Tuesday, June 24, 2014
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: James McDonald
1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?
I have always been a voracious reader. My mother was an English teacherI have always done a lot of writing, both personally and professionally. Writing for me has been a cathartic exercise, and originally I wrote this not to be published, but as a personal pursuit. My wife caught me, and read through the manuscript, and talked me into publishing it. I think reading and writing are parallel efforts. Writing makes you a better reader, and the same of being a reader to become a better writer.
Once I started my professional career, I continued to write in my travels. The genre and subject changed depending on my moods, and what was going on in my life at the time, and my interests of the moment. I don’t know that I actually ‘decided’ to become a writer. The decisions have been about what work got published.
2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?
I read almost anything. One of my great pleasures when I was young was going to the used bookstore and coming out with a grocery bag of books. I plowed through my father’s collection of old Hardy Boy, Nancy Drew, Bobsey Twin books when I was very young. I think I had read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories before I hit double digits, and I still love to go back to them today.
I get stacks of periodicals on all sorts of topics. My favorite author is Robert Heinlein. Science fiction is one of the most diverse genres, even though is has been maligned critically for a lot of years. It can create backdrops for any sort of story you want to pursue. Heinlein tackled so many different types of stories and characters in his work. I was fascinated when I read a biography that mixed in some of his political papers along with one of his early works. In that vein, A. C. Clarke, P. K. Dick, Douglas Adams, Tolkien of course.
In more current authors, I am a big fan of Preston & Child and their bodies of work together and separately, Richard Kadrey, Neil Gaiman, I like John Scalzi’s work. I like stories that make you think and consider your world view, and entertain. A great story stretches your comfort zone or makes you think.
But I have also been having a lot of fun with some indie authors. I’m finishing up on Michio Kaku's The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind.
3. What was the inspiration behind your novel Bound and Hagged?
I have great love for history and mythology, and what inspires people. It is an idea I have been working with for a number of years. It started out as one book, but it arced and developed to the current story line. I was playing with ideas about how much our mythology could have truth in it. What would have happened to old deities? What about leprechauns, fae, and beasts of mythology? I work with a blend of our ‘real’ modern world, and what I called the ‘veiled’ world, playing a bit with multiverse theory and other dimensions to give dimension to their ability to have existed, and still be right alongside of us.
So with that idea in mind, I always find it interesting as to what people consider ‘normal.’ We all have our own world views based on the people who raised us, nurtured us, and conversely the people we have conflicts with in life. The protagonist, Greyson Forrester, walks in many worlds, and having been raised this way sees this as his normal, even if no one else does.
Book One, Bound and Hagged, is really a condition that Greyson is in at the start of the book, and throughout the story. The story is written in first person, with the exception of the prologue and epilogue. The narrator has gotten to Greyson’s journals, and is seeing through his eyes. Each of the titles is a bit of a bad pun, but they are meant to also capture the essence of the story. The reference of being Bound is about Greyson’s abilities being bound, and hagged has multiple meanings. It has ties to some of the mythology referenced in the book, and Greyson’s overall state of being.
The cover art is being revised, and the print version should be coming out in late June.
4. Will we ever see Greyson or any of the other characters again?
I sincerely hope so! I have laid out the story arc for the series. Home Summonings was the original title, and morphed to become the overall series arc. It is a story about trying to go home again, not only for Greyson, but others as well. The idea is tied to how could someone be driven from their home, but compelled to come back again. And how things may change, but they also largely remain the same.
Book two is in editing right now, and is called Mistrials and Tribulations. The trial alluded to in Bound and Hagged comes to fruition, but it is not what he expected. And the outcome lays the foundation for the rest of the arc. It gets a little darker, and more towards the metaphysical. I’m shooting for a late summer release.
Book three is Unbound and Determined. Take from the title what you will, but Greyson has a lot of issues he is trying to atone for, and is getting the first real ideas about his destiny. It is well in the process of being drafted, and I am trying to have it out by year end.
Book Four is Mistruths and Consequences. The detailed outline is almost complete, and I have drafted a few sections of it.
As you can tell, the titles come about as bad puns. I’m also working on a couple of companion stories that will give back stories of some of the key players, but will also answer some of the questions that Greyson is seeking answers for. Readers will get to find out before he does, at least a few questions.
5. The weaponry in the story is extensive. Did you have to study the terms?
I am fortunate to have an interesting varieties of friends and contacts to help through those types of questions. I was born and raised in the South. I’ve fired a weapon or two. As to some of the more arcane weapons, I am a bit of a museum hound. I did some research for refreshers, but the only one purely as my concoction is the Anima Arca, the Soul Coffin.
6. How did you come up with all of the imaginary monsters in the book?
I dredged through all of the various folklore I’ve seen and studied over the years. I pulled from Greek, Celtic, Middle Eastern, and Native American folklore, as well as more modern ideas. My wife’s favorite is Melvin the Muse, angel extraordinaire, and generally a source of unintentional chaos.
I had a few of the characters I knew exactly who and what they would be. Others, I had a general idea for, and played with the archetypes that best fit. Vikings and Norse pantheon will come into play before it’s over, as will some of the Roman counterparts. I feel sure some people will be a little struck when more of the Abrahamic influences come into play.
