Wednesday 10 April 2024

Author Profile and Interview with Declan Finn

Author Profile and Interview with Declan Finn

Two years ago I finally dived into the works of Declan Finn, I had been aware of his name and works for a while but had not got around to reading any. Once I started I came close to a book a week until I had finished all that were currently in print. And I have been working through the plethora of anthologies he has contributed to. Recently Declan took some time from his busy schedule to answer some questions for the readers here at Book Reviews and More. So here in his own words is Declan Finn.

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How are you nurturing that dream?

When I was 16, I wrote some fan fiction. It spiralled into a multiple volume series that looked nothing like the original by the time I was done with it. I had basically rewired my brain so that it was always “on.” I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without thinking of how to turn it into a plot or a scene, or an action sequence. 

I wouldn’t say it’s a dream. Kind of more like a night terror. Because, again, my brain is always on. Always. I can’t read a book or watch TV without rewriting it. I have to spend almost as much time marketing as I do writing—imagine spending hours online as part of establishing a brand and interacting with people, especially when you hate being on social media. That’s writing. That’s the inside of my brain.

2. Who were some of the biggest supporters of your writing?

My father encouraged me to start writing my ideas down. Then he encouraged me to continue writing. He was possibly my biggest fan early on. In fact, he was going to reread all of my books when I moved him to Texas. He died a month before the move out of New York City.

My wife was a fan before she married me, so, bonus.

Overall, my family has never asked me “When are you going to get a real job?” In part because I write from nine to five. This is my real job. Though it feels more unreal than not.

3. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

A lot of my early work was inspired by J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5 and author of multiple comic books. 

Timothy Zahn helped me create characters who think their way through problems.

Reading John Ringo taught me how to meld politics into a plot… because wherever two or three are gathered, at some level, there is politics, even if it’s just interpersonal. And done correctly, they can add interesting complications to the story.

And David Weber taught me space combat. Because David Weber.

4. You currently have a few series on the go with various publishers, how do you decide which works to publish with which publisher?

I started with one book with Damnation Press… and they were bought by another company that promptly closed them. So that went nowhere.

My first real publisher was Silver Empire Press. I recall that they approached me and was willing to publish almost everything I had self-published at the time. And Silver Empire encouraged me to create a new IP, which turned into Saint Tommy, NYPD.

But when Silver Empire fell apart, I had offers from three other groups. Honestly, I just wanted to try them all out.

My space opera, White Ops, was my first project. It was with Tuscany Bay Books, only because Silver Empire was backlogged for a while (Covid and government messed around with them pretty badly). So I figured, “Okay, they won’t published White Ops until they finish Saint Tommy, NYPD. I’ll give White Ops to Tuscany Bay.” Tuscany Bay ended up with Saint Tommy because I was already with them on the one, might as well do the other

My other series, Love at First Bite, was about Catholic vampires. I was familiar with Three Ravens Press, and a lot of their interest was in Urban Fantasy. So I bounced Love at First Bite off of them. They were happy to take it

My Pius Trilogy was politically incendiary, so I went with a more politically minded publisher, Conservatarian Press. It has not yet been republished, they’re building infrastructure. 

In short, I’m just trying things out with people I know.

Ironically, a pretty big Indie publisher approached me AFTER I had signed with three different publishers. So, that drove me a little nuts.

5. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

Had I known then what I know now, I would have become an electrician or a welder. I can turn my brain off on the way home, and read a book in peace.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

It used to be that I would fully develop the characters, wind them up, and let them roam as I throw plot points at them. I let them react naturally. 

Then I started outlining, because Silver Empire asked me to… and sometimes, I still let the characters roam, because they know pacing better than I do.

Then I have people edit. Then I edit. Then, if I’ve made significant changes, I have them edit again. Then I give it to the publisher. Usually, at this point, it’s their problem.

Except for PR. Because PR will lay heavily on you the writer. What? Did you think you could just write the book, and not be integral to selling it?

7. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

The characters are too real sometimes.

I have straight-up killed characters, and they’re still coming back in short stories.

I wrapped up Love at First Bite seven years ago… and there’s a sequel series en route.

And you thought keeping Sherlock Holmes at the bottom of Reichenbach was difficult for Conan-Doyle.

