Monday, 9 November 2015

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

...Duncan Milne

1. Tell me about The Death of Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Impossibility of Time Travel and Other Lies and where you got your inspiration for it?

This is a novel about second chances and missed opportunities. As characters discover the regret of not having the perfect retort at the ready or while they lament lacking the means to travel away from what they consider a stifling existence, they discover time travel. Not random time travel, but the ability to enter history at rock ’n’ roll gigs. Sanctuary into the only thing that’s ever mattered to them.
What gigs would you see if you could see any band that ever recorded? The answer to this, as well as many other questions of the day, provides the examination of consequences of decisions that are made and others which were not.
Is history pre-ordained or does it need heroic figures to nudge it along? Perhaps both.


As for the inspiration, that’s a fun story. I was working as a lawyer in Australia when I was handed a contract to review. At that same time, I was told that they needed it “for last week”, my response was, “right, if I could travel through time your contract wouldn’t be the first thing on my “To Do” list.

Later that day, I was recounting the story to the local barista who thought I looked grumpy (not usual for where I was presently working), she laughed and asked “what would you do if you could time travel?” The answer was travel to rock ‘n’ roll shows that I never saw. She’s in a local band and we roared with laughter. “What a great idea for a book,” she said. When I got home that night I started drafting.

The barista, Tamara, is now in the acknowledgements as well as has a fictitious quote in the text attributed to her.

2. If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would you sing?

“Wipe Out” by the Surfaris. I’ve got the vocals for it, but not much else. I’m pretty sure I’d stun the judges with that one. It might also reinforce the judges decision not to allow Canadians on American Idol; I’m sure it would be interesting in any event.

3. What do you think is the biggest challenge of writing a new book?

Finding the story and getting the pace to come together in a meaningful way. The story is fundamental as it tethers the book to the reader; everything else flows from headwater. What your characters say, where they live, how they walk, their needs; everything.

When I have re-written characters or dialogue it’s been because the story wasn’t clear yet.

4. Are the titles of your books important?

Vital. Every bit as important as naming a child.

A good title sets the tone for the reader and is the first thing that they see. This stuck me when I first picked up “A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore. The title for my debut novel was strong; I’m struggling with a title for book #2…watch this space.

The cover art applies to the same degree, similarly I’ve been inspired by Moore’s jackets. This led me to engage Peter Wyse to provide original works for my covers. He’s done an amazing job and the cover is as striking as it is fun. This is a practice I can’t see moving away from.

5. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

In building a theme about extreme positions and intolerance I re-examined my own life, the choices and opinions that I’ve held and tried to be more tolerant of others. It’s not something that I felt I was falling down on, just something that I could do better at.
The characters by their very nature were opinionated and brash. I try to teach them that the positions that they battle are merely a different articulation of their own intolerance. Both sides are intolerant to the other, but manage to justify their positions through an internal belief system. It’s easier to see judgment in others than in ourselves.
I met a musician, Steve Dodd, who does Reality tv soundtracks and teaches music producing; he told me that one of his first lessons is to get his class to identify what they like in everything they hear. It’s easy to hate something, but finding what you like is more rewarding. As a heuristic it gives you an opportunity to discover something about yourself as well.

Hopefully, I’ve a better global citizen for it.

6. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I do read my reviews. Mostly because I’m interested in what people think, sometimes I regret this, but still…

It’s been said not to respond, but I have, usually on Goodreads and sometimes on Amazon. I’m still not sure if this is a good idea or not, but I try to feel it out.

Usually I just thank readers for taking the time.

My advice would be to try to take something onboard from each review, good, bad or indifferent. Ask yourself “what is the reader getting at?” “Is this legit?” “Could I have done something differently?” As painful as some of the reviews have seemed, I think that I’ve improved as a result.

The times that I’ve responded to a negative review, I’ve thanked the reader for their time, apologised for letting them down and advised that I’m still working on my craft. In one case the reader responded by saying he’d read my next book. I suppose I converted a “hell no!” to a “maybe…” which has to be a win.

7. What do you like to read in your free time?

I read a wide range of fiction and non-fiction.

Usually I try to find stronger writing, but sometimes just something interesting or unexpected. I’ve usually got a few books on the go.

Currently I’ve got a book by David Byrne, one on atomic accidents, The Girl on the Train and a handful of Kindle samples, that I’m shambling through. It all seems to be slower than I’d prefer.

