July 5, 2021

S1 Ep11: I can't believe it's Caimh! (That rhymes by the way!?)

This week we talk to multi-talented writer Caimh McDonnell about hecklers, dogs and successful self publishing. And we witness a huge moment in the history of podcasting; the release of Dave's brand new catchphrase!
Gary Delaney - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qja1VIOBVcs
 Music by Dano Songs

well here we are at the start of another exciting failing writers podcast and this one is actually quite interesting and exciting it is an equal measure uh we've got a lovely lovely interview coming up uh with queef mcdonald who has done lots of things yeah over the years including stand-up comedy lots of writing of things making us feel bad for not really doing anything yeah he's been quite prolific and quite successful hasn't he yeah yeah and now he's got a successful series several series of books um kind of comedy crime mystery i guess yeah it would be quite depressing really to think about the amount that he's done it isn't though because he's such a jolly man we have such a lovely chat with him that's true i was thinking if he uh writes as fast as he talks that's why he's got he's getting through them books and he yes yes yeah yeah we should point out that you won't you as listeners you won't hear much from us over the next hour or so um no bad thing no no could you almost hear the collective thanks to the listeners there couldn't you listen to somebody else like a few signs of relief a few cheers yeah yeah good but i would recommend i know some people listening to podcasts are like on one and a half speed or one a quarter speed kind of get through more stuff this probably isn't one of the ones you want to do that for but yeah we'll we'll come back at the end to just say how did you like it and uh another annoying thing we we're going to start off with that exactly okay exactly like that okay so remember remember how you said that well i've listened to the interview and then that's you've got it that could become your catchphrase it could you have to say it how did you like it brilliant brilliant brilliant oh god right here's queef

so we should probably just start by welcoming queef mcdonald to the show uh thanks for coming on i'm delighted to be here great we should probably start by um pointing out that uh the way that we kind of know each other i first met you at the bbc writers room northern loves sitcom initiative back in 2009 but for clarity i also last met you at the bbc writers room northern laughs sitcom initiative back in 2009. so we're not that familiar with each other it's been quite the roller coaster ride as it has how have you been well we we have not been doing that great which is why when we started this podcast and what we like to do is speak to people who at some point had an equal footing to us and then examine how they've managed to become successful whilst we've somewhat floundered we were never equal

it's entirely untrue but it was just too easy sorry that's the key isn't it that's the key but i guess we should we should start there like was was that do you remember much about that initiative or was it useful for you just to clarify dave's desperately hoping that you're gonna name in some kind of muse or that was the start meeting dave was the point where it just everything became clear and i owe everything to yeah well it's the guy i spent over a decade uh stalking ever since that time so why he has already seen me the woods i have seen him a lot um but yeah no it was great i mean i do remember because we part of that we got uh phil mele and craig cash were our mentors as part of that which was uh pretty cool and i've i've i've been lucky enough to kind of work with phil on some stuff since then um i've been around his house he's got a cat it's lovely um nice is that the musical no but but weirdly we are writing a musical together

