Tuesday, June 7, 2011

M. Edward McNally

Today's interview is with M. Edward McNally.  Ed writes fantasy and he told me he is trying to coin the phrase "Muskets & Magic" as he combines elements from two somewhat diverse interests:  Dungeons & Dragons and the US Civil War.

An interesting anecdote Ed mentioned is that he studied with Jane Smiley the year she won her Pulitzer as he was completing his master's degree in English Literature/Creative Writing.

I've just finished reading Ed's book:  The Sable City, and I found it to be a fun and well-crafted fantasy/adventure story.  One of my favorite elements was Ed's attention to detail and description of things that gave a real feel to events that were otherwise far outside of our normal experiences.  For example, I like the way he describes not just the action in his fight scenes, but the subtler textures that the characters would be experiencing - such as the feelings of being hurt or injured.  It seems that writers in this genre often get caught up in the heroism in ways that prevent them from humanizing the characters.  Ed's talent for that element provides an added dimension and level of interest to the reader.

You can buy The Sable City at these links to: AMAZON or SMASHWORDS 

TAS: Let's get the plug out of the way. Tell us a little bit about The Sable City - who will be interested and why?

MEM: The Norothian Cycle, of which The Sable City is the first book, is a wide-ranging fantasy based in part on the premise that a world in which magic was "real" would not look like an idealized version of medieval Europe, only with some orcs running around and guys in pointy hats shooting lightning bolts out of sticks.  The world I have tried to create in my stories is one with its own history of cultural, political, religious, and economic development, all shaped by the “fact” that magic is real.  But that is just background.  I am a firm believer that the story and the characters come first.  The rest is just set-dressing, when you come right down to it.  Though I do have an awful lot of it.

TAS: What aspects of being an author do you most enjoy?

MEM: Getting lost in my own head to the extent that I totally get away from myself.  It’s like I’m not even writing, I’m just scribbling or typing as fast as I can to keep up.

TAS: What aspects of being an author do you least enjoy?

MEM: The reaction of the people I care about when I get lost in my own head to the extent that I forget about them, too.  I really am sorry.  But I’m not going to stop.  Not again.

TAS: What moment as an author have you experienced that you are likely to remember 20 years from now (good or bad)?

MEM: The first time I got a short story published in a literary magazine, I took it to a park and read it about twenty times, sitting on a bench.  That was almost 20 years ago now, and just thinking about it, it’s like I’m still there.

TAS: What bad habits do you have when it comes to writing/promoting your books and/or what do you wish you could do better?

MEM: I’m awful at self-promotion.  I keep making friends, not “customers,” which is apparently the wrong way to go.  But anything else makes me feel icky.

TAS: Do you have any moments or anecdotes that led you to want to be an author?

MEM: When I was about ten, I had a cutesy little-kid poem published in the Kansas City Star.  My name in print...that was it, I was a goner.

TAS: Do you write books that are part of a series or stand-alone?  Why have you chosen as you have?

MEM: Series, and it chose me.  I made a “world” over the course of about ten years, during which time I did not write any “fiction” in the traditional sense.  Then some of the people of that world started to yammer at me, and I get the feeling they are not going to stop until their story is told in full.

TAS: If an editor suggested a change that you felt weakened the story but you also felt it would increase sales, would you do it?

MEM: In theory, yes.  I am always willing to listen to the suggestions/criticisms of people I respect.  But if it was a matter of changing something so profoundly that I felt it wasn’t my story anymore with the changes made, then no.

TAS: If a movie studio intended to make a film of one of your books and you had a choice of $1,000,000, but you'd give up all creative rights, or $100,000 and you'd have a large say, which would you take and why?

MEM: Door Number Two.  I am lucky in that I live pretty simply, and wouldn’t have any idea of what to do with the extra $900,000, other than worry about it.

TAS: Is there anything that you look forward to that gets you through a tough day?

MEM: I am such a huge fan of sleep.  Seriously, I can bribe myself to finish a page in exchange for a nap, or a chapter to let myself sleep-in the next day.  Sweet, sweet sleep...

TAS: If you knew you would be trapped in an elevator for a couple hours and you could choose any living person to be trapped in there with you, who would it be and why?

MEM: Probably a lame answer, but it would have to be one of my friends that I can BS about nothing and everything with for hours on end.  If it was, like, someone I had always wanted to meet, I would say something stupid in the first five minutes and then the rest of the time would just be really awkward.

TAS: Tell us about an embarrassing moment.

MEM: That time I was trapped in an elevator with Thomas Pynchon (kidding)

TAS: If you were on a first date with someone you were really interested in and they audibly passed gas, how would you respond?

MEM: It depends, are we at a Bears game or the Opera?  Is she mortified, or does she shout “Boo-yah!” and raise her hand for a high-five?  There are other variables I would have to take into consideration before rendering summary judgment.


Anonymous said...

I like your style, Mr. McNally. The thing about building a really believable world for readers is that the author must know that world as well as they know this one. I will definitely be reading this book! Another good Interview, Gary!

Alison said...

I love the date at the opera passing gas and yelling, Boo-ya!

I always look forward to reading these interviews. Mr. McNally, I am going to look for your book as well!

Dean Lappi said...

Great interview Ed. I am looking forward to reading your book! And your answers to Gary's great questions were a lot of fun to read. :) Cheers, Dean