Interview with Ian McCain Author of Product

Ian McCain Author Photo

Author Bio:

Ian S. McCain is, in the simplest terms, an entrepreneur, a fan of lateral thinking puzzles and Improv, a marketing strategist, a social butterfly, a husband and a father. Currently he spends his days working in a shed, poorly repurposed as a business office. He has a background in film production and scriptwriting, having written, produced and/or directed six short films, which have been in competition in over sixty national and international film festivals, winning various Awards and Critical Accolades.

Ian spent the ages of eleven to seventeen legally blind due to a degenerative eye disease, and later started the patient and family resource website  He has a terrible singing voice, but is however a surprisingly good dancer. By day Ian works in Information Technology as the Director of Operations for an IT consulting firm. At night, while his family is sleeping, he writes; trying hard to strike a balance between creative and business worlds. Ian lives in Orlando, Florida, with his wife Allison, two sons Dean and Archer, and their lovable but neurotic dog Homer.

Image of Ian McCainAbout Product:

“Fifty-year-old Ernie Chase is a liquor-soaked husk living on the streets of New York City. When Ernie is shot while witnessing a back alley drug deal, he believes that his miserable life is over. But he awakens, healthy, sober and youthful, handcuffed to a military cot in an abandoned hospital.

His captor explains to him that he has become infected with a dangerous virus, which requires regular treatment to keep from becoming contagious. Treatment is offered in exchange for his unwavering service. Ernie quickly finds himself caught in a feud between his captor and another ancient vampire over the blood supply for the infected community of NYC. As Ernie learns the hard way, if the infected can’t feed, they will descend into the horrifying Rage—and this shadow war will hit the streets.”

Publication Date:  6/27/2013 Genre: Action/Horror

Available: Currently the title is available through (paperback and Kindle versions) and (paperback)

Book Border PhotoThe eBook Review Gal Interview:

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

As far back as I can remember I have always wanted to be an entertainer. I always enjoyed reading and being transported to other worlds through books and stories, but I didn’t land on being a writer until later on in my life. I spent most of my formative years in theater, enjoying being on stage but always wanting to create something. I had the unique opportunity to get involved in film production shortly after college and was able to begin creating short stories, both helping to write and direct and produce. It was absolutely the most fantastic feeling. Then after 9/11 access to investors and money made those passion projects no longer feasible. Money wells dried up and people didn’t want to put any cash towards things with no real ability to recoup their investment. After some time away from that world I realized that for me the joy was in the process of creating. So I started to look at some script ideas I had and see how I could begin to explore them exclusively in the written word.  

How long did it take you to write Product?

There are two answers for this. The time it took on the calendar and the actual cumulative time, if I was to have been more diligent with my writing.  On the calendar it took a year and a half. In that time my wife gave birth to our second son Archer, and my first son Dean, became fully self-aware and hell bent on establishing himself as the sovereign ruler of our household.  If I had been able to commit the bits and pieces of time into more concentrated and consistent writing sessions I would say 4 months. 

What made you choose the title?

The story came from a screenplay that I’d started mapping out about 6 years ago. I like double meanings. The book title has many meanings. Spoiler Alert: It references the backdrop of the story, the underground collection of human blood (the product they distribute). It also was used as a way to make the reader initially think that the story is about the drug trade and it touched on the notion that the characters in the book are a product of the infection and their need to consume blood. The sequel, which I am about ¼ of the way through, is called Byproduct.  

What was your favorite part of Product to write?

Spoiler Alert: In the initial screenplay map of the story I had killed off Ernie in the first 20 pages. When I started the process of actually typing out the pages and moving the story from screenplay map to novel I got to the part where he died and I was too connected to him. I couldn’t pull the trigger I wanted to know what this broken man would do if he was given another chance. So I paused for about a 2 weeks and went back through the outline of the story, and had this A-ha moment where I knew I could tie up the plot points much better. So after reworking the whole story I returned to the section with Ernie, only now instead of him dying in an alleyway he awakens young and healthy in some abandoned hospital. That scene that plays out between Ernie and Gideon, where he is learning about the infection and how his life will be changed, that was my favorite part. I was able to give a character I had grown so fond of a second chance.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Scattershot. I have a full time job working with one of my closest friends. So, normal working hours are totally used up for the day job. Then I have 2 children, who I love desperately, but are complete time-vampires. By 9:00pm I am exhausted, and that is when I start to write. I listen to a lot of music when I am writing, things that I think match the tone of what is being written. That usually revitalizes me and gets me focused. Once I get into the flow of things I could write till 1-2 in the morning.  Other times I wake up at 10pm with drool on my keyboard and 700 pages of the letter “H” repeated over and over.