on your podcast you guys are so much better asking questions to me because i was going to say what kind of cat yeah i i speaking as a dog lover annoying they all are um he does he also has a wonderful cam energy event because my dog dog is a bit hyper as we were discussing before because i should point that out because he's also in the room as i'm recording this so he may end up featuring quite prominently but phil has a lovely cam energy where uh he's one of the people where he walks in and the dog calms down very quickly because phil just has that calm energy to him um so it answers your question yay ever since then my dog's been a lot calmer sorry no um yes but yeah it was one of those things where i think what i like about competitions because someone was asking about them recently that yeah they do they provide focus and stuff and that was that was a particularly good one because you got to work with craig cash and family and get feedback from people who really know what they're talking about so yeah um so yeah i mean it's fantastic and um since then i've had several sitcoms commissioned and uh no i haven't known them because yours i remember yours was about death wasn't it or it featured the character death yeah yeah it was it was it was a shameless terry practice rip off in hindsight no but um yeah it was it was exactly that and then we actually ended up trying to get it away uh like with phil and craig's company and um at one point we thought we got really close to it getting on radio 4. because weirdly they we put it in it didn't get through and they asked us to resubmit it the next year um like they actually came to us out of nowhere we were like oh okay um and we resubmitted it and then they said oh no it didn't make it again and we're like that's just cruel isn't it yeah it was yeah yeah so that was um but that's the look i've got so many things in my career that are things like that where you think this is it and then it isn't then it turns out the things that ends up being it is not the stuff you thought it was going to be um but yeah but i mean anything like that it's great to sort of can start working with good people um and yeah since then there's been various different sitcoms and stuff i mean i won't give you the whole potted history of my career in one go now uh because it'll just involve me talking for an hour and some tears and the dog's probably gonna walk out i mean that's basically why we're here it does seem to be a lot of stuff it does they i'll be honest no think of backing it because i've done a lot of stuff recently where i've been asked about you and you go wow there is a lot of stuff that's happened over the thing different kind of ups and downs and the great thing about where i am now and also serious about my career is only recently um writing books and stuff where a lot of things you probably thought were wasted at the time like oh that didn't go anywhere and and the great thing where having my career now is honestly it kind of feels like everything had a purpose in in the sense that nothing was wasted if you know what i mean which is a weird thing to sort of a point to get to yeah but it now does feel like sort of everything kind of makes sense uh because everything is kind of congealed into a happy place more or less um so because you were you were a stand-up comedian for quite a while i think um nearly 20 years was that your sort of uh was that your dream when you when you started out is that what you wanted to be or was writing always a passion and you just did of stand up on the side yeah it was always sort of weirdly i was kind of always half in half out in some ways where um i kind of want to do all that stuff but i never considered myself a sort of natural performer because basically i retired god i actually retired almost exactly two years ago i should probably check the dates the next couple of days my anniversary of because i was um for the couple of years before that i was mainly supporting my two friends of mine on tour because i was lucky enough that uh comedians called sarah milliken and gary delaney are my literally my two closest friends in comedy they're a married couple as most people now know um and so i wasn't basically supporting the two of them on various tours traveling around the country which was lovely although you start doing those kind of gigs uh you do quickly lose your thirst to to get a stag do from birmingham to shut up in a club gig um but yeah so i was going to deal with that and i've always i've always sort of did both um and i you know i think at different points you would ask me what my goal was weirdly oh you know i think it varies where you go oh i want to be a writer or i want to be a stand-up comedian and stuff and um because they always felt related i think one of the lucky things i've had in my career is um if you can having multiple things like that is great because i know at different points in my career when the stand-up was going great nothing was happening on the right-hand side or if the right-hand side was going great you know things work great on the stand-up side and when you're in the you know we're in the earth when you're self-employed you know as we've all seen in the last year the last couple of years you know it can be quite brutal and it's always good to have multiple things going but even just from a mental health point of view just to have multiple things that you can you know do different things i think you know when you're working on writing nothing's happening but i'll do a stand-up gig and it go well and getting the boost out of that is great and at the same time having the things to come back to and work on during the week when you're not doing stand-up it's just very healthy mentally for you um yeah so yeah i've been i think the mix is very good and the reason i eventually um gave up stand-up comedy um was just because my as well come on to my books sort of took off and it just became um more than a full-time job i mean literally my wife now gave up her job and she runs the company that does all my books um there's two of us doing it full-time um which means the dog is he gonna get the dog involved yeah well it means the dog basically has the world's worst separation anxiety because he's like why should any nobody leaves the house anymore and as soon as anyone tries to he go cray-cray um but yeah so you know we've been very lucky in that regard so but yeah and giving up stand-up was um i kind of wanted because he could just sort of disappear and a lot of people sort of don't retire from stand up they just sort of disappear or do less gigs and then kind of wander off and what was nice is i got to go um i wanted to properly finish and say you know this is my my career and put a nice full stop in it and it was great because i did um a club called the stand in there's three of them is newcastle edinburgh and glasgow which are just incredible stand up close if anyone gets the chance it is really there's as i can say honestly now as somebody who does is not looking for gigs anymore if you want the rankings of good clubs you should go to around the country it is the three stans it is the comedian in brighton um the the comedy store manches