Hello, my name is McConnaughay and I am the co-owner of Mishmashers Publishing, and the founder and owner of Vinatici and Readers Digested. I often aspire to have semi-regular blogs or Podcasts, or whatever else, and so often don’t find myself staying consistent or following through with it.
Some of that might be because I don’t have the most extravagant of lifestyles and because I have never really had the gift of gab so many entertainers and politicians do. President Donald Trump has the gift of gab, for instance. Recently, he made more than one-hundred Tweets in a day. I can’t imagine that. On-average, I am lucky if I can cross the threshold for one-hundred Tweets in a month and even then I feel like a chatterbox.
I have been a writer since a young age and it is the one thing I always wanted to be when I grew up (well, that, and a hulking professional wrestler, which sounds like a joke, but … is not).
I do, or, at least, I think I do. My third novel “Catherine: Forever with Love” is a horror story that was in part inspired by a folder filled with pages and pages of an unfinished manuscript called The Direction I wrote when I was thirteen years old. I went back and read it a little when my curiosity had the best of me and I can remember I straight-up jacked the introduction from Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, you know the one, with the “If you’re expecting a children’s story with a happy ending,” or something like that. Of course, most of what was in The Direction did not make it into an actual publication. My writings span even before that, however. I wrote a screenplay for a short film I was meant to make with my friends, which is an idea that feels so ridiculous in-retrospect given how self-conscious I was about putting myself out there. And, before that, when my age was still in the single-digits, I wrote comic-panels of a character called The Bombastic Pencil-Man, and it was every bit as absurd as you might think.
I have a foggy memory about first grade, maybe second. The teacher, I wanna say her name was Mrs. Gray, had all of us write short stories as an assignment. They were crayon scribbled masterpieces bound together by staples. I remember my story was inspired by Billy & Mandy, in-particular Grim, because he looked cool and he was easy for me to draw. Unfortunately, I was not the wonderful spellre you see today. And so, I wrote that Grim was “weeping up a storm,” which led to my poor teacher Mrs. Gray explaining to me the difference between crying and serial murder.
What was the first story you ever published?
The first novel I ever published was called Blind Salvation. I remember I was in my World History class in my Freshman or Sophomore year of high school, and I was jotting down something without any real direction to it. I had not intended it to become a novel or anything like that. I had dabbled in stories off-and-on like how I mentioned with Pencil-Man and Direction and all of that, but I had not yet cemented the fact that writing was not only a hobby but a significant part of who I was as a person. What I wrote was more or less a lot like what I see with other writers who are starting out. I wanted to come off literary and intellectual, and it all came off very pretentious and bad.
Everything else after that improved – simply put, once I allowed myself to breathe and not do my best imitation of what I think a writer should be and instead what I am, everything came together in better form. I can still remember how excited I was about Blind Salvation. Basically, the story was influenced by the Dexter television series and comic books and horror films and professional wrestling, and a lot else. The story of Blind Salvation was about a young man named Orion Corvus whose anxieties and compulsions lead him down the path of vigilantism. However, in spite his own perceptions about morality, he focuses solely on serial killers and criminals who he believes deserve death. Along the way, he comes in-contact with other masked superheroes and, ahem, supervillains that he must deal with, all while struggling to decide where he lands between them. A lot of the characterizations around the Orion Corvus is inspired by my own perception and behavior.
Obviously, I am not a serial killer and I don’t don a hood and head off into the night, but I have always had a lot of social anxieties and a general weirdness to who I am that I think that draws me to some of the characters I write and how I portray them. The story leans into the horror and comic book influence a lot, and it is a very wacky and eccentric story that I find myself proud of in spite admitted fumbles I made with it. Blind Salvation was published in early-2015 on Amazon for Kindle and Paperback, but as of May 2020, it is no longer available. This is because I have been rewriting the novel for republication likely sometime next year, under a new title called Black & Yellow. The novel won’t be drastically different, but you can expect fairly extensive rewrites for the novel. If you’re interested, I am publishing the novel as I go for free on Readers Digested (dot) com.
What made you decide to be a writer?
Sometimes it can feel like writers have an aura about them that can feel arrogant or mightier than thou about what they do. Sometimes what you are seeing is thinly-veiled insecurity, sometimes it is a genuine and rightful in ones’ creation, and other times it is, in-fact, arrogant or mightier than thou. In truth, I don’t believe it takes anyone special to be a writer and I don’t believe it truly takes anyone special to be a good writer either. Everyone has a story to tell, whether it be something that they dreamed or imagined in their head, or something they experienced or witnessed in real life. Not everyone cares enough to apply the effort and pedigree into a quality, worthwhile creation.
I am not faulting them by any means either. Some individuals merely don’t believe in setting aside the careful deliberation and resources needed to learn to write and write well. Not only that, but you have to edit and proofread and build a certain structural integrity to your narrative. In other words, in spite of how it may seem, I have found that writing is not strictly a right-brained profession, in-fact, it offers a lot of analytics and critical thinking. It is a skill and in-order to do it well, you have to be willing to establish a routine and commit to that. Some individuals can’t do that well. It’s why I can hear one of my friends tell me a really bonkers idea about a story they had in mind and then, they move on with their life, never nursing that idea beyond its infancy.
