Hello my Freaky Darlings,
Alec McQuay is a horror, fantasy and science fiction writer hailing from Cornwall in the south-west of England; an area renowned for natural outstanding beauty and the worst internet connections in the country. Capable of going off at odd tangents, bizarre flights of fantasy and generally being incapable of taking things like bio-writing seriously, Alec spends most of his time scribbling notes and ideas on his phone and talking the ears off his wife and friends about whatever mad-cap scheme he intends to write next.
And here are his answers to my 13 Questions:
1. What drives you to write?
Getting everything out of my head! I dwell on things so I need an outlet, and writing gives me the freedom to do literally anything with that.
2. What attracted you to writing horror?
I was looking for a longer project to move on from short stories and flash fiction and the news and the internet were banging on about opt-out organ donation, the right to die debate and this war and that war, all while charities had endless pictures of doe-eyed, starving children in every ad break. I guess rather than an attraction to horror as such it was a reaction to what I was seeing at the time.
3. Who are your favourite horror writers?
Graham Masterton is probably the only person who can routinely scare the shit out of me, and Poe just has a style that I find unbelievably immersive. The Raven is probably my favourite piece of writing.
4. Which horror novels do you think every horror fan should read?
The Mirror by Graham Masterton is a great piece of writing and exceedingly creepy without wandering into overly gory territory. I have a bit of a hatred for torture porn because it’s just so easy, movies like Human Centipede and Hostel just leave me cold, and for that reason I’d have to say that the classic tales like Frankenstein, Dracula etc are where people should go. The old ways of scaring people and creating real atmosphere hold my interest far more than a book about jamming a barbecue fork into someone’s nipples.
5. Ebooks or paperback?
Paperback, though there’s something to be said for using ebooks to try out a new writer. What in your house looks better than a shelf rammed with books?
6. What would make you pick up a novel by a new author?
Blurbs are the key, though artwork is a good second place. I hate writing a blurb but for me, I want to see that they’ve tried something original, not trying to jump on a popular bandwagon. If the words “teenage” “love” and “vampire” appear, the rest of the blurb would have to be incredible to make me even vaguely interested in buying the book.
7. Who is your favourite fictional character?
Samuel Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. He’s monumentally flawed, has a dark side that is quite literally bursting to get out and yet he always tries to do the right thing.
8. Do you plot your stories or does it just unfold before your eyes?
A bit of both really, I plot the major points and then let me brain wander a bit to decide how things go from one point to the next. I then have to edit like a madman to fix the resulting mess, so maybe I’m not a good person to get advice from!
9. Do your characters take on a life of their own and do things you didn’t plan?
The ones that don’t do that usually end up getting axed! Yeah, unless they’re written in to fulfil a precise need they do act up and do their own thing. I’ve even chatted to a couple of them in the car to try and work things out, so people who live near me probably think I’m a bit weird.
10. Do you listen to music when you write or do you need silence?
A bit of both really, for pivotal stuff and when I’m working through dialogue I need silence, the rest of the time I usually put on music that either has words I don’t know or words I can’t really understand. Otherwise my head follows what they’re saying and it gets a bit muddled…
11. Do you do a lot of research for your stories?
Definitely, I try and make sure that I don’t get anything monumentally wrong unless it’s the sort of story where things are essentially magical. Sometimes things go in because I’ve discovered them and read about them and THEN decided to incorporate them, so it tends to happen kind of naturally.
12. Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook, with the privacy settings ramped right up.
13. What really pisses you off about writing?
Do you like lists? I’ll pick the worst one and go from there. It’s people, usually other writers, who think that they have a right to tell other people how they should work. I don’t just mean advice here, I mean people who act like their advice is absolutely golden and will work for everyone. There are loads of different methods for most things and the vast majority of them will not suit any individual perfectly, yet some people insist that if you don’t do it their way you are doing it wrong, no matter what the actual quality of your final product is. Frankly I couldn’t give a fuck if you put all your ideas on post-it notes and stick them to the ceiling above your bed and stare at them until inspiration dawns. I don’t care one bit if your diary never leaves your side. I don’t care if you read a book once by a successful author and so believe you have empirical evidence that this is the right way, it’s all bollocks. Writing, playing music, whatever it is, your way is out there somewhere and you’ll have to look for it. If I could ever give any advice to anyone, it would be to try things, persevere and don’t be afraid to try something new if what you’re doing doesn’t work for you. If someone wants to tell you you’re doing it wrong, or that by their personal definition you aren’t a writer at all for X Y Z reason, fuck ‘em. Not literally. Unless you really want to and they’re up for it.