ESOTERIA-LAND: Interview With Michael McCarty
Michael McCarty has been a professional writer since 1983 and the author of over twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, as well as hundreds of articles, short stories and poems. In 2009 he was named as finalist, along with collaborator Mark McLaughlin, in two different Bram Stoker Award categories: Best First Novel of 2008 for Monster Behind The Wheel (Corrosion Press/Delirium Books) and Best Poetry Collection of 2008 for Attack Of The Two-Headed Poetry Monster (Skullvines Press). He received the 2008 David R. Collins’ Literary Achievement Award from the Midwest Writing Center. In 2005, he was a Bram Stoker finalist in the nonfiction category for More Giants Of The Genre (Wildside Press).
Michael lives in Rock Island, Illinois with his wife Cindy and pet rabbit Latte, and is a former stand-up comedian, musician and managing editor of a music magazine.
His websites are:
GNOH – Hello Mike, how are things with you?
MICHAEL McCARTY: Fabulous. Thanks for asking.
GNOH – Am I right in thinking you used to be a stand up comedian?
McCARTY: Yes. I use to do stand up comedy for about five years. I performed in comedy clubs in Davenport, Iowa, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, St. Louis, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois.
Ask me the secret of comedy?
GNOH: Okay, what is the secret of co-
McCARTY: Timing (laughs).
GNOH – Who are your favourite stand ups?
McCARTY: I like a lot of them, besides doing stand up comedy; I was the promotion coordinator at the Funny Bone Comedy Club for about five years too. I really like the Old School comedians: Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Rodney Dangerfield, George Carlin. Out of that list Steve Martin is the only one alive and George Carlin is the only one I met.
I interviewed some comedians for my book Esoteria-Land (Bear Manor Media, 2009), Tommy Chong from Cheech & Chong fame, Etta May, Michael Winslow from the guy who does all those funny voices from the Police Academy movies and Bobcat Goldthwait.
I use to work with Tammy Pescatelli at the Funny Bone, she was a finalist on “Last Comic Standing” and has done a lot of TV too.
GNOH – How does stand up comedy compare to writing, which gave the most gratification?
McCARTY: They both involve writing to a degree. For instant gratification, stand up comedy, hearing that audience laugh when you tell a joke is a rush.
GNOH – You’ve interviewed most of the genres heavy hitters, how do you manage to keep the interviews fresh. I find interviews more stressful to compose than reviews, not that I would compare myself to someone as gifted as yourself?
McCARTY: Thanks for the kind words. Interviews can be more stressful than reviews, but sometimes doing a bad reviews is more stressful than doing a good interview.
All these people that I’ve been reading and admiring my entire life… The chance to actually meet them or interview them and get paid by the magazines too … it’s quite an honor. I’ve interviewed writers who have been a major influence on my writing such as Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, Richard Matheson, Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman, Graham Masterton, Alan Dean Foster, Poppy Z. Brite, Frederik Pohl, John Carpenter, Joe Lansdale, Connie Willis, Whitley Strieber, yada yada yada.
GNOH – Which was your favourite interview?
McCARTY: I’ve done over 150 interviews with some of the biggest names in horror, science fiction and fantasy. I have two of them which I am very fond of scream queen Linnea Quigley in Masters of Imagination and Elvira in the upcoming book Modern Mythmakers.
GNOH – Masters of Imagination, is a collection of your interviews, is there going to be a follow collection? If so, who’s going to be in it?
McCARTY: Masters of Imagination has 21 interviews and was published by Bear Manor Media. Modern Mythmakers is a companion book of sorts because several of the people who were interviewed in Masters are interviewed again with a brand new interview in Mythmakers which includes Ray Bradbury, William F. Nolan, Peter Straub, Christopher Moore, Laurell K. Hamilton and Alan Dean Foster.
There is 33 interviews in Mythmakers including Dean Koontz, Richard Matheson, Connie Willis, Larry Niven, John Saul, Ingrid Pitt, the “Night of the Living Dead,” “Dark Shadows” ladies and plenty of surprises too.
Masters of Imagination is available now as an ebook and a trade paperback (check places like http://bearmanormedia.bizland.com and my author page on Amazon.com at: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001JS0L06
GNOH – How do you deal, with difficult interviews, you know the sort where the answers are shorter than the questions?
McCARTY: Sometimes I throw in a follow-up question other times I don’t. feel a good interview has a rhythm to it, like music or poetry. Sometimes you need those short beats to break things up.
