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D. J. McCune Book and Novel

D. J. McCune - Author


Debbie (DJ) McCune was born in Belfast and grew up in Carrickfergus, a seaside town just north of the city. As a child she liked making up stories and even wrote some down, including a thriller about a stolen wallaby. At school she hated doing homework, except writing stories for English - which were long enough to make her teachers weep.

Debbie read Theology at Trinity College, Cambridge but mostly just read lots of books. She has enjoyed a varied career, but she is currently Head of Religious Studies in an Integrated Secondary School.

She lives in Northern Ireland with her husband, daughter - and two cats with seven legs between them.

A Q&A with DJ McCune...

 What inspires your writing? That’s a huge question! The characters usually come to me pretty much full-formed with their own story to tell but those stories tend to reflect the things that interest me – existential questions, humour, adventure, family and friends, love. I studied Theology at university so I suppose I was always interested in the supernatural, the soul, what it means to be good and of course what, if anything, happens to us after we die? Maybe this is something that fascinates all of us. I also tend to write about characters who feel different in some way or who are torn between the life they are living and the life they want to live. I think a lot of teenagers (and adults!) can identify with this.

 What has been the most exciting moment of your career so far? There were two major moments. Getting signed by my agent Gillie Russell was a big moment because it was the first time it really sank in: I can do this! I really can do this! And of course getting signed by Hot Key was amazing, especially seeing the final proofs and cover. It all suddenly became real. It was so strange and lovely seeing my words in an actual book, not just on a print out or computer screen.

 How did you first become an author? I wrote my first ever ‘book’ when I was a little kid. It was a thriller about an Aboriginal man called Bill who lived in Northern Ireland and had his wallaby stolen. I even stapled it together. I didn’t finish it though – a pattern which continued for a couple of decades! However, about three years ago I decided it was time to have a real go at writing. I joined a writing class, which spurred me on, and I had huge encouragement from my tutor the writer Bernie McGill. I managed to finish two books – and Death & Co. got the deal!

 What are you reading right now? I don’t get as much reading time now between juggling writing and being a mum but I’m enjoying How to teach Quantum Physics to your dog by Chad Orzel. It’s a kind of humorous layman’s guide to Quantum Physics. I found science really boring at school (especially stuff about the sex parts of plants) but as an adult I’m actually quite interested in knowing more about how the world works and I wish I’d worked a bit harder at school.

 What was your earliest career aspiration? I quite fancied the idea of being a doctor, until I realised I would have to do chemistry A-Level! So I’ve given that particular burden to Adam, the hero of Death & Co. instead. I also wanted to be an English teacher but I had such a fab Religious Studies teacher at school that I decided to do Theology instead of English. I mostly just ended up reading loads of books anyway!

 What advice would you give to budding writers? Keep at it! Enjoy the good days when it all flows like magic but expect to have days when you just can’t seem to get into the zone – and keep writing anyway. Writing is hard work at times, especially around the middle of a book – but it’s such an amazing feeling knowing that other people are going to read about the characters you love and hopefully love them too. And if you’re the self-critical type you need to find a way to kill that voice while you’re doing the first draft or you’ll be too scared to ever write anything at all!

 What was your favourite childhood book? The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M Boston. I saw the BBC adaptation first and then got the book. It was magical – the first book I ever read and felt sad when I realised I was nearly finished, I just wanted it to go on and on! And interestingly it was also a book about the afterlife and a boy struggling to find his place in the world – so maybe it had more of an impact than I thought!

 Where is your favourite place to write? In a café, with the sound of the espresso machine hissing in the background. I’ve also been known to walk along the beach recording text and then sitting in the car transcribing it and looking at the sea!

 How do you read- print, digitally or both? Occasionally I will read digitally, especially on holiday (so I don’t have to fill my case with books) – but I still love bending the page down on a book! I also love reading in the bath – and a paperback lends itself to this much better than an expensive e-reader!

 Who do you most admire? Optimistic realists, explorers, peacemakers, people who take others as they find them. And I admire people like my husband who have the perfect blend of kindness and cleverness – a combination that is sometimes hard to find together!

 Are there any books you wish you had written? I loved Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy – I thought it was original and beautifully written and it wasn’t afraid to explore the complexity of human relationships and emotions. I love anything where a character stays with me long after I’ve closed the book.

Featured Books, with extracts, by D. J. McCune

Death & Co. by D. J. McCune
Death & Co.
D. J. McCune
Mixing themes of destiny and responsibility with the real life concerns of teenagers everywhere, this is a witty and gripping start to a new teen series by a debut...
Format: Paperback - Released: 02/05/2013

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