Little Book,  Self Published Sunday

Self Published Sunday: Interview with Liam McCann

This week we are delighted to welcome local author, Liam McCann to Self Published Sunday.
Liam was born in Guildford in 1973. He attended Hurstpierpoint College and Staffordshire University, gaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sports Physiology and Psychology. Growing up, he excelled on the sports field, becoming county champion in three of the athletics field events and swimming to a national standard. He won a British University medal in 1993. Instead of finding work in the sports industry, Liam formed a rock band that toured Europe. The group’s highlight came in 2001 when they played to five thousand people. Liam is currently working on his fifth action / thriller novel. He also writes for Artists’ & Photographers’ Press (AAPPL) and works as a freelance copy-editor for the Daily Telegraph.What do you do when you are not writing?
Not much! I write for most of the day. The rest of the time I devote to research. I also play in a band so if I have no pressing writing commitments, I learn and record new songs.

What inspired you to become a writer?
I’d put off getting a proper job for a long time. I’d tried to make a living from playing music but it ended up being part-time. So I had a decision to make and ended up killing more time by writing a book. It didn’t get published but I realised immediately that writing was what I wanted to do, so I carried on. I was lucky enough to get the next book published (The Olympics Facts, Figures & Fun), so I was up and running.
I helped the publisher write another five sports books before I took the plunge with another novel. Although I’ve now had 20 books published, I also edit / proofread other people’s work, and sub-edit for the Daily Telegraph.
What was your inspiration for The Battle of Boxhill?
I met a film producer at a party and he suggested I write a book like Finding Nemo but set in the bird world. I’d never written a children’s adventure story before but when a producer says they’d like to turn the story into an animated film, you agree immediately. I had to undertake quite a bit of research so the characters were believable (birds do have quite distinct personalities) but after about six months I was reasonably happy with the results. The production team made a few recommendations and then we were ready to publish.
Tell us about your book?
The Battle of Boxhill is a children’s adventure set in the bird world. Ryker’s eggs are stolen by a greedy gamekeeper who wants to sell them to a local zoo. The young peregrine falcon pushes thoughts of personal safety to one side and embarks on a journey of discovery. He must unite the oppressed birds in the forest so that they will rise up and help save his family from the evil gamekeeper and his enforcer, Dillon, a raven with a mean streak and foul temper. But Ryker is young and inexperienced in the ways of the world and he doesn’t know who to trust.
What research did you do for this book?
I didn’t know a great deal about the birds living on Box Hill so I contacted a local ornithologist and the owner of an animal sanctuary to get an idea about the personalities of the birds. They suggested using ravens and cuckoos as the villains. Peregrine falcon eggs are extremely valuable and are often – forgive the terrible joke – poached so I decided to use falcons as the heroes.
Are any elements of your book based on real life experiences/people?
Several of the human characters are based on real people, and the setting is real. Box Hill is in central Surrey and it is home to a family of falcons. A number of other locations also feature. Having lived in the area all my life, it is great to be able to write about places from my childhood.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just started work on a fifth sci-fi thriller featuring hero Ed Sampson. I’ve self-published the first four books in the series and will now spend six months writing the latest instalment. I hope that they will eventually be picked up by a conventional publisher, although they do sell online via word-of-mouth.
What is your writing process?
I start each day at around 9am and write until midday. Then I take a short lunch-break to review what I’ve done that morning. I then spend another four hours writing in the afternoon before reading through the day’s work at the end. I find that the routine and discipline help you achieve a lot more. It’s important to have structure, just as you do in a normal job. Otherwise it’d be very easy to become lazy.
I write on a laptop in the living room, which means I had to learn to type.
Do you use anything to sustain you during the writing process? Coffee? Chocolate? Music?
No. I just need peace and quiet because it helps me concentrate.
What prompted you to self-publish the Ed Sampson novels?
I’ve had 13 books published conventionally but they were all commissioned – and non-fiction – and I wanted to try getting the sci-fi series out there. It’s incredibly difficult for a relatively unknown author to get their fiction published and I’d been trying for several years before I decided to do it myself.
Publishing the books was relatively easy because I was in control of the look and feel of each, but the biggest problem of not having a publisher backing you is exposure. You have to work doubly hard to get your work in front of the widest possible audience, which is what I’m doing now.
Can you tell us about the challenges in writing and publishing your first novel?
I don’t find the writing process that hard. As soon as I’ve written the first few lines I know I’ll be happy working on the book for the next few months. The editing is much harder because, if you’re doing it yourself, you have to be brutal. It’s surprising how much you can cut without altering the feel of the book so you need to be harsh with yourself. Having got the book into shape, designing the cover is a lot of fun. The greatest challenge then is getting your book out to an audience who will buy it. Publishing the books with Amazon guarantees you a worldwide platform but you still need to direct people to the books, not easy when you consider how many people are now publishing their own stuff. The only ways to rise above the crowd are to use social media to promote the books and to get lots of good reviews.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you overcome it?
I don’t have any trouble with writer’s block. The first line of a chapter can sometimes cause a few problems but I find writing something, anything, always helps me get up and running for the day. If I don’t feel particularly inspired, I’ll crack on with some research instead.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Keep your discipline. It’s a huge undertaking to write a book. If it hasn’t been commissioned it’s a big risk and there’ll be no money up front. You’ll have to devote several months to the writing process, so you’ll need to get into a routine and maintain your discipline. Only then will you see results.
Why did you choose to write children’s fiction?
I wouldn’t normally have chosen to write in this genre because I spend more time on the sci-fi thrillers, but when a film producer asks you to write a children’s book, you agree immediately!
How did you choose the genre you write in? What inspired you to write it?
The children’s genre was chosen for me when I agreed to write the book for the producer.
How did you get interested in children’s fiction?
I had to do a bit of research but I’d always read a lot when I was growing up and thought I’d be able to construct a solid children’s story.
What books have inspired you?
I was a fan of Willard Price and Clive Cussler when I was growing up. I also love reading Bill Bryson, particularly A Short History of Nearly Everything.
What was your favourite book as a child/teenager?
Anything by Clive Cussler. It’s a shame that his powers as a story-teller are on the wane as his books used to be so good. Now they’re not in the same class as they were 20 years ago.
What are you currently reading?
I find it difficult to read too much when I’m writing, but I do get through the odd biography. I’ve just finished Open by Andre Agassi. It was extremely good.
What was the last book you recommended to a friend?
Bill Bryson’s Short History of Nearly Everything. It’s a fabulous book, beautifully written. It should be compulsory reading for every teenager.
What/Who inspired you as a reader?
I don’t know that anyone or anything inspired me as a reader. I’ve always loved books and read hundreds growing up.
Just for fun
Paper, Audio or eBook?

