Interview With Seanan McGuire

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Seanan1Seanan McGuire, sometimes known as Mira Grant, is one of this generation’s most prolific writers. Since exploding onto the scene, she has written everything from a super heroine serial to an epic tale of zombies and bloggers. Ghosts? Check. Incryptids? Check. Changelings? Check. We sat down to ask all the important questions while Seanan polished her favourite machete. 

Lesley Smith for Amazing Stories: How do you manage to be such a prolific author and still have a day job? Insomnia? Clones? Hellish minion-scribes? Access to alternate universes?

Seanan McGuire: Exhaustion.  A total lack of a social life.  Tears.  Occasional collapses from overwork, leading to two to three days spent so sick that I can no longer move under my own power.  More tears.  Panic attacks in the shower, during which I am convinced that my heart is finally giving out from the strain.  Destruction of my mental and physical health.  You know.  All those good things.  You may not want to print this answer, it’s rather depressing.

ASM: This one’s an oldie but a goodie and almost required in an interview: Where do you get your ideas?

SM: Everywhere.  Ideas are cheap.  Execution, that’s the hard part.

ASM: Can you tell us a little bit about how you write? Do you have a favourite place to do it? Do you do it watching TV or listening to music?

SM: I can write virtually anywhere, but I prefer to do my writing at my desk, which is half-painted in an elaborate pumpkin mural (I got tired of it partway through) and loaded down with books and toys and comforting clutter.  I write in increments of 1,000 words, and I have music playing all the time.  When I can’t be at home, I have my iPod on, and the music playing for me that way.

ASM: What is Seanan McGuire’s Muse?

SM: My muse is a woman named Jane.  I don’t know what she looks like, I don’t know where she lives, and I don’t know what she does all day (but I suspect it involves whiskey and strawberries and sleeping off the night before, getting ready to go back into that warm and sawdust-scented darkness where the music never stops and all the men are smiling and all the women lie).  I don’t really know anything about her, which is probably how it’s meant to be.  We’re not supposed to understand our muses, are we?  I don’t know where she came from, either, and even though there are times I’d like to send her back–like when she shows up at two o’clock in the morning smelling like spilled beer and sweat, clutching a handful of notes scrawled on bar napkins, and informs me we’re writing a series–I wouldn’t if I had the chance.  Because I don’t know what I’d do without her.  Because sometimes, when the lights are low and the words are just strange black lines on the screen, she dances for me, and I understand the things that they say about her in those strange foreign bars, the ones where you pay for your drinks with ashes and absinthe, and the language of love is still Latin.  Because sometimes she brings me treasures from places that I’ve never seen and never will see, stones stolen from fallen castle walls, feathers she tweaked from the wings of geese that lay golden eggs, scales shed by carp in the process of becoming dragons.  And sometimes she brings me poetry, and sometimes she brings me stories, and everything she brings me is beautiful; it’s just that I’m not good enough to make it all clear to everyone else, and she drives me crazy, and she keeps me sane.

ASM: Did you always want to be a writer?

SM: Yes.

ASM: How did you get started and what made you want to write?

SM: I honestly don’t know, because I’m not kidding when I say I always wanted to be a writer.  I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing.

ASM: Are you a ‘fan’ of a specific genre, like science fiction or horror? What attracts you the most about this genre?

SM: The second part of this question assumes that I would say I was a fan of only one genre, and that’s not true.  I’m a fan of many genres, and they all have their wonderful ways of reflecting humanity.  They all say different things about who we were.  That’s wonderful.  I think everyone should be a fan of multiple genres.

ASM: What made you want to have two different, good twin/evil twin, author personas?

SM: Marketing.

ASM: Why Mira Grant? Does the name have any significance?

SM: Because we were able to get the .com.  The name does have significance, yes.

ASM: What other works does Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant have coming up?

SM: Mira Grant has Parasite coming up in October, and the sequel will be following next year.  Seanan’s next book will be Half-Off Ragnarok, the third InCryptid book, which will be out in March of 2014.  Sparrow Hill Road, a stand-alone in the same universe, will be coming out in May of 2014.

ASM: What do you enjoy most about being an author?

SM: Getting to introduce other people to my imaginary friends!

ASM: Your most recent book is Chimes of Midnight, can you tell us a bit about it and what the book means for Toby’s universe?

SM: Chimes at Midnight is the seventh October Daye book; a lot of things I set up all the way back in book one are finally coming to fruition.  Which is important to remember, I think, because sadly, this is the point at which it is no longer really possible to just pick up the new book and start reading, without having read anything that came before.  You really need some foundations in the universe to understand what’s going on, and why it matters.

ASM: What made you want to write an urban fantasy series?

SM: I…I don’t know.  I just did it.

ASM: Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming Mira Grant book, Parasite?

SM: Parasite is about the lengths we’ll go to for our health, and the lies we’ll believe–the lies we’ll tell ourselves–in the process.

ASM: How would you pitch the book? Horror? Medical thriller?

SM: Biomedical thriller.

ASM: Out of all the books you’ve written, do you have a favourite?

SM: Yes!

ASM: If you could be a protagonist in one of your own books, would you be Georgia, Velma or Toby? Why?

SM: Oh dear sweet Great Pumpkin, none of them.  Their lives are all way too violent and scary.  If I absolutely had to become one of my own characters, I’d have to go with Sarah (from McGuire’s InCryptid universe).  She’s telepathic and mathematical and no one can see her if she doesn’t want them to.

ASM: What advice would you give to writers who are serious about their craft any want to become authors?

SM: Allow yourself to suck.  Don’t talk about writing: write.  Write as much as you can, and read as much as you can, and remember that nothing is one-size-fits-all; no piece of advice is going to be 100% suited to everyone who encounters it.  Except for the sucking part.  You have to let yourself suck, or you’ll never be able to improve.

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