In some ways, I think I feel the “call” to write more than I actually enjoy it. I do enjoy it, for certain, but there is more to it than that. It feels more like I can’t not do it. I find other people’s creations and I can’t help but feel compelled to create something as well. Whereas someone else can have a really cool idea and let that idea stay as an idea, I can’t let things go that easily. In a way, I feel like I am held hostage by writing, and I developed Stockholm syndrome in time. It is therapeutic on an emotional level, allowing me to work through my problems, and it is rewarding when you’re pulled in on a journey all your own. It offers the yin and yang of left and right brain stimulation. I can’t imagine myself without it.
What has influenced you most personally?
It is difficult to say for certain. I like to think that everyone is absorbent like a sponge, and whether they mean to or not, their interests spillover into whatever it is they write about. For instance, my fifth novel Katalene the Hollow is about a young girl who ventures out in the Whispey Deserts with her brother Rooven in search of adventure and untold riches. The reason she needed to escape was because she was tired of the mundane life she had in the village of Wilson, where everything had a workman-like mindset and the scenery was cornfields and plantation. Although I had not really thought about it, my childhood was spent in a small village and when I stepped outside from my childhood home, I saw cornfields in-front of me and there were cornfields behind my house as well. The camaraderie and relationship between Rooven and Katalene, especially in flashback sequences, also parallels a lot of my childhood with my older brother Michael. The way we used to hang out at a nearby creek and brandish sticks as if they were actual weaponry, it is definitely something that influenced aspects of that novel.
I can also see the different ways I was inspired by the subject-matter I was exposed to. Surprisingly, in spite of the fact I no doubt watch more film than I do any other medium, one of the most direct sources of inspiration I have had has been video games. I remember when I was playing a video game from Ubisoft called Enchanted Arms, a turn-based role-playing game that caught my eye because the way everything moved on a grid-system. I can’t exactly remember what the story for it was, but it had something to do with the main-character’s arm being able to summon ether or enchantment and using it as a way to attack enemies he is fighting against. I can’t exactly explain why but for some reason it made me think about Gods and whether they could be emptied of their sentience like husks and then be weaponized. That’s when I came up with the idea for The Aeonians, a group of powerful figures in a time of chaos and constant bloodshed, who sacrificed themselves in-order to project veils over each of the five major cities: Acera, Hardan, Urgway, Italina, and Jalint. Series’ like Prince of Persia and Tomb Raider have also inspired me in the ways I write adventures scenes.
A lot of my ideas can arise from watching or playing something and trying to predict what will happen next or what could have happened, and then, branching off thereafter and creating something new and unique.
Have you ever thrown away something you’ve of considerable length because it did not meet your standards?
The Aeonian was the second manuscript I ever finished. I wrote the novel shortly after Blind Salvation and finished it in the summer before my Junior year of high school: it ended up at around one-hundred thousand words, and if I published it right now, it would be the longest novel I ever wrote or it would at least tie with Katalene the Hollow. The reason I never published or did a second-draft of The Aeonian was not because it did not meet my standards, however. I had created a new website called Out of Frame (I consider Out of Frame the predecessor or blueprint for what since became Mishmashers) and I wanted to have a short-story available called The Red Flux Chronicles. It was meant to stir up attention for the eventual Aeonian novel release and help furnish my brand.
The Aeonian novel focused on a handful of characters against a major conflict, and one of those characters was a thief named Secrat. The Red Flux Chronicles was meant as an episodic series meant to document some of his infamous heists and adventures and who he was prior to The Aeonian. Instead, I liked The Red Flux. I liked it a lot, in-fact. Thus, The Red Flux Chronicles went from a serial series to a full-fledged novel called The Red Flux & the Wunderkind Thief, serving as the first installment of a Trilogy.
Of course, this created a new problem. If I ever published The Aeonian, it would effectively spoil the payoffs of The Red Flux series. Thus, as a result, The Aeonian went on the back burner and enough time has went by that I have outgrown whatever I had written prior. The world has developed significantly and I have improved considerably. I will one day return to The Aeonian, but that one-hundred thousand word manuscript will now, at best, serve as a thorough outline for where I am headed.
Who was your childhood hero?
I have reflected over this on occasion. If I am honest with myself, I have no one on my bucket list I would like to meet in real life. Although I have more than a handful of individuals I have a lot of admiration for, I have never understood the appeal of meeting them or asking for an autograph, so on and so forth. If I had to choose though, I think I would say that Robert Englund was my childhood hero. The actor who played Freddy Krueger embodied an enthusiasm and charisma for the horror genre and was able to be menacing or comedic at the drop of a dime. I will always cherish the memories I had of watching Elm Street at my grandmother’s house like they were my Saturday Morning cartoons and dressing up with an old sweater and aluminum foil claws for Halloween.