in london more than manchester manchester is good but london is you know it's london is the best one um due to the design of the room which we don't have time to go into now uh the glee club in birmingham as well those are the kind of places that are the really great ones i'm sure miss and there's loads of great independent ones as well but for the bigger ones those are the ones um so i got to finish at the the stand in glasgow supporting by the guy i lived with for a decade gary delaney um and that was lovely and it was a quite surreal thing it's quite surreal to stand on stage and have that thought go through your head going that bit you've just said that's the last time you're ever saying that it's like it goes like yeah and you sort of had that little voice in the back your head while you're doing your last ever gig going don't lose focus but that's the last time you're ever saying that bit um so yeah it was nice to finish that off and standup's given me so much uh both in terms of what you learned as a writer and all that and also uh the brilliant people you get a chance to work with so it's been great yeah interestingly i got to see something that i wrote absolutely bomb uh at the standing glass game so there's a nice symmetry we've all seen that there's nothing quite like saying something you've written go in front of a live audience and go oh um this is terrible i still have flashbacks bad previews what's the worst what's the worst one you've ever had oh my god the biggest death on stage that you've had oh i mean it'll be in liverpool because that's where that's where that happens i mean i enjoyed i really enjoyed playing liverpool or you know i used it but there is there is a certain way of doing it um there's a great friend of my guy called uh jason cook who's he's written the you know the johnny vegas things the detective stuffs that they were on about yeah he's wrote all those as well as lots of other things he's a very good writer brilliant stand-up comedian as well um i mean he's one of the guys who really has done a lot of really good stuff in different mediums but he had a thing about remember talking about playing liverpool and there is frankly a certain way you have to play liverpool um right you have to make it about them and sort of go oh you're great you are let me just like jason always just think i'm not even going to talk do stand up i was going to tell you funny stories that have happened while i'm here and then he tells stories of various different things he made up in various other places and pretends they're all in liverpool all in there yeah and then jason could rip the room off because he could actually rip the roof off of a club but yeah so that is that but i can remember i died horribly in liverpool where i made a joke uh it was it was flooding i remember that it was like um it was flooding outside and i tried to make a joke about there was so much flooding it was a bad joke but there was so much flooding that i saw i've tried to make some joke about seeing a fish take the hubcaps off a car or something ever and the gig already wasn't going well and they took that to me and you're saying all skills are thieves and i was like no it's just making a silly joke because there's so much rain about how a fish could theoretically steal the hubcaps off oh god um but yeah i can remember i can remember that being the like literally dry all that thing like the dry mouth the sweaty palms all the stuff you kind of think is is nonsense and then is it just does it just seem like an absolute age until the end of your oh i mean it's it's i made 12 minutes over 20. um and it was it was you know hurray and believe me that's i've done well there right now what some people manage i very much my stand up i was quite chatty in the sense i could emcee to get you know you know i could talk to the audience and stuff like that as in my career so i kind of was lucky in the sense i didn't have many deaths like again gary won't mind me saying this gary delaney i don't know if you're aware of him he's a brilliant one-liner comedian yeah i know yeah he's he's right up there with honestly the very best guy writers in the world um he really is his shows these days are incredible but gary doesn't want me saying this gary's had way more debts in his career than i have because he started off being um deadpan um and the thing with being deadpan is when it's going great you rip it up but if you're dying you die if it doesn't land yeah yeah like the first yeah you're not adding much energy to the room and there's all kinds of gaps for people to come in so that's the thing whereas you may have noticed i don't know about this this might come as a shock to you gentleman but i speak quite fast uh so if like if you want to heckle me you have to really work for it because there's only a certain amount of oxygen in that room and i'm using most of it so gotta put your hand up to get ahead yeah yeah i mean you've gotta throw an object and even then it's gonna be a good shot um so yeah i think they should do some kind of psychological study on the mindset of a heckler because it is a very strange thing really isn't it it is that's really drawing attention to you think you can verbally attack someone who stood up there with a microphone whose job it is to be spontaneous and funny and that because you've had four pints of caffrey's you think that you're gonna somehow i don't know steal this yeah well it is i mean it's invariably i mean there are there are sort of not i don't like doing the men say this women say that but the reality is most hecklers a are men um and they're generally it's a weird sort of alpha thing trying to prove they're better because that's one of the things people always ask you about oh i could never be a stand-up comedian because the heckling and stuff and in all honesty it was like i i you know i'm a highly you know a highly paid goal stand up no i'm a paid professional let's just say that but you know i am a professional i have got a microphone and i have been doing this for quite some time yeah if you could beat me i deserve to lose badly um now because the worst hacker is the one you know you do get people who are just so horribly disruptive that they they don't know they're being an idiot they just keep shouting and they they drag a whole show down yeah yeah and yeah so that but that's like the what you [ __ ] what you actually genuinely fear as a stand-up comedian is being ignored you you fear the room where this sounds rubbish and people are talking amongst themselves yes that's gonna be the worst thing isn't it yeah the spontaneous chit chat yeah exactly that's our people just pure disinterest people just look at and to be honest that's an increasingly you know again i don't like this slagging off sort of younger people and stuff but there was a point in stand up a few years ago where you could just be able to rip the piss out of somebody for their their phone and disrupt disrupting the gig and honestly now people are so attached to their phones that if you actually tell someone to put their phone away invariably there's a very good chance you will get people looking af how dare you i'm instagramming live before you know it

