>An Interview With Tracie McBride
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover.
Say Hello to Tracie Mcbride
GNOH – Hi Tracie, how are things down under?
Very well, thanks, Jim! Although, I am frenetically busy with the lead up to the World Horror Convention next month and the official launch of Dark Continents Publishing.
GNOH – Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a New Zealander by birth and disposition, and an Australian resident by choice. I moved to Melbourne in July 2008 with my husband and three children. By day, I’m a mild-mannered teacher aide. By night, I’m still mild-mannered, but you’ll usually find me in front of a computer screen or with my trusty Kindle in hand. I like to join things, and I say “yes” a lot, which has resulted in my being a member of three different writers’ crit groups (one face-to-face and two online), the HWA, the AHWA, the ASFFWA, and the SFPA (although I might have let that one lapse). I’m vice-president and Australian liaison for Dark Continents Publishing and an associate editor for Dark Moon Digest. Oh, and I’m a committee member for the local resident’s association.
GNOH – You have a Diploma in Creative Writing, how did that help with your writing? Do you think it fast tracked your development as a writer?
That question reminds me of something my driving instructor said to me 25 years ago when I was learning to drive. “My job is to teach you how to pass the driving test, and when you get your license, that’s when you really learn to drive.” If I can make another analogy, the Diploma gave me the tools to build works of fiction. Then I had to learn how to use them properly. When I first started the course, I was terrible. Just ask my first writing critique group how terrible I was. But by the end of the course I was able to produce saleable works. So, yes, undoubtedly the Diploma was instrumental in that development.
GNOH – Did you write genre fiction as part of your diploma? And how was it received by the tutors? Was it taken on its merits or did they feel it was inferior to proper writing, for want of better words?
Oh, they were good sorts and they indulged me in my flights of fancy. Here are a few relevant excerpts from my final assessments –
“ I would have liked to see more of your science fiction writing, as that showed particular promise…At this stage, I would say your writing is tending more to the popular and genre form than the literary, and I wish you every success with it.”
“Three of your four portfolio stories have surreal or ‘magical’ events in them. I think you are successful in writing this type of fiction – your imaginative journeys are backed up by a clear, readable and well-grounded writing style.”
Ultimately, the tutors hoped that the graduates would be able to go on to make some kind of income from writing, be it from non-fiction articles, poetry, screen writing, or whatever, so they weren’t the slightest bit precious about genre fiction.
It’s once you got outside the classroom that you realised how ghettoised genre fiction is in a tiny market like New Zealand’s.
GNOH – What draws you to the short fiction side of writing?
Instant gratification, mostly. Well, instant-ish. The thought of spending a year or more working on a novel, and then who-knows-how-many years more of trying to sell the damn thing, scares the bejesus out of me. And I also have something of a ‘wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am” approach to writing; I like to get in with my idea, express it with as few words as possible, and get out again. Where most short story writers struggle to get their stories under five thousand words, I struggle to get mine over three thousand.
GNOH – Do you have a novel you want to write?
Short answer – no. Long answer – not yet. I just haven’t met the right idea yet. If I’m not careful, though, I’m going to find myself committing to one on the end of a shotgun…
GNOF – I see you also write poetry, that must be even harder than short story writing?
Poetry is what I write when I am having trouble with my short stories. It suits my approach well; I can have a completed, self-contained piece in under an hour. I prefer poems that are like teeny, weeny short stories, although I’m not averse to writing the occasional poem that has readers scratching their heads and going “WTF?!?” Poetry writing can be at once more restrictive due to a poem’s brevity and conventions, and more liberating, because you don’t have to worry about things like character development or a coherent plot. I always considered myself to be a short story writer first and a poet second, until I came to apply for membership in the HWA, and discovered that I qualified for active membership on the strength of my poetry sales.
GNOH – Is there much of a genre scene in Australia, to be honest I’ve only ever heard of two other horror authors from there?