Do you have any writing quirks?

I can’t write without music, it is what gets me in the mood to write and also keeps me focused, I have like 20 playlists for setting different tones. I also have completely lost the ability to write with a pen and paper. Much how cell phones have eliminated that part of my brain where I used to be able to recall dozens of friend’s actual phone numbers, now that I have been using a keyboard my handwriting looks like when a police officer in the movies tries to get a severely injured witness to write out something on a pad of paper from their hospital bed.

How did you choose this particular writing genre?

I think it chose me. In real life I am a jovial, fun-loving, easy-going, make-people-laugh kinda guy. I find it terribly bizarre that I am drawn to write these darker things, but it seems like I always create something that leans on that black line. Even the short films that I have made:  Dusk – which is about a crooked funeral home director that resells caskets and is haunted by the visions of the people he has wronged. And Hereditary Misfortune – which is about a family that passes on bad luck from one generation to the next…

Where did you get your ideas for Product?

My ideas come from taking things that I enjoy and finding a way to make it new. For example this story idea existed before all the vampire craze of Twilight and True Blood. I was watching some show on addiction and methadone clinics and actually found myself wondering about the logistics and how that would play out in a world where treatment is needed or consequences are more dire. In any real definition Vampires are addicts.

But in general I think my ideas start from making a simple association. For my film Dusk – I had just gone through the process of dealing with my grandfather’s death and found it really odd that grieving people put so much blind trust into funeral homes and that whole system, my thought with that one was, “what if we shouldn’t be trusting them.”

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Yes. I try to push through or write another section of the book that I feel I can tackle.

What does your family think of your writing?

My wife is still reading this story, she is the one that keeps our kids alive and makes sure that the house doesn’t fall apart. So she just doesn’t have the time needed to sit and read. So for this book I literally followed her around the house reading page after page. So considering the subject matter, and how she was exposed to the story… I am not sure. My folks have been very big supporters of the writing. Parts of the book are pretty brutal, so I am always a little anxious when I give them pages because it’s dark, vulgar, crude, or violent. I don’t want them to think that there son is deeply disturbed but so far they have only shown support.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing Product?

I learned that I could create a book. Right now, on my shelf is a book, with my name on it. I knew that I wanted to reach that point, but I was more than pleasantly surprised to see it happen. Comparatively writing a book is like writing 10 scripts. IMHO

Have you written any other books?

I am in the process of writing the sequel to Product, called Byproduct and writing a short Novella called Eden set in the same world as Product. I have written about 4 feature length scripts, and 6 short film scripts.

Do you hear from readers? What kinds of things do they say?

Since the book was just released I have not heard much yet. What I have heard has been pretty positive though. I think a lot of the people who are reading it and understand that it is not a romance novel are pleased. Some are calling it an antidote to teen vampire romance. I have heard some criticism, that the chapters are too short, that the ending needs more. In all though it has been mostly positive.

What do you think makes a good story?

I think most of the best stories have a good theme, consistent tone, a fascinating plot that keeps them turning pages and wanting to know what happens next, a connection to the characters, whether they love them or hate them and a setting that is distinct and easy to visualize and become a part of.

Do you think most authors understand the importance of marketing their own work?

Hard to say, as I am on the front end of marketing my own work as an author. I am truly hopeful that I understand the importance and that I am taking the appropriate steps to build my “brand”. Having worked in film production in the past I can say that there is a great deal of similarity. You have to let people know that your work is out there. You have to find your audience and connect with them and I think that many great artists don’t understand or simply don’t want to accept that you have to be able to switch from creative to business roles very quickly

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I enjoy spending time with my kids, we do puzzles and play games. My oldest is way too smart so if I don’t keep him occupied with positive productive things, he could end up becoming some criminal mastermind. I also enjoy reading, movies, IMPROV, video games, and playing ice hockey – although it has been way too long since I last got on the ice.   

Who would you say has been a major influence in your life? (Writing or otherwise)

This will be long as it requires some backstory. When I was 10 yrs old I was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease called Kerataconus. In most cases it is pretty easily treated with therapeutic lenses and close monitoring. However in advanced cases corneal transplants are required. By 11 yrs old I was legally blind. My eyes and the prescription in my glasses were changing so quickly that when we would go to get new glasses the 24 hrs between when they got my prescription to when the glasses were ready for pickup – the whole prescription would be off.  This was a dark time for me as I could not see the faces of friends, blackboards, I couldn’t see the pages of books, I was in the visually impaired program at school, etc. Basically my world was like looking through a windshield during torrential downpour.  Fast forward to age 17, when I was first successfully fitted for therapeutic RGP lenses. I went from finger-counting blind to 20/20 vision overnight. It was insane. It was the first time in nearly 7 years that I had been able to see my face with any clarity. So, Dr. Bruce W. Anderson was a major influence in my life, because he gave me back my life. He gave me back my sense of sight. Years later I went through a transplant, went through four other surgeries (intacs, corneal wedge resectioning, relaxing incisions). Which ended with me being functionally blind in my left eye again. After spending the ages of 26 to 32 blind in one eye I finally made another trek to see Dr. Anderson, and boom 20/20 again… basically the guy gave me back my eyesight twice… and I will be starting a petition that he never retire.

