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Born in Dublin, Denis McClean is something of a late bloomer. He spent a career or three heavily involved in military, commercial, private and humanitarian branches of aviation in frontline roles like Ground Operations, Operations Control, Dispatch and Senior Management.
He quickly established a brand that claimed to deliver the same meticulous attention to detail for all minor, as well as to all the major aspects of all work undertaken, which put him in demand. Being based in different regions of the world brought with it some very significant exposure to many different cultures and he brings this into his writing.
Denis always felt he had a calling to the pen but the opportunity only arose in 2012 when he found himself between assignments. His first publication, Book of Plebs was completed in 2012, though he admits that the undertaking was not without its challenges.
When asked to elaborate, he offers this. “Anyone can feel they were born to do something, like aviation or police or military service, but you still need an aviation, policing or military education. To progress further, you’ll then need a business and/or management or even a speciality education or degree. Whatever you choose to do, you need to educate yourself to do it so well, that you have a head start in getting where you want to go faster. Writing is no different. Words are just words, but there is a very high level of focus and attention needed. As an Independent author, I had to take responsibility for my own quality assurance, presentation and graphics etc. Anyone might have some great ideas but if there is no organisation, you need to become your own. So it was a learning curve, but I like challenges and I've always liked learning.”
"Regardless of what we do, evolution demands that we at least try to incorporate more and more of what we have learned into our subsequent efforts." He adds.
“That's reassuring but it's only writing. What would your organisation typically have to do?”
“Well, writing books is only 20-30% putting words on virtual paper. Critiquing your own work is the next 15% and then comes the editing, which is easily as challenging as the writing. Thankfully, my better half, Gina does a lot of that with me. I also try to produce what I would look for myself in a book. So it has to be all of eyeopening, unique and aspirational. There has to be real people with real flaws and quite a bit of soul searching, so the reader is encouraged to examine their own consciences on the widest variety of the human experiences that we touch together. The style is really important to me. To give a serious story the gravitas it deserves, I like to write more formally, so I steer away from slang and I don't use profanities, except when it isn't a profanity. For example, In Ireland, believe it or not, a profanity can also be a compliment."
"So that's still short 20-30% of the overall investment. Where does the rest of the effort go?"
"Graphics for the covers and 3D images for my web site, plus web-site and blog updates, not to mention Facebook. I've gotten quite good at Gimp image manipulation but because I might only do one cover a year, I tend to forget all the finer points by the time I need to use it again. That can be really frustrating. There's also the small matter of getting the formats right. That's why I needed to revise my first book after I published it. There's no point in putting in all those nice sounding phrases and attractive styles, if the menu doesn't function correctly. It would drive me crazy to buy a book and then find I couldn't jump backwards and forwards using the Table of Contents, Bookmarks and also making and saving my notes etc. Everything that makes a good e-Book good must be built into. None of that happens by accident.
“OK. So, what's with the different genres? Book of Plebs is a spiritual/aspirational book, but the three books of the Catalysis Trilogy look like pure SF, then you write the "Thin Places" series of novellas.
"You have to choose a genre, and then maybe a second to keep the retailers happy but there is commonality. The bottom line of all my books is that they are about the development of the human spirit and/or tomorrow, even when we're talking about exotic star-faring races and Artificial Intelligences. There's always a lot of cultural stuff mixed in there, even amongst the more exotic cultures I create. From a purely logical and scientific viewpoint, intelligence will always have what we would identify as common human denominators but these are not exclusive."
"Wow. So what's next?"
"The Catalysis Trilogy was a huge investment of time and energy. I mean, all my novels are full length productions from 100K to 130-140K words each, which puts the complete Trilogy at almost 400K words, which is why I needed to supply some shorter works, like the 'Thin Places' Novellas. Even then, The latest one is too big to be a Novella but I don't believe in sacrificing quality by cropping a story that demands more telling. The thing is, regardless of size, I will still demand quality, because if I don’t get that in a book, I’d feel I was being taken advantage of. My next work will be a standalone SF Novel that I will define a new cutting edge, so watch this space."
“OK, so before I let you go, you assured me of quality, but what else will set your books apart from others?”
“Soul, for want of a better word. I'm not a religious person and maybe even anti-religious but I am spiritual and I think that makes up a lot of what we are, or try to be. Science Fiction and Fantasy can sometimes struggle when it comes to reputation. I mean, Zero to warp 10 in 60 seconds with all phasers blasting while reloading the photon-torpedo tubes might do it for kids and even the bigger kids, but I need to know how that works without everyone being mashed up against the rear pressure bulkheads due to all those G-Forces. Even your average airplane seats have to withstand a set number of G's, so I need the science to be real enough to be believable and also the places they boldly go. I believe I have set some serious markers with OCHRE, which was the second book of the Catalysis Trilogy. But I also want to write about now and tomorrow, not necessarily star-date 99999. I want my stuff to be serious enough to make serious people think about themselves and where are going as a species. I like to promote introspection but I need to do it on a huge stage that will stagger imaginations. I need to put soul into the characters."
" ... oh, and one more thing - value. Each book of the Trilogy can be read as an individual book. If you like one, then you can buy another one later, and you don't even have to get them in the order I wrote them."
"How does that work?"
"Planning - and a story so big that that no matter where you come in, you're in."