it's a very it's a very different thought even live performance in that regard and i can't remember what the question was and i can't believe that's the answer but anyway that's where we ended up i'm not entirely sure we actually asked you yeah i

if anything it's easier for us yeah sorry just play anyway feel free to throw in some questions there's a bit of an interesting um balance there isn't it from being a stand-up comedian that's that's very out there on the edge feeding off people's feedback and kind of being on on the stage treading the boards um to then go and lock yourself in a room and write something yeah no it is very different um and especially i mean a lot of people write and they go to the coffee shop and all this that the other i have to be in a room entirely on my own except possibly for a dog that won't leave how do people do you can't write a book in a coffee shop though can you people do all the time i know people do but that's mental isn't i mean even like people who can afford to not have to do it in a coffee shop still seem to do it some people don't genuinely can't write in a room on their own i mean i'm weird because obviously we're talking on audio but like behind me i've got a pin board where i put up all the cards where i go see by scene by scene and and i you know can turn around and stare at that and talk to it um and then i'd literally do things like i literally explain to the dog the story because i'm trying just to give me an outlet to explain it and i don't because weirdly my wife is also my first editor she also manages the other editors and stuff but she is the first person that reads everything so i don't when i'm going when i'm writing a book i genuinely don't like asking her questions or explaining problems i'm having because that influences what she reads when she reads the first stage so you use the doctor so genuinely i i discuss problems with the dog hold on a minute is it is that why you've just got a second dog you're not happy with that yeah yeah yeah yeah it's a bad audience it's a different thing he's more of a big picture dog the other one's much more of a lion editing dog because he he's sort of stuffy and they're much more big questions and just general positivity and i think you're doing great whereas the other one's kind of a sort of abandoned hunting dog from cyprus and he's going to be more about your nitty gritty and street yeah proper street smart yeah streets america yeah every room every room is using um but so but i've seen i've seen a picture of your office it does look very neat i mean it looks a little bit like a sauna with the wood paneling but it does look very neat and you've got all the cards in the background are you are you quite an organized writer

