Hello, my name is McConnaughay and I am the co-owner of Mishmashers Publishing, and the founder and owner of Vinatici and Readers Digested, respectively. As surmised in an early blog-post, I often find it difficult to stay consistent and establish a routine in-terms of what I write and how it pertains to myself as a writer. Obviously, I have unabashed about sharing my opinion on the internet. I write reviews on Vinatici and Readers Digested, respectively, and everything I review is eventually archived on my personal page Mashers Club (reviews that aren’t exactly on-brand with either site also debut there for safekeeping).
I try to remain frequent with original storytelling and I do think I succeed at that relatively well (Lunacy’s Dance published earlier this year and I am targeting a release date of July 31st for Roxwale: The Heir’s Brother), but the same can’t be said when it comes to talking about or engaging in conversation about writing and storytelling altogether.
Some of this may have to do with my own insecurities about it. Although it’s a swishing ego-boost when someone arrives at a Comic Con, swoops in and drops forty bucks on everything you have ever wrote, it doesn’t necessarily make you think anyone’s breaking down your door about the writing process or your stories. I consider it more of a log, or of journal entries into what I am creating, documenting the development of what I hope it will one day become. Suffice to say, I may not have the accolades of Stephen King, [The White Fox] Blog does, however, suggest I have the ego of someone who thinks he does. As always, I write my questions vaguely enough that they will be applicable to mostly any writer, so feel free to answer them yourself, either in the comment section or by linking us to your personal blog website, I always try to pay it forward, so I will try to look at them, if I can. Enjoy!
What were some of the things you did differently writing your second book from your debut novel?
As I talked about in the earlier edition of [The White Fox] Blog, the first novel I ever wrote was Blind Salvation. I had written off-and-on up until then, but it was when I introduced myself to that world I realized this was an obsession I would not be able to shake off.
I can still remember how excited I was when I wrote Blind Salvation and how giddy and overcome I was by it. The second novel I wrote was a lot more ambitious than that, it was a fantasy novel called The Aeonian and it was nearly twice the length of my first novel.
I think one of the differences I had with Blind Salvation and The Aeonian might have been the confidence I had in what I was creating and what I was trying to create.
I don’t want it to feel like I was not as excited to write The Aeonian as I was when I wrote Blind Salvation, but I could tell a lot of the initial novelty and shine was lost. The newness had went away, but, through its vacancy, I feel like I discovered a new identity (“My name is Nick and I am a writer, …”) for myself.
I could tell early on that The Aeonian would be an undertaking, but I don’t think even then I appreciated how much an undertaking it would become. Looking back, even then, I think it was clear that Blind Salvation was the novel where I taught myself how to write and The Aeonian was the novel where I challenged everything I thought I knew.
It would be easy to say that after Blind Salvation, I was ready to become what I would call a “good writer,” but it was not that simple, especially because of how different they were from each other. Whereas Blind Salvation was a novel that meshed superhero-action in with elements of horror in a contemporary world, The Aeonian was a full-on fantasy novel, largely engrossed in its own world of swashbuckling action. The skills writing Blind Salvation were no doubt useful, but they were not always applicable in writing my second novel.
For a newer writer, would you recommend flash fiction and short story experience prior to attempting a full length novel?
I think you should write whatever you are comfortable with.
I honestly think that flash fiction and short stories are a different beast than when you write a full length novel. They challenge you to be more concise and straightforward, which can both benefit and detriment a story. In some ways, some people might think writing a novel to start off with is trial by fire, but I actually feel like I have an easier time writing novels than I do novellas or novelettes (with exception to The Canes series). This is something I have found to vary for a lot of writers.
My brother Scott Moore, for instance, has always written longer novels and has a writing style I feel kind of demands that. Whereas Todd Rigney, a writer on Readers Digested and of the novel .found, has told me he is more comfortable with flash fiction and short stories. I think they are unique art forms in some respects.
Myself, personally, if you look, you will notice my novels can vary in length. My longest novel Katalene the Hollow is about one-hundred thousand words, whereas Blind Salvation, Catherine, and Lunacy’s Dance don’t even cross the seventy thousand threshold.
Some might benefit from some smaller experiments, and maybe don’t want to bear the shame of a bad stack of papers. Personally though, I feel like I learned a lot more about writing and what I wanted as a writer from Blind Salvation than I ever did from any short story or flash fiction I wrote prior.
For tackling stories, do you prefer to write with or without an outline?
This is something I have seen a lot of debates about over the years, and, as always, I believe the answer is to write whichever way you feel most comfortable with. Mostly, I don’t use an outline when I write my stories. However, I have recently begun using an outline for Cotton: The Spinster’s Daughter, a novel I am writing with my wife Beccah. Also, as The Aeonian series becomes more complex and intricate, I have begun developing a “Bible,” so to speak, meant as a way of keeping all of my ducks in a row.
Early on, what would you say your biggest strength was as a writer?
As mentioned earlier on, I developed many different projects before I started what eventually became my first finished novel Blind Salvation. That said, it was with Blind Salvation I was able to understand what I was doing well and what I needed to improve on. I think I shined brightest with the action-scenes and they were what I felt always flowed well.
If I had to speculate – I think I would say this is because of my involvements in E-Feds, a name given for role-playing games about professional wrestling. I did a lot of them over the years, whether in competition or in solo promotions I did by myself (and with others) for fun. Imagine a professional wrestling match written in text, with all the move-sets and momentum, and that’s what you would find. I wrote a fantasy league for a while called Main Event Madness, which featured fictional characters like Jack Sparrow and The Joker incorporated. All of it has been lost, but I know I wrote at least a couple novels worth of events for that. I had a lot of fun with it as a kid, and I have to believe a lot of what has driven me then now inspires me as an adult writer.
Is that still your biggest strength?
I don’t think so. I hope it is still a strength, but I find the emotional journeys of characters like Katalene and Vulpecula are what I think standout as highlights in my publications.
What did you hope to accomplish then and does that reflect what you want to accomplish now?
I am not entirely for certain about that, really. Something I believe is often forgotten about artists and people in-general is that we are multifaceted and motivated by different things at different times. When I was writing Catherine: Forever with Love, for instance, I wanted to write a love-letter of some kind to the horror genre, or more specifically, to the 80s horror I was exposed to in my youth. This is how I approached one horror project, but it is not inherently how I approach every horror I write and is not always what I want to accomplish. Writing The Canes series (which we will no doubt discuss in further depth soon), I had my own emotional journey and things I was processing, and I feel like I am a better person having embarked on this journey with The Canes series.
Sometimes my stories are just that: stories. As much as I love The Red Flux & the Wunderkind Thief and some other projects I have written, their purpose was to entertain the reader and myself. I don’t think that shortchanges them in any respect. They still had the same amount of work and dedication committed to them, but they were not about unlocking something within myself or answering a question that was in my head.
In a lot of ways, The Aeonian Fantasy (which encompasses The Red Flux, Katalene, and Roxwale) within itself is about genocide and sociology and religion, and other facets of the human condition. It is a lot to try and make a definitive statement or inspection on, and that is why it is a series I will be dedicating so much of my time toward. That’s what I want to accomplish, I guess, understand things and find some level of closure on them.