Author Interview: Declan Finn

Declan_FinnDeclan Finn is the NYC-based author of books ranging from thrillers to urban fantasy to SciFi, including the 2016 Dragon Award Nominated Novel for Best horror, Honor at Stake. He is known for his strong fight scenes and his romance novels are sexy without being dirty, providing enough sexual tension to curl toes. He hosts the Catholic Geek Radio show, and can be found wherever someone is starting trouble. He also writes thrillers, video game reviews, and works for several blogs.

His thriller A Pius Man has recently been re-released through Silver Empire Publishing.


A_Pius_Man

In A Pius Man, six unlikely heroes must work together to unravel a web of intrigue and murder that entwines one of the most controversial figures of the twentieth century. Was Pius XII a Nazi collaborator who deliberately let millions of Jews die? Has the Vatican covered up the truth for more than 60 years? Or has someone perpetrated a decades-long smear campaign? And what will happen to six strangers trying to finally bring the truth to light?

As the head of Vatican security, Giovanni Figlia must protect a new, African Pope who courts controversy every other day. The Pope’s latest project is to make Pius XII, “Hitler’s Pope,” a saint. Things haven’t gotten better since the Pope employed American mercenary Sean Ryan. Then a body fell onto the Vatican doorstep.

Mercenaries, spies, beautiful women, international intrigue and ancient secrets – The Pius Trilogy has it all!


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeyAlso published by Silver Empire, my novel Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is an historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. Click here to read an excerpt.
An invading Persian warrior becomes obsessed with Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world pulls him deeper into layers of mysteries as its sly princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden?
Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


Q. You’re an accomplished writer, having published novels in several genres. Tell us about The Pius Trilogy and why you chose to write that story.

A Pius Man is what happens when you anger a historian whose family Christmas movie was Die Hard.

The Pius Trilogy was started by my reading a novel that was chalked full of bad history. This isn’t new for me, since I’m a historian – reading novels with bad history is a daily occurrence for me. Usually, it’s not so bad that it takes me out of the story. However, at the time, I had just completed months of research into Pope Pius XII, and his papacy during World War II. The history in this book was just so unbearable, I checked the back of the book to see the sources cited. The sad thing is, I knew the sources, so I knew that his sources told him something different than the book was saying.

That was the point where I decided that, heck, if certain losers can get away with mediocre novels, filled with blatant lies and dubious sources, then I could put together a good novel with actual history. And thus, The Pius Trilogy. I had free reign to slip in facts between the bullets.

Q. The Pius Trilogy was originally published a few years ago. Why did you decide to re-publish it now with Silver Empire?

When I originally self-published the trilogy, it was because I knew I had to keep moving or go crazy. You see, I originally had an agent. It was just my luck that I procured said agent the month that book companies were laying off people by the tens of thousands – a month. And that isn’t even a slight exaggeration.

After two years of negligible progress, I knew I had to self publish the books, or tear my hair out. And I edited and polished the novels until I couldn’t read them anymore. I either had to edit them or spike the entire series.

You can look over the earlier versions of the series, and it wasn’t the best it could be. The covers needed work, and were eventually replaced by my friend Dawn Witzke when she went into the cover business. But it needed professional editing, and I’m a cheap bastard. And I couldn’t go back and edit it myself, otherwise I would have just rewritten it, and reset the whole process.

With Silver Empire, they were interested, and I saw the potential to have the book perfected, and then reach a wider audience.

Q. This novel has been compared to Dan Brown’s thrillers featuring the character Robert Langdon. How is your hero/protagonist like Langdon? How does he differ?

Ah, we’re going there, are we? It has been brought to my attention that slamming a competing author, especially if they’re selling well, is probably a bad idea.

But, since you twisted my arm: If I ever wrote a character as two-dimensional as Langdon, I would insist on being put in an asylum. He is a talking head, meant purely to provide exposition. Good God, his adversaries are usually crazy and / or mutilated in some way (Highlighted in his second and third novels), and half the men I know personally could have overpowered any of them. Langdon has no ability to fight, and barely has the ability to run, if I recall correctly.  He has no backstory, no personality, and don’t even get me started on the end to Inferno.

If I wrote a character that inhuman, just kill me.

