Jim McDonald talks about his debut book Smash Palace and upcoming Counterculture Revolution
Welcome to author Jim McDonald!
I was fortunate to meet Jim at a Crime Writers of Canada event and mesmerized by his stories!
I hope you will be too!
Since 1990, he has operated A-Plus Tutoring, teaching mathematics to high school students; he specializes in statistics and calculus.
Jim launched Happy Together Wedding Ceremonies in 2017. As Humanist Officiant, he is authorized by the Ontario Government to solemnize marriages.
While playing drums with rock band Starchild, he also wrote entertainment columns for Vancouver’s Georgia Strait and Victoria’s Monday Magazine, reviewing concerts by Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Heart, and the BeeGees.
In 2016 Jim and his son Dylan produced a movie, the comedy Fun With Math.
Married with four adult children, he enjoys playing baseball and running, and is pretty good at his local bar’s Golden-Tee Golf game.
His novel Altered Boy is a psychological thriller set in 1960 about a teen gang of hustlers – Mickey, Joey, and Shorty – who mistakenly think new priest Father Damon is an easy mark.
Currently he is searching for a publisher for Counterculture Revolution. Set in 1970 this historical thriller follows the guerilla actions of Weather Underground, the terror group that bombed draft boards, courts of law, and even the Pentagon.
Jim's book of thirty-two short stories Smash Palace, published in 2019 by Amalit Books, is available on Amazon.ca or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. His debut work of short fiction will intrigue you with adventure, wit, and unforgettable characters in stories involving crime, science fiction, dystopia, and surrealisms.
What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Like the long distance runner, I keep plugging away until I get to the finish line. Grit and determination are a couple of my strengths.
I think my research skills are a strength. I read every day, taking copious notes about my subject. To help me visualize the person, location, or décor I am writing about, I often find photographs of the subject, and then write to that image. For example, I used Google maps to browse the seedy mean streets of Detroit until I found a house sinister enough for my drug dealers.
I have worked hard to make each sentence the best it can be. Sometimes I’ll spend a long time searching for le mot juste, but end up with the first word or phrase chosen.
At live gatherings, I enjoy telling stories. I get a kick out of entertaining people. No wonder I became a novelist. I have a vivid imagination. Usually, I envision a scene as part of a movie.
Dialogue and accents. I appreciate the unusual words and phraseology spoken by the person on the street, and I incorporate them into the story to bring characters alive for the reader. I have a list of sayings and words used by people in 1970, and I sprinkle these words into dialogue to reflect the era.
A pet peeve: I get upset with anachronisms. If a character from a story set in 1945 says, “I’m good,” or “I’m all about revenge,” I flip. The writer should fit the language to the times. This is lazy writing.
I tend to delve into the dark side of life. My readers will meet characters they never would in real life – thieves, killers, revolutionaries, fascists, grifters, pedophiles, and druggies. What makes them tick? Why do they do the weird things they do? How does the protagonist wend his way through this dangerous maze?
How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
I have other work that I need to do to make a living, and sometimes that work overwhelms the time available to write. Since I am a nighthawk, much of my writing is done after midnight when others are asleep. Sometimes I am able to write most days of the week. But even if I am not in front of the keyboard – say, I’m driving – I think of the scene I am working on, to figure out what happens next, or who says what to whom.
Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
My present novel Counterculture Revolution will be for sale around the world. I’ll have one more completed book, and I’ll be working on another. My first published book Smash Palace contains thirty-two short stories. I may write a number of crime short stories, but with the same main character, the private detective Jack Barrhead. Perhaps the end product will be like the Sherlock Holmes stories – a crime, criminal pursuit, and resolution. And then on to the next case.
If you could offer once piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Start with short stories. Maybe a page or two at first. Get a finished product you are proud of. It may take only a few weeks. Get that feeling of accomplishment. Show your stories to others. Get their honest feedback. Make your next story better than the last one.
What would you consider to be the best compliment a reader could give your book?
“I really enjoyed that book. I was lost in the story. It was exciting. And what strange characters.”
What are you working on now?
Now that Counterculture Revolution is complete, I am revising it one more time to check on spelling, typos, grammar, logic, and continuity.
I have gone over my research notes about a real life murder in Toronto that touched my life. I was a witness in the trial of two street hustlers who killed a man, and then dropped into the bar I was working at as DJ. I have the trial transcripts and articles about the murder. This could be a real life crime story, or I could expand on it using fictional characters.
* Get a FREE First Edition celebratory bookmark with each copy of Smash Palace.
* The first 50 books sold will be signed by the author.
“Bed Time Story” - A hitman discovers three bullets to the heart did not kill his victim.
“The Trekotron” - A dissolute scientist travels back in time to change the fate of a friend who deserves a better life. This story explores the butterfly effect.
“Need Anything?” - An enterprising college kid plans to make a killing by scoring a quantity of hash in Detroit.
“Joy Ride” - Car thieves take a wild ride to calamity city.
“Who Is Your Wife?” - The West has lost WWIII, and survivors are on the run. The only TV show left on the planet is the sexy game show Who Is Your Wife?
“Fight Night” - A punchdrunk boxer recalls his bad old days as a mob enforcer.
“Seven Lives”- The cat that wouldn't die.
“Wild Justice” - Revenge is a dish best served cold.
“Please, Nurse” - A Kafkaesque trip through hallucinatory hallways.