Thursday, June 20, 2013

Author Insides - Christopher McKittrick

Christopher McKittrick was born in Long Island, New York and currently lives in Queens. His short stories range in style from fantasy to literary fiction and have appeared in The Adroit Journal, Burnt Bridge Literary Review, and the By Mind or Metal and Powers anthologies from Static Movement Press. His nonfiction work has appeared in Newsday and Good Times Magazine. He also contributed an essay on director Terry Gilliam to Roman Catholicism in Fantastic Film from McFarland Press and he is a regular contributor to, a website focused on the film industry and, a website focused on acting in all media. He has spoken about literature, film, and comic books at various conferences across the country.

His novel, Montauk, is available on Amazon.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I grew up being a voracious reader, which was thankfully encouraged by my parents and my older brother. At some point – I’m not sure when – I went from devouring all the books on my bookshelf to coming up with stories on my own. Even when I used to play with my action figures I would write down – in my little kid handwriting, of course – what happened during this playtime session so I could continue the story the following day. I’m not sure if any other child was as obsessed about playtime continuity as I was!

Why do you write?
I’ve always been encouraged to do so. As long as people keep complimenting what I write I am going to keep writing. Actually, even if people trash my work I’m sure I won’t stop. I feel compelled to always write down a funny bit of conversation I overhear on the subway, as if it deserves to be recorded by someone. I might as well keep being that somebody.

What was the inspiration for Montauk?
It seems as I was growing up in the mid-1980s to the late 1990s a new approach to parenting developed in middle and upper class society that told children that they deserved nothing less than the pinnacle of success because everyone is special. I’ve seen people use that as a driving force to realize their goals and people who sit around expecting success to come to them – after all, it has been promised to them all their lives, so why work for it? Reality shows teach us that anybody can be a star no matter how talented or untalented one is; social media promotes the idea that everything one does is important and worth bragging about. For many people the fantasy lives they construct and promote online are far more important to them than what happens in the living, breathing world. I wanted to write a character that came to a moment in his life when he realized that real-world success was not guaranteed and is not often fulfilled by the instant gratification expected in today’s society. While we should celebrate the accomplishments of an individual, it’s far more meaningful when it is well-deserved and earned, not because we feel compelled to boost self-esteem for someone whose accomplishments are remarkably average. Why reward mediocrity as if it is the equal to success?

Do you see any of yourself in your character and his struggles?
I’ve had people who had read parts of this assume we’re one and the same and that the story is autobiographical – I even had people express sympathy in regard to the death of my father, who, thankfully, is very much alive! However, I definitely see the character and myself sharing the same DNA, except that perhaps the character has, for one reason or another, not had some of the more positive experiences that I have had. I guess you could say that I created a character very much like me but I made his life a bit more tortuous. Since I created him, I can put him through the wringer, right? No hard feelings, I hope.

Do you have any siblings? If so, how would you compare your relationship with them to the one of your main character and his sister?
Unlike my protagonist, I am the younger of two brothers. Since I’ve never had a sister – or a younger sibling for that matter – I thought it would be fun to explore a totally different relationship than the one I have with my own real-life sibling. I just hope it came off genuine.

Your character does some emergency thrift store shopping? Have you ever done the same? If so, what’s the most unique item of clothing you’ve found in a thrift store?
Never in an emergency, but there was a magnificent thrift store right by my college (and later my first apartment) that had a fantastic selection of oddities. I have to admit that one of my favorite purchases were the white Levi’s I mention in the story, which were about as fashionably out of it as you’d expect. But that’s why I bought them!

What do you think makes a good story?
A character worth reading about. Plot is obviously important, but a rich character will generate the plot. I taught literature in college for four years, and I would frequently point out to students that the plot of The Catcher in the Rye is actually rather pedestrian – but Holden Caulfield and his cocktail of inner conflicts makes the novel one of the best ever written, and the more interesting aspects of the plot come from his character. I hope that my protagonist is someone readers will connect with, which will engage them in the plot.

