Interview with K.G. McAbee

I have had the opportunity to review a couple of K. G. McAbee’s books and I am quite the fan of this brilliant writer. I also had the opportunity to interview McAbee via e-mail, the transcript is as follows:

Jason Damman: When and why did you start writing?

K. G. McAbee: I always loved to read; I can remember, as a very small child, my dad would read comic books to me and I could not WAIT to be able to read myself. Once I learned how, it was non-stop; I was reading Jules Verne in the fourth grade, after skipping the third. I always leaned towards science fiction and fantasy; I cut my teeth on Heinlein’s juveniles. Then, when I around eighteen, I read Harlan Ellison’s ‘Dangerous Visions’. Great stories, but what impressed me the most was Ellison’s obvious passion for writing as a craft. This, I decided, is how I want to feel about what I do for a living. Doing it for a living, however, isn’t easy. I’m still working on that part!

JD: What is the process you follow when writing a novel?

KGM: My earliest novels began with an image and grew organically from that. ‘Escape The Past’, for instance, began with the image of a naked man running through a forest with hounds on his trail. In the beginning, that was all I knew about the story, but as the words flowed, I learned more. Lately, however, I’ve gotten a little more structured, and my recent work has at least a general outline. I know where I’m going, but I’m not exactly sure what road I’ll take, if that makes any sense.

JD: Was it hard for you to get published? If so, what was the process you took in order to get published?

KGM:  started writing in 1997, and in a rather drastic fashion. I had a good job, but I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. Then I had an epiphany: I didn’t want to be on my deathbed thinking about all the things I hadn’t done, or had been afraid to try. So I decided to go for the ‘leap and the net will appear’ route; I quit my job and gave myself two years to get published. After eighteen months of non-stop rejections, I was thinking about brushing off the old resume when I made my first sale: a fantasy short story to the excellent Canadian sf/f magazine ‘Challenging Destiny’. Right after that, I won first prize in the ’Writer’s Journal’ fiction contest, and then had a short story collection accepted by a new electronic publisher. Then, on the actual two-year anniversary of the day I quit work, I got contracts for two books from another new electronic publisher. I took that as a sign. I get it. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.

JD: What attracts you most to the genre you write in?

KGM: I write in several—science fiction, horror, gothic—but I’m most drawn to fantasy. I like being able to shift or transmute my love of history into another reality. I’m a voracious reader, everything from genre fiction to biography to history to mystery, and I like to bring bits of all of that to my work.

JD: Have you ever based characters in your books on people you know in real life?

KGM: Never! Always! Probably! I think that writers blend bits of everyone they know or have seen into their characters—but I think that mainly, each character we write about is a reflection of ourselves in many ways.

JD: What authors were/are your influence to write?

KGM: So many! Robert Heinlein and Harlan Ellison I’ve already mentioned. Tolkien and Eddison and Lewis. I love A. Conan Doyle and Jules Verne and Jacques Futrelle and Elizabeth Peters and Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King and Roger Zelazny and Larry Niven and Asimov and Dickens and the Brontes. Just so many, and for so many different reasons. My head is stuffed with good writers; I think that’s one reason my own writing has to come out, just to make room!

JD: What background work/reading did you do before you wrote ‘Escape to Malmillard’ and ‘Escape the Past’?

KGM: Nothing specific for either of them, since I prefer to make up my own backgrounds and settings, drawing from those in my favorite books. I have a friend named Jim Millard; when I met his brother Malcolm aka Mal, I thought what a cool name for something—Malmillard. So I asked him and he gave me permission to use it, well before I even began the book; in fact, at that time it was called Unwelcome Legacy’. Three publishers later, it’s now ‘Escape To Malmillard’ at Mundania Press [www.mundania.com].

JD: What advice do you have for writers that want to get published?

KGM: NEVER GIVE UP!! It’s a hard business, and I’ve met too many writers who ‘write for the closet’, meaning that after a rejection or two, they toss their work away in the dark and stop submitting. It takes perseverance, hard work, dedication, endurance. I’ve also met people who think writing is easy; you just sit down and do it. I’ve read some of their work, and that attitude shows. You wouldn’t do brain surgery without years of study and practice; why would something as detailed, as difficult, as complex as writing be any different? Composition, grammar, punctuation, dull and schoolbook as they sound, are the basic tools of the writer. And read! You’ve got to read, and not just in the genre you want to write. If you want to write fantasy, you need to read lots of it, but also history and geography and adventure and every other genre.

JD: What ideas and information can you give SFFworld on future work that you have planned to write?

KGM: Right now, I’m finishing up the second book in a projected YA fantasy series called ‘The Crystal Staircase’ with my co-author and illustrator, Jim Johnson, the author of  ’Sol Sys: 1′ (Another book reviewed by Jason Damman on this website). Jim and I are also collaborating on a fantasy that’s inspired by the story of King Tutankhamen; it takes place on a desert world where all the rivers run underground. Jim’s done some awesome conceptual art for it, with an Egyptian feel. I’m also in the middle of a rather dark fantasy novel called ‘Arrows Of Despair’, about a mad imprisoned wizard and the woman sent to assassinate him. Also, I collaborated—oddly, with yet another Johnson, this one Tom Johnson of ‘Fading Shadows’ fame—on a very pulpish superhero called the Shadowhawke; our first story was printed in the sadly defunct ‘Classic Pulp Fiction Stories’, but it looks as if Shadowhawke will rise again in volume two of  ‘Tales of Masks & Mayhem’, coming sometime next year from Mystic Toad Press.
Oh, and I’m also working on a new science fiction multi-author anthology/novel with writers Steve Thompson, Diane Thompson and Jim Johnson, with a tentative title ‘Plague Planet’.

JD: Thank you very much for your time, I will definately be looking forward to your next release.

© 2005 Jason Damman

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