to be clear it definitely isn't and my wife might hear this so i should clarify because it's an absolute mess but is the one place in the house i can't get given out to because my wife doesn't even come into it um but yeah i am i'm genuinely very sloppy but now it's more we're planning stuff out um i think as a writer when it comes to i need to have certain points in the book when i before i start a book like i'm literally just starting a book this week um and i kind of have to have certain points along the journey you know it doesn't always have to be the same thing i don't always have to know what the ending is i don't always have to know i generally need the first few chapters but i need to just know i have certain amounts of the jigsaw puzzle and then i can figure out the rest as i go so i'm sort of somewhere even though panzer and plot are those two things i'm kind of in the middle of them weirdly um but probably more on the planet so kind of pants around your knees yes exactly i've got pants on but not correctly um i mean not the kind of way you can walk into supermarket and not get arrested but um yeah so it's it's a it's a mix of stuff but yeah so i do try and then there's usually what happens is at certain points when i'm doing the book uh i kind of have her sit here for a couple of days and look at the cards and move them around because to be very technical everything i write has ended up being multiple pov so i have loads of different chapters in different points of view from different characters which is why the card's so important because they're color coded like this character's point of view chapters are all this color and then i can kind of look at them and sort of balance them and move them around because you don't want too much of one character and too much of another at any given time so i'm invariably always just sort of pacing things through that way and dealing with a couple of story lines to get them to collide in the happy place they need to so yeah there's a lot of that is that a natural was that an intentional thing with that narrative

or is that just is that just how you roll is that you know is that just i think actually it's very good question i think actually where it comes from is because i was i wrote scripts for years i mean i only wrote my first book i'm coming up on the five year anniversary of the first one being published uh in august okay so before that i was i mean i was writing scripts i'd loaded you know i had scripts option that never went anywhere and all that sort of thing i had loads of stuff that didn't even get optioned and then um so yeah but i was i was even then i was reading scripts like i had to when i decided to write a book i'd go and find out how to write a book because i hadn't written prose i just written scripts and scripts and scripts and i'd read when i was reading stuff i generally was just reading scripts and scripts and scripts right i read script and i thought in script um so i then had to kind of come back and but the the thing then is is multiple points of view it's very cinematic it's very tv yes um so i think that was definitely part of actually when i started writing my first book i was doing a master's in creative writing at university of manchester which i've never finished um but the lecturer there was really good um i started in first person and he said this feels like it should be in third person and actually we relocated the first couple of chapters and i was like oh yeah it should be um and since then i've never written anything except short stories maybe in first person um and it just seems to suit my style and christopher brookmeier is one of my favorite authors and he writes in that style so i guess there's i've read all of his books multiple times you think oh maybe there's an element to that and terry pratchett again does multiple povs yeah yeah so i guess that probably felt more natural just because it was something that was used by people whose works i had really sort of drank in over the years just because i was a fan so i guess it might break it sort of made sense to my brain in a couple of ways because of the tv background because of who i was a fan of so you you started off i think i might say you started off self-publishing yeah uh is that right yeah i mean we're still um so how did that come about uh due to massive disinterest from anyone in publishing um no jenny would i mean basically a man one of those faces was a book i wrote that i kind of i was at the time i just thought i was doing it as a practice novel because it was a short story idea that just sort of expanded and i remember saying to my wife really clearly the time i was still working at stand up and stuff and i just thought right i'm going to write this as a practice and then i'll go back to the other idea i have had which i still haven't written by the way um and i wrote it and then we liked it uh we tried to get interested in stuff and um remember we sent it out and then bizarrely went on honeymoon um and we got interest within a week from an agent we thought oh brilliant here we go here's the frenzy nobody else and that to be fair in hindsight fairly sure that agent was checking if i knew anybody famous you wanted to write a book um do genuinely think that was the case so we basically and we actually got we even paid for it never do this but we actually paid an agent to read it which was someone suggested to us and that guy came back with that it was too funny and too irish yeah yeah i gave it i always remember that i remember the moment where he gave me that piece of feedback and then i very unusually for me was completely quiet and then he said there's not a lot this is too good i don't want this well yeah we basically said that and then damn it if only the hecklers that you gigged had known if someone could have shouted get off you're too funny you're too funny and too irish exactly he said that and then i went quiet and then he went you're gonna have to take criticism if you deal with this kind of thing and i went sorry i think the problem we're having is i don't think you've made any because i'm literally sitting in an apartment that was paid for by those things yes the problem we've got with this book is it's exactly what you were trying to do and then basically i went to my wife and she went out because we and we started off honestly we still and she said oh you are irish but you're not funny don't worry she's never afraid of those things but no she i mean genuinely the discussion was there and we started off looking at self-publishing going oh frankly what a lot of people's thoughts would have been on it was like oh god no there's a lot of awful crap to put self-published and let's be clear there is but there's also the weird thing that happens with self-publishing is if people do it badly everyone goes oh god this self-published book is dreadful if people do it well you don't even realize you're reading a self-published book there's loads of people who are fans of my videos that's a really really they don't even know that they're self-published and with the amount of emails we get on a daily basis and someone says your publisher should do this x y and z and then i turn to the wife and go yes you should um but yeah so we we literally started doing um that way and people said the weird thing was because they didn't there are funny crime books out there but of course there are there's some very fine ones but because there's generally a sort of wariness in publishing circles to do that the great thing is that if you actually do do it um this there's weirdly traditional publishing is like basically making sure people stay out of your space they're like no no one else does that it's just him and like three other people we let do that and they're all doing it themselves so yeah and i think that's changing i think richard osmond's phenomenal success um is obviously i think prob probably tweaking that and deservedly so because it's it's a ridiculous thing but yeah so we started doing that we got interest um then for the tv rights and stuff and i don't know if you're aware of this but it's actually announced today on the day we're recording yes yes they've been announced as avalon yeah i've got the the rights and debris and chris allison is attached to it which is i'm really excited about it but yeah but we had we had sort of interest a couple of years ago and there was actually you know various different things frankly we finally ended up on this which is we're thrilled with but that was the thing like people think oh if you're self-published you can't do this that the other you know that's those are those are still independently published books there's actually one coming out next week and all of those books are still independently published all of the the bunny verses we call them which is the the books featuring buddy mcgary and lots of spin-offs at this point because i i have a tendency i build a universe full of characters and then i start needing to service them all so it's like spinning plates where people keep asking about what's happened with bridgette and paul you got oh god i've got to write another book oh [ __ ] i forgot people get annoyed if your imaginary friends don't appear more often so um and we do that and then we're very lucky where the stranger times book which is published under ck mcdonald uh that's with transworld which is part of the penguin that came out earlier this year the first book came out um and okay and they were and we was because how that came about was um uh basically um we weren't interested in getting a traditional publishing deal for the for the the dubs and trilogy and all those books because they're doing well on their own you don't need like you know if you if you it wouldn't make sense to establish something that's successful and then give it to somebody else so you know that's something we we we do ourselves and uh it's going drinks would come okay um but my agent was like well what do you want to do and i said well i've got this idea i actually had it i said that's what i said at the start about everything kind of making sense i had the idea for the stranger times as a sitcom about 15 years ago and i wrote the script and my agent at the time i don't think he was sent to anyone i think she frankly just didn't read it didn't make didn't get it um and so nothing happened and weirdly i just sort of remembered the idea i decided i was trying to write a serious crime book um because even then traditional publishing was like oh be good if you wrote something serious like when i was looking for an agent i had one agent sort of saying about going so what do you you know i mean these are all well and good when are you gonna write a serious book and you're like going no i'm not gonna because it'd be stupid that's like literally that's like you know you don't figure out what you're good at and then chop off your own legs to prevent yourself being able to run just because you like a challenge um so yeah um i always think but i always think of all these different ideas and then literally this popped into my head after a couple of weeks when i was working through these other ideas and by the time i walked from my then flat to my writing office uh i had the whole thing in my head and it was just i've got to write this and it's got to be in manchester where i now live and there's one of these things where stuff just made sense it all came together and the strategy times was born that way and we went to traditional route with that and it's been great you know it's nice and we're basically i'm a hybrid now which is uh jigsaw has been working out really good have you found that the readers of the bunnyverse have followed you to the stranger times or have you found a new one interestingly enough i think there's it's kind of what we always hoped would happen is sort of happening we think where it's kind of going both ways where some people like the buddy versus like you know the stranger times is paranormal there's werewolves and stuff and some people just that would never be their their thing um but i think the lucky thing is that um because my voice is more or less similar in all the books so there is the humor and all that i think there's the humor and i think the thing that people do sort of say if they're fans of my books is that they're really drawn to the characters because i'm a big believer in character over you know i think especially in crime you see so many books being pushed as the twisty twist you'll never see coming um and i'm just not interested in that because i mean i've read some of them they're great a lot of them are you know trying trying to be those books that are great um whereas i just believe in if you make characters people like or not just like but they connect with they will keep reading because they want to see what happens to those characters i was going to say it's just the is the age-old questions of what's going to happen yeah but it's one and that's what gets you yeah but exactly exactly that and it's you know yourselves all too well when you're watching the film and stuff when you realize it's bad if you're ever watching i always said to someone recently if you're watching the film and you realize it's bad stop it for a second and ask yourself why is it bad and invariably it's because oh i don't care about any of these people like and once because if you don't get characters that's like you've not built the foundations and this whole thing crumbles yeah i find that a lot in real life yeah exactly okay but that's that's that's how people are built we're built to hey yeah exactly bond with