What's your favorite genre to read?
I’m actually more of a non-fiction reader than a fiction reader, which drove one of my creative writing professors insane. I just find that there are so many great stories stemming from real-life experiences that are more interesting than anything anyone could have made up. I guess that’s why when I do read fiction it tends to be more genre-based. For example, I read a lot of comic books (both superhero and non-superhero), simply because the stories in them often take great liberties with reality.

Who is your favorite author or poet? What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
The one book which has continued to influence me, even though I first read it a decade ago (and about a half-dozen times since), is The Great Gatsby. I explained before how important character was to creating a story, and with Gatsby we have one of the most fascinating characters in fiction. We often look at Ahab as an example of a character driven by his obsessions, but I don’t see Gatsby as any less obsessive. I also connect with it because I grew up on Long Island and have spent my adult life fascinated by New York City, and I think this region offers writers the richest potential of settings and scenarios to work with. I frequently find myself completely engaged by Fitzgerald’s work.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
The earliest non-children’s books I can remember reading are adventure stories like Robin Hood and Jules Verne and Superman and Batman comic books. While they didn’t inspire me to jump off of buildings or go on incredible adventures, I feel they shaped me in a certain mindset to explore the unexplored in life.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
It sounds cliché, but I honestly find the most inspiration in the world around me. A personal character quirk that I gave my protagonist in Montauk is that I am a huge music fan but I’ve never owned an iPod because I don’t want to cut myself off from the world around me when I ride the subway or walk down the street. There are dozens of potential story that surround me wherever I go, and why deny myself that?

What does your family think of your writing?
I think my parents wonder where it comes from. They’re both very intelligent, but neither has a creative knack in that way.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Generally I write most of my work longhand first. I feel more creative with a pen in my hand. After I have accumulated a few paragraphs or pages I type it up, and not only do I edit my work while I do that but I tend to continue where I leave off. I gradually become immersed in the story – perhaps for a week I might only writer two or three paragraphs, but a few weeks later I’ll find that I suddenly can’t stop myself. Of course, the more I write, the more than needs to come out in editing later, because I get carried away when I am on a tear.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I have several jobs that all involve writing, so by the time I have some free time to work on my own writing I’ve probably have already written at least a thousand words during my day jobs. There’s no switch inside me to go from "work writing" to "creative writing," so sometimes I’ll sit down to write but I’ll find myself writing in a style that’s very dry and inappropriate for fiction.

What are your current projects?
I have about four short stories in various states of incompletion. At least one might grow into something longer, but we’ll see how it plays out.

What are you planning for future projects?
I’d like to tackle a project that is about double the length of Montauk, but I haven’t found the right character yet. Obviously the longer the work, the stronger the character I’ll need to sustain the narrative. I’m sure he/she is out there, somewhere; I just have to find that character.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
I was hoping they would have some advice for me! I’m no expert, but the best advice I could give is to keep reading. See how other authors write, but don’t consciously try to copy their style. I’ve read too many awful Hemingway pastiches to know that the only person who ever could really write like Hemingway was Hemingway himself. Anyone else seems like they’re just forgetting words.

Where else can we find your work?
Check out

Author Insides - Laury Egan

Laury A. Egan is the author of Fog and Other Stories, published in 2012 by, and two books of poetry, Snow, Shadows, a Stranger (2009) and Beneath the Lion’s Paw (2011), issued by FootHills Publishing. Her poems and short stories have appeared in over 30 literary journals and numerous anthologies. Web site:

Laury's highly regarded LGBT suspense novel, JENNY KIDD, is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Powell’s Books.

What inspired the idea of Jenny Kidd?
I’ve visited Venice on three occasions, the last for over two weeks while teaching a photographic workshop. Focusing on the visual aspects of the city made me acutely aware of colors, textures, architecture, the changing light, as well as the behavior of its inhabitants. Venice is sublimely romantic and ephemeral, yet if you wander into a dark street at night, it can suddenly shift into a claustrophobic and frightening place. I loved this dichotomy and wanted to portray it in the novel, exploring a similar duality in the characters.