8. What if your favourite character that you have written and why?

Probably Thomas Nolan. I got the most mileage out of him. He was even easy to write.

Though Sean Ryan is a good runner-up, since he’s been in my head the longest. And he’s a bit more balanced between “I grew up in a monastery” and “I feed pedophiles into a woodchipper in my spare time.”

9. What is your favourite book you have written and why?

Go ask grandparents who their favorite grandchildren are. Same thing.

10. Many people have commented on how each of your books would make great films. Have any of them been optioned or has any interest in actually developing them begun?

I have a film script for the first Saint Tommy novel. I have a pilot for Love at First Bite. But I have no offers or options.  Angel studios may have the balls, but their method of contacting them about developing contact is a problem. Nick Searcy would have the balls to do it, but he’s busy. Neal McDonough might be the last option for someone I can reach out to.

11. If you were asked for a list of 10 Catholic Fiction books to read, what would they be?

1. Ann Margaret Lewis, Murder in the Vatican, as well as The Watson Chronicles.  Okay, and Nephilim: Corruption
2. John Desjarlais (RIP), Bleeder and Viper
3. Adam Lane Smith did several great Catholic novels, but I think he’s pulled them all. Keep an eye out for when / if he republishes them.
4. NR LaPoint, Chalk
5. John C. Wright's Somewhither … and Iron Chamber of Memory.
6. L Jagi Lamplighter’s Rachel Griffin Series
7. Tim Powers. Any of Tim Powers. In fact, we need to put him and John Wright in a room together and see what books come out of it.
8. Ralph McInerny, The Red Hat. I know he’s known for Father Dowling, but I enjoyed that novel.
9. Russel Newquist, War Demons
10. Richard Paolinelli, Escaping Infinity

12. If you were asked for a list of 10 Catholic Non-Fiction books to read, what would they be?

I first read this as “non-Catholic fiction books.” So since I made that list, they are… 

1. Blaine Lee Pardoe: Splashdown
2. John Ringo, Princess of Wands
3. Ringo / Weber, March Upcountry
4. Timothy Zahn, any. Seriously, any.
5. Jim Butcher, The Dresden Files
6. Leslie Charteris: The Saint.
7. Jeffery Deaver, The Coffin Dancer
8. James Rollins, The Sigma Files
9. Karl Gallagher, The Lost War
10. Kal Spriggs, In Death’s Shadow

Catholic Non-Fiction.

1. Ronald Rychlak, Hitler, the War, and the Pope, Revised and Expanded
2. The Inquisition, by Howard Kamen
3. For all their Wars are Merry, by Declan Finn
4. Pius History (coming soon), from Declan Finn
5. A Philosophy for Living, by John Konecsni, and Declan Finn
6. Triumph
7. An Exorcist Tells his Story, Gabrielle Amorth
8. The Rite
9. The Snakebite Letters, Peter Kreeft
10. The Bad Catholics Guide to Good Living, by John Zmirak

13. All of your in print books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of eBooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

If these buggers are going so cheap that they can’t pay me the $4 or less per book, I can’t imagine that they’d pay if the books were only available legally.

14. Some authors monitor torrent sites and contact them to remove their content. Do you do so or have someone do so for you?

Neither. I will occasionally trip over someone who has pirated my books, and only then do I bother filing a report with someone. But there has been one author already who sued a pirate site, and the pirate is still doing it. So, I’ll do it if it’s right in front of me, but I’m not going to go hunting for it.

15. Why did you choose the pen name Declan Finn? Do you have any regrets with using a nom de plume?

My father had a side business called Declan Finn Inc. I would have used Junior, but he told me not to bother.

Do I regret using an alias? Heck no. My last name is bad enough that I worry that people will swallow their tongue if they tried.

16. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

Joseph Garber’s Verticle Run. 
Tom Clancy
Bernard Cornwell
Timothy Zahn.

17. What are some of your favourite books and authors now?

Ann Margaret Lewis, Murder in the Vatican / The Watson Chronicles.  
NR LaPoint
John C. Wright
L Jagi Lamplighter
Richard Paolinelli, Escaping Infinity
Blaine Lee Pardoe: Splashdown
John Ringo, Princess of Wands
Ringo / Weber, March Upcountry
Timothy Zahn
Jim Butcher
Leslie Charteris
Karl Gallagher
Kal Spriggs

18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

Keep in mind, I am speaking now as the son of a Catholic philosophy professor, with a PhD. I myself have two Bachelors, a Masters, and a PhD (ABD).

