I feel I should know Eric McFarlane, he’s a fellow Scot. But hey, there are quite a lot of us. His bio grabbed me when I read ‘He trained in alchemy …’ and at once I wanted to know more. So here we go.
Hi Eric, and welcome. Tell me about how you came to be published.
A Clear Solution was born many years ago when I and my colleagues in the pharmaceutical company I worked in were given notice of redundancy. Devastating of course, but the upside was that we were given five months notice. I found that my own work evaporated overnight. How to fill the time? Well why not write a novel? After all novelists made lots of money, didn’t they? Write a novel and sell it. How difficult could it be?
Over the next few years I had an on/off love/hate relationship with it, abandoning it for other projects and then picking it up again, but eventually it was complete and the hunt for an agent or publisher began.
During the next months and years more than fifty agents and publishers turned it down. It could have been dispiriting (OK, it was dispiriting) but there had been three handwritten notes during that time with positive comments.
I had put A Clear Solution aside to concentrate on other projects when I heard about Accent Press looking for submissions. They were looking for crime rather than humour, well the novel has crooked policemen and a number of suspicious deaths so why not? I sent it away and forgot about it.
I remembered about it during a holiday in Australia when checking my e-mails. There was a note from an Accent Press editor who was reading my submission and liked it. Could I send the rest? Could I? Well no, I couldn’t, not until I returned to the UK three weeks later but that didn’t seem to be a problem. The surreal element was that this editor, working for the Welsh Accent Press, was currently living not 50 miles from where I was staying in Melbourne.
That’s some tale, Eric. I’m guessing they signed you up, right? So, when I ask what inspired the book, I’m thinking there’s a clue in the title?
Yes, I guess it started with the perennial advice ‘write what you know’. It’s not advice I generally follow but change it to ‘begin with what you know’ and it can be helpful. I’m an industrial chemist by training so why not base the characters in a laboratory? I’ve always enjoyed reading humour so let’s have a humorous novel with a laboratory background. That was how it began. From there it was just pick an inciting incident and go with it.
Sounds great! Your characters – do you see yourself in any of them?
Well partly, yes. Daniel Dreghorn, the hapless hero of A Clear Solution, did start as me, in fact his original name was Derek (subtle or what?). But to reassure any Facebook friends reading this who are even now making a panicked rush for the unfollow button, he no longer resembles me in any way at all. But then I would say that wouldn’t I? I will admit that three of the crazier incidents in the book are based on actual incidents but I’m far too embarrassed to admit which they are.
Hmm, I feel like pressing you on that one … oh well, tell me what you read instead.
I love humour. Tom Sharpe, PJ Wodehouse and the Grossmiths’ Diary of a Nobody were early influences. I’m also keen on crime and thrillers and have read most of the Lee Child and Tess Gerritsen novels. Thomas H Cooke is a favourite and I’ve devoted a blog post to this superb and it seems little known writer. I’ll read most fiction if there’s plot. Great characters, yes of course, but there must be plot.
I confess I don’t know Thomas H Cooke. Maybe I should go looking … but on the other hand, I should read A Clear Solution first! What would you say to other aspiring authors?
I could say my top tip is, don’t listen to advice from authors but that would be very unhelpful (although it contains some truth). Perhaps listen with a critical ear. Authors are likely to give you the advice that worked for them – it won’t necessarily work for you.
Here’s some general advice:
- Write every day – something, anything.
- Embrace rejection. YOUR WORK WILL BE REJECTED. If it’s not then you’re writing for yourself and not sending it out – which of course is fine. Just don’t complain about not being published.
- Rejection of your work is a commercial decision. It may or may not bear any relation to the quality of what you’ve written but in any case it’s NOT a rejection of you.
- Join your local writers group. Don’t agonise, just do it. They don’t bite, at least not in my experience.
All good advice Eric, thank you for that. Tell me, what’s the nicest thing anyone has said about your writing?
I couldn’t stop laughing.
Now I’m really intrigued – a crime/thriller/mystery set in a lab that makes you laugh out loud? (Heads to Amazon…). Thanks for being my guest, Eric.
Eric spent his formative years in Glasgow before de-camping to the wilds of West Lothian via a short stay in Edinburgh. He trained in alchemy and spent most of his working life casting spells in pharmaceutical companies. But writing fiction was his first love and he has done so since facebook was what happened when the latest Stephen King appeared. He has written many short stories, completed four novels (humour, thriller, SF), started, abandoned and re-started several others and even attempted some bad poetry. Find him here:
A Clear Solution
All that lab technician Daniel Dreghorn wants is a better job, more money, a new flat – oh, and perhaps to meet a few more girls. It’s not much to ask of life, is it? All his dreams are answered with one visit to a faulty cash machine, but is it too good to be true? Yes, Daniel, it is…
Daniel’s life goes from bad to mad as a series of deaths are attributed to him and some very shady characters start to believe he is more than he seems. As Daniel’s colleagues at the university become suspicious of his actions, madcap Professor Farquharson sees him as a way of achieving a long-held desire… Can Daniel avoid being drawn into his boss’s crazy schemes? Can he avoid the attentions of a bent copper? Are Dr Bernini’s doughnuts all they seem to be?
A Clear Solution is a hilarious look at what happens when you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time – complete with homicidal bank managers.