My characters are typically colorful, varied, and with enough character backstory and biographies to fill a novella. One character, Sean AP Ryan, is a gun fighter and … mildly insane. I have a collection of spies, who range from a James Bond type to a George Smiley – one leaves a trail of destruction, and the other one is the little man who wasn’t there. I have academics who are cops, characters born from all over the world who might as well be the Avengers. Heck, I have a cast of heroes more international than the team that took out Dracula.

Oh, yeah, and unlike Langdon, my characters provide footnotes for the history they use.

Q. What makes A Pius Man better than anything Dan Brown wrote?

Wow. We’re really going to go there, are we? Okay.

  • Real history, real footnotes.
  • Actual threats and genuine dangers.
  • Good guys who are good people.
  • Bad guys who are not misunderstood, but evil. (When the most sympathetic character in your novel is the albino assassin, you’re doing it wrong)
  • A plot that makes sense (Really? Genealogies that go back 2000 years? The Mormons aren’t that good.)
  • Heroes with personalities.
  • No stupid puzzles that could be solved by 5-year-olds. (Really? The last password was “Apple”?)
  • An actual grasp of world politics, Catholic Theology, and history

Is that enough of a start?

Q. What’s different or unique about your story from other thrillers?

To start with, my cast of characters is about the size of the Fellowship of the Ring.

You could say that the politics is there like in a Brad Thor or Vince Flynn novel. You could say that the technical toys and history fueling the main plot is reminiscent of James Rollins. You could even suggest that the “Discover something and get shot at” is a formula out of 24 or Robert Ludlum.

Though I do dare you to find a novel that tackles that much at once, while getting the history and world politics correct, and making all of the characters engaging. Most of the authors I just named can do some of what I’ve described, but not all. You might think that’s boasting, but again, these three books were developed over the course of ten years. If they weren’t awesome, I’d be in trouble.

Q. What kind of research did you do for this story?

For the history, I used everything from newspapers on microfiche to archived papal records, to memoirs, personal interviews, and even a TIME magazine article.  The last was a matter of looking up non lethal weapon technology; the article led me to DARPA research papers posted on the internet.

I went through the gun range, took knife fighting courses, got to level three of five for Krav Maga, and had long conversations with a marine about warfare and if flash bangs could kill somebody if set off at close range.

I was busy.

Q. What was your favorite scene to write?

I have two. One was a scene on the Spanish Steps, with an armored SUV. And the part where I blew up Leonardo da Vinci airport.

Heh.  “Sean, what are you doing with that fuel truck.”

… You had to be there.

Q. What was the hardest part of the book for you to write?

Making the history readable. There’s a lot to cover, and the first draft of the novel literally had footnotes. I used a history paper for dialogue. Trust me when I say that a lot of editing effort was spent making that into easy, casual dialogue, and not the talking heads I wanted to avoid.

Q. What inspired you to write this story with these characters?

I wanted a variety of characters to look at the historical problem from different ways. This resulted in collecting an Irish Catholic Cop, an American Jewish Secret Service Agent, a Mossad spy, a German spy, several Catholic priests, and several people who don’t care, but have to solve the problem, lest they get killed.

Q. You also write romance, urban fantasy, sci-fi, and horror. Do you have a favorite genre to write? Tell us briefly about your other books.

I write what I read, and I read everything. I don’t really have a favorite.

My nonfiction book, For All Their Wars are Merry, is about IRA songs and the history behind them.

My Dragon Award nominated series, Love at First Bite, is one part urban fantasy, and one part paranormal romance. It’s my revenge on … everyone who screws up the vampire mythos.

It Was Only on Stun! and Set to Kill are my comedy murder mysteries at scifi conventions. Chronologically, they actually bookend The Pius Trilogy, but only if one is following certain characters from one book to another. When I say they’re comedy mysteries, well, let’s say the lead is not a member of Fandom, yet he’s plunged right into it. And since I’m a nerd who enjoys conventions, I can guarantee that the lead has to adapt to Fandom, not vice versa.

Codename: Winterborn and Codename: UnSub is my take on post-cataclysmic worlds. Most people call them post-apocalyptic, but once the apocalypse hit, there is not “after.” It follows a spy in a post-World War III Earth, from a story of revenge to being thrust into a nightmare that is a far more realistic dystopia than usual.

Q. What made you decide to get serious about writing? How long were you “dabbling” before you felt the time was right to publish your work?

