Interview with Ray McCarthy

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, in outline. It was a short story for a competition in school. About accidental creation of Artificial Intelligence by interconnecting an analogue and digital computer. Probably in 1971 or 1972. By 1973 I knew a bit about how analogue computers and digital computers worked and the premise seemed silly.
I'm not counting annoying school essays. Unfortunately I remember some of them. It took me 20 years to realise that most school teaching, especially at primary school then was about spelling, grammar and possibly at secondary school conventional synopsis and such of famous classics. Not about creating stories. Grammar and spelling is an important thing, but must of the teachers' comments about actual content and story telling rules was obviously ignored by writers of successful novels I read back then.
My first full length novel was started in about 1993, originally as background for a hybrid click-and-point adventure and platform game (Jorath's Quest). The 'Game Engine' worked well but the stumbling block was production of the artwork, especially all the animation. Recently I revisited it (January 2016) and it's in process of being edited. It's now about 2.5x longer and renamed 'Restoring the Talismans'. I had to cut a lot of computer game inspired 'attacks' and 'puzzles'. All the dialogue had to be re-written, it was terrible.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Possibly I was six. The Wizard of Oz. I wanted more. Janet and John was very boring. I was reading grown-up thrillers, spy stories, fantasy, myth & legend and SF by age 11 while still reading Biggles, Famous Five, Kemlo and other children's books.
What are you working on next?
I have several WIP (Works in progress needing editing). I've just started "The Fairy Godmother", the 6th book in the "Otherworld" series.
What is your writing process?
Usually I have an idea, a scenario. It's easier to apply it to an existing 'world' and 'characters' if it's SF or Fantasy, but that doesn't so much matter for Romance, Detective or Thrillers.
Then I try and list important characters, who they are and outline of a plot. I may leave gaps.
I write scenes or chapters to start with in separate text files. No spelling or grammar checks, no formatting other than maybe _italics_ (telepathy or thoughts but rarely both in same book) and perhaps *bold*. These are recognised by MS Word, though OpenOffice and LibreOffice translate _text_ to underlined. Those conventions existed before computers.
I often skip to the end and write it after start. That's valuable for a detective or mystery as it's like making a jigsaw. You cut up a finished picture. Then I fill in the gaps. I might leave out details. Or put a paragraph of narrative to be expanded to dialogue and close POV action later.
I do close POV third by writing it in first person and then editing.
The penultimate stage is to paste all those files into a wordprocessor and at that point order of chapters might change or a file might be broken into two chapters. Then details and any missing bits are expanded.
The last stage of first draft is spelling check. I create a custom dictionary for each "world" or novel with the places, people, things and such so they are spelled in a consistent way.
I read the draft on an eInk Kindle or Kobo (I have both). This is as good as paper and I've saved the cost of both gadgets in paper and toner. The annotations on the kindle or kobo can be read back on PC with context and saved in a text file. Then I save a new version and edit.
Rinse and repeat.
Proof read twice after ending changes to content.
Final proof read for formatting is done on eBook and 1600 x 1200 screen.
I'd always read a paper proof created by "printing company" before publishing the paper version.
The Editing and proofing takes as long as writing.
The setup of online content takes me about a week. I think you need to allow two months for paper version and two weeks (at least) for eBook version.
Covers, synopsis (for traditional publisher or agent) and Blurb are REALLY hard. I really enjoy the writing and may write 1 hour to 16 hours. Typically 8 to 10 hours when the story is in full flow. About 2,000 to 12,000 words a day at initial creation stage.
How do you approach cover design?
