A Bite of… Darran Handshaw

Q1: Your main character Actaeon is something of an inventor as well as an engineer, how much of you is in him – or is there another who was your main inspiration when writing him?

Great question.  There’s definitely a bit of me in Actaeon.  Before he was a character in the novel, he was a character that I played in a game, so it is useful to stick to what you know for certain aspects.  I’m an engineer and inventor in real life, but I work in a very specific field.  Imagining what someone with an engineering mindset – a person that uses empirical evidence, can deduct clues about things around them, and create intuitive solutions to real problems – could do in a world where people only have a rudimentary understanding of things around them and in most cases no desire to learn more, was a very compelling thing to write about.  Some of Actaeon’s shortcomings too, his verbosity, nervous tics and social awkwardness are exaggerations on some of my own qualities.  It is fun to poke fun at some of those quirks through Actaeon as a character.

One big difference between myself and Actaeon is that he has the potential to use his skills for either good or evil at the start of the novel.  I think as the reader progresses into the story they’ll see that he threads his way along some very morally gray areas.  In the end, it is the other characters in the story that inspire him toward the direction he chooses with that.  It is one of the tension points of the story though and you can see how it would be easy for him to turn his back on any morals with the ways some of the people in Redemption threaten him.

Q2: Why did you decide to write The Engineer and what did you need to set in place before you could do so?

I’ve started writing probably a half dozen books before The Engineer, but I’d never finished a novel until this one.  The big difference for me with this story was that it is the true story of how I met my wife on Redemption MUSH, a text-based RPG that she had created with a friend. The fact that the story was so personal to me was certainly encouraging for me to write.

There were a few things that needed to be set in place before I could complete the novel.  One was to set aside a time to write every week to make sure I could slowly but surely finish the book.  Another key item that I wanted to do was to speak with some of my old in-game friends to see if I could include their characters in the story.  It wasn’t necessary to the story, but the inclusion of their characters certainly made the story feel more real and it was great to share the story with so many people. Everyone I spoke to gave me the go ahead and was very excited about reading the final story.  Who knows, maybe there’ll be a few spinoffs if people write their own characters’ stories.

Q3: How do you feel your experiences as a firefighter have come out in your writing?

That’s another fantastic question and one I really hadn’t considered.  They’ve certainly come out in many ways during the story, especially when injuries, explosions and fires occur.  The construction of Act’s workshop too, is designed to be virtually fireproof.

Trench and Wave are the biggest way that I can see my firefighting experiences come out though.  They are two veteran mercenaries that Actaeon hires early in the story to help protect him.  The brotherhood that those two share is quite similar to what we have in the fire service.  The two of them have been through a ton of difficult times together and they’ve learned to get through it with humor, competent teamwork and no small amount of ball-breaking.  There are a lot of traumatic events from their past that haunt them, and we hear shadows from their history as the story progresses, but they never let their experiences stop them from doing the right thing, or just their best in general.  They’ve got a rich backstory that is only hinted at and I hope to write their story one day.

Darran M. Handshaw is the author of The Engineer – his first novel, anticipated for late 2017. In addition to writing, Darran works as an R&D Engineer where he designs and invents new products and holds more than 15 patents. In his spare time, Darran is also a firefighter and EMT with his local fire department where he recently completed a two-year term as Captain. When Darran isn’t writing, inventing things, or responding to emergencies, he enjoys his time with his wife, Stefanie, and baby son, Corwin. You can follow Darran on Twitter.

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