7. Why Amazons? Those are not usually placed into wizard stories.
Why not? Greyson is one piece of the puzzle. We are seeing the world through his eyes. I don’t see this as a wizard story, as much as the idea of a larger world than what we are aware of. Every individual sees and perceives the world around them through their own biases. Part of what I have always been fascinated by is that our society and culture focus heavily on the male aspects in our modern folklore, and how we see ancient folklore.
Going back to college, and the studies I did in anthropology, I had one professor who may have dipped into the peyote one time too many, his studies into different cultures focused on the idea of the divine masculine. But if you sat down in informal settings, he would dive into the ideas of the divine feminine, and balance.
I had the benefit of having both strong male and female role models growing up. My wife and sister both qualify as strong willed, and strong minded. I think we undercut our understanding of the human experience only focusing on one gender. And that our ancestors believed that divine influences needed a balance, yin and yang, male and female, I believe this is something we have largely cut out today at our own expense.
By no means am I saying that a matriarchal society would be peace and tranquility as is proposed by a lot of people. History shows us very much the opposite. The feminine just can take a different approach. I think the Amazons represent the strong feminine influence, and they have a rich history of personalities and stories. And they become much more critical as the story develops.
8. What other paranormal/fantasy themes would you like to try your hand at?
I have most of a short story drafted that I was trying to complete for my first wedding anniversary. Oops. Maybe I’ll have it finished by the time we actually take a honeymoon. It is a light humor ghost story set in the south.
Otherwise, I’m not sure what next in this genre. This series will keep me busy for a while, and the companion stories I want to write would let me explore many different areas. This was originally going to be one story in a different type of series. I was going to develop the “Longbow Initiative” into a series as well, and may do so in the future. They will feature prominently in the ongoing stories, as will a couple of companion groups.
I was not looking to create a paranormal/fantasy book when I started, as much as the ideas and characters I had fit into that world. If I have another idea that fits this universe, then I’ll give a shot to develop it, but if I did nothing but write the Greyson arc, I’d be busy for the next three or four years.
9. Are you working on anything that you'd like to share with the readers?
I’m also working on a more hard core sci-fi story, which may develop into a couple of books. It is based around the idea of an anthropologist chasing his mystery of the moment.
Also, if you check out my website, [link will be below--KSR] I’m doing small vignettes called ‘Melvin’s Mangled Myths.’ As the mood strikes, I’m doing short stories/pseudo histories of mythical beings as seen by Melvin.
10. What author (dead or alive) would you love to collaborate with?
That is a hard one. That would be a pretty long list. I think it would be interesting to peek into the mind of someone like Neil Gaiman to sit down for a drink and discuss ideas. And the mode I’m in right now, I think it would be fun to work with Richard Kadrey in his worlds.
Though he writes in a completely different style, I’m waiting for Rick Gualtieri’s latest installment in the Tome of Bill series. Fun, sick humor. I think it would be a blast to play with some ideas there.
11. Would you like to see Bound and Hagged as a TV series or film? If so, what actors would you choose?
I think it could be fun to see it picked up as either, but at the same time, I expect the adaptation would be a little painful. I think that the world I have based this in would provide a great medium for storytelling, and that the characters and story could carry over well. But I think as most book lovers know, what makes it to the screen is never what you have pictured in your mind.
In a dream world though, John Malkovich as Melvin, Billy Connolly as Fr. Mike, Bruce Campbell as the Dagda, if he could get out the bad Irish accent and Charlize Theron as Priscilla. I have a much harder time with Greyson and Drea.
12. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
My hope is that within ten years, I’ve retired from technology and write and play with hot glass full time. My five year plan is to put the Home Summonings world to bed and be well into the yet unnamed story of my anthropologist. Beyond that, I am always looking for something shiny to inspire my twisted take on life.
13. Were any of the characters' personalities inspired by real people?
Of course. I’m not naming names, and most people would not know the people I’m channeling when the voices come out of some of the characters. I have had the benefit of travelling for work, meeting and collaborating with a lot of people over the years. And you have no idea how many personality quirks come out of watching people in airports.
Of the friends of mine who have read the book, I think it has been interesting to hear them discuss the parts of my own personality and sense of humor coming from different characters, and the ones that they think were modeled on myself. It is hard to write, and not have a small piece of you come through each of your characters.
14. What is your favorite monster?
The good old average person. The reason we tell stories is to understand the best, and worst in people. When Anne Rice explores the internal struggle of the loss of humanity within her vampires, or we experience the challenges of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde through the Hulk, we are exploring the absolute extremes of ourselves. How else could we have Mother Theresa and Ted Bundy within our own species? No matter what you say, the scariest things I’ve ever seen came from people.
Then again, who can’t help but love the Creature from the Black Lagoon in 3D Red and Green?
15. Thank you for participating in the interview. Could you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
1 – I can be found running around in a kilt and throwing around heavy objects.
2 – I have worked in 42 of 50 US states, 4 Canadian provinces, Mexico, Brazil, Ireland, Germany, London, Japan, and I forget where else. After a while they all look the same. Airport. Office. Hotel. Bar. Food?
3 – If I had not gone into technology, I wanted to go into anthropology, and I took classes minoring in magic and religions. Even before then, and since, I still read a fair amount about the field.
Find James McDonald online via:
Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Send Melvin the Muse an email at: email@example.com