I spent less time “dabbling” and more time following “the right path.” You might know it from traditional publishing. Step one, get an agent. That took two-three years. One agent dropped after 18 months (long story). My second agent lasted about two years before I gave up on traditional publishing.

Had I had more friends in indie publishing earlier, my writing career would be further along.

Q. A lot of writers seem to despise the editing process. Do you like it or hate it? How do you approach the task of editing?

The real problem of editing is that every author thinks they got it right the first time. It’s actually easiest if an author waits a few months, and then rereads their manuscript. At that point, we all read the work and wonder “What was I thinking? Was I on something? Am I a complete idiot?”

But editing becomes a problem for me after the first few passes in short order. After a while, it becomes an exercise in frustration, and makes me just want to set the whole thing on fire.

Q. Most of us authors don’t make enough money from writing – yet – to pay the bills. Do you have a job other than writing?

Writing is my job. And selling my writing. You want to talk about a part that writers hate? Marketing.

Q. When you aren’t crafting amazing stories, what do you do for fun?

Writing isn’t fun?

I read, when I have the time. But I literally write from nine to five every day. And if I’m not writing a book, I’m trying to sell books. I’m occasionally allowed some television and some video games. TV is fun because I rewrite the episodes, and see which ending I like better. The TV shows that surprise me are the ones that last the longest.

Q. What advice do you have for writers who want to become published authors?

If they WANT to be professional authors: DON’T.  Do. Not. Period. It is unforgiving, ungrateful, and punishing. Spend months pumping out a story, and the first question a fan will ask is “That was fun, when’s the next one?”

If you have to be a professional author, go all in. If you’re the person who has to write to get the voices in your head to go away, and you must have a notebook by your bedside to keep track of the fever dreams that keep you up at night … then go ahead and write.

Q. Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?

They think it’s easy. The man on the street can say “Oh, I have a great idea for a book, I just need the time.” Trust me when I say that finding time is bad enough. But as an author– perhaps Orson Scott Card—once said, the first million words are just practice. You don’t just decide to be a writer and then pound out a bestseller – or even a good book.

And “good ideas?” Good ideas are a dime a dozen. The execution? That matters. Creating the work matters. Putting in the effort matters.

Pro-tip, if you ever walk up to a writer and say “Your job is so easy, any idiot can do that,” remember to duck.

Q. As a reader, what about a book turns you away?

  • Prose that is unnecessarily dense. I read for fun, not to practice parsing sentences.
  • Oversexed books: on the page, sex is boring. Give me a plot or characters. Pick one.
  • Nothing happens. I’ve read books where the first 100 pages stay in one place and don’t move.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite book? Why?

Vertical Run, by Joseph Garber. It is a nonstop thrill ride that had great character as well as solid action.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite TV show? Why?

Babylon 5. It was a war story, a romance, and a space opera, with the best drawn characters on television.

Q. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?

Die Hard. I literally rewatch it every year, and still find something new in it.

Q. Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been before? Why?

The Vatican. It would help me do some of the later fight scenes better.

Contact Information:

Author Name: Declan Finn

Blog: declanfinn.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Declan.Finn.Author

Twitter: @DeclanFinnBooks

Book Links:

A Pius Man: amzn.to/2s5Mtc4

Honor at Stake: http://amzn.to/211yOyp

Murphy’s Law of Vampires: http://amzn.to/2egVsna

Love and Let Bite: http://amzn.to/2jCkgpK

Good to the Last Drop: http://amzn.to/2whihhz

It was only on Stun: http://amzn.to/2aaTEKT

Set to Kill: http://amzn.to/2e7tkzR

Sad Puppies Bite Back: http://amzn.to/2czhQE9

Codename: Winterborn: http://tinyurl.com/m69tt8y

Codename: UnSubhttp://amzn.to/2eONNh9

For All Their Wars Are Merry: http://amzn.to/2bAUO0G

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Authors Expo and a Geek Gab Podcast

sae_11Saturday, September 10 was a busy day for me. Representing Silver Empire Publishing, my friend Russell Newquist and I participated in the Huntsville Madison County Library’s Southern Authors Expo. It was a full day of meeting and chatting with readers and other local authors. There was something for everyone, with all genres and ages represented. We connected with some old friends and made lots of new ones.