Did any of the characters surprise you while writing?
The reader may find that Sebastiano Barbon and Randi Carroll transform into somewhat different characters by the book’s end. Although I didn’t have strict intentions regarding them, I was a bit surprised how they changed. And Jenny Kidd also showed unexpected strength and growth.

What other writers do you read?
I’m an avid fan of Donna Leon’s series set in Venice, which allows me the pleasure of "returning" to the city. For mysteries, Patricia Highsmith and Martha Grimes are favorite writers. Other much admired titles are Michael Cunningham’s The Hours and Jim Grimsley’s Dream Boy; Virginia Woolf has always fascinated me and is incorporated, in a minor way, in my newest manuscript, Wave in D Minor.

Will there be more Jenny Kidd books?
There might be a spin-off story featuring Randi Carroll, one of the more interesting and quirky characters, but at the moment, other manuscripts are in process.

Who is your main audience?
Good question! I love to explore the spectrum of sexuality and to create characters who struggle to define their orientation, sometimes decisively coming to grips with which gender they love, and sometimes remaining fluid. Most of my novels have strong psychological elements that appeal to mainstream readers, though gay and bisexual readers might find sympathy with some of the protagonists. However, I prefer not to write for a specific market because labels feel restrictive.

What was it like seeing your book in the bookstore for the first time?
Perhaps the better question starts earlier in the process: what is it like to read a bound, typeset copy? Even though I edit and polish my work over and over—sometimes reading a manuscript and proof 75 times or more—it is a different experience having a book in hand. Very much like someone else wrote the novel. When I do readings from my two poetry books, Snow, Shadows, a Stranger and Beneath the Lion’s Paw, for example, I am frequently struck by the bizarre sensation of foreignness, of quiet surprise to find a new poet that writes much like I do!

Do you find writing novels different than short stories? And poetry?
In many ways, I feel freer to take chances, to experiment with style, characterization, place, and plot in a short story because there is less commitment. My collection, Fog and Other Stories, is very diverse and allowed me to play in ways that a novel doesn’t. That said, it feels great to bear down and immerse myself in a long work, to achieve an arc and final closure after so many pages and so much effort.

As for poetry, it is difficult to switch from prose to poetry or vice versa within a close period of time. Because I am also a fine arts photographer, I’ve noticed it’s hard to go out and spend time making images and then later sit down to write poetry, though what I see and capture on camera frequently inspires me to try. The verbal/visual processes don’t usually flow together very well.

What is your writing process?
I tend to work all day, most days, combining new writing with the tasks of editing, proofing, and assisting in a book’s publicity, a demanding job for authors these days. My ideas come from many sources. As in the case of Jenny Kidd, the setting of Venice was a dominant inspiration—I am frequently seduced by place. Other times, a character or a character’s name might pop into my head and demand attention, sometimes entering my mind almost fully realized.

Why are you a writer?
I began writing poetry at seven, and a first novel was begun at twelve, so the urge to create was strong at an early age. As an only child who lived in a spectacularly beautiful place with views of the ocean and forests, I was deeply sensitive to my surroundings. In many ways, nature was my friend—there weren’t many children who lived nearby and my family was essentially limited to a triangle. I became an observer, like many only children are, and found that writing was my strategy to make sense of an often complicated world. As an adult, I spent my career in publishing, but only in the last eighteen years have had the opportunity and means to devote myself to the craft of writing fiction and poetry.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Author Insides - Nicholas Carter

Nicholas J. Carter is a UMass Boston alum, currently living in Massachusetts with his wonderful wife. He credits his mother, a librarian, with his love of words, and his father, a smartass, for showing him how they don’t always mean what they should. Outside of his family, nonsense and chaos are the two things he loves most. His blog may be found at

His tongue in cheek dystopian, JAM DON’T SHAKE, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
It didn’t really strike me until I was about halfway through college. I had all the usual boyhood dreams: fireman, comedian, post-apocalyptic barbarian chief; but I’ve always read a lot and writing felt like the next logical step.

