Here’s M.T.McGuire. She’s mad she is.
How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?
To be honest, I don’t. I have no idea what other people want to read, all I know is what I want to read. So I write that and hope that it bears a vague enough resemblance to what other humans like for them to enjoy it. I do sometimes keep a picture in mind of the kinds of other people who I think might like it; my teenaged nephew, a friend’s teenaged sons and me.
The thing is, I can’t sell something I don’t believe in. Actually, I can’t do anything I don’t believe in. So I have to enjoy my stuff – and I hope that if I do it’ll make it easier to convince other people they will.
What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.
I love playing with scientific ideas. I get a grain of truth and extrapolate an imaginary edifice the size of a galaxy from it. Doing that is a lot of fun.
Having grown up with lots of 1960s re-runs of things like the Saint, the Avengers, the first StarTrek series and the Cantina scene from StarWars, I’ve always enjoyed making up my own worlds, and species, with their own rules. Although my current project , the K’Barthan Trilogy, is set in a parallel reality rather than in space. It’s sort of liberating if not all the characters in my stories are human. It also makes it easier to deal with real world issues honestly without offending anyone.
I also really enjoy fantasy, that getting lost in a different world. That said, I don’t really feel equipped to write proper dragons and elves style fantasy. I read, with awe, books by people who can. But I fear my book about dragons would be buried under an avalanche of feedback from people who know more about them than I do, telling me I’d done it wrong. Hmm... that sounds very much as if I’m too chicken, which I probably am.
Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them?
Absolutely. I have notebooks. Stacks of them, and I keep them all. I still refer to the back of my notebook from 3 years ago when I want the number of my son’s school. I have one with pages of silly names. Corporal Punischment, Colonel Ischzue and Private Land are all in there, as well as lots of other ‘characters’. Many are place names which sound like people, usually signposted off the A1: Leighton Bromswold and Carlton Scrope appear in my current work.
I also use pictures and music. One book is three lines of dialogue and a picture of an aeroplane, so far. Another is a single song.
How do you manage plot bunnies (ideas that invade your mind that aren’t usually helpful to the story you’re writing but breed like...er...bunnies)?
Unfortunately, I incorporate nearly all of them into the story and a lot of them can end up working out quite well.
However, I quite often end up rewriting them or binning vast tracts of stuff and starting again with a slightly different aspect of the same idea. It’s as if I have to look at all sides of the situation before I can work out which way to go.
The hard bit is when it’s wrong and you know you’ve got to get the scissors out or just rewrite it hugely. It’s always sad to cut a character out, but I suppose you just have to convince yourself there’s more where that came from. I usually save a new version of my book so I have the old stuff there if I change my mind. I’m on version 23 of my current one.
How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with?
Some of my characters are hybrids, some contain bits of my own personality, usually because when they’re in a tricky situation and I need to empathise and make it convincing I do so as myself. There’s nobody who’s wholly me or wholly someone else. I don’t want reality getting in the way. I really like Ruth and she’s probably the ideal me but then, it would be very liberating to be as much of a git as my baddie.
Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?
McOther reckons that I devote about 5% of my brain power to the real world at any given time. I’m not sure it’s quite that bad – it must be over 6% – but certainly, if the real world demands too much of my attention I get extraordinarily cranky. Writing is my crystal meth, my not so secret addiction. It’s why I always call myself an authorholic.
Getting back to the question...The thing really worrying me is that when I’m old and have lost my marbles, I will start to think my characters are real. I’m not sure McMini or McOther are going to appreciate being referred to by the names of imaginary beings, most of whom are not even human. I certainly have no idea how the nursing home staff will cope.
What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?
Yes and no... I loved the Narnia Books. One of the first books I read on my own was The Magician’s Nephew. However, I also get a lot of inspiration from film and TV. Indeed that’s probably where I go for fantasy and sci-fi the most. In the world of books, I read absolutely anything that looks interesting and with a few notable exceptions very much outside the genre I write in. What spills out onto the page when I sit down to write is mostly inspired by dodgy 1960s TV. Imagine if someone like Terry Pratchett, only not as funny, had decided to write the Man from U.N.C.L.E.
What lengths do you go to o convince us readers that your book has the X factor?
Mwhah ha haargh! Probably not enough! I just tell people that it’s funny and there are flying cars in it. That would be enough for me, to be honest.
Actually, between you and me, I sell more out of the handbag than I do online. Perhaps because begging is more effective when it’s done face to face. Phnark.
No, no, nooooo! It’s not true! I don’t beg... much.
However, in real life, when people see the book they are usually interested because in real life not every single person I meet is an author. Online it’s much harder, most of the people I meet are writing something themselves and have a whole different set of criteria upon which to judge other works.
I find reviews help a lot – especially if they’re coupled with interviews or blog spots like this one. I try to do interviews and/or bludgeon people into reviewing my books regularly. Two interviews and two reviews each month are usually the difference between selling a handful of books or none at all.
How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?
Gutted that I missed it (think Monty Python Fork Sketch) but delighted that someone else has picked it up so I can get rid of it!
What do you like most about visiting KUF/GR/forums?
It’s a good laugh. I really enjoy the forums. Writing is a solitary profession and I guess the forums are my water cooler. This is one aspect of the internet where the fact there are lots of other writers is just brilliant. They are smart, they know stuff and they are happy to share their expertise and advice. If I’m going through a difficult patch with a book or if the Real World is being a pain in the arse, there’s always someone else in the same boat or who understands.
What is on your near horizon?
My feet and beyond those, the telly. OK, sensible answer, I’m nearly at the end of the K’Barthan Trilogy. About 75% of the third book is written, and the other 25% is all tied up. What I have to decide now is whether this book, the ‘third’ and ‘final’ one, is actually books 3 and 4.
Where can we find you for more information?
There’s quite a lot of it. But basically, if you say hello to me in any of these places I am more than likely to reply. Here goes:
Lots of info about my books and links to where they are on sale www.hamgee.co.uk/books
Twitter profile (for easy following) https://twitter.com/MTMcGuireAuthor
Amazon: http://Author.to/MTMcGuire – this will take you to my author page, with all my books, at your local Amazon.
Tumblr: http://mtmcguire.tumblr.com/ caveat, I’ve no idea what to do with Tumblr but wordpress offered to add my blog posts and it seemed churlish to refuse.