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After the Expo, I rushed home to settle in at my laptop and don earbuds so I could take part in a podcast discussion with the guys at Geek Gab. It was my first podcast, a new experience for me, and one that I enjoyed very much.

geekgablogoDaddy Warpig (aka Jasyn Jones), Brian Niemeier, and John McGlynn are scintillating and erudite hosts who like to get together weekly and talk books, movies, TV, comics, music, RPG’s, tabletop gaming, video games, sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, horror… As they say, anything geekish goes. Thanks, guys, for making me feel welcome in your warm circle of geekiness!
The YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wK7gEkdiULE
The iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/geek-gab!/id1125835440

Extra thanks to Brian, as he very graciously took the time to read my book Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, and even provided a blurb that is boldly printed on its back cover. He said, “A smart, thrilling mix of history and fantasy. S.D. McPhail is definitely an author to watch.” I am humbled to receive such high praise from a Campbell award-nominated and Dragon award-winning author. Find his novels Nethereal and Souldancer (Volumes 1 and 2 of the Soul Cycle series) on Amazon.com.

swordtodMy novel, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, is a sword-and-science fantasy adventure set in the third-century. While on a quest to avenge a horrific attack on his father the king, a Persian warrior discovers a strange kingdom isolated from the rest of the world. He thinks the villain is hiding there, but a sly princess is determined to sabotage the Persians to protect her kingdom’s ancient secrets. What is she so desperate to keep hidden?  Get your copy on Amazon.com!

Announcing: The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key

I’ve always been fascinated by ancient cultures. Give me a good documentary on the ancient Hittites or the Egyptian Sphynx or an article about the latest theories regarding the Olmecs in Mesoamerica, and I’m in heaven. I’m a die-hard Indiana Jones fan, and not just for handsome Harrison Ford.

RasteemCat
A brown-haired, blue-eyed Persian, like the warrior-prince Rasteem in The Origin Key.

So no one should be surprised that my first novel is about a third-century Persian warrior-prince who discovers a mysterious hidden kingdom that appears to be some kind of Shangri-La. In this place, everyone is healthy, content, and well-educated—NOT the reality of our world in the third century. So how did they achieve this ideal? Do they have magical abilities? That got me thinking about Clarke’s third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

What if, I thought, this place kept itself isolated from the rest of the comparatively barbaric world because they had developed and routinely used advanced technology that we take for granted in the 21st century? Technology that in the hands of savages could be used to destroy on an apocalyptic scale? Technology that looks like magic to outsiders?

That’s the premise of my story, an adult fantasy that blends elements of science fiction to deliver an adventure grounded in actual human history.

The book didn’t happen overnight. On the contrary, it took over a year of hard work, research, bouts of furious pounding away at the keyboard interspersed with wordless dry spells to produce a first draft. Then there was feedback from readers, innumerable editorial redlines, new and improved ideas to strengthen the story, and heartless murdering of beloved darlings.* It seemed to take forever.

When I thought I had a publishable product, I started looking for ways to turn my story into an actual book. Fortunately for me, I made the acquaintance of Russell Newquist, the owner of Silver Empire Publishing. I had attended a panel discussion at a local literary festival where Russell addressed many of the pros and cons of self-publishing, traditional publishing, and indie publishing. Afterward, I approached him and (metaphorically) threw my manuscript at him. Luckily, he (metaphorically) caught it and, to my astonishment, did not fling it back at me in disgust.

So now my bucket list needs editing, too. I’m going to be a published author! I signed a contract to publish my book with Silver Empire! Since then, there has been more feedback, more redlines, and more refinement of the story.

It is with infinite joy that I make this announcement: My debut novel The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key will be available this summer! I’m thrilled to be working with Russell Newquist and everyone at Silver Empire to make this happen. Stay tuned to this blog and social media for further announcements about a release date. Until then, get a taste of the treasures to be found in Dodrazeb in the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire. Two of my short stories are in it and you can pre-order it now directly from Silver Empire.

Oh, and one other thing. The Origin Key is the first in a series of novels detailing the adventures of my Persian warrior-prince in the mysterious kingdom of Dodrazeb. There will be more!

*In writing, “to kill your darlings” means to ruthlessly eliminate any sentence, paragraph, chapter, or piece of writing that does nothing for the story you are trying to tell, no matter how well it is written.