Today, instead of discussing unusual words, I’m interviewing my husband Brendan Tierney on the day his first book, “Predictive Analytics Using Oracle Data Miner”, launches. I have to give him a “plug” or face the divorce courts.
Brendan is an Oracle ACE Director, blogs at Orlytics , tweets as @BrendanTierney, and edits “Oracle Scene”, is a data mining consultant, and a lecturer at Dublin Institute of Technology. He’s currently in Mexico City presenting on a three-countries-in-one-week tour of Central America to Oracle User Group Conferences.
Meantime I’m at home keeping our offspring entertained. But I’m not bitter.
You’re very welcome to Wordfoolery, Brendan. So tell me, what gave you the mad idea to write a book?
Yes it was a mad idea. I suppose it was hanging around with you all these years and seeing all the writing you do. Actually I’ve been blogging for four years – writing how-to posts on various steps of predictive analytics using the Oracle database product set. Then about 18 months ago I had the idea of taking these posts, expanding them, adding lots more material and creating a book.
I know that non-fiction books aren’t written “on spec” like fiction books. So how many publishers did you approach with your idea before the book was commissioned by McGraw Hill/Oracle Press?
I only approached McGraw-Hill/Oracle Press. I saw them as best publisher of technical books on Oracle and I decided to start at the top. I put together a very detailed book proposal that included all the key topics. Plus, and perhaps more importantly, I did market research to justify the need for this book and to scope the possible market size. A publisher is not going to be interested unless they can make some money out of the book and they can only do this by selling them.
Brendan’s book shelf
And how did your wonderful family react to the news that you would be writing a book?
They are very excited and encouraging. I have to say that! No, really they were. You have lots of experience of working in the fiction world which helped. I tried keeping it quiet for a while and apart from you, no one else knew about the book.
Is it true that you got up at 6a.m. for eight months to write the book?
I started writing the book in July 2013 and finished the draft (including technical edits) by the middle of February 2014. Yes it did involve a lot of getting up at six and there were some five o’clock starts too. A typical day was getting up at five, writing for four or five hours. Then it would be time for the day job or to spend some time with the family. Then I was back writing in the evening for another four hours. After the first few weeks of writing, when I went to bed my brain was racing and I struggled to sleep but I was still enjoying the process. I had to take a break in September for a business trip. That gave my brain a chance to recover and I scaled back to three hours in the morning and three in the evening. This was seven days a week. Many times the kids would drop into me on their way to watch cartoons on weekend mornings at seven.
What was the hardest part of writing the book?
Writing it was something of an endurance test. The database product I was writing about was going through an upgrade while I was writing and I was getting access to the beta-releases. With each beta release I had to go back over the chapters I had written to make sure that it all still worked. I adjusted to writing several chapters at the same time.
What was the best part?
The best and perhaps scariest part was a couple of weeks ago when I received a box with some copies of the printed book. Up until then it I was working in a little writing bubble. Very few people knew about it and all my communications with the publishers was via email. So it didn’t seem real until I held the book in my hand. It then took me several days to actually open it and look at the contents. It is real now and a bit scary. Now I can say I wrote a book.
Unlike fiction, technical non-fiction books have testers who get huge credit for the finished product. I know you’ve done this job for other authors this year too, in your mythical free time. How does that work?
Yes with all technical books the publishers get someone who has some experience of the topic to act as Technical Editor. The role of the Technical Editor is to take each chapter and to go through all the examples, the program code and instructions that are in the chapter to make sure that they are correct. I had a technical editor for my own book and Oracle Press asked me if I would be the technical editor for a new book on Advanced PL/SQL for Oracle 12c. This book was written by two very well known PL/SQL authors and it was a privilege to work with them. As they completed each chapter they would email it to me. My job then was to work through the chapter and from a technical perspective look at what parts needed more detail or clarification and to run the sample code. I really enjoyed this experience and I hope to be technical editor again in the future.
How did your kids react when the printed copies arrived in the house?
They only realised then that I’d written a book. Their initial reaction was that this was what Mummy does. So they were a bit confused and didn’t know what to say just in case they upset you, until you showed them some of the books and magazines you’ve been published in. Then they read the acknowledgements and were delighted to see their names. They’ve been telling all their friends about it. One of our kids quietly did a very special thing. A couple of years ago you wrote them a small book for Christmas. In his room he put it in a special display on his bookcase to even things up.
Grace’s book shelf
Is it true that you’re not inviting the love of your life to attend the book launch at Oracle Open World (the largest Oracle Database Conference) in San Francisco this autumn? (nudge, nudge)
Of course you are invited 🙂 How could you not be? On Wednesday 1st October there will be a book signing at the Oracle Press store between 13:00 and 13:30. I would love to have you there to share this experience. But unfortunately with two school-aged kids it’s not possible 😦
As you know, Wordfoolery is a word blog (usually). So what’s your favourite word?
Floccinoccinihilipilification. It sounds great. You taught me that one. Maybe as a challenge I’ll include it in one of my Oracle User Group presentations and enjoy the confused looks.
Having been through the publishing process now, would you do it again?
I’m currently working on some technical articles for OTN (Oracle Technology Network). Will I write another book? Yes, I’d like to. I’ve submitted a book proposal to Oracle Press which they are considering, fingers crossed. Trying to fit writing a book into a busy work schedule is tough, but if it is something that you want to do then you can always make the time.
Do you have any plans to venture into fiction? Maybe a techno-thriller featuring a jealous wife murdering her spouse because he got a book deal before her?
Nope, not for me. I’ll leave the fiction world to you 🙂
Thanks very much for visiting Wordfoolery today, Brendan. Those of you with an interest in using Oracle Data Miner to analyse your data should get over to www.mhprofessional.com with the promo code Tierney to save 20% and get free U.S. shipping. Or search for Brendan Tierney on Amazon (US or UK) to find print and ebook versions of “Predictive Analytics Using Oracle Data Miner”.
Wordfoolery will be back with the origins of unusual words next week.
Until then happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,