One Liners – The Seanan McGuire Interview

Tell me one little-known fact about Seanan McGuire.

Despite having a well-deserved reputation for loving ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, when I’m having a bad day, there is nothing better in my world than curling up on the coach with the cats, a Diet Dr Pepper, and an iCarly marathon on Nickelodeon (or, alternately, a Phineas and Ferb marathon on Disney).

What started you on the road to becoming a writer?

The discovery that writers existed!  Before that, I had assumed no one got to write books–they just grew on trees, like lunchboxes in the land of Oz.  If I couldn’t plant a lunchbox tree, I might as well be a writer.

Did you go straight into novels or have you written other stuff?

Both.  The first thing I sold was a novel; the first things I wrote were short stories and novels that never got finished.  I spent a very, very long time writing fanfiction, because that taught me how to assemble a narrative.  Everything sort of happened together, for me.

How did everything happen together? Tell me more.

I wrote everything at once, because I was trying to figure out what the heck I was doing.  It all sort of started making sense around the same time, because that was when I got good enough to accomplish anything.

How did you sell your first novel?

Once I finished a novel good enough to sell, I passed it to my agent, who went off into the wilds while I stayed home and looked worried.  We got a sale at the very first house we approached: DAW.  I love them, so I signed pretty much instantly.

Back up a bit. Where did the agent come from?

The agent farm.  They grow them on trees, you know…more seriously, when I wrote a book that was good enough to be salable, I got signed by an agent.  It’s a very organic process.  You can also approach it by publishing a lot of excellent short stories, and then signing with an agent because you want to write books, but I’ve never come at things from that side, so I don’t know how it works.

Tell me about winning the Campbell Award (Best New Writer 2010) and the difference, if any, it made to your career.

It came with a tiara.  In Australia.  Which was, essentially, the moment I had been dreaming of since I was a little girl watching Dot and the Kangaroo and wanting to be the despotic princess of Halloween.  I cried and thanked the Great Pumpkin on the main stage, and it was amazing.  I just…amazing.  As for the difference it made to my career…I honestly don’t know.  I’ve never had a career where I didn’t win the Campbell Award.  I don’t think it can possibly have hurt any?  It definitely meant that a lot of people learned my name.  Whether or not that’s a good thing is an exercise for the reader.

What writers would you consider to have influenced you?

Stephen King; William Shakespeare; Chris Claremont; Diana Wynne Jones; Harry Knight; Ray Bradbury; Charles Addams.  They all taught me very different lessons, some good, some bad, all important.

If you had to pick one piece of writing by the above mentioned, what would it be?

Stephen King, IT; William Shakespeare, Hamlet; Chris Claremont, The Dark Phoenix Saga; Diana Wynne Jones, Fire and Hemlock; Harry Knight, The Fungus; Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree; Charles Addams, The Best of the Addams Family.

What are you working on at present?

Right now, I’m working on two Seanan McGuire novels–one in my October Daye series, and one in my InCryptid series–and the first of a new Mira Grant duology about parasitic infections.  And an enormous number of short stories, always.

That seems a lot. Do you work to a daily word target?

I try to, but a lot of factors impact it.  Weekend word counts are higher than weekday word counts, for example, and sometimes I have to focus on what’s due first, even if that cuts into other areas.

Do you usually have multiple contracts on the go?

I do.  I don’t think there’s ever been a point where I was only working on one book, and I usually prefer to be working on at least three that have already been sold.  It helps to keep me focused.

You have been convicted of murder (naturally, you’re innocent) and you hang in the morning. What is your last meal?

If I’ve been convicted of murder, I hope I did it.  Otherwise, my last meal is DESPAIR.  But assuming I have no way out, my last meal would be heirloom tomatoes, ghobi chicken and mushroom marsala with garlic naan, from House of Curries in Berkeley, California, and a pint of Jeni’s Riesling Poached Pear sorbet.

If you were an artist (musician, painter, actor, film director etc.) in a discipline other than you currently operate, and you were going to be remembered for only one piece of work (a one-hit wonder), what would that piece (song, painting, movie) be? One single existing  piece of ‘art’ by someone else.

I’m afraid I have to recuse myself on this question.  I am an artist–I do comic strips–and I am a musician–I’ve actually been nominated for a Hugo Award based on my latest album.  There are no works of art that I would want to take away from their creators, even though there are several that I hope I’m someday skilled enough to create.  I want to grow, not go back into the comfort of someone else’s creative cradle.


About Bob Neilson

Bob Neilson lives in Dublin with his wife, two daughters, son, two dogs, one cat and a growing feeling of claustrophobia. In partnership with his wife he runs a successful retail business in Dublin city. His short fiction has appeared extensively in professional and small press markets and he has had two plays performed on RTE and one on Anna Livia FM. He also presented a radio show on Anna Livia for a year. He has had two short story collections published, Without Honour (1997, Aeon Press) and That’s Entertainment (2007, Elastic Press) as well as several comics and a graphic novel. His non-fiction book on the properties of crystals is a best-seller in the UK and Ireland.
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