Interview with Keith McTaggart

How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Often via previous print books I've read, but I follow lots of writers on twitter, have friends who are never short of a suggestion and I am a member of Writers Victoria. And browsing - there is so much joy in browsing.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading of course, but what? I am a genre specific publisher's nightmare, but I read a lot of crime fiction with a fancy for skilled writing - Dexter's Morse, the wonderful Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe, Caro Ramsay, Ian Rankin's Rebus, Val McDermid's broken Tony Hill and Carol Jordan, Garry Disher's crime but I found "Her" exquisite and troubling..
But what else? Fantasy - Donaldson, Eddings, C.S. Pacat. Rowling from Harry through the parish council to the limping private eye - such a genius giving so much pleasure to millions. Non fiction of course brings us to sailing and boats -reading about them, painting the bottom with antifoul [not all beer and skittles], cruising Bass Strait after careful check of the weather forecast, volunteering at sailability for the disabled when I can. Then there's roses and tomatoes in the garden, cooking and house management and now it is time to feed the cat, because she has just appeared between me and the screen. Doh!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes and I was in big trouble - it was supposed to be a Year Nine [14 y o ] English essay about prejudice. I got a bee in my bonnet and wrote a detective story about a falsely accused fellow who had a stack of evidence against him based on his religion or colour or some such, but was rescued by "our hero". I received a very poor grade but the teacher asked if he could publish the story in the school's yearbook.
What is your writing process?
Think of a scenario, a scene, an incident, a painting, an accident, an object - just something that sticks in my mind. Write about it without stopping but embellish as I go. Keep writing "in a straight line" until I'm stuck and then revise what I've done while seeking links or stimuli to kick on the main narrative or provide side stories or back stories. Decide whether it is a short story, a novel or an essay or an article after a while. Oh did I mention twitter, facebook, research or as it is more properly called - procrastination! After a while, I check that it is genuinely my idea - I once wrote several chapters for a fantasy novel which bore a close resemblance to Stephen Donaldson's The Mirror of Her Dreams which I had read years earlier - I was so embarrassed, but no-one else knew ...
When you have finished it, whatever it is, revise, spell check, grammar check, revise again and again. Share it with your writing group - accept criticism, but don't always agree with it. make sure that the variations from standard writing are yours and are intentional.
How do you approach cover design?
I ask an expert - seek something that vaguely suits and ask someone. As an artist and a designer, I'm a good footballer!
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Too difficult but I'll try. Paul Brickhill's "Reach for the Sky" was my first adult book at about age nine - serious lessons for anyone growing up. Dorothy L Sayers "Murder Must Advertise" is a serious look back for people who think drugs started in the sixties and is just brilliant or try Gaudy Night to learn a bit about feminism. Ursula K Le Guin and the Earthsea trilogy introduced me to a genre I had never considered. "The Frank Muir Book" taught me and made me laugh at more stuff about society, historical and modern, and the arts than i could have learned in years at University. And the greatest of them all? Spike Milligan's "Puckoon" for fiction or Adolf Hitler My Part in his Downfall etc for Non-fiction, possibly embellished. Puckoon - "several and a half miles west of Sligo" or "Dese legs? Did you write dese legs?"
Describe your desk
Desk top and screen in front of me, filing cabinet beside me, another writing desk to the right for reading and editing and paying bills. Shelves in front of me and above with printer scanner and stationery - top shelf often contains supervising Rosie the Cat, who sometimes jumps down and lands in front of me with a thump which frightens the hell out of me - I might have been sneaking up on a baddie or stealing through a graveyard. I've been considering getting a defibrillator because of her. The rest of the study is devoted to a tall book shelf and two shorter sets of bookshelves
When did you first start writing?
I have no idea, apart from "learn to write" stuff in school. The first memory I have of writing a story is from Year 9 which I discussed under another question. It was a detective story about evidence versus prejudice.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I have just published Collingwood Flat. Years ago I was writing a book about sewerage and treatment for school kids -Flushing Dunnies - for Melbourne Water, with Paul Saddler. I discovered that there had been a shanty town on the river flat in Collingwood, an inner suburb of Melbourne. The gold rush had petered out so people found their ways back to the city and lived wherever they could. The story fermented in my head for years. I wrote a bit and then put it away. But the tale insisted on being told - a shanty town had to have petty crooks and petty gangs with aspiring gang leaders, surely. And a fledgling city like Melbourne with wealth from the gold rush would surely have an evil secret mastermind trying to control it. Surely too, there'd be ordinary people who'd try to save their city and fellow citizens - there lives Collingwood Flat.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords "meatgrinder" and Mark Coker's style guide work beautifully together - as a writer, the technical side of publishing and preparing a proper eBook from a MS Word manuscript was a mystery to me. It would have been a massive waste of time to learn how to do it - think one small aspect of it, how do you get text to flow page to page on different devices? But Smashwords does it all for you. Now I am following two other of Mark's books to try to sell a few copies ...
Published 2018-02-24.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Alex and the Submarine
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 23,140. Language: English. Published: July 23, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Action & Adventure / Survival Stories
Alex [13] is steering Elixir, a yacht on the start of an adventure, sailing from Western Port to Apollo Bay with his sister Jess [11] and his grandfather. An innocent encounter with a submarine becomes dangerous when Granddad Morgan is injured - the meeting may have been innocent but the sub certainly wasn't. Alex and Jess and new friend Tam must outsmart nasty drug smugglers to survive.
Collingwood Flat
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 73,140. Language: English. Published: February 22, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Historical
Bodyguard Mick Conlon lives in 1860 slum Collingwood Flat, Melbourne. He is thrust into a detective role and must solve an explosives murder and find the evil man who ordered it. Trainee Conlon is coached by lover Annie, bar and brothel keeper. Mates Gul and Scratcher help too. Can Conlon’s team combine first to survive, then to save their fledgling city from corrupt takeover?