Thursday, August 16, 2012

Author Interview, Declan Finn

I had the pleasure of interviewing Declan Finn, author of It Was Only On Stun! Here's the blurb for his novel:

When Sean A.P. Ryan is hired to protect an actress for a three-day science fiction convention, he figures he's in for a quiet time. But he didn't count on factions from her home country to sent hired killers.  This doesn't even count "Middle Earth's Most Wanted Elven Assassin;" he thinks that the actress is really an Elven princess, and will do anything to prove it to her, including murder.

Q: It Was Only On Stun! is a murder mystery set at a science fiction convention. There's a lot of comedy in it, and a lot of gunfire. What made you come up with this scenario?

DF: Well, it was a few things. I'm a science fiction fan, plain and simple. I've been to conventions in New York, with the old Creation, and Atlanta's Dragoncon, and New York Comic con .... I've been to a few. And, like any good writer, I've trained myself to walk into any location or event, and ask, "If I were going to blow this place up in a book, how would I do it?"

Q: I know you've written articles on self-defense, and you have such vivid and exciting action scenes in It Was Only on Stun. What's the background there? Like your main character Sean Ryan, are you a former stuntman?

DF: [Laughs vaguely maniacally] No, I’m not a former stuntman. It Was Only On Stun! was first written before much of my self-defense training – somewhere around ten years ago.  I had learned much of my choreography from movies, which is why I wanted Sean to be a stuntman in the first place, to give him a reason for the outlandish stunts he pulled.  Later on, I had gone through four years of Krav Maga, the self-defense system of the Israeli military.  After that, it necessitated a massive rewrite of most of the fight scenes. 

The short answer to your question (too late, I know), is that I’m a nerd who studies fighting and self-defense.

Q: You're self-publishing this book through Createspace, an Amazon affiliate.  Couldn't you get this book through other avenues?

DF: To be honest, I didn't try.  I put my eggs into one basket, and one book, for a while. Years, actually. Patience is a virtue. Prudence is also a virtue, and it told me that patience was going to do me in. Is this the quick way? Sure.  But you can't say that it's the easy way.  You have to arrange for your own copy editing, your own book covers, your own PR, marketing, press releases, everything.

Q: What other books do you have in the works?

DF: Oh Lord. Where do I start? At last count, there were fifteen novels.  There's another Sean Ryan book that takes place at the Vatican. I have a hostage novel in a bookstore, I have several thrillers, I've got several science-fiction novels, set in two different universes.  I hope to get the science-fiction published sooner or later, but unless I get to hear back from someone soon, I'll be going for the next Sean Ryan, which is a little more serious than this one.  It’s called A Pius Man, a thriller centered around Pope Pius XII … I call it the opposite of the Da Vinci Code, because it’s both factually accurate (the first draft had footnotes) and entertaining.

Q: Do you have any advice to readers who are thinking about writing their own novels?

DF: Step one: FINISH THE BLOODY BOOK.  I can't stress this enough.  I can't scream at people enough.  Every time someone whines that “I have a book in me, I just can't get it published.”  My first thought is, “If there's a book in there, get it surgically removed.”  What I say out loud is, “How much of it have you written?”  Their answer, more often than not, is that they haven't even put pen to paper, or even warmed up the computer.  They can write dozens of tweets a day, but actually writing this book they supposedly really, really want published?

(Read the rest of the interview on my other site: "Catholic Once Again.")

It Was Only On Stun! will be available for free on Kindle at Amazon for five days of Labor Day Week (Sunday to Thursday). You can also buy it at Create Space.

Check out his cool book trailer:

AUTHOR BIO:  Declan Finn lives in a part of New York City unreachable by bus or subway.  Who's Who has no record of him, his family, or his education.  He has been trained in hand to hand combat and weapons at the most elite schools in Long Island, and figured out nine ways to kill with a pen when he was only fifteen.  He escaped a free man from Fordham University's PhD program, and has been on the run ever since.  There was a brief incident where he was branded a terrorist, but only a court order can unseal those records, and realloy, why would you want to know? It Was Only On Stun! is his first novel.

You can visit him at his website:

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Plot and Conflict: How to Structure Your Story

With so many ways of deconstructing--or, because we're writers, constructing--stories (novels, short stories, or movies), which one should you choose as your blueprint? I'll explain a few and you can decide which to use.


In school you may have learned about the three conflict archetypes: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, and Man vs. Himself. Within any story you'll see one or more of these at play.

A man against man conflict would be any story in which the protagonist has a human (or something equal to human within the story's universe) antagonist. Some examples are as follows: Harry Potter versus Voldemort, Luke versus Darth Vader, Iron Man verses Jeff Bridges (I can't recall his character's name).

Man against nature might be survival stories, such as "Swiss Family Robinson," or even alien or zombie stories, such as The Omega Man (the novel)/"I Am Legend" (the film adaptation).

Man against himself is often found as a co-conflict alongside "man vs. man" or "man vs. nature." "Finding Nemo," in which Marlin must find the hero within himself, is a good example of "man (or fish, in this case) vs. himself" as well as "man/fish vs. nature."


Orson Scott Card's MICE quotient is another way of viewing a story. I've written on this before, so I'll be brief.

M- Milieu stories focus mainly on exploring the setting.

I- Idea stories are about answering a question, solving a mystery, or learning some piece of information.

C- Character stories focus on character growth and change.

E- Event stories are about how characters deal with a catastrophe. (Man vs. Nature stories would probably fit in here.)

Most stories will have more than one of these conflict types.


Dan Wells' video series on The Seven Point Plot Structure (see the first video here) is, another way to look at/write about stories. This is the one I'm using as a framework for my WIP. I didn't start writing with this structure in mind, but it helped enormously when I started putting the loose idea and disjointed scenes into a coherent structure. I'll give you a brief rundown of the seven point structure, but see the videos to get a complete explanation.

1-Start with a hook, or starting state of the protagonist. (Harry Potter, in The Sorcerer's Stone, is an orphan living under the stairs. This is the opposite from his state at the end of the book.)

2- Plot turn #1- Introduce conflict, the world changes, and the hero is called to adventure. (Harry learns he's a wizard and starts learning magic.)

3- Pinch #1- Hero must solve a big problem. (In Harry Potter, this is the troll attack.)

4- Midpoint- Shift from reaction to action. (Harry vows to protect the sorcerer's stone.)

5- Pinch #2 - Hero faces a bigger problem than in pinch 1. (Harry loses Ron and Hermione's help in the dungeon.)

6- Plot turn #2 - Hero obtains the last thing or information needed to get to the resolution. (Harry discovers the stone in his pocket because of his pure motive.)

7- Resolution- This is the climax. Harry faces Voldemort and defeats him... at least until the following book/film. (Man, that guy was hard to kill!)


The last way to view story structure that I'll mention is the Hollywood Formula, as explained by Lou Anders. I'll let you check out the Writing Excusespodcast to learn about it. I don't think I can do it justice here. The nuances of the antagonist are fascinating.

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