If The Battle of Boxhill was made in to a film which actor(s), past or present, do you envision in the lead role(s)
I have been asked the question by the production team. I’d like Daniel Radcliffe to play the part of Ryker. I’d also like Dexter Fletcher, Ewan McGregor, Samantha Janus and Ross Kemp to play parts.
If your book had a soundtrack which artists would feature on it?
I’d like to write some of the music myself, although I probably wouldn’t be allowed. Animated films often end up with an Elton John soundtrack and he usually does a pretty good job. I might like to rock it up a bit though. The team behind the classical music in the Indiana Jones or Back to the Future films would also be top of the wish-list.
Tea or Coffee?
I don’t drink either.
Slippers or barefoot?
Shower or Bath?
Marmite: Love it? Hate it?
Hate it!
Email or postcard?
Ryker, a young peregrine falcon, is being given a hunting lesson by his father when they notice a flock of ravens attacking their family by the chalk cliffs they call home. They race back to help but Ryker is knocked unconscious in the battle. When he wakes, he realises his parents and partner are missing. As if this wasn’t bad enough, he finds his unborn chicks are no longer in their nest! Ryker pushes thoughts of personal safety to one side and embarks on a journey of discovery. He must unite the oppressed birds in the forest so that they will rise up and help save his family from the evil gamekeeper and his enforcer, Dillon, a raven with a mean streak and foul temper. But Ryker is young and inexperienced in the ways of the world and he doesn’t yet know who to trust… The Battle of Boxhill is an engaging children’s story that will appeal to readers of all ages and adults too. Packed with drama, suspense and wonderful characters, it will delight, surprise and enthral in equal measure.
To find out more about Liam and his work you can visit his Website (here), his Facebook page (here) or follow him on Twitter.
The Battle of Boxhill is available now from

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