To kick off the first in a series of interviews with Irish writers, creators, and poets, I'm delighted to introduce Derek Power. Derek is the author of the 'Filthy Henry' series and a fellow BFS award nominee for our collaboration on 'Sky Breaker: Tales of the Wanderer.' Enjoy!

Hey Derek, welcome! How long have you been a writer?

            I began writing a little during college years, but mostly short stories. There was a contest ran in the college paper, they provided a line and you had to write a story that was 1000 words long. I entered, it won, and I didn’t write again properly until maybe 2013. That was when I had the idea for my first Filthy Henry novel, and I’ve been pretty much writing ever since.

Where did you get the inspiration for your books?

For Filthy Henry the inspiration comes from a few sources, mostly the ancient myths and legends of Celtic Ireland and then whatever modern day type stuff I can bring in to make the story work. A lot of the background characters in the Filthy novels are based on people in my life and one or two strangers who asked me at a convention if they could be in a novel. I’ve also drawn on my favourite authors/writers and seen the type of stories that they craft and wondered if I could do something in a similar vein.

Me and Derek at ComicCon 2022

What is the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in your writing career, so far?

In writing, nothing much really. I seem to be able to write whenever I want and I’ve a notebook full of ideas. Are they all winners, who is to say, but they are stacking up so that I usually have the next three books plotted out before I start working on something. For me it is the marketing side of things. Being an indie author is great, but the marketing is a full time job and you can copy/paste the formula of somebody successful you’ve seen online and it just doesn’t work the same for you. That bit can be the big challenge.

If you could go back and give your younger self a single piece of writing advice, what would it be?

One of the hardest things I had to learn when working on the first Filthy Henry novel is that you don’t need to get your sentence right first time. I must have spent about a month working on the perfect ‘first few pages’ instead of just writing the first draft and then editing over and over. If I could go back to the early days of writing that’s the advice I’d give myself, just write the bloody story and let the following drafts be used for refining and tweaking and making things perfect. Then, when you are just about ready to give up because you don’t think any more edits will help you have a finished novel.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Big time plotter, I have no idea how people pants a book. I need my outline, my chapter outlines to ensure the overall plot points get hit in the right spots, all that good stuff. That isn’t to say that I stick to the plot outline rigidly, sometimes you will have a great idea only as the story unfolds before you and the plot will need to be adjusted and tweaked. I think that’s the happy middle ground between the plotters and the pantsers.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for aspiring writers, right now?

There could be a few. I know when I first started out I Googled ‘How long is a short novel’ and set that as my minimum word target. It felt like a huge mountain to climb, but the trick is if you do a little every day that word count gets bigger and bigger. Marketing is definitely a big challenge, even if you are good at it, because it takes up time. Time that could be used on writing. Plus people will try and predict trends, which they shouldn’t. Write the story you want to write and let the trends come and go.

Do you believe that having a strong social media presence leads to more book sales?

I’m not entirely sure on this one. Some people swear by having a Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram - but followers do not automatically translate into readers and book sales. My Twitter, for example, has a respectable six hundred followers, but I haven’t seen that translate into sales in the least. However a good ad campaign can bring in more followers on social. I know a lot of people who seem to get some success for sales based on social followers, but I dunno. Jury is still out with me on that one. I will say that I think social media is a great way for writers to keep in touch with readers that probably replaced the old ‘fan mail’ of the pre-internet days. From that perspective it is important to maybe even focus on just one social media platform and really work it well.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I’m lucky in that I haven’t been hit by this yet in all my years writing. I generally come up with an idea quick, refine it with a bit of my process, then start writing. The only block that I have when it comes to writing is there aren’t enough hours in the day to work, family and write…with sleep being needed somewhere there too.

What is your favourite part of the writing process?

I do enjoy the plotting stage. Sometimes my plot outlines can run into double digits of pages as I build out the story and world around it. I often wonder if I shouldn’t include the plot pages as a bonus in the back of the book so people can see them. As one person said after reading the third Filthy Henry novel, there are versions of the book that exist that nobody ever sees because I will edit and cut and add and change. They said it made them jealous, even though they enjoyed the finished piece.

If you could collaborate with any other author on a project, who would it be and why?

Well I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with yourself on one and that was fantastic fun. If I could go with another one, I’d go with Philip K. Dick. He wrote my all time favourite sci fi novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ (which was turned into Blade Runner) and I’d love to write a story with his unique approach. Somehow nobody has been able to reproduce the mad methods he used to get an average person suddenly involved in an otherworldly situation.

What are you working on now?

I’m actually on a few projects at the minute because idle hands are something I don’t like. I’m writing a sci-fi story for a contest I stumbled upon online. I’m doing up a Filthy Henry case file, which is a short story that never gets published in print but appears on the podcast for Filthy Henry that a friend of mine produces. I’m writing the plot outline for a screenplay and also working on a one act play to enter into the Drama League of Ireland contest. I think I have a nap scheduled there somewhere as well.

Where do you see your writing career in 5 years?

Probably still pumping out Filthy Henry novels. The novels are written in such a way that you can read one and get a fully self contained story with all the information required in that book, but also easily part of the shared and growing world that Filthy inhabits. Ideally I’d like to see more sales happening, but I have to figure that out and maybe cut back on some writing to do the promoting.

Have you ever considered writing in another genre?

So Filthy Henry is comedy-fantasy with a detective spin. I’ve written a sci-fi story with a detective as the main character. I’ve written a real world story that is a crime/detective one - I think I’m trying to create an ‘omni detective’ genre that all my books would fit into.

Pen names – yay or nay?

When I started out I thought nay, but as I’ve branched out into different genres I have reconsidered. I think a pen name can be good if a writer doesn’t want to risk polluting their fanbase. If you had written a lot of comedy novels the last thing you want your fans to do is get annoyed that your new one is a murder mystery, so maybe a pen name per genre and then use your real name for the main genre.

What marketing tips would you give to someone starting out in their career?

Hire somebody who knows that world, because there are grifters online who will promise you the deal of a lifetime for a mere two hundred euro and you get all their tricks and it comes to nothing (speaking from experience sadly).

Derek Power is the mind behind Filthy Henry, the fairy detective. Born and bred in Dublin, he current lives in Skerries with his family. He predominately focuses on comedy-fantasy works, but has dabbled in sci-fi noir with his novel 'Duplex Tempus'. When not writing he spends his days refreshing the inbox wondering when Hollywood is going to come knocking for the film rights to his books.  

Books in one handy place:
Podcast (audio book version of the first three novels):