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yes so the strange times uh has also been a podcast as well hasn't it uh yeah i think i'm right you are indeed so you've had people reading the story yeah well the basic yeah what i actually did was uh because i don't know if you've noticed this with 2020 uh plans got changed quite a lot and genuinely what would happen was we sort of the book was ready to go and i'd written a couple of short stories because what i actually do with my uh the buddy verse things if you sign up to my mailing list you get a free collection of short stories some of which feature characters from the bodyworks and some are just short stories that i've written over the last few years and we're going to do the same with the strange times so we'll have a giveaway short story just to get people on the main list and it's a good way of getting people you know in and um i like writing short stories more importantly and i ended up having quite a few ideas and i started writing them and then we thought basically um loads of standard comedians i know all very talented people obviously stand up comedy has has been gone for over a year now and it's coming back out thankfully but i knew all these people and we actually sort of hit on the idea about we should get some of these people to narrate them and we got them in um and it's been it was really it's been kind of the coolest thing i've ever done in some ways because we were like a lot of people had never narrated anything before but a lot of standard comedians are big fans of audiobooks because they drive such long distances and they were like oh i've always wanted to give it a go so people like i mean hal crottenden is uh a trained actor but people don't know him as that because he's a popular stand-up comedian obviously but he's got great acting chops he did a great job there's a lady called laura lex who again did her first kind of narration thing outside of her own book that's now out and she just did an incredible job um and so many other people there people just kept coming in and it kept being great we were sending it around people and we got the samples back and we're like wow so what we've done with the stranger times uh podcast is it's all they're all stories in the stranger times world um but a lot of them don't feature any of the characters that read the book or anything like that but they're all because oh sorry we should explain the strange times is a newspaper set in map based in manchester that's like the fortien times it um reports weird news from all around the world and the pitch is they then sort of realized that some of the news they were pouring isn't quite as fanciful as they thought and it turns out they are in a world where these things do exist and there is such a thing as kind of werewolves and vampires and all that kind of magic stuff and just in that world then there's so many opportunities for short stories i can let you pick up an episode an audition in 14 times flick through it and come up find weird stories and they can start you know just give you a load of short story ideas um and so we started doing them and we did it as a podcast and it's still there if anyone wants to find the strange science podcast and we're doing a second series when the second book comes out and it's just been a great fun to do and even now what i'm doing which is really good is kind of is i'm writing stories where i've already got the voice of who it's going to be reading it in mind like i've got a couple people said look yeah when people said they were interested in doing them i was like oh wow i'll get you for the second series and i'll write one for you to do um which i think is going to be really cool as well so it's kind of an additional thing that i did really just as a creative enterprise it's promo for the book but it's if you viewed it in sort of nickels and dimes sense it wouldn't make sense in that regard but it's just been a brilliant fun creative thing to do um really really proud of it is that gonna develop into a series as well well it's gonna i mean at some point the stranger times that's the book sorry oh sorry the book yes absolutely the second one is is in the process of being edited and um it's part of a three book deal and i'm hoping to write more of them after that and we'll see what happens in all these things but yeah it's it's uh yeah and there's been it's it's been option for tv and stuff so we'll see you but the editing option for tv it's kind of like well you never know could go somewhere it could go nowhere um but it's got a really good company called playground that made little women and a few other things like really strong pedigree and ra and tv drama and stuff because with these things you're kind of signing your rights away for stuff and people think you've got way more control as the writer than you do um but i think one of the things with anyone why we saw him in avalon why we saw a playground my agent's really good and we had the same discussion and agreed it's like let's just go with people who've done good work in the past because that's the best indicator of who'll do good work in the future um yeah and yeah it's been it's it's a it's a it's a fun idea that people are like and it's been going pretty well so the reviews have been lovely and all that so it's fun and it's it's good to write and think different things it keeps it fresh for me how precious are you about the about your work going to tv or something you know when you're saying that about the possible changes or whatever are you worried absolutely i mean to be honest um like for example without giving too much away um like one of the first discussions of hybrid chris addison uh with the sort of woman when we met to discuss the dublin trilogy books like i i don't actually know how he found out about him he must have been recommended by somebody we both know when he he's read them really enjoyed him but we actually said the way it's set up is you basically i set up a detective agency and then it kind of gets ripped apart by the end of the first of the the fourth book because there's a the trill of the trilogy because there's a prequel in the middle um and so basically the setup is great and we think i was we're saying we might spend more time in the middle with doing more stuff than what happens at the end you know and i was like i genuinely coming from my background i was like yeah i mean i think the characters as i said are the the key thing so i think if you're keeping the characters keeping a lot of the elements of the story but the tv is a wholly different medium and i get that and i was i think even like i i would have no interest in i even wrote a pilot script and even the pilot script i wrote it was actually weirdly half of it was entirely new hadn't appeared in any of the books uh weirdly the book that's coming out next week dead man sins how that actually came about was i'd written part of it for the pilot and i really liked the storyline and then when i came to i was supposed to do the next book i supposed to do was because basically my main character buddy gary goes to america at a certain point and there's now the mcgarry stateside series which is a spin-off where there's three of them i was supposed to write the fourth one but i needed to go to new york which i've done before to do research because it was very specific the id and you needed to and obviously couldn't do that in 2020 2021 so um i need to write something else and i actually went back and wrote the sequel to the prequel um and it was based off the tv show this tv script idea that part of the tv script idea so it ended up sort of like remember i said earlier on about nothing being wasted i ended up that ended up diverging down exactly that ended up being the spark that started that book off um and then we sort of went through that and yeah so i i kind of understand that the medium is very different and i i think as long as the integrity of the characters is there and the voice is there is to say is he more precious about the characters and the universe than absolutely yeah i think it's yeah as long as the voice is protected and the the characters um and i say with the stranger times and stuff like that you know you wait and see whether it happens with any of these things but i think as long as you keep the tone and the characters because for anything else i mean genuinely as somebody you know who's a reader and a watcher of all kinds of tv stuff if i'm a big fan of stuff i'm happy to watch something that's a different version of you know i don't want to see i mean i know like like for example the harry potter books um i think addition some people get really funny about that yeah they want like like i know jk rowling part of the deal was you have to do the book exactly um and i think they loosen them up with the later films and i think that's why the later films are stronger because it's a different medium there's different things it needs and i think um you you have to understand that you have to mold it now obviously there's people i mean i've not seen the watch the the steam punk it's supposed to be terry pratchett one that bbc america did um but i do know how angry practice fans are about it and like literally it's banned as a discussion topic in terry pratchett online forums most of them because it's just people getting vitriolically angry about it now speaking as a terry pratchett fan and i've read every terry practice you know book several times and genuinely i'm a geeky terry pratchett fan um i'd happily watch it um i wouldn't you know if they i think the problem is is that maybe they haven't been true to characters um and that's what people seem to get really upset about because a different take on it maybe you know but i still think and i think there's talking about doing it i still think now the way things have gone with tv production and what you can do with green screen and stuff there now is the opportunity to do terry pratchett books for the screen properly as good omens kind