Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Words with... M. Edward McNally

Thanks to M. Edward McNally for this interview
How long have you been writing?

When I was in about third grade I had a cute-little-kid sort of poem published in my local paper, The Kansas City Star. My name in print... that pretty much did it for me. I was hooked.

Do you have a day job or do you write for a living?
A variety of day jobs too agonisingly boring to talk about.

What do you feel is the ideal recipe for a good novel/story/poem?

The beauty of writing for me is that there isn't any one recipe that tells you how to do anything. Every chef does it their own way, and maybe never the same way twice. Variety is the spice of life, and the thing that keeps it all so interesting.

What/who inspired you to write and still inspires you?

Any number of authors, both fiction and non-fiction, that can take me totally to a different place and time. The brain does not know if it is perceiving real sensory information or only signals generated by the imagination, which is pretty cool if you think about it. Cognitively, fiction can be as real as fact.

What books have you written? Do you stick to one genre?

I am and have been all over the place, from historical fiction to things with pretensions of literature. The thing that I am concentrating on now, however, as an indie, is one big Musket & Magic Fantasy series called the Norothian Cycle (got to have one of those whacky made-up words in the title so people know it is fantasy).

How long did it take you to write your book/s?

It depends on how you define 'writing'. The setting of this series grew out a sort of 'world-building' hobby I had as a grad student, starting more than a decade ago. The actual books which are set there only came later, and took anywhere from a few months to a year from start-to-finish of a first draft. 

Do you have any works in progress?

The series goes on... I am now editing volume III and writing volume IV.

Which character from your books do you like most/are most like?

Basically, the whole thing is Tilda Lanai's fault. The point at which I went from building a world as a cheaper-than-cable-TV hobby to writing stories about it was when I started to get an image in my head; an image of a young woman with an apple in her hand tentatively approaching a wounded warhorse in an endless field of steppe grass. I started writing the books to find out who she was. Three volumes later, I am still learning new things about her and her friends.

Where and when do you write ­ – do you have set times during which you write or is it just when the mood takes you?

I try to get work in whenever I can, though mornings tend to work best for me. Something about the half-roused subconscious slowly being brought back to life by coffee beans...

Have you ever based a character on someone from real life? Has the person guessed?

Not on a one-to-one basis. Some traits of people I know may have worked their way into any given character, but nobody is totally modelled on any one person. Really, by this point, I have known them so long that the main characters seem like their own people to me.

How do you find the marketing experience? Any advice for other writers? Do you use a blog or twitter, etc?

Yeah, this is where I totally suck. I feel sleazy self-promoting, and 'virtually' hanging around other writers and such. I wind up making 'friends' instead of 'customers'. Apparently that is not the way to go...

One day you’re walking in the forest and you bump into an alien librarian from Mars. He wants five book recommendations from you…

Lord of the Rings, The Civil War: A Narrative
(Shelby Foote), Vineland (Thomas Pynchon), The Writings of Oscar Wilde, The Landmark Thucydides

Some of your fave things: Animal? Food? Drink? Film? Colour? Band? Song? Place to chill out?

Dogs, bacon cheese burgers, beer, The Fisher King, green, Jethro Tull, Napoleon by Ani DiFranco, The Dame Tavern in the Temple Bar district of Dublin, Ireland.  

Which book do you wish you had written?

My next one.

Who is your favourite character from any book and why?

Probably a hokey answer, but I have to say Tilda again, from my own books. Not because I think I have created some great character or anything, but because it feels like I have not created her at all. She is a presence that whispers in my ear while I am writing, and pinches said ear when I am doing anything else. "Back to work, McNally... I ain't got all day."

Which three authors (living or not) would you like to take to the pub?

Brendan Behan, T. C. Boyle, George Orwell.  I want to see who starts the inevitable bar-fight, and oddly my money is on Orwell.

What other hobbies/interests do you have or has writing taken over?

I still read a lot more history than I do fiction. I find things that have actually happened to be so much more weird and wild than anything that could ever be made up.

What would you like to achieve in the next five years?

I would rather just enjoy them on a day-to-day basis than constantly work towards any one thing. Destinations are overrated, journeys are cool.

If you won the Lotto, what would you do with it?

Put it in the bank and never tell anyone. I'd just live off it, quietly, and do what I'm doing now.

Please complete this story in 100 words or less…

"There was a young frog called Kipper…
Who was always remarkably chipper.
He was exceedingly fond of living in a pond,
As he could take a whizz without working a zipper."

(It wasn't supposed to be a limerick?)

Finally, what question do you wish I’d asked and, of course, what is the answer?

"So where can people find Volume One of the Norothian Cycle, The Sable City?" 
Why, I'm so glad you asked, Vickie...

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