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Dennis L. McKiernan
The Gory Details
My writing career began in 1977 when I got run over by a car—it shattered my left femur into about fifty pieces. The day they put me into a cast that went from my armpits to over my toes was the day I began a novel. You see, I needed something to keep me sane while I spent the next few months in a cement block. My lovely wife got me a large batch of yellow legal-sized tablets and lots of sharpened pencils. Since I was flat on my back as stiff as a board, I held the tablets up and wrote more or less overhead. Straight up. Vertically. My arms would get tired and I would rest and think about what came next in the tale and then repeat the vertical exercise—write, rest and think, and then write again (rather like rinse and repeat over and over again). And so, for some ten to fifteen hours a day seven days a week, I ran, swam, rode horses, fought battles, cried over deaths of loved ones, and helped the Dwarves regain their lost homeland, all while confined in a cement block. (Okay, okay, it was orthopedic plaster, but to my way of thinking it was more like the mob had a vendetta against me and had prepared me to sleep with the fishes, but for some reason hadn’t thrown me in but simply abandoned me on the roadside instead.) Anyway, the day they put me in the cast was the day I started the novel, and, coincidentally, about a hundred days later, the day they took me out of that imprisonment was the day I wrote “The End” on that tale.
That was how I wrote my first novel. Oh, it wasn’t fine-tuned or finished by any means. There were revisions to make and I had to transcribe it from a handwritten story to a typed one, and, when all that was done, although I had written it just to keep sane, I thought it was quite good (no ego here, ha!). And so I sought out an editor who wanted to acquire it and so on and so forth, and finally succeeded in having it published (Thank you Al Sarrantonio and Pat LoBrutto and the folks at Doubleday). But that story I wrote just to keep sane was where I began. (Unless, of course, you count the round-robin “side-splitting” tales my father and I wrote about a detective, yet that is another story altogether.)
Including that first Mithgar story, I have written and have had published a good number of tales set in that same world—a trilogy, two duologies, six stand-alone novels, two collections of Mithgarian stories, and I have just finished another Mithgarian saga. In addition, I have had published a five-book series of retold fairy tales, a science/fantasy novel, and about twenty or so short stories published in that many anthologies.
What else is there? Ah, yes, there is this: Right out of high school I joined the Air Force (the Korean War had just begun). At the end of that war (actually, it never ended, but it stopped with a truce called) using the GI Bill, I earned a BS degree in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri. I earned a masters degree from Duke University also in electrical engineering. I spent some thirty-one years at Bell Labs in anti-ballistic missile defense systems, in hardware and software, and in a think tank. I married Martha Lee Northcutt in 1957 while in college, and we have two sons. I am a fantasy role player, and, as well, I exercise my thumbs and trigger fingers on my Xbox 360. I like chocolate-covered graham crackers.
But my writing career . . . well it all began when I got run over by a car.
I do not recommend that as a way to begin any profession.