Meet Derrick McCartney, author of McMinnville

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I began writing a journal when I was in high school and made my first attempt at a novel in my early twenties. It never got off the ground. Over the decades, I turned to nonfiction and wrote four books on North Korea and the Kim family. During COVID, I returned to fiction and wrote my first novel (McMinnville) in about six months. It was published this May. Since then, I have written three other novels and am working on my fifth. It is my hope to publish at least one book each year for the next few years.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

I do not really have a specific genre. So far, I have written sci-fi, mystery, dystopian, and romance novels. As a writer, I am more interested in trying new things and focusing on various techniques of writing. In one novel, a sci-fi mystery, I focused on pacing. The novel spanned sixty years. Once the trilogy is complete, it will span one hundred years. In another, a dystopian novel, I tried my hand at writing in the first person. The novel is about the last person on Earth. It is not easy to write an entire book with only one character. It stretched my skills as a writer. I have also written two romance novels, one normal and another paranormal. I was interested in how to build a relationship across generational and cultural gaps. I learned a lot about character development. Therefore, I would say that my fiction writing is a journey of discovery and learning how to be a better writer.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer and how does that affect your writing?

I have a full-time job as a research director in a defense think tank. Writing is a part-time job. It is something I hope to do full-time once I retire, a way of keeping myself occupied. I try to write every day, but it depends on other demands on my time. I often write in the mornings but am not tied down to a particular time. I am not a creature of habit. My day job is not a 9-5 job, but one where I can set my own hours. This leaves time for me to write when I feel the most productive.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I have always been able to write nonfiction. Fiction, however, has been a challenge. I could write the first few chapters but could never come up with an ending. I am a discovery writer and novel after novel petered out about halfway through. Then I shifted my thought process from plot to character. If I could find a character I wanted to write about, the plot seemed to fall in place. While I can still go down dead ends, I can tell much earlier when I need to stop and move on to another story. Sometimes, I am able to reprocess failed novels into new novels in order to flesh out the stories. So, those hit-and-miss efforts are not wasted.

What have you written so far?

I published my first novel in May 2022. It is called McMinnville. It is a cold case mystery about a dying detective trying to solve a case of two photographs of a UFO taken in 1950. As he delves into the case, he begins to question his sense of reality and history as he knows it. A phenomenon, which he does not completely understand, begins to mess with his life. He discovers that things are not what they seem to be, and a clock is ticking. This is the first novel in a trilogy.

Do you work with an outline or plot sketch, or do you prefer to let a general idea guide your writing?

I am a discovery writer. I usually come up with two crossing plot lines and a character or two and I’m off to the races. If I outline, it is only to get over a hump in the story. Normally, the ending comes into focus around halfway through the novel.

How did you decide how to publish your books?

I tried several times to find an agent but had no luck. Then I turned to self-publishing. I reached out to MindStir, which has helped with the editing, cover design, copyright, and marketing. Given the challenges facing traditional publishing these days, I feel that the only way forward for me is through self-publishing. Indie/alternative publishing no longer suffers the stigma it did back in the day. Provided the authors take the proper steps to publish their novels, including rewrites and getting them edited, there is no reason why self-published books cannot be on par with traditionally published books.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Get something on paper. That means start writing and stick with it until the end. Then rewrite again and again before turning it over to editors, beta readers, and finally the publishing process. Once you publish your first book, you know you can do it. That confidence will likely make your next novel, and the novels after that, much easier to write.

Tell us more about your main character. What inspired you to develop this character?

Ray Baker is a recently retired New York homicide detective who has recently learned he is dying of colon cancer. While he still can, he wants to fulfill a bucket list by traveling by train to places around the country where he grew up, beginning in Oregon. This is where he learns about the UFO case that he agrees to investigate. The character is based on an amalgamation of myself and several people I know and have read about. He is a congenial fellow, yet extremely smart and perceptive. Kind of a mix between Jimmy Stewart and Columbo.

What is your next project?

I just finished a dystopian novel about the last man on Earth, or at least in New York City. It is a first-person single-character novel. Infused with lots of scientific theory, this novel describes a world where classical and quantum physics have become linked in some interesting ways and the protagonist needs to figure out how to navigate his way out of his situation.

The novel I am now working on is a return to the romance genre. It examines the challenges that Gen Z and Millennials face in finding love and relationships. Black Pill, Red Pill, Blue Pill, post-feminism, manosphere, hypergamy, hook-up culture, etc…The novel is an attempt to come to grips with the alienation and social frustration facing our future.

Want to learn more about Derrick and get the book?

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