Education, all education, should be to get you ready for life.

Start with high school. Because high school education should prepare people for the real world. Teenagers should leave high school with basic check balancing skills, the ability to fill out a tax return, and the ability to use power tools and metal working. Also, critical thinking skills. Because not everyone goes to college, not everyone has the ability to go to college. Teens should be able to be able to think on their own, because they may have to. 

College should be trade schools. You want a history degree? You should be trained to be able to get a job in history when you get out … whether it be a professional researcher, a high school or a college professor. I’ve got the Masters in history, and it’s absolutely useless. Why? Because when I was in the middle of my PhD, I learned from the American History Association, that demand for my research focus (European history) was at an all time low.

College should tell you upfront what your employment prospects are.

You want a gender studies degree, you can go get a minor in it, but there are no jobs in it. And you should be told that up front.

20 years ago, college felt like high school, the sequel. I worry about what it looks like today.

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

You mean, aside from “The complete book of ship building” and “Navigating by the stars”?

Anyway… Yeah, that’s the sort of stack that requires length and depth. Especially if I’m going to reread them over and over. 

Les Miserables
The complete Three Musketeers.
The Father Brown Omnibus, Chesterton
Lord of the Rings
The Silmarillion
The Summa Theologica
The complete Narnia
John C Wright’s Somewhither
Triple Zeck, a Nero Wolfe Omnibus
Heir to the Empire trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

Get a degree in marketing or graphic design. Or both. Probably join toastmasters. Because if you’re going into the arts thinking that you’re going to avoid people, you are dead wrong.

Writing is a business. Don’t tell me how it’s “just art.” Artists had patrons. Renaissance art was created because people with money commissioned them. You cannot separate art and money with a crowbar … and I’m not referring to how art pieces are used for illicit activities. 

21. Bonus Question: You often give advice stating that people do not really want to be writers. If someone were insistent on becoming one what advice would you give them?

I always clarify between if someone “wants to be a writer” and if someone “has to be a writer.” 
If you have to be a writer, and you are compelled to write, just embrace it, because it’s too late for you. Welcome to the party pal.
And if you want to be a writer … why? Do you think it will be easy? Fun? It’s work. It may be enjoyable work, but writing is work. 
Worse, selling your writing is work. 
But yeah, learn about graphic design and marketing. You can get people to do this for you, but it’s cheaper if you do it yourself. The more you control, the better.
Find readers among your friends. And I mean friends who will insult you to your face, because you need people who will not spare your feelings as they edit your work. Find friends who will take a blue pen to published newspaper articles. Find your nearest English major and put them to work. Because you cannot edit your own work… unless you want to wait a while.

Declan give us some very serious and substantial answers to the 21 questions he faced. He has provided some excellent advice on education and on writing. He has given some great lists of books to read. A number of the authors he mentioned I was aware of or had not read. And because of Finn my ‘to be read’ bile just grew significantly. Declan spends a lot of time on social media promoting other authors, books and specific publishers. If you have not read anything by him I encourage you to do so. I regret not having started reading his works earlier, so I encourage you not to make my mistake. I recommend starting with White Ops, Saint Tommy, or Live at first bite! 

Books by Declan Finn:
Love At First Bite Series:

Other books:

Anthologies contributed to:
Luna: Planetary Anhtology Series Book 2
Supernatural Streets
Starflight: Tales From The Starport Lounge
Mercury: Planetary Anthology Series Book 4
Venus: Planetary Anthology Series Book 5
Mars: Planetary Anthology Series Book 7
Places Beyond the Wild: A Z-Day Anthology
Shoot the Devil: Ten Tales of Humans Defeating the Demonic
Fantastic Schools, Volume 6

Honor At Stake - Declan Finn - Love at First Bite Book 1

Hell Spawn - Declan Finn - Saint Tommy NYPD Book 1

White Ops - Declan Finn - White Ops Book 1

A Pius Man - Declan Finn - The Pius Trilogy Book 1

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