Australian writers will bemoan the state of the genre market (“we’ve only got a population of 22 million people!), but I come from New Zealand, where I could probably comfortably host a party at my house for the nation’s entire population of dedicated speculative fiction writers. So in comparison, the Australian scene is pumping. We have the Australian Horror Writers Association and their horror fiction periodical, Midnight Echo. The president of the HWA, Rocky Wood, is a fellow ex-pat Kiwi living in Australia. There are two published horror novelists in my Melbourne writers’ crit group alone. I have two short stories coming out this year in horror anthologies published by Australian small press.
Anecdotal evidence would suggest that Aussie writers are generally unconcerned with distinctions under the broad umbrella of speculative fiction; they’re just as likely to be found writing fantasy or science fiction or children’s specfic as horror stories. And coupled with a global aversion to labelling novels “horror”, that could be making the Aussie horror writers hard to spot. But trust me, they’re there, and they’re kick-ass.
GNOH – Who are your writing heroes?
No heroes, just sentimental favourites, old flames and current crushes. I’ll throw a few names out there and let you guess who falls under which category. Robert Heinlein. Tanith Lee. Stephen King. Anne Rice. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Audrey Niffeneger. Clive Barker. Margaret Atwood. China Miéville. Dr Suess (those pants with nothing in ‘em still haunt my dreams…).
GNOF – What book would you say best sums up what you love of the genre?
Ooh, you just love the hard questions, don’t you? My personal favourite is Clive Barker’s 1991 novel “Imagica”. The back cover blurb says it’s “an astonishing feat of the imagination, immensely engrossing, running riot with ideas, fantastical inventions, soul-terrors and emotional and intellectual resonances.” Yeah…what he said.
GNOF – You are the Vice President of Dark Continents Publishing, how did you become involved with DCP, and how did you get the gig?
You know, to this day I’m still not quite sure… I ‘met’ the crew of DCP when I signed up for the now-dormant Underground Rising project (I did mention that I like joining things, didn’t I?). As David Youngquist says in his interview, he and I were chatting one day on Facebook. He mentioned that he was unhappy with the way things were going with his publisher at the time, and so were several other authors signed with the same publisher. I casually suggested that perhaps he could put together a writers’ co-operative to publish their books, and the next thing I knew, I was in the co-op! Early on in the establishment of DCP, I said to David something like this – “I don’t have a novel ready to publish like the others, I’m not a marketing expert or a layout guru, so, ummm…why do you want me on board, exactly?” And he said, “Tracie, you’re on board because you’re the Big Ideas Person.” I love David for that. I’m going to have it engraved on my tombstone.
Oh, and just so you know, it turns out that besides being a Big Ideas Person, I’m not too shabby as an editor either.
GNOF – What would you say sets DCP apart from other publishing houses?
Globally, the bookselling and publishing industry is in a state of panic. But we are not afraid of the revolution (which is ironic, considering we specialise in horror fiction…). We’re prepared to take risks. We’re prepared to do things differently to the current industry standard. And we’re all writers first and foremost, which makes us especially passionate about our work and puts in a unique position to view the industry from a different angle.
GNOF – It’s a credit to you all, considering the line up of authors are relatively new that the books I have so far have all been top notch. What do you credit this to?
I think David’s some kind of savant. If I’m the Big Ideas Person, then he is the Discoverer of Talent. And Serenity’s ability as an editor might have something to do with it. Of course, David discovered her, too…
GNOF – Do you and Serenity have a tough time keeping the guys of DCP in line?
That question should be, do the guys of DCP have trouble keeping us in line!
GNOH – What does the future hold for you?
I see a long journey over sea…I see riches….I see slush, lots of slush…I see a new laptop purchase ‘cos I’ve worn the keys down on the one I have…
Seriously, I’ve got a few projects in mind that I hope to tackle once the company has officially launched. There’s the phobia anthology being published by DCP and edited by Dean Drinkel. David and I hope to put together an anthology of horror stories written for children, by children. John Irvine, the other Kiwi writer in our group, and I have discussed a collaborative dark poetry and art collection. And I have this nebulous idea for a novel in which readers get to interact with the writer and contribute to the direction that the story takes. If that idea ever coalesces into something more solid, I might not need that shotgun after all.
GNOH – Many thanks Tracie for taking the time to do this interview, it’s been a pleasure