An Interview with David McIntee

I'll start off with saying I really enjoyed We Will Destroy Your Planet. It's a fun, quirky novel, and I'll definitely be recommending it to my friends who like this sort of book. Where did you get the idea for writing it?

Well it's not a novel, but it's not really nonfiction either – I'm not quite sure how to describe it- other than as a fan-letter to, and celebration of, the alien invasion genre.

It actually came from something I'd said as a joke to the editor at Osprey, that it'd be cool to see the handbook issued to Daleks about how to invade planets. Before I knew it, he'd suggested I should do it as a guide for aliens generally, and the marketing department at Osprey had liked the idea enough to come up with the title for it already!

So then I sort of had to…

Also, obviously I'm a big SF fan, but also martial artist and military history geek (which is how I had come to approach Osprey before, looking for freelance copyediting gigs), and I really wanted to do a book that compared what we see in SF movies and TV to whhat would really happen, as much in terms of applying proper military strategy and tactics as in terms of the science.

 Now that the novel is finished and out in the wilds, without spoiling too much, if you had to pick one thing to change about it, what would you pick and why?

I think I'd have included something more about virtual worlds a la The Matrix, especially having recently played through Saints Row IV (which came out after the book was finished)

When I read We Will Destroy Your Planet, I was pretty surprised at just the sheer number of pop culture references scattered throughout the book.

I don't believe anybody will get absolutely all of them! Like I said, it's a fan letter to the genre….

Were there any references you wish you had added but  didn't? If so, why were these references excluded?

I'd love to have referenced Saints Row IV, but that post-dates completion of the book. There was also originally going to be more of a thing about cats having been the only successful conquerors of the Earth, but the references ended up not quite fitting with the tone of nobody else having succeeded without the book.

 When can we expect -you- the aliens to start taking over the world? Please inform our new alien overlords that I will willingly cooperate if I get a nice quiet place to write books… (And that my husband is permitted to serve me. Gotta keep my conquering tendencies under control, you know….)

I'm open to offers for paid consultancy work from our alien overlords at any time. I'll put a good word in for you.

Most of my readers are also writers, so I feel this compulsion to ask: How did We Will Destroy Your Planet come together, from concept to publication?

Surprisingly, I think, is the short answer! I'd made a joke about about the handbook that should get handed out to Daleks invading the Earth, and Joe McCullough suggested I should pitch such a thing, because the marketing department already wanted to call it “We Will Destroy Your Planet”.

So I thought about it, and thought it'd be fun to write a sort of mix of history of, and love letter to, the alien invasion genre; also to nitpick the science, and – since Osprey is generally a military history publisher – to bring realistic military doctrine to the genre.

I figured out how to structure the chapters – which bits would be about science, which about the military stuff, and so on – and pitched that, and it was approved very quickly.

There was some debate about the format, because WWDYP is longer, with fewer illustrations, but Osprey were keen to try an addition to their usual formats, and the word count suited myself and the material better than the shorter and more lavishly illustrated Osprey books, so WWDYP got a new format all to itself…

The trickiest thing was getting the right in-character tone for it, since it was neither quite fiction nor non-fiction, but I thought it should work if I aimed for a reasonably chatty tone to go with it being kind of a novelty do.

Obviously the illustrations were commissioned as well, which have a lovely retro feel, and the editing these days is all electronic, in PDF format – no more paper galley proofs to mark with pen and lug down to the post office. (which is a great relief for those of us who've been writing long enough to have had to deal with that!)

 If you could make a request other than ‘buy my book' to  your fans, what would it be? Why?

Buy more books generally. They're good for you, it'd support the industry, and there is something so much more about reading a book than watching a show or movie. And, scientifically, reading does good things to brain chemistry. As does music, which goes well as background while reading.

 What is your favorite part of being an author?

The freedom to exercise the brain and let it follow so many interesting routes, and also the idea of passing along thoughts and knowledge.

 Your least favorite part?

Lack of job security, by a long way. You never have a regular payday.

 Interviews commonly ask authors to give advice to other authors. While I want to do this, I want to put a little spin on it: what little, uncommon pitfalls can writers avoid when either working or approaching a traditional publisher? Can you think of any little things that can make a big difference on your chances of making it with an agent, publisher, or publicist?

I've never used a publicist – I think that's really an American fashion – but as to the others… One thing to bear in mind is the question of whether you *need* an agent.

Most writers do, but there are exceptions to every rule: when I started writing tie-ins, I was writing two a year, with no agent. Then I got an agent and ended up working in a supermarket bakery for 18 months. So I fired him, and now write two or three books a year…

I was a bit concerned about how weird this was, and brought it up with some other authors and editors, who said “basically this means *you* don't need an agent.” Not that I'm better or anything, but simply that if a writer benefits from having an agent, then that writer needs the agent. If not…

A lot of publishers will still say “only approach through an agent” but, in truth, there are ways round that with most of them, either if you already have a track record to bring to the table, or you know someone on the inside.

 Have you fallen into any of these pitfalls?

Had a useless agent, obviously.

The big pitfall we're seeing in the last couple of years is publishers trying to snag all the rights to your work in one go, and producing contracts that leave out the author's assertion of moral rights. Be very sure to put that assertion back in.

 You have been kidnapped by aliens. You wake up in a cell, but find that your alien kidnappers neglected to read your book. It is possible to escape your cell and free one fellow captive. You have a choice to make: Who will you free and why? Your choices are Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, James Bond, Macgyver, Sherlock Holmes, and Gandalf.

Oh, let's see… Van Damme and Norris are mere mortals and getting on a bit… Holmes can deduce, but I'd need more than that…McGyver can McGyver stuff, but that mullet, no… Gandalf's magic would be useful, but an eagle isn't going to be able to reach orbit to fetch us, and we couldn't breathe vacuum anyway…

So, Bond it is. He'd be handy for killing alien guards we meant, has visited space before, and made an escape back to Earth, so that's my wingman!

Leave a Comment: