Saturday, 24 March 2012

Interrogating Ken Magee

My 4th interview is with Ken Magee, author of Dark Tidings.

How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

I write fantasy and people who read that genre don’t place too many restrictions on the writer. There was one scene that I was writing for the Dark Tidings sequel that involved a naked wizard and a couple who had snuck off to be alone in a secluded tavern (don’t ask how that all came about!)... I had a lot of fun writing it, but when I read it again, I decided it needed to be toned down a bit. I may ask Joo to read the revised scene to make sure it now qualifies as ‘decent’.

What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.

I generally write fantasy novels. Well, maybe ‘always’ is more accurate. I’ve written one novel and it’s a contemporary fantasy. I love writing the genre because you can let your imagination loose and take the story and the characters wherever takes your fancy. There are pretty much no limitations and there’s no need to do exhaustive research (which is just not my thing). Dark Tidings is an amusing novel with, I’ve been told, a good sprinkling of laugh-out-loud moments... I adore humour so I may, sometime in the future, try my hand at a pure comedy novel.

Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?

I couldn’t do without all the above. I am constantly jotting down ideas on scraps of paper which then end up scattered all over my desk. Every so often I have to tidy them away into a box file or transcribe them into an ideas document.

Recently I got myself an LED pen which now lives on my bedside table with a notebook. If I get inspiration in the middle of the night, I can use the pen to make notes without having to put the light on and disturb my wife. She loves my pen!

How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with?

There’s always going to be something of me, and the people I know, in the characters. I would, of course, never tell the real people who they inspired although I’m sure a couple of them know exactly who they are in the book. I think having real people in your head when you’re writing helps give life to the characters, but I wouldn’t let it limit how a character develops.

And I guess I’d like to be Tung, the slightly roguish medieval time-traveller, he’s a lot of fun and he’s got two things that I haven’t... youthfulness and hair.

Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?

Yes, so much so that I mentioned it in the dedication. On the plus side though, it keeps me out of her way.

What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

I like a lot of genres, but my heart sits squarely in the fantasy world. My favourite author is Terry Pratchett and reading his books has, no doubt, influenced my style of writing. I also love Harry Harrison, Douglas Adams and Grant Naylor (the name used by writers Rob Grant and Doug Naylor when they wrote the fantastic Red Dwarf books).

As an example of other genres, one of my favourite books is McCarthy’s Bar by Pete McCarthy. It tracks his journey along the west coast of Ireland and in it he introduces us to his ‘Rules of Travel’... rule 8 being ‘Never pass a bar that has your name on it.’ I follow that rule on my travels, but luckily there are not too many Magee pubs.

What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

I find marketing very difficult and convincing readers that Dark Tidings has the X factor is part of the process that I struggle with (or rather, with which I struggle!). I guess the first thing is getting the blurb right. I also like having a tagline which I can use when there isn’t time for the full blurb. For Dark Tidings I use ‘What happens when ancient magic meets the internet? One thing is certain, modern life will never be the same again.’ After that, all I can do is talk enthusiastically about the book that is my baby.

But maybe I’d like to throw this one back to the readers by asking ‘What do I need to do to convince you that Dark Tidings had the X factor?’ I really would welcome suggestions.

How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

I’m very happy to have a mistake pointed out, because that means I can fix it... part of the magic with Kindle and eBooks in general is that you can get errors sorted quickly. Having said that, I am always very disappointed to find that I missed a mistake in the first place.

At the proofreading stage, my biggest problem was with compound words. A simple example is... hair dryer, hair-dryer or hairdryer? Apparently I had adopted a very 'relaxed' style, which meant I spelt words in the way I felt made it easiest for the reader. I actually liked the style, but my publisher wanted formal spelling rules to be followed... and there are lots of rules. I’m much better now, but I still need to be careful with the likes of spot check and spot-checking.

What do you like most about visiting KUF?

I am a member of a number of bookie social media sites and I try to participate without being a pain about mentioning my own book too much... I hope I have found the balance. What I like most about KUF is the people and the constructive natures of the forums... you rarely see any nastiness, unlike a lot of other places. KUF is a problem though because I can spend way too much time enjoying myself there.

What is on your near horizon?

I am writing the follow on to Dark Tidings, the working title is The End of the Tunnel and it should be published early in the summer. I’m hoping there are lots of readers of the first book who’ll want to know what else could possibly happen to the main characters... and I hope they care what happens to them.

Where can we find you for more information?

I do have a Facebook page, but as I said before about marketing, I find it difficult to know what to put there! Amazon is a good place to find out more about Dark Tidings - it has the full blurb plus a bunch of reviews. I’m also happy to answer questions at or, of course, you can always find me on KUF.


  1. A great interview Joo!
    I love finding out about authors in this way & Ken is one of my favourites, so a bonus for me.
    Dark Tidings is a brilliant read, one of the best books I've read, so can't wait till The End of the Tunnel is released!


  2. Great stuff! And I can only agree with Ken about KUF being a problem because it's easy to spend too much time there. Damn KUF for being so wonderful!