With a deep sense of foreboding. Buy my books and I'll pay someone decent at it. I'd replace existing covers. I think eBook purchasers should get free upgrades for life. It's not possible for paper books, though I suppose I can make new covers availeble to download for free and you can glue them on.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
It depends on the kind of document. I like my wife's 2015 model PaperWhite Kindle (6"), it's better resolution than earlier kindles. I prefer the big Kindle DXG for technical documents (9.7"). The Sony 13.8" electronic paper sounds good for technical stuff but it's $800. I like the Kobo H20 Aura HD I have as it's a compromise 6.8" and high resolution like the 2105 model PaperWhite. I've also used my daughter's Kindle Touch (it's higher resolution than most of the Kindle Touch) and I think it's best value. The Kobo is rather expensive.
I don't count anything other than official "eInk" screen based gadgets as an e-reader. The Amazon Fire is a tablet, not an e-reader. There is no comparison between eInk and an "app" on a tablet, phone, laptop or PC.
I use Calibre to organise and backup my e-readers and convert my own documents or others. I have at least two other backups of EVERYTHING on all my computers, especially all my own work. I don't rely anyone's "cloud". Make your own backups. But never give away copies of anything unless it's your own work.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Recommendations and searching 'Project Gutenberg' for public domain classics that are often out of print.
Describe your desk
It's L shaped. The computer workstation has 2 off 1600 x 1200 17" CRT monitors (16.25" effective image areas) running Linux Mint with mate Desktop as a single 3200 x 1200 area with four virtual desktops. I use Notepad++ under WINE for initial writing and then LibreOffice Writer to build and edit a novel. It can make PDFs or MS Word files. I have a number of radio sets on the windowsill. Background BBC R4, Clare FM, BBC Radio Scotland or TSF Jazz. There is 14" CRT TV with DTT set box and Satellite set box at the right end of desk. The satellite receiver has one of those in car gadgets to put your phone /mp3 player on FM Radio.
The two set boxes are on top of the 14" TV (to the right of the two 17" CRTS). On top is a Yaesu FT817ND transceiver used for "Amateur Radio". It uses an aerial on rthe roof.
The left arm has my old laptop, a separate LCD monitor for a Raspberry Pi and my professional scanner. I have a small netbook for portable use. The room used to be a bedroom, but is now a small library with nearly 2,000 books. Five bookcases are actually pairs of cases stacked, there are 6 other bookcases in the 'library'. The rest of the house has over 1,000 books in 15 other bookcases (some small).
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Usually the alarm on my Sony ICF2001 radio at 7.15 am, set to RTE Radio 1.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Eating, sleeping.
Sometimes I go out.
Sometimes I do stuff in my workshops or the garden.
Published 2016-04-10.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Conspiracies and Rooks
Series: Celtic Otherworld, Book 8. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 90,820. Language: English. Published: September 14, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
Marion is now a Student Guard. Tony and Sorcha settle into the town house and make friends. Why does the shop keeper not want the Guards to catch the thieves?
Fairy Godmothers
Series: Celtic Otherworld, Book 7. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 55,240. Language: English. Published: September 2, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Romance » Fantasy
Alice (Eilis) had previously agreed to be a godmother for Órlaith. Now the baby has quickened and a geas is triggered. You can’t invoke a fay blessing for a baby without invoking a fay curse first! Everything you wanted to know about the Fairy Godmother, the Wicked Witch, Flower Fairies and Fairy doors.
Exiles and Rooks
Series: Celtic Otherworld, Book 6. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 76,810. Language: English. Published: August 2, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Romance » Action/adventure
Action is parallel to “Hero Genesis” and “No Silver Lining” in the partially Steam Punk world where the Tuatha Dé live. Alice’s half sister’s two children (met briefly in “Carrying the Shining Sword”) are exiled from Ireland because they too have magic.
No Silver Lining
Series: Celtic Otherworld, Book 5. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 67,330. Language: English. Published: June 23, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban, Fiction » Visionary & metaphysical
Urban fantasy mostly in Limerick. Alice (Eilis) joins the four English teenagers going to the University of Limerick, but senses a Horseman of the Apocalypse. Kate finds that Eilis is a strange friend with many surprises. Sequel to Hero Genesis and #5 in the "Celtic Otherworld" series, though the books can be read as pair or even on their own.
