interview:

1. Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

I prefer hardcover books. They feel more substantial in my hands and give the story a certain gravitas. I also like eBooks because I read them on my phone, and I always have my phone on me. So, I can always read something wherever I am. eBooks are also great for reading in the dark.

2. Pick a genre, any genre!

I prefer to read and write thrillers. I use that term in a broad sense. They can be strict thrillers, veer more toward mystery or horror. I also enjoy some speculative elements.

3. What is the first book you remember reading?

Hmm… Probably Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss. Does that count?

4. What book shaped your childhood most?

The Running Man by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman). I read is as part of a summer reading assignment and I instantly fell in love with it. It was the first time reading was fun and didn’t feel like homework. I have been a huge Stephen King fan ever since.

5. When did you first start writing?

I was a bit late to the writing game. The first thing I ever wrote was a screenplay, which I finished when I was maybe 22 or 23. I liked to write music when I was younger.

6. What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I took a film analysis class to fulfill a fine arts requirement in college. I put it off until last semester senior year because I wasn’t all that interested in fine arts. Well, I fell in love with storytelling after that class! It was the first time I saw film as something more than pure entertainment and I wanted to be a part of it. I did a lot of self-study after graduation, wrote two screenplays, completed a screenwriting program at UCLA, and then wrote two more screenplays. My wife died unexpectedly shortly after that, so I stopped writing. My kids were two and four at the time and screenwriting suddenly felt very superfluous. I always wanted to get back to writing, and I dreamed of writing a novel. My kids are now older, I’m remarried, and my life is back on track. My oldest son became interested in writing in high school, and it sparked the passion in me again. He’s now a Creative Writing minor in college, and I love sharing stories with him.

7. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

My first screenplay, Hush Moss, will always hold a special place in my heart. It centers around the relationship between a serial killer and the priest who cared for him in an orphanage. When I set out to write it, I wasn’t sure I could do it. So, it stands as proof that I can actually write. When I self-published my first novel, Wonder Rush, I named my publishing company Hush Moss Press as a nod to that story.

8. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

My first novel was Wonder Rush, which I self-published. My training up to that point was specific to screenwriting, so I intentionally did not read any books on novel writing. I knew I would psych myself out, overthink things, and never finish it. After the first draft was done, I studied novel writing and made some revisions. I’m very proud of the way it came out, and I think my screenwriting background gives it a more visual/cinematic style.

9. How many books/collections have you published so far?

Wonder Rush is my first novel and my only publication so far. I have a horror short story called “Doctor Bert’s Elixir” that I really like. I’m trying to find it a home in an anthology or literary magazine.

10. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

I write thrillers in a general sense. Wonder Rush is a YA thriller and centers around a teenage girl who is an assassin. I have written stories that fall more on the spectrum of mystery/suspense and some that would be considered horror.

11. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

Most of it is in my head, but I find I need to research some things. For example, bubblegum plays an important role in Wonder Rush, so I had to learn how bubblegum was made. “Doctor Bert’s Elixir” takes place in the late 19th century, so I had to research what life was like then as well as medical norms at the time.

12. To plan, or not to plan your plot?

I’m a plantser. I like to plan my major plot points but allow the story and my characters to take control in between. Sometimes they surprise me, and I end up adjusting my plot points. I enjoy that. When the characters can take over a story, I know they have become fully realized and my readers will relate to them better.

13. What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I self-published Wonder Rush. My goal is to become traditionally published, and I would love to make a living as a professional author. I know that can be done as a self-published writer, but it’s very difficult.

14. If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

Ted Chiang has written some amazing science fiction/speculative fiction stories. They’re all grounded in reality but feature some incredible scientific breakthroughs that we haven’t enjoyed in our time yet. I have always been fascinated with the future and what is possible through science. I would enjoy living in a world like that where science has uncovered a greater reality.

15. Do you currently have a WIP?

I have been developing three different story ideas and I just can’t grasp onto one of them. I love them all, but they all frustrate me in some way, so I haven’t taken the plunge on any of them. At some point, I just need to pick one and start writing.

16. Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

The main character in my novel, Wonder Rush, is special to me. We’ll call her “Wendy” for lack of a better name (no spoilers). Wendy was abducted shortly after birth and was raised by an agency of assassins. She’s tough and ruthless and she does horrible things. However, she has such a good heart. I love that dichotomy. Deep down, she is a good person. She was just raised in a horrible way. I was a psychology major in college and one thing we studied was the role of nature vs. nurture. That’s a big part of my story and I love seeing how Wendy deals with that struggle.

17. What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

I’m afraid I don’t have one yet. Ask me again in a few years!

18. Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

I generally don’t include romance in my stories. It doesn’t interest me much. I like to read and write about things I haven’t experienced before. I am lucky to have experienced love, and I am married to an incredible woman. Since I have lived that, writing about it feels boring to me. One friendship I really love is the one between a serial killer and a priest in my screenplay, Hush Moss. You wouldn’t think people from such different backgrounds could develop a close bond, but I love their relationship. They both manage to grow and learn from each other.

19. Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

I prefer silence when I write. Music is too distracting and pulls me out of my characters’ world.

20. Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

I can barely draw a stick figure! I hired a cover designer for Wonder Rush, and I love how it came out. The designer’s name is Michael Corvin. I highly recommend him if you’re in the market for a book cover. I don’t have any character art, though.

21. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Write about what you love and are passionate about. Don’t worry about the market because it constantly changes. If you’re chasing a trend, you’ll always be behind the curve. Also, read a lot. Read in your genre and outside of your genre to enhance your stories.

22. Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I entered Wonder Rush into The BookLife Prize because it is one of the few contests that will provide a critique of your work, whether you win or lose. I ended up with a great review, and 10 out of 10 score, and my novel finished as a quarter finalist.

23. Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Stephen King

Matt Haig

Gillian Flynn

Karen M. McManus

Harlan Coben

Ruth Ware

Agatha Christie

Ted Chiang

Michael Crichton

24. Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

You can find all my information and pertinent links on my personal website.

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