Aside from the vision thing my Grandfather was always a really positive influence on me: supportive, stubborn and stubborn with his support. When I started High School my family moved from Clearwater to Tampa (actually Land O Lakes, which at the time was the opposite of a cool coastal town) and my grandparents moved in with us. It was really weird for the first year, but I remember my grandfather and his unwavering words of support when I was dealing with any problems; always repeating his mantra of “this too shall pass.” He was right too, as I met some of the best life-long friends I could have ever asked for in that sleepy town.

Are you working on anything new now?

As mentioned above, I am in the process of writing the sequel to Product, and writing a short Novella called Eden set in the same world as Product. Now that Product is released I am setting strict progress point goals for the follow-up so that the people who bought Product can know where the story ends up.  

Do you ever use friends, family members or acquaintances as character models?

I find it really hard not to use people I know. Some are created from my mind but in most everything I have written I steal character traits and idiosyncrasies from people I know, and have met.

How do you deal with criticism?

I try to take it in stride as much as possible. I fully recognize that this and other projects I have made are not for everyone. I don’t write things about two morally just people who fight through adversity to make their love manifest. I write things about anti-heroes and deeply flawed people who struggle through the human experience.  That won’t necessarily win your endless praise from everyone. But I entered into writing this knowing full well that it isn’t going to be for everyone. In fact I had one person read an early draft who started their critique with “I don’t like horror and violence”, and “I really struggled to get through these dark scenes.” Though she did make some good points I knew right away that this was not my audience. So, I do my best to find the seeds of value in the criticisms, ignore what I don’t agree with and try to make the next thing I write better than the one before it.  

We often hear the term, Write What You Know. Do you think this is always true?

I don’t think that is always true. Otherwise I am in some big trouble. I think that writing what you know can help you because you are intimately familiar with that subject. But in the world of fantasy, sci-fi and other genre-fiction I think it’s perhaps more important to write what you would want to read. 

How much time did you spend researching information for Product?

I have probably spent several weeks reviewing things like Google maps street view, and numerous books on lore and legend. There are some overarching themes that relate to religion, evolution and some lore that I wanted to integrate. That took a bit of time to connect all the pieces.

Do you write other types of content? (Articles, Web content, etc.)

I have written some educational content for things like credit and finance (from a previous career track) and currently write some Information Technology specific content for the day job.  

Do you have a blog?

I don’t have a blog, although I am 100% certain it would be a helpful marketing tool.

Are you active on social media sites? Have they been effective marketing tools?

I just started a fan page for the novel and I made my initial push for getting readers by going through social media. So far it has proven effective.

What is your opinion regarding the use of a pseudonym when writing?

I like my name. However I recognize that my writing and style is like building a brand. If all of the sudden I released a romantic comedy novel I would have some confused fans and readers. I think that if I ever wrote erotica or something else that was diametrically opposed to my current style I would use a pseudonym. Not because I would be afraid to have my name associated with it, but rather because I wouldn’t want to confuse any existing fans.

Has any book (or movie) influenced your life?

Peter Pan was, and still is, my favorite book. I am a very nostalgic person and even as a child the idea of being able to live in a place of perpetual excitement and fun and youth held such appeal to me.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Why?

Philip K Dick, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Kurt Vonnegut, JRR Tolkien, Hunter S Thompson, Chuck Palahnuik, Cormack McCarthy, Steven King, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Douglas Adams.  These are my favorite authors. Their books are the kind that you can fall into and find yourself transported to another world and no matter how strange (Dick, Palahnuik, Thompson, Adams). You find yourself ready and willing and wanting to believe. At times wanting to be a part of it, at times horrified by it but still compelled to read on. I like when what I am reading totally disturbs me yet I find myself unable to stop reading.

What would be your best word of advice to aspiring writers/book authors?

Write. Don’t make excuses, don’t put it off, don’t bargain or make deals with yourself. Just write. In time that first word will be twenty pages, then one-hundred, and then before you know it you have a book. Just like working out, you have to put in the time to see the results. And just like working out, there will be days you don’t want to and you have to force yourself. You will never look back and say, I wish I had spent more time watching TV.