Madison McSweeney, an ON TIME Author Interview

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Join us as we peek behind the scenes of our upcoming anthology, ON TIME. Learn more about Madison McSweeney in her featured interview.

ABOUT THE STORY 

What inspired your story?

I usually have a very good idea of what exactly inspired each of my stories, but I have no clue what sparked this one.

A few years ago, I had the idea for a collection of weird short stories, supposedly pulled from an ancient book, procured from an inhuman figure; the stories would take place in a variety of settings and historical periods, suggesting that the writer had travelled through time. 

So that was the inspiration behind the opening letter, and I had a lot of fun incorporating some grandiose fantastical imagery – the type of surreal images you’d find on prog or heavy metal albums in the 70s and 80s, or on the covers of pulp magazine.

Margaret Brundage’s Weird Tales covers were clearly a huge influence, as were Vincent Price movies and the short fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson. There’s definitely a touch of Clive Barker in there too.

Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?

The protagonist is a shapeshifting magician who travels through time and space hunting a sorcerous vampire. Dignified with a touch of menace (A Christopher Lee/Vincent Price type), he is not as evil as the creature he hunts, but he’s far from “good” in the typical sense.

What is the most interesting thing about the world you’ve created?

For me, the most intriguing thing about the world of my story is that it suggests the existence of a wilder, alternate world outside of our own – and that some have the ability to travel between the two.

What genre or mix of genres does your story fit into?

 It’s an epic fantasy with elements of science fiction and gothic horror.  

How have your personal experiences influenced this story?

This one’s pretty out-there, so I wouldn’t say it was inspired by any of my personal experiences. I’ve definitely been caught in some surreal traffic jams, though.

What would you like readers to take away from your story?

The theme of this story would be a combination of the old Labyrinth tagline “Where everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems” and Hamlet’s assertion that “there are more things in heaven and Earth…than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

In short: be skeptical, question your senses, and keep your mind open to the impossible and unusual. 

What was your favorite part of the story to write and why?

There’s one scene that shows local police trying to deal with a trailer on cinder blocks that materializes out of nowhere in the middle of a city street; I had a lot of fun with that one, because I like scenes with quirky humour. I also enjoyed writing the scene where Crowley’s true form is revealed. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

When did you write your first story, how old were you, and what was it about?

The first story that I ever completed was a comedic horror novella called “The Poltergeist Did It,” loosely inspired the Bell Witch and other real-life cases of alleged poltergeist infestation. I was eleven years old when I wrote it, and I was super proud of it. I recently found a copy in a box of old schoolwork – it was terrible. 

What is your writing survival checklist? (Aka, what helps your write the best: music, snacks, coffee, complete silence, a stress ball, a cat, or an outline, etc.)

  • A pot of tea (or, let’s be honest, a can of Diet Coke)
  • A blanket (or at the very least, warm socks)
  • A laptop or notebook (typing is faster, but sometimes writing by hand is the only way to get a scene done)
  • A radio and whatever music matches the tone of the story (e.g. heavy metal for occult horror, glam or prog rock for sci-fi or fantasy)

What has influenced you most as a writer?

I’m from Ottawa, Canada, and growing up in a government town has influenced my writing to a large degree. My stories tend to feature characters trying to navigate the bureaucracy, or government officials dealing with bizarre situations. Government processes have definitely seeped into the type of language I use and the way my characters react to things – I sometimes catch myself writing lengthy scenes that are just characters discussing relevant regulations. 

I was also raised by a pair of classic rock fans, so a lot of my stories and poems are inspired by rock, punk, and heavy metal. (Album artwork was a huge visual influence on “Dust.”)

Of course, I’ve also been obsessed with horror and old-school science fiction for as long as I can remember, so everything I write gets filtered through a lens of the macabre and the fantastic. I’ve always had an eye for the oddness of everyday life. 

What font do you prefer to write in?

In the early stages I leave it in the default font (Calibri Body). Once the story comes together I switch to Times New Roman – for some reason it helps me get into an editing frame of mind.

Do you have any writing blogs/vlogs/podcasts, etc. that you would recommend?

Horror Tree (horrortree.com) is a great resource for writers. In addition to aggregating submission calls, they publish blog posts and interviews and have a popular weekly flash fiction feature. 

What is your favorite and least favorite word, and why?

I love the word “esoteric,” because it suggests bizarre intrigues and ancient mysteries. 

I wouldn’t say I have a least favourite word (sometimes the most hideous of words can be used to great effect), but I have a real disdain out-of-date cliches that I can’t immediately tell the origin of.

[Optional: Have a favorite question you’ve been asked as a writer or one that you’re itching to talk about, include them here.]

Bonus question: Who are your most significant influences as a writer?

This is a long one because I like making lists.

Right now, I would say my biggest influences would be Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, William Gibson, and Stephen King, as well as comic book writer Grant Morrison, and directors like David Cronenberg, Quentin Tarantino, Tim Burton and Stanley Kubrick.

I’ve picked up lots of “pointers” on style and form from reading Richard Matheson, Arthur C. Clark, and Thomas Harris. I blame Gordon Korman and Lemony Snicket for my predilection towards quirky characters and whimsical situations, and Pratchett and Gaiman’s Good Omens for encouraging it.

I also use music as writing fuel: Danzig, Dio, Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, The Smashing Pumpkins, Jethro Tull, David Bowie, Amanda Palmer, Hole, Rush, Rob Zombie and Iggy Pop have all been very helpful over the years.

OnTimeBookCoverKINDLE

Madison McSweeney is a Canadian author and poet with an interest in the macabre and fantastic. She has published horror, science fiction, and fantasy stories in outlets such as American GothicCabinet of Curiosities, Rhythm & Bones Lit, and Zombie Punks F*ck Off. Her poems have appeared in Bywords, Cockroach Conservatory, Pussy Magic, and the Twin Peaks-themed anthology These Poems Are Not What They Seem. She also blogs about music and genre fiction at www.madisonmcsweeney.com and tweets (mostly about heavy metal and horror movies) from @MMcSw13. 

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