8. What are your thoughts on writing a book series?

I’m in the middle of a four book series, so I’m hoping it’s a good idea. I like it because it should give me an opportunity to develop my story and characters. With some luck I’ll learn some tricks that I can take onward for another story line.

9. What do you think of “trailers” for books?

I’m not sure. I don’t usually watch / listen to them, but Hollywood Book Trailers have done one for The Death of Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Impossibility of Time Travel and Other Lies that is amazing!

But are they effective? How do I leverage this? Do they affect reader’s choices? I’m just not sure, something else that I’ll have to work on.

10. What happens when you get half scared to death twice?

You get ¼ scared to death, it’s sort of a math thing, but Nicole, my wife, helped me with this answer. She’s an engineer.

So ¼ to death, but then neither of those things will ever scare you again; whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think 75% stronger because that’s what’s left after the ¼ to death bit, but I haven’t had Nicole check my math. Am I going to be graded on this?

11. If I came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for me?

Curry, fresh naan and a decent pinot. It’s sort of the go to meal for guests.

Do you like curry? Spicey or not so much? I’ve a great cookbook (Vij’s – Relax Honey) that is basically a guaranteed lock for an amazing meal. I love cooking so I’m flexible and have a few tricks to share, so if not curry I can make sure you won’t go hungry.

12. If a two year old hands you a toy phone, do you answer it?

Of course!

You never know who’s calling and what the child’s reaction would be. How can we teach children to stretch their imagination if we won’t?

Besides, you just never know who’s calling. How could you resist the temptation? Plus kids know it’s a toy, I love the delight in their eyes when they look at you with the shared recognition of a game.

13. Where’s Waldo?

I can’t tell you, I disposed of his body.

14. What was the last movie, TV show or book that made you cry or tear up?

The Dolphin Tail movies. My daughter watches them virtually non-stop on the weekends, because that’s the only time she get’s to watch tv or movies. I’m dehydrated by Sunday evening.

15. If you could bring someone famous back from the grave, who would it be?

Waldo; my conscious is killing me.

16. To what would you like to devote more time?

Learning. Learning languages, grammar, investing, histories, everything, anything.

17. If you could dis-invent one thing what would it be?

Static constitutional documents and polarised politics; evolution calls for adaptation, yet many of the institutions that we rely upon to govern us lack even the most basic flexibility or capacity for being reasonable.

18. If you had to dispose of a dead body, how would you do it?

Hide them in a puzzle full of similarly dressed and colored items.

Seriously though, I’ve got a BA in Geography as well as a Law degree, so I get asked this question all the time. It’s all about your local jurisdiction and topography. Of course I can’t provide legal advice on this sort of thing.


Kenneth Ramsayer—loner, self-proclaimed scientist, unapologetic conspiracy theorist, and rock ‘n’ roll authority. Initially an escape from the asphyxiating judgment of his parents and the incessant torments of bullies, rock ‘n’ roll became Kenn’s entire world. Providing the soundtrack to his world, defining his experiences, and leaving him with an insatiable desire for knowledge, the music spoke to him while burning like an addiction; Kenn’s rock ‘n’ roll obsession could never be satisfied—there were simply too many gigs and not enough time—until now.

Kenn has discovered the means to access the depth of live shows that had previously eluded him by traveling through time to any gig ever held. Discovering countless startling revelations in his travels, Kenn will soon find out exactly what he’s willing to sacrifice for his obsession. With a burdensome knowledge that propels him to action, Kenn will have to step up in order to prevent the death of rock ‘n’ roll. Facing threats from evil forces, conspiracies, and even a friend’s errant philosophies, Kenn is poised to become the defender of rock ‘n’ roll. Forced to overcome these perils in 4:4 time, Kenn will have to succeed if he hopes to see his friendship and his precious rock ‘n’ roll survive.


About Duncan

Duncan Milne is a practicing lawyer in search of a forum where prose doesn’t include the terms “notwithstanding” or “but for.” He has a passion and insatiable appetite for music, art, and literature. His debut novel, The Death of Rock ‘n’ Roll, The Impossibility of Time Travel and Other Lies is the first in a four part series, with the second book anticipated June 2015.

Relocated to New Zealand with his wife and daughter, Milne is fortunate to be married to someone whose career facilitates travel abroad.




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