of proved um yeah and hopefully they will i mean the sky ones and stuff were good before as well i should say i'm not slacking them off but i think there is now a chance to frankly netflix throw a lot amazon throw a lot of money at it do a really big luscious production of what are some of the you know they're my all-time favorite books so i'd i'd be first in line to see them do you get any say at all over the tv adaptation do you have any kind of veto or anything or is it just you hand it over technically you know i mean as i said i'm quite new to the process in this regard because my books you know being optional stuff but the reality is um the best thing to think about that is james patterson did a talk at the harrogate crime writing festival a couple of years ago and he was being interviewed i think by um richard osmond if i'm not going for a mistake and i could be wrong on that but anyway he was talking about there are you guys yeah yeah well richard was like he was like writing the crime book and stuff he was kind of in that area so that's what kind of helped his book go was like every crime writer in britain knew him so it was one of those things where you know the book and everything was a very good production thing as well has been a good book obviously um but yes um but patterson was was being interviewed and he was asked about adapt adaptations of his work a bear in mind patterson's been a massive name in in writing for a very long time and he talked about going to see i think it was the the world premiere of along came a spider which was a film based on one of his books and he turned somebody walked on screen at one point and he turned his wife and went who's that and uh his wife went i said i think that's your main character's sister and he went okay since when is he got a sister it was literally they just invented this character he didn't even he didn't know until that happened my point is if james patterson has that much control muggins is just hoping to get a seat for the premiere good point maybe get invited that'll be nice so that's so basically what you do is genuinely to go back to what i said earlier is you basically sign up to help let good people do it um and then let them have at it and obviously you're there i'm supposed to be the consultants you're on everything and hopefully i will be and all that sort of stuff but fundamentally you're involved really as much as they want you to be involved um yeah unless you're kind of as you said you are jk rowling in which case you've got a favorite of control but but that's not the exception not the rule yeah going back to the book version um how when you first self-published how did you build an audience or did you kind of were you were you kind of piggybacking off your or off your fan base no not existed let's be clear as a stand-up comedian i was just i was i was a club stand-up comedian so like you know i could do a good job but um if i didn't you know people weren't sitting there going oh my god queen's on next i was just a guy who was on who the promoters were confident could do a reasonably good job um so it wasn't like people always think that it wasn't a big existing fan base and all that and really what we did is there's a lot of information out there now it's the great thing about sort of independently publishing as we prefer to call it um is this now so much more information even compared to when we started five years ago and one of the biggest things is you know how you find readers and getting a book out in front of people is tricky it's always tricky even in traditional publishing it's tricky that's the reality there's a lot of books out there a lot of them disappear without trace in traditional and independent publishing but we started starting with got the book out there we sort of slowly started getting around a few people got a few reviews and one of the big things is it said about doing the short stories and stuff um i have now a main list of about i think it's 14 000 people now i think who have all at some point moved yeah they've all signed up and got the short stories and stuff because it's a big fundamental there's actually a thing called a stranger to superfan which is a great book by a guy called david cochran who i've since got to know and he's a good mate of mine he's an irish guy but he's a real guru in independent publishing by the way if anyone here is listening to this thinking about doing self-publishing themselves just be aware there are a lot of sharks out there selling products and giving advice and stuff like that i always say to anyone david cochran all david cochran does i think he's a free course he gives away now and he has books that he like you can buy for 3.99 in your kindle and that's he's not got like it they're not leading to the next big expensive product he just has those and he puts everything into those and they are brilliant and if you read david cochran's books you get the grounding and what you need to know um i i i 100 highly recommend them anybody ask me that's what i say um but yeah so we sort of you kind of start building that way and it's one of these things that sort of like the first book came out and was doing okay and then the second book came out and it sort of built a bit i mean things like amazon in general if you can one of the best things about um being independently published is you're not on a schedule like for example the stranger times they're basically we know that there was a book came out this january and we know there's a book coming out next january and we know the third book is coming out january after that because traditional publishing runs on that kind of you know schedule they need to know a couple years in advance what's happening whereas independent publishing i had the idea for dead man sins a few months ago um you know told my wife about it we actually you know i actually wrote it because i've started using dictation when i'm writing now which uh because i was having back problems and it was literally just a way of getting out of that but it turns out i'm actually faster if i do dictation than when if i do typing um so the book got you know finished in the time it normally takes me remarkably quickly and we remember when we sent the editors and stuff they didn't they when we asked them can you see any difference between the dictated book and the type type written book and they were like if you hadn't told us never would have realized that you've done a different way so we kind of got that book quite quickly but we could then make a decision back in march or april and go right well this book's going to come out and we can then stick it in for june and the great thing about that is when you're starting off independently published you can like i have got now i said there's a fifth year anniversary my first book is coming up at the end of august i've got 11 books now it's i think when which ones i'm counting because 10 or 11 but yeah there's a lot of books out there now um and being independently published you can do that you can't keep write the next book and you don't have to wait and the great thing is then it's a faster way to build a fan base but the biggest thing is basically people if people like your stuff they need to know where they can go to get more of it and if you sign up to your main list that like people have this thing about being very scared to send people an email whereas i just do a monthly email where i have a bit of crack i frankly tell people stories about the dog and silly stuff and they but you know i'm from a stand-up comedy background if i can't write a funny email then it doesn't bode well for the books anyway so we realized that a lot of people actually really enjoy that and they kind of become super fans and these are the people then to go back to your original question how you get it out if you start getting a couple of them they tell people and it really is word of mouth like we i'm i'm in a couple that like i'm a big fan of the rivers of london books as well as terry pratchett and those things i'm in some of those groups just as a fan um before i ever had my own strange times book out and i've had the weird experience now with people i don't know coming in saying they've read the stranger times and recommending to other people in the group um which is really cool it's obviously terrifying as well because you're going oh god do i read the comments because someone's going to be calling it [ __ ] but most people like said you know they seem to really enjoy it and stuff and that's really fundamentally for what it all is it really does come down to word of mouth and then just having the structure in place like having your website and your mail list and all that stuff and then mailing your mailing list those things just make the difference between people liking a book and maybe forgetting about you when the second one comes around and remembering buying and becoming and we're looking we've had people who've bought them all again on audiobook and done all that stuff and recommend it to their friends and stuff because they feel like they know like literally now my wife part of her job as a full-time thing is she's in charge of all the emails that come in and responding to people and all that stuff and we just started doing that in a small level where we had the main list we might get an email once a week from a reader which was really cool um and now we get like you know 10 or 12 a day and an elaine response to everybody and they're all generally lovely you get the accredited lunatic but they're generally lovely and and it's genuinely like it's it's one of the most fun parts of the job it's it's it's nice and it's you're just letting people be a fan of what you do and they're lovely and it's it's but it's it also makes really strong sense commercially yeah uh well that's that's great have we got any more questions chaps i can't think of anything no i think we've we've covered a lot of ground right then i'm sure there'll be something we forgot to mention i speak for us

left us to thank them for their time before they're leaving

well thank you ever so much for giving us your time it's been it's been really enjoyable and now it's been really interesting yes thank you we should probably also say that if you want to learn more about queef mcdonald you can go to whitehead irishman.com which

there's also the stranger times dot com i want to give you the full thing and there's the stranger times web stranger times uh podcasts that can be found on most of the the pod places um yes we'll pop a link to that and it's been an absolute delay gentlemen thank you very much for having me on thank you very much queef uh good luck with the next book it comes out all right all right take care

all right dave when you're ready come on you know what we got to do come on everyone's waiting how did you like it feels like it needs a call and response i like it very much i like it a lot yeah

the two-part catchphrase that's the few i think we've we've we've nailed the secret of success now haven't we once you've got a catchphrase that's it you're you're on the home street that's what it's all about definitely but um that was great wasn't it yeah yeah that dave i liked it a lot i liked it also a lot he's done lots of things and he seems to have done a lot of them really well yes and i just like his um sort of irrepressible attitude just kind of sort of bounces up from stuff doesn't he yeah he does i like that i'm reading the stranger times at the moment as well which is the uh the sort of new yeah yeah uh sort of fantasy series that's very good really enjoying it and i think he mentioned it well he'd sorry mention we should have had dave ask his catch for his question

this opportunity yeah but uh yeah no i can recommend that get that downloaded on your kindle but yeah it's a lot of successes but it's interesting to hear him talk about the things that didn't work out quite so well the things that you know because it's easy to think if you get something optioned for tv that that's it you've made it and then lots of things don't ever go anywhere i think i've had quite a few moments of of rejection over the years maybe that's something that we should talk about in uh in our next episode oh yeah let's delve deeply into your rejection i think that'd be yeah yeah i think that could be really fun huge amount of rejection letters i think certainly me and john would enjoy that i'm not sure but yeah yeah yeah another rejection how did you like it not very much didn't bloody rubbish so yeah we could do that next week um but in the meantime excellent if you have if you've liked the show today you could like it subscribe um we've even had a few lovely little reviews that have come through yeah they're always that oh obviously tickles doesn't it it really does yeah just gives our fragile egos a little nice little perk up doesn't it when someone says something nice it does yeah a little rub yeah it makes us record at least one more episode don't say that because that's going to put some people off leaving a review isn't it yeah i don't want to encounter i think some some of the really good reviews are trying to make us think yeah we've we've peaked like just let's just quit i think that's what the yeah reverse psychology so yeah let's next week we'll talk about uh rejections yep dave will bring his massive folder of rejections settle in for a three-hour special i guess great look forward uh we'll see you all then then bye bye listeners bye bye now i was actually waving them like a children's cartoon character i don't know if you were so does it come across can you tell that on the audio doing it now doing it now no

where's everybody gone

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Caimh McDonnell

Caimh McDonnell is an Irish novelist. Born in Limerick and raised in Dublin, McDonnell is a former stand-up comedian and TV writer. McDonnell primarily writes comic crime thrillers. His Stranger Times series, which melds urban fantasy, paranormal, and humour with crime, is written under the pen name of C.K McDonnell.