SPFBO Interview: Darran Handshaw “The Engineer”

It’s good to be back: my next interview is with Darran Handshaw, who entered his book The Engineer into this year’s SPFBO! I have to say I’m a big fan of that cover. No witty remarks from me this morning, let’s get right down to it.


Check out a selection of past interviews down below:



First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?  


I’m Darran M Handshaw, I write science fiction and fantasy.  I just released my debut novel, The Engineer, this past December.  I started writing it in 2014, and it is a lengthy story, so it took me three years to write and edit it.  Since I’m pretty new to this, I’m learning a lot as I go, but the Indie Author community is great and helpful with any questions I’ve had. 

The Engineer is actually the story of how I met my wife in the text-based RPG Redemption MUSH, which she was a co-creator of.  We went on some amazing adventures in that game, and The Engineer is my effort to do them justice – so it’s a very special story for me.

In addition to being an author, I work full-time as an R&D Engineer at a technology company.  Creating and designing products is actually very similar to the writing process. I also volunteer for my local fire department, where I’m currently serving as an Assistant Fire Chief.  Despite all this, I still find time to write!


How do you develop your plots and characters?


Character and plot development is a very organic process for me.  I tend to generate both spontaneously. As I fill in my outline with more and more developed plots, I love to find additional character and plot ties throughout the story that makes the world and the people in it feel more multi-dimensional.  


Tell us about your current project.


Right now I’m working on another stand-alone novel in the Redemption universe that begins where The Engineer leaves off.  It will be another Chronicles of Actaeon Story, but this one starts out in the midst of a Redemption-wide war, which make things very interesting.  I’ve spent a lot of writing time drawing up battle plans for the different sides and thinking about how things will pan out. There are some major battles in The Engineer, and I loved writing them, but this new book will bring some of the characters into the centre of some major conflicts.  It is particularly interesting because Actaeon is not a warrior type, but he’ll be forced into making some difficult tactical decisions.


Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!

Actaeon is The Engineer in the novels that I’ve written and am writing.  He’s an eccentric engineer in a society that’s just trying to survive in a ruined, futuristic city where people care more about survival, politics, and power than anything else.  Because of this he’s very out of place and many of the other characters don’t understand him. They see his usefulness as an inventor firsthand in The Engineer though, and many of the other characters are willing to overlook his strangeness to take advantage of his talents.  The same talents also get him into a variety of problems that I won’t spoil for you!


What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?


The thing I hear the most since I published is that many people have their own ideas for stories and dream of publishing their own book one day.  My best advice to them would be to set some dedicated and regular time aside every week to write. I wrote The Engineer every Tuesday night after work for three years.  I work full-time and volunteer as a firefighter, but I was able to do it – it just took time. Anyone else that is serious about writing can do that too. Just be patient and enjoy the process!  Write on!


What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?


The Engineer is based on some epic in-game adventures that I played out during my time on Redemption MUSH, which was co-created by Stefanie Handshaw and Simon Svensson.  With their permission I wrote The Engineer and am writing additional books and short stories in the world. Redemption was inspired heavily by the world of Stargate Atlantis.  It also has a lot of post-apocalyptic elements that I drew from, given Redemption is a ruined city. I’ve always been interested in abandoned structures and ruins, so many of the scenes that have the characters delving into ruins of the city draw from that interest.


What inspires you to write?


I have stories in my head that are just itching to be told.  I’ve always loved telling stories, and, as many of my firefighting friends can attest, I have a plethora to tell.  Writing is a great way to share those stories. Unfortunately, I’ll never have the time to write them all. I discover new stories (or they discover me) faster than I could ever write.


What was the hardest part of writing this book?


The toughest part about writing The Engineer was the length of the project.  A three year long project can be tough to maintain focus and energy throughout, and it helped that I really loved the story.  The length of time I took to write it also created another issue: it is difficult to be consistent over such a long time period.  Because of this, a big part of the editing process was making sure the story was consistent throughout and there were no errors or redundancies.  My writing skill also grew tremendously during those three years, so editing the beginning to bring it in line with the later parts of the book was time consuming.


What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?


There are so many favorite scenes and chapters that I have from the book, but I think my favorite has to be writing the scene where Knight Arbiter Eisandre (my wife’s character) has to rescue Actaeon.  It was the gender opposite of the damsel-in-distress trope, and it was also a major growth moment for Eisandre’s character. The plot put her in a situation where either direction she chooses, she violates a huge part of who she is, and the way she handles it is tremendous.  


Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?


Yes.  Aside from the obvious of becoming a better writer throughout my debut work, I also learned that your book doesn’t always turn out the way you expect.  When I started writing the book, I figured it was mainly a story about Actaeon, and the story mainly follows him. What I learned in the end though (and was pleasantly surprised by!), was that the most important story was really about Eisandre and her growth.  Although the story follows The Engineer Actaeon for the most part, he is really a supporting character to Eisandre, who is the true hero of the story, in my opinion. I won’t spoil anything to that end – you’ll have to read it.


It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?


Roleplaying Actaeon for 3 or so years was a huge help for me to understand him well.  You might say I /was/ Actaeon for those years. I also played Trench and Wave, and Gunther Arcady, the story’s main human villain, and even Phyrius Ricter, all in the game.  Playing them in a roleplaying game really helped me to understand those characters well and I think I write them the best because of it. I’ve heard other authors say that they write their characters in random scenes that they later delete, all to better understand them.  I can totally see the merit in that.


What are your future project(s)?


There are so many.  I have outlines for two more Chronicles of Actaeon Stories and several more Tales (short stories).   I also have plans for a prequel that delves into the origin story of Trench and Wave, the comic duo of veteran mercenaries that has Actaeon’s back throughout The Engineer.  Trench and Wave have their own deep story that will make for quite a book that will read more like a military fantasy story.


I also have plans to write a firefighting memoir that details my many firefighting and EMS adventures (which are still ongoing!).  My wife and I also wrote about half of a science fiction novel together that explores a cateclysm that occurs on a colony world that was colonated from Earth – we’ll finish it one day.  That doesn’t even count my ideas file for more stories.


If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?


I’m doing it!  I love being an actual engineer.  I get to invent things, design them, and hold them in my hand!  I’ve used things that I’ve made in the field – and I’ve even been lucky enough to get the opportunity to design firefighting tech that I’ve used while fighting fires.


What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?


Universal Book Link: http://getbook.at/engineer


Amazon: Author Page


Facebook: fb.me/ActaeonRellios/


Twitter: twitter.com/Engineer7601


Goodreads: goodreads.com/TheEngineer


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