GNOH – What is the appeal of horror to you? Is there a personal Golden Age for yourself?
McCARTY: In the book On Writing Horror: A Handbook by The Horror Writers Association edited by Mort Castle and published by Writer’s Digest Books, I wrote a chapter called “Why We Wrote Horror” which was the third chapter in the book, following such heavy hitters as Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King.
For me, I like the naked and raw emotions of horror. It goes beyond flesh and blood, horror dwells deep, into the bones, into the marrow.
A Golden Age for horror, that’s a tough one, probably the 1970s.
GNOH – How do you feel the genre is holding up? Are you concerned that the genre may be teetering on the brink of collapse, publishing houses collapsing, a glut of uninspired horror films, et etc.
McCARTY: I think horror is doing fine.
GNOH – As a novelist, what is your take on e-books, are they the saviour of publishing, or will the damn it with the tidal wave of poorly written, and edited self published novels?
McCARTY: For me, e-books are just another way for consumers to buy my books and they do, it’s an extra check (laughs).
GNOH – How do you as an author keep your head above the tidal wave?
McCARTY: With a life-saver (laughs).
GNOH – I love horror novels, but I’ve never been a big fan of horror movies, especially since the early nineties. These days they just seem to be either style over substance or yet another remake, what’s your take modern horror movies ands in particular the remakes.
McCARTY: I agree with you, that there are a lot of remakes out there and a lot of them some of them are real stinkers. Some remakes and sequels are worth seeing; others are not worth the time. I think it’s all subjective of course, but I still see a lot of good horror movies at the theatre or rent them on video. I just heard of a French zombie movie called The Horde, which I want to check out.
GNOH – You should check out The Horde, it’s a really good film.
Last year, the horror and sci-fi films I enjoyed included Let Me In, Daybreakers, Splice, Paranormal Activity 2, Machete, The Crazies, Shutter Island, Piranha 3D, Lake Placid 3, Sharktopus and Survival of the Dead,
I’m not a big fan of the Saw, Hostel or Twilight series (although I do love True Blood and The Walking Dead).
GNOH – Lets talk about writing, how would you describe your writing style?
McCARTY: My writing is like gumbo stew: There are elements of horror, science fiction, suspense; the surreal and the strange. I mix all together with plenty of comedy and spicy adventure, yum-yum.
GNOH – How hard is it to write a horror comedy? It must be hard balancing the two genres with it slipping into a pure parody?
McCARTY: I think it gets a bit tricky at balancing the horror and comedy at times. But I think I’ve done a good job with it in my books Monster Behind The Wheel (co-written with Mark McLaughlin) and Liquid Diet and especially with the short story collections Dark Duets, All Things Dark & Hideous (co-written with Mark McLaughlin), A Little Help From My Fiends, A Hell Of A Job and Partners In Slime (co-written with Mark McLaughlin).
I also think that comedy helps lighten up the very dark moments in horror, is like an eclipse; with a lighthouse shining a beacon of light in the dark night to brighten up the gloom.
GNOH – Liquid Diet : Vampire Satire, was published two years ago by KHP, how well has it been received?
McCARTY: It was my first solo novel and was received well. The book even got some blurbs from the likes of horror writers Nate Kenyon, Sheri A. Gambino and Mark McLaughlin; scream queen Linnea Quigley, The Amazing Kreskin and Mark McLaughlin, as well as good reviews from the vampire magazine The Hungur and the English e-magazine Phantom Review and reviews from J.R. LaGreca and Harriet Klausner, there were others I probably forgotten too.
The book was originally was published by Black Death Books in 2009. I have expanded the book now into a Liquid Diet / Midnight Snack novel that is even bigger and better and should be coming out in 2012 from Whiskey Creek Press.
GNOH – What made you write a satire on vampires? Has the stake not already been driven through the heart of the vampire?
McCARTY: I wanted to do a “vampire satire” of Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and Tale of the Body Thief.
I call the book my “Interlude with the Vampire” or “Interview with a Vampire Writer.” Here is a little about the book:
The book has an introduction by vampire writer Michael Romkey and an afterword by C. Dean Andersson.
GNOH – A lot of people blame Twilight, I personally think the rot started with Buffy, what do you think?
McCARTY: I tried to read Twilight but fall asleep after a chapter or two. What kind of vampire drives a Volvo? And what vampire would stay in high school for over half century, I know high school math is hard, but not that hard (laughs).