Hero Genesis
Series: Celtic Otherworld, Book 4. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 82,950. Language: English. Published: May 19, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
Urban fantasy mostly in Worcestershire / Wychavon area. Four teenagers doing A Levels get sucked into a strange situation with Superheroes and Aliens. They are rescued by the High Queen of the Aés Sidhe.
Seeking the Flaming Spear
Series: Celtic Otherworld, Book 3. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 89,030. Language: English. Published: April 27, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Fairy tales
Megra must decide how to deal with Morien, who is Fay, so she contacts Queen Oonagh of the Aés Sidhe for help by throwing a 'Ball'. Alice (Eilis) decides it's time to do more matchmaking. Alice (Eilis) meets her adoptive grandmother (Queen Oonagh) and makes some friends in the Otherworld of the true Elves. Cover features Morien, an older less known name of Morgan le Fay.
Carrying the Shining Sword
Series: Celtic Otherworld, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 56,170. Language: English. Published: April 2, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Fairy tales
Who has poisoned Megra and her father, the Emperor? Eilis (Alice) accepts she is different and reveals why to her four friends. They learn about Skandi culture and the forbidden Skand magic. They take ship to another continent in search of an antidote and answers.
The Master's Talent
Series: Talents Universe, Book 5. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 121,450. Language: English. Published: March 12, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » General, Fiction » Romance » Sci-fi
Maisie is reaping the results of her foolishness. How can she teach class and be the Emperor’s Emissary on a “First Contact” Mission? How can she put off any public announcement about her relationship with Olef? Last part of the Maisie Trilogy and book 5 of the "Talent's Universe". Includes Novella "Starship Chief"
The Solar Alliance
Series: Talents Universe, Book 3. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 143,870. Language: English. Published: January 23, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Earth has cracked the problem of Fusion power and has the “Secret” of how a “Jump Drive” for a starship works. But what does the shadowy New World Order conspiracy want? Mostly set in the Mid West of Ireland.
Under the Stone of Destiny
Series: Celtic Otherworld, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 80,190. Language: English. Published: September 4, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Four teenagers are trying to end the ruinous war, a human, an elf princess, a dryad Mage and dwarf Wizard. Or at least that's what Kevin, the student magus thinks they are. Most of the action is on a legendary Celtic Otherworld, on the continent of Magh Meall. Out of food and close to despair in the mountains they are told to wait for another companion by the crow familiar of Dean David. Version 2
Starship Chief
Series: Talents Universe, Book 4. Price: Free! Words: 40,080. Language: English. Published: May 15, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi
A prequel to the entire Talent Universe series best read before The Master’s Talent. Set many years before first contact with Earth, three Karnd teenagers are on the way station starship to retrieve a valuable hidden artefact on a planet that’s never been contacted. But how many of the crew are really criminals, the next generation from the people that stole the artefact? Version 3 (December 2017)
The Journeyman's Talent
Series: Talents Universe, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 139,910. Language: English. Published: June 5, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi
Sequel to “The Apprentice’s Talent”. Maisie is now a Journeyman studying to be a Master, at the Circle College for Talent, 80,000 light years from Earth, on Caemoria. But on a visit to Laramos city to sign a contract for her full spectrum colour system she narrowly escapes being murdered. Meanwhile Earth has figured how to build starships (Valkyrie Class) without Talent. * REVISION 2 * proofed
The Apprentice's Talent
Series: Talents Universe, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 166,890. Language: English. Published: April 17, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Science fiction » Hard sci-fi
Mei Zhen "Maisie" Kelly is a 23 year old working in Dublin. People think she’ll go far, now that she’s had a second major promotion. Maisie didn't pay a huge amount of attention to the news of the alien starship appearing at the edge of the Solar system. Curiously the only thing of interest to the Aliens is to find Maisie and take her away. (Revision 3)