Saturday, November 29, 2014


1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve always loved writing—I was the weird kid that got excited about school writing assignments. A good thing, too, because my papers usually saved my grades from my test scores. It just took time to figure out how to write fiction that was worth sharing.

2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?

As a young kid, I read non-stop. I loved Baum’s Oz series, the Alice books, Tolkien, and that classic, Ralph Fozbek and the Amazing Black Hole Patrol. And comic books, always comic books. When I got a little older, I was all about Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, J.D. Salinger, Spider Robinson, Philip K. Dick, and H.P. Lovecraft. And comics by folks like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and Warren Ellis.
Right now, I’m mostly doing research for my next book. But I’m getting into the works of Haruki Murakami and Gabriel García Márquez, and I just finished The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien (Brian O'Nolan). One of my favorites is the underrated Lucky Wander Boy by D.B. Weiss.

3. What was the inspiration behind your novel Monsters All The Way Down?

The premise bounced around in my head for about ten years, and it was reading too much Philip K. Dick that I finally figured out how to make it work. It started as my take on a PKD paranoia thriller set in modern times, and the Lovecraftian elements crept in on their own. Musically, I found a lot of inspiration in The Mountain Goats’ Heretic Pride album. The road trip element of the book definitely comes from my love of Supernatural.

4. What would you do in Brennan's predicament?

Get killed around chapter four! Seriously, though, Brennan is miles away from being an author surrogate, but much of what he does in his early investigation comes from how I would try and figure things out. A big difference between Brennan and me is that I have a support system of friends and family. I like to think I have people I could call if I really got into trouble.

5. You say you're a stay at home dad and former youth pastor. How have those things effected your work, if they have effected it all?

Being a youth pastor was very fulfilling, but it was emotionally exhausting and left me drained creatively. I thought being a stay-at-home dad would give me time to write, and it did—at first. Once my son stopped napping most of the day, there wasn’t room for anything else. I had plenty of ideas, but no time to write the stories. Monsters All the Way Down was written and revised in about three years of staying up too late. I realized I couldn’t be a good dad without sleep, so now I do most of my writing in marathon stints on Sundays.
I’ve blogged about the challenges of writing and being a stay-at-home parent, if anyone would like to check out my site.

6. Were any of the characters personalities or emotions taken from real life?

Some of the conflict in the book has its roots in the sibling rivalry I used to have with my younger brother. He’s a great guy, and amazingly talented, so it was strange to have him coming up behind me, able to do some of the things I did, only so much better.

7. What other genres would you like to try your hand at?

My next book is going to fall in the superhero novel category, although there’s a lot more to it than capes and punches. There’s a YA murder mystery I’ve been dying to get down on paper. There are quite a few sci-fi and literary fiction ideas to try out..

8. If you could successfully clone a human, who would you clone and why?

I have a couple of friends, Dustin and Jon, who are self-disciplined, intelligent, and focused. If I had an army of either one, I could take over the world in a fortnight. If you cloned me, you’d just have a roomful of folks pondering their existence and identity.

9. Was there any intended symbolism behind the fact that, out of all the clones who acted pretty much the same, Brennan was different?

(I’d rather not have this big a spoiler in the interview, if that’s all right. Could you rephrase the question or leave it out?). There’s some nature versus nurture going on there. It’s scary to think how much our heritage and upbringing are out of our control.

10. Would you like to see Monsters All The Way Down as a film? If yes, who do you want to have play your characters?

I would love to see it as a film—I could cameo as one of the decapitated heads. As for casting, I’d hate for my word of god to steal the opportunity for people to cast it themselves. But the only character I really had cast in my head was Benjamin Rosen, the guy in the ruffled tuxedo. I think a young Rufus Sewel (Dark City; Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) would be perfect for the part.

11. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?

I’d love to get to the point where I can put out a book a year, preferably one every six months. If getting my work out there leads to paying the bills, all the better.

12. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?

I’ll always have my safe, mature backup plan of becoming a magician.

13. Can you tell KSR what you're working on next?

Definitely! My next book is about comic books, obsession, and the nature of reality. It will be the second book in a very loose trilogy, so it shares themes, settings, and maybe a few characters with Monsters All the Way Down. It’s currently in revisions, and the plan is to launch a kickstarter in the spring to raise money for illustrators.

14 . What authors, dead or alive, would you like to collaborate with?

It kills me that Philip K. Dick never finished The Owl in Daylight, so I’d be happy to bring him coffee so he could give us some closure. And I would do just about anything to be the Royal Historian of Oz—does that count? 

15. Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?

Thank you for the opportunity—this has been great fun! As for three things, (1) I think it’s healthy to be offended at least once a day. (2) I cry at movies. (3) I used to ride a pretty mean unicycle.

Find Mr. McSwain online via 

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