GNOH – You have published a number of collections, which one would you suggest as a good starting point to you work?
McCARTY: Novel: Monster Behind The Wheel (co-written with Mark McLaughlin)
Nonfiction: Masters of Imagination
Short Story Collection: Partners In Slime (co-written with Mark McLaughlin)
GNOH – Do you prefer writing short stories or full length stories?
McCARTY: I like both. Sometimes short stories are just as tough to write as novels and novels can be easy to write as short stories. I wrote a short story called “The Principal” in the short story collection called A Little Help From My Fiends which I turned into a full length novel co-written with Jody LaGreca now called Bloodless which I am currently shopping around.
GNOH – You have collaborated with number of authors, Mark McLaughlin, Amy Grech, Joe McKinney, Jody LaGreca. How does the collaborative process differ between the authors?
McCARTY: A good collaboration is like a marriage … so I guess; I have been married a lot (laughs).
Mark, Amy, Joe and Jody are all a delight to work with.
GNOH – You have worked with Mark McLaughlin a number of times, is there a special rapport between the pair of you?
McCARTY: Mark and I are great friends; he was even the Best Man in my wedding. We’ve worked a lot in the past and hopefully in the future too. Our latest work is Partners in Slime an awesome short story collection and this October, Medallion Press is going to publish our novel Monster Behind The Wheel an e-book, their website is:
GNOH – You have also worked with your wife, have you never heard the old adage, never mix business with pleasure?
McCARTY: (Laughs) That is a good one. Obviously, you are not married.
GNOH – As an author you have a lot of experience in many different fields of writing, do you have any advice for other authors?
McCARTY: I’ve done a lot lectures for writing groups. The best advice I have comes the people I have interviewed like Ray Bradbury who said you should read twice as much as you write. Or from Peter Straub in Masters of Imagination (buy the book, it is
Chalk-full of great advice from the greats of the genre)
PETER STRAUB: I think beginning writers should read their heads off. I think they should read everything they can get. I think they should read the best books they can get. The worst thing any beginning horror writer can do is to read only horror. Especially horror written by people of their generation, and mistake those people for “it.” By “it” I mean achieved writing: everyone who you were forced to read in school and hated. You should go back and look at: (F. Scott) Fitzgerald, (Ernest) Hemingway, (John) Steinbeck, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, George Eliot, the Brontes, John Updike, Phillip Roth, (Leo) Tolstoy, (Marcel) Proust and (Feodor) Dostoyevsky. Those are the kind of people you should be reading if you want to write. You don’t want to invent the wheel. You don’t want to think of the world as flat. You want writing with some dimension to it and then, while you’re doing that, you just have to write, write, and write. You have to write out all the bad stuff. Every writer has within them a mountain of trash, and you have to excrete that stuff before you can get to the good stuff. The reason you have to do it is you have to discover in that process who you are.
It took me a long time to find out what I was good at. I wouldn’t have believed it when I started. I thought what I would be good at was John Ashbury post-narrative contemporary novels. I discovered what I was good at was plot, narrative, tension, and a certain subset of feelings. I didn’t even want that. When I discovered I was good at it, I really wanted to expand that and develop it. I think that is one of the essential tasks of young writers, to discover their real voice and their real material. It’s a hard wrestle, but it’s supposed to be hard.
Writing fiction is impossible. You are trying to create a completely made-up world that can replace the real world. It has to be seamless, every detail has to have vitality in it. All the verbs have sizzle in them. When you put the perfect book down on a table, it would float on a little electrical charge of air two or three inches above the table. It would sit there humming. I keep on trying to write that book, but I can’t. That is the ultimate goal.
GNOH – What does the future hold for you?
McCARTY: More books of course. I am heading more into the novels, novella and non-fiction direction and away from the short story books (I had six published) and the interviews (I have written 7 of those). In 2011-2012, some of my upcoming books include Monster Behind The Wheel (co-written with Mark McLaughlin) from Medallion Press, Lost Girl Of The Lake (co-written with Joe McKinney) forthcoming from Bad Moon Books, Modern Mythmakers from Bear Manor Media, early 2012 and a book that I have co-written with The Amazing Kreskin, which I can’t really talk about now.
GNOH – Many many thanks Michael, this has been a blast of an interview.
You can pick up most of Michaels books from the usual online sources