Author Interview with Joe McCoubrey – Special Edition

Here is another special edition author interview.  This time with a good friend of mine Joe McCoubrey, and this interview is scheduled to coincide with the release of Someone Has To Pay.  To get you excited for it, here’s a picture of Joe and the cover of the new book.

His short action story Death By Licence has just been published by Master Koda Select Publishing. His debut full-length thriller Someone Has To Pay is being released on September 3rd 2012. A second full-length actioner is at the editing stages, and work has started on an Irish crime thriller.

What genre would you like to write a book in (that you haven’t yet)?

I admire historical fiction but the amount of research needed for authenticity is mind-blowing. Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series is masterful but I wouldn’t have the expertise to even think of tackling projects of that nature.

Where do your ideas come from? Do you have a standard formula for plots or do stories come to you as a whole construct?

I always seem to have stories floating around my head but the trick is to tie them down to the right locations and tell them from a point of view that readers will find interesting and informative. I usually start with a very broad outline and then begin typing. I let the story take me into places I hadn’t originally planned – for me that is the most enjoyable part of writing.

When you start a new story, do you have a title for it? Does that trigger the story?

I like to start with a working title, something that sums up the overall story. Certainly by the time I get a third of the way through a novel I begin to firm up the title and then stick with it.

Do you see the future of fantasy and science fiction as bright? If so, which authors are driving it?

For sure. There are new authors coming on stream every week but I particularly like George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones, probably because many of the locations used in the current television series are very close to where I live. Other authors worth watching out for in this genre are David Gemmell, Steven Erickson and Keri Arthur.

What themes are being overused?

I can’t understand the current fascination with erotica. The last time I looked this genre had the third highest number of books on sale (there are more than 56,000 titles listed on Amazon). I just don’t get it! I turn 50 shades of grey just thinking about it!

Are movies of books ruining the book?

I think people understand that movies don’t reflect what’s inside a book. Holywood has its own agenda and has to produce a visual medium for a story in a way that often ‘rewrites’ the story. There’s nothing wrong with that – movies are a powerful promotional tool for books and writers, so in the end both sides win.

Do you see ebooks threatening traditional publishing?

Undoubtedly yes. There will always be a huge slice of the market for traditional publishing but ebooks are not going to go away. They will continue to grow, rightly so in my opinion. I now read full-time on an ereader (I use the Kindle iPad) and don’t see myself going back to a paperback.

Do you prefer to read established authors or debut authors? How do you choose which ones to read?

Like all readers I feel most comfortable with the works of established authors that I’ve previously read. I know I’m going to get value for money from them. However, with the current explosion of indie and self-published authors there is a lot of new talent about and much of it is well worth exploring. Lately I’ve been reading new authors on a 2:1 ratio to established authors. I’ve become a big fan of a lot of these authors.

What is it about fantasy that appeals to you?

People generally need escapism in their lives. There’s nothing better than switching off from the usual trials and tribulations and losing oneself in another world or reality. It’s therapeutic, which is why books and films will continue to endure.

Can I get an autographed book? (lol)

You will be one of the first!

Do you have a group of people that you show a new story to? How much impact can they have on the whole story?

I’m lucky to have a fellow ‘buddy’ author (Brad Fleming). We check each other’s manuscripts as we go along, usually 3 or 4 chapters at a time. We are not afraid to tell each other what we really think about how a story is developing and this usually helps to keep us on track. After I finish my own editing I have my publisher’s editor to fall back on and in turn they use beta readers to get feedback on the flow of the story and how they rate it.

Do you set yourself a word limit for each book?

I usually have a figure of 100,000 words in my head as a yardstick but it’s only that. I let the story go where it takes me and if that’s less or more, so be it. The danger for writers is trying to reach an upper limit, which can usually mean adding ‘bits’ that are not needed.

Do you have a target each day?

No, but I would rarely settle down to a writing session without being determined to knock out at least 2,000-3,000 words. I don’t write every day but when I set aside days I like to blank out everything else. When ideas for progressing a story pop into my head I have to deal with them as soon as possible, sometimes even in the middle of the night!

Do you write constantly or have breaks between books?

I go at it constantly. I even started a book before I finished working on my current one! I’ve found that if I delay starting into the next book I can find reasons to keep procrastinating – and that’s the biggest danger for a writer.

Do you have characters running around your head? Do they dictate events and their histories to you?

Yes, I think it’s important for a writer to have main characters, people you want to write a story about. That’s probably why authors like Lee Child tend to stick with the Jack Reacher franchise – if you’ve developed a strong central character then stick with him/her and dream up new adventures for them.

After so many books, how do you keep them unique?

For me the trick is to dramatically switch locations and build in new events that take the reader away from the storyline of the previous book. The central characters might still be there but you’ve got to challenge them to face new dangers and escapades.

What is your biggest (self-imposed) time waster?

I’m not so sure I waste time when it comes to writing. I enjoy research time as much as I do actually writing. When I have to constantly edit a finished manuscript I find I actually enjoy going back over old ground and looking at ways I can improve things.

Do you remember the first time you saw your book in a shop?

I haven’t gotten that far yet! My books are ebooks but I hope to see the first paperback version in a few months. The thrill of seeing the cover and blurb on the Amazon book site for the first time was the next best thing.

Do you read other people’s writing?

You betcha! I must have gone through literally thousands of books in my life. I love reading, and that’s what got me started as a writer. I don’t think you can truly be a writer without first being a reader. There’s so much to learn continually from other writers that it would be a crying shame to miss out on what they’re doing. Writers are an inventive lot and you need to keep up with how they are constantly pushing out the boundaries.

Would you read mine?

The short answer is yes. You are largely an urban fantasy writer and I like gritty tales that challenge lateral thinking. American author CJ West is an excellent example of this.

Joe McCoubrey Bio

Joe McCoubrey is a former Irish newspaper editor who is now a full-time action thriller writer. In the early seventies he was working in the Civil Service based at Stormont, the seat of the Northern Ireland Government, and was watching behind the scenes as some of the country’s most momentous events unfolded. These were the early dark days of the ‘troubles’ – events that reverberated around the world, and somehow served to push him towards his real passion of writing. He became a newspaperman, started his own media business, and took a front row seat as history was played out in Ireland.

Joe McCoubrey has lived all his life in the beautiful Irish town of Downpatrick, made famous by its association with the national Patron Saint, St. Patrick.

You can visit him at:

2 thoughts on “Author Interview with Joe McCoubrey – Special Edition

  1. Ubteresting interview – which is not easy to say, given that we three were attending Joe’s launch party last night. Didn’t get a chance to chat – ships passing in the night and all that. Have read a little fantasy but never thought of writing it. Perhaps one day? Nice to have met you Stephen. You have a great site here. Do keep in touch and please accept an advance invitation to look in on my own book launch party on Master Koda on October 18. Can’t promise it will be as swinging as Joe’s but we’ll do our best.

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