Why do you write?
I needed a creative outlet and lack the steady hands of an artist, the keen eye of a sculptor, or the massive balls of a comedian (can I say that here?). My mother is a librarian, so we always had books in the house. My father is a smartass so there was always someone around to show me the many-faced aspect of words. I felt like I was most prepared to write, if I was prepared to do anything creative.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?
It’s more work, and not just on the stories themselves. The search for places to publish that work never ends.

What do you think makes a good story?
I like a story that begins halfway through the wringer, or even all the way through. A story where the farm boy finds the magic sword, defeats the troll and saves the princess can get boring. One where the sword breaks and then the troll marries the princess and beats the farm boy until he’s so disfigured his own people shun him, is interesting. That is to say, I find the motivations of ruined characters make for great stories, because why should they do anything when they have nothing left?

What's your favorite genre to read?
Fantasy, typically. I like to see things that I can’t find in this world. Anything a little left of reality works for me.

Who is your favorite author or poet?
Terry Pratchett. I think he doesn’t get as much respect as he should just for being a fantasy author and a humorist, but no other writer comes anywhere near his understanding of human behavior. His characters feel very real. You can open up a Discworld novel and say "Hey, I know somebody like that!" even if said character is eight feet tall and made of stone. If we want to go a little more mainstream, gotta go with Kafka. I empathize with the anxiety and absurdity in his stories.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?
Most recently I was heartened to hear the story "Toaster of the Gods" by Randall Coots. It came at a time where I wondered if I should write a little more "normal," and ditch the stories about ghostly dogs and UFOs made of cheese, and convinced me that there really are people who want to read strange fiction. Stories about sentient toasters will do that I suppose.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?
That’s harder to say. There was a time in my life where I was reading books on Zen Buddhism, and I read in one that if you read books on Zen you learn about those books, but not how to live. I put them down and can’t recall what the book was, which I think was for the best. I like to believe that the best way to learn anything is by direct experience.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?
Music. Which probably sounds like a cheap answer, but is the truth. I have plenty of ideas but I find that the best ones come as little flashes of light when listening to the right words and the right instruments at the right time.

What does your family think of your writing?
My parents are proud, though I think only my father enjoys my stories. Mom reads a lot but isn’t much for odd or dark fiction. My wife is willing to read anything I write but usually just comes back with a playful "What is wrong with you?" My extended family has been pretty supportive too.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Well, sad to say I’ve only been sporadically employed since graduating college. This means I can usually get 3-4 hours of writing done per day. If my attention span allows, these will be consecutive. If it’s acting up, it’ll be in 10-30 minute chunks scattered through the day.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?
None that don’t involve pig’s blood.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Figuring out characters. It’s incredibly hard to make a character psychologically real, and I envy those who can manage it.

What are your current projects?
Taking up most of my time lately is a project with the tenuous title of "Up in Hell", which is a full-length novel about the adventures of several puppets in, you guessed it, Hell. It’s my first attempt at a full length novel, and a first draft is only a scene or two away from completion as of this moment. I’m both excited and terrified about it. Other than that, I recently realized I have an enormous backlog of half-finished short stories that could stand to be fattened up and sent to market.

What are you planning for future projects?
In the works is a side story for "Up in Hell," and possibly a sequel if it seems worthwhile. As I’ve said above, there are a number of stories just sitting on the metaphorical shelves of my hard drive. Some of them were from several years ago and I’d love to revisit the ideas in each and give them full rewrites.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
The usual things: read a lot and edit often. Also, don’t get too attached to your story as it is or how you think it should be. There’s always something that needs tweaking but if you never stop you’ll never finish anything. Be ready to go where the story takes you.

Where else can we find your work?
Most recently on the podcast Escape Pod, where my story "Wheels of Blue Stilton" took second place in their flash fiction contest. I’ve also been in Dog Eat Crow, Antipodean Sci Fi, Everyday Weirdness and a few other places, and I occasionally show up in Flashshot.