Monday, July 12, 2021

Author Insights 2021: Damien Larkin and Blood Red Sand


Welcome Damien Larkin to Author Insights 2021 - a post where I interview authors about their writing lives and current projects!

1. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Yes, write and read as much as you can! I know it sounds a bit clichéd, but that novel won’t write itself (unfortunately). One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard in the past, is people saying they don’t have time to write. It can certainly be tough juggling a job and family commitments, but I believe that if you have time to watch TV or scroll on Twitter, then you have time to write. I’m not saying you have to dedicate every single waking moment to crafting your novel (everyone needs a break) but try not to get into the habit of making excuses. Do as much or as little as you can – every word takes you closer to your goal.

2. Tell us about yourself. (like what you do for a living, hobbies, etc..)

I work as a Planning Analyst for a major broadband and TV provider here in Ireland. It can be a tough, fast paced job but I really enjoy it. In my spare time, I love spending as much time as possible with my family – they’re my favorite people on the planet. If I’m not working or hanging with them, there’s a 99% chance I’m either writing or doing something writing related. The other 1% of the time, it’s a safe bet that I’m watching a sci-fi move or Star Trek!

3. What is your writing process? (A special place or how you outline, or do you just jump into it. Or, what you need before you sit down to write: coffee, tea, cookies)

I’m a coffee-fueled writing machine. Without coffee, nothing would get done! I fall into the pantser category of writers – I very rarely plan out what I’m going to write on paper, although I will often spend weeks/months working out the details of a story in mind. As soon as I have the main details worked out in my head, I dive straight into it. Some of my best ideas come to me while I’m writing so I just go with the flow, let the words pour out and try to make it all make sense during the editing process.

4. From start to finish, how long does it take for you to complete a novel?

It varies from project to project (often depending on how busy I am at work) but on average it takes about four and a half months (give or take). Once I get past the first 10k words of a story, it becomes real to me and I give it an official title. I find if I struggle with a WIP before reaching the 10k marker, then I haven’t figured it out or some part of it needs more work. At that point, I’ll put the project on hold until I work it out or I’ll start something new. If I cross 10k, then I know it’s real and it’s very hard for me to take my foot off the gas until I have the first draft done.

5. How did you come up with the idea for Blood Red Sand? (insert title)

Sometime after the launch of my debut novel Big Red, my publisher Diane at Dancing Lemur Press suggested doing a prequel short story for it. Throughout Big Red, some of the characters make reference to the 1954 Battle of New Berlin pitting the Allies against the Nazis to seize control of Mars. It’s mentioned a few times throughout the book, but never explored. A few Big Red fans asked about the backstory too, even prompting me to do a blog post on it. From there, the seeds took root, and I wrote a 13k word story entitled Blood Red Sand which covers the initial disastrous invasion of Mars by the Mars Expeditionary Force. My publisher read it, liked it and told me to develop it into a novel (which I did with glee) so here we are!

Author bio: Damien is an Irish science fiction author and co-founder of the British and Irish Writing Community. His debut SF novel Big Red was longlisted for the BSFA award for Best Novel in 2019. His next novel Blood Red Sand is due out 6th July 2021.

Big Red:
Blood Red Sand (preorder link):
FB :
Twitter :
IG :

Blood Red Sand blurb:
Mars will run red with Nazi blood...

After World War Two, Sergeant McCabe knew the British army could send him anywhere. He never imagined facing down another Nazi threat on Mars.

In New Berlin colony, rivalry between Generalfeldmarschall Seidel's Wehrmacht and Reichsführer Wagner's SS threatens bloodshed. The Reichsführer will sacrifice everything to initiate the secretive Hollow Programme and realise his nightmarish future for humanity.

McCabe, Private Jenkins, and the Mars Expeditionary Force must overcome bullet, bomb, and bayonet to destroy the Third Reich. While Jenkins fights to stay alive, McCabe forms an uneasy alliance with MAJESTIC-12 operatives known as the Black Visors. 

Will this be the final battle of World War Two or the first confrontation in an interstellar war?

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

#IWSG July 2021 Never Say Die! aka Quitting is Not an Option AND Know Your Why


Many thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and all of the July co-hosts:


The IWSG is a place to let loose our insecurities and to gain/give encouragement. 

OPTIONAL QUESTION FOR JULY: What would make you quit writing?

My answer: Never Say Die! Quitting is Not an Option.

This may sound extreme or like the titles to a Bond Film and a Motivational Ted Talk, respectively. 

Just hear me out.

I have "quit" writing for readers in the past. I have almost quit writing, but I couldn't really quit it. I kept finding myself scribbling out stories and poems on bits of paper, in my journal (note, I did give up my journal once, and I hope you did not interact with me then, it wasn't pretty), and well, everywhere. I couldn't stop thinking of ideas for stories. 

Even if all goes badly with my books, even if no agent ever is interested in any of my queries, even if I never go truly hybrid (I do have a novella out with a small press so I am partially hybrid), even if I stopped indie-publishing any of my books, stopped sending out poems and short stories, etc., I would keep writing for me. Even if I get arthritis, lose the sense of touch and my ability to type, even if I go blind, I will keep writing and creating stories via talk-to-text or other means. Even if my audience consists of me and God, I will keep writing. This is what it means to me to be a writer. I will always come up with stories. I will always want to create them and write them. Story creation is simply a part of who I am.

So, since quitting is not an option - I used to think it was, but now I know better - the question really is: what is my reason WHY?

The Why of why I write is what drives me forward and motivates me to actually put words to paper. The Why used to be amorphous. I wrote for myself primarily. But as I have written and continued to write, my reason for writing for a readership has become clearer. 

The main reason I write is: to provide entertaining, thought-provoking, inspirational, and empowering fiction, poetry, and non-fiction for a primary audience of young women and men (age 11-18) and a secondary audience of adults. 

If I could write for ages 1-10, I would. I admire Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit creator) and Corinne Luyken (modern picture book writer and artist), but most of my picture book ideas and attempts have not come off the way I wanted them to, so that audience isn't my primary focus.

In addition, as a Christian, I have delved deeper into why I feel so strongly about writing women characters with depth and strength - both as protagonists and secondary characters. I share that reason on my author page now since it is so important to me. 

Now, I wish I could put my reason "why" in saleable language. I've worked on it a few times. I'm still working on it, and some day maybe I will have my platform/brand named in concise, beautiful words. 

What's Your Reason Why? What drives your writing life? 



The new contest is on, right now!


An Author Highlight from Damien Larkin to celebrate his new book Blood Red Sand.
Come back next Monday to read more! 


Preparations for my next book release: Nexus.

The Rayatana, Book 2.

Amaya is supposed to bring peace to the galaxy. Which is tough when she’s being held for crimes against the Neutral Zone. Her imprisonment is on her own ship with her own crew. But close quarters create tension.

Honestly, her role as Rayatana is a mess.

She may never get to use her powers for anything good. Not if her teacher continues to keep secrets, and not if her powers keep harming others. Putting her mother in a coma should put her in prison, but she has a mission. She wants to bring peace to her people. She needs to become the Rayatana.

Release Date: October 4, 2021.

If you can help out with my book party (day of, and two weeks following), please let me know on my Google Form which I updated since I last posted it. I did take away a few of the original options because those were taken by some awesome people who already signed up! :) 

Thank you! 

Please share: What's your reason Why?