Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday Debut Interview: A Clear Solution by Eric McFarlane

Today's Wednesday Debut Interview features Eric McFarlane and his humorous adult crime novel, A Clear Solution, which is now available from Accent Press.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Eric!
First, Wendy, thanks for having me on Operation Awesome. Ignoring the writing, I'm a chemistry graduate who worked for the same company for many years in the Pharmaceutical industry, latterly as laboratory manager. After redundancy I had several other jobs in the sector before throwing in the towel and starting a business selling stamps over the internet. This is how I currently find an income, not, sadly, through my writing.

Tell us about A CLEAR SOLUTION!
The book’s unlikely hero is Daniel Dreghorn, chemistry technician, a man with the knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A series of deaths are incorrectly attributed to him and as a result a clutch of his crazy colleagues and acquaintances believe he may be able to help them with their own nefarious schemes. These to include unwanted spouse disposal, exam paper theft and drug production.

In a single sentence: If it can happen it will.

The main character of A CLEAR SOLUTION is a lab technician — have you had experience working in science labs?
Most of my working life has been spent in laboratories. It was a natural background for my first novel.

Between chemical labs, homicidal bank managers, and crime... what part of this book required the most research?

I must admit to always keeping research to a minimum in anything I write. I knew I was ok with the setting. Homicidal bank managers? – well, who doesn’t know one of those? I did some research into the effect of cyanide poisoning but for the most part I just made it up as I went along.

Let's talk a bit about your publishing journey. How long as this process taken for you, from the first draft until publication date?
A long time! The novel was started more than 15 years ago as an antidote to redundancy. I also began to write short stories. Then I read a comment somewhere to the effect that there was no market for comedy. So why am I writing comedy? I dropped A Clear Solution and started writing a thriller. This in turn was dropped when I had an idea for a novelisation of an SF short story I had written. Then, unbelievably to me now, I launched into yet another novel length project. At this point I stopped and gave myself a shake. You’ve got to finish something. So A Clear Solution it was, being the project nearest completion.

After more months of editing I finally found enough courage to send out to a couple of agents with the inevitable result. Over the next few years it was turned down by more than 50 agents and publishers. Although there were a few positive comments it was dispiriting and I put A Clear Solution aside. During this time I had completed my crime thriller and started to concentrate on finding a market for that. Then I heard about Accent Press in a writing magazine and that they were looking for crime novels. A Clear Solution is firstly a humorous novel but crimes happen in it 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. Now it’s on the shelves. As I say, a long time!

Wow! That is quite the journey! Every writer experiences some rejection and setbacks along the way. How did you learn to cope with them and move on?
If you’re going to write for publication then you’re going to be rejected. It’s harsh but that’s how it is and every writer has to find their own way to cope. Personally I’ve never had a problem with coping. It’s your fiction that’s being rejected not you. If you try to understand the writing industry as it is now and the economic situation you’ll learn not to take it personally.

What makes Accent Press and your editor(s) there a good fit for you and your book?
Accent Press are I believe among a growing number of smaller publishers who are able to take a chance on novels which are not mainstream and would be turned down by the larger companies.

Tell us about your cover. It's been awhile since I took chemistry, but I like how the title is written a bit like a chemical equation. Who designed it? How much say did you have in it? What do you want it to tell your readers about your story?
The cover came from Accent Press, I had no hand in it but thought it was great as soon as I saw it. It includes many aspects of the novel; humor, chemistry and murder.

Was A CLEAR SOLUTION the original title you'd had in mind for this story? If not, tell us about how it came to be titled that.
A Clear Solution was my title for the book from the start although I didn’t think of it until the first draft was finished. Accent were happy with it. It has several meanings which are combined by the end of the novel. To say any more would be a spoiler.

Can you tell us about some of the things you been working on between signing a contract for A CLEAR SOLUTION and its release? What about the post-book-deal process been most surprising for you?

I had already completed a sequel to the novel when it was taken up so am doing final edits on it.

I also have an SF novel I’d love to see published and have been tweaking that. I’m also in the middle of a comedy crime novel with a female lead character. I’ve been surprised at how much time book promotion has taken up, seriously digging into writing time.

How does it feel to finally have your book out in the hands of readers?
It feels fantastic. I always believed in the book, the friends who had read it liked it but now I know for sure it was good enough to be published and that’s a great feeling

Is there any other advice you'd like to pass on to others pursuing publication? Anything you would have done differently?
Don’t give up! See my comment above about rejections. But DO listen to advice. Actively look for criticism and if several people say the same thing they are probably right so act on it. When you’ve finished something don’t concentrate exclusively on looking for publication. Write something else. The more you write the better you get at ANY stage of your career from beginner to best-seller.

And, just for fun, since the blurb mentions a particular doughnut that may not be all it seems to be, what's your favorite type of doughnut?
Coated with sugar and oozing cream of course. Ah that reminds me, coffee break.

Thanks so much for joining us!

Readers of crime & humor -- pick up Eric McFarlane's book here:


If you are an author looking forward to your debut sometime between December 2015 and June 2016 and are interested in being part of our Wednesday Debut Interview feature, please contact me at wendynikel at gmail dot com with your book title, category, genre, publisher, and release date.

1 comment:

  1. It's great to read about another scientist-come-writer! I think people often separate the scientists from the creative types, but they're quite intertwined, especially when you're in the lab trying to come up with a creative solution around the inevitable problems that crop up. The book sounds great. Wishing Eric the best of luck with it!


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