Sunday, August 12, 2012
Horror author Craig McGray spills his guts out
I'm really happy to be sitting down with horror author Craig McGray for a glimpse into the murkier corners of his mind. Craig's recently released the first book in a series called The Somnibus. I've read it and can assure you it's great. So without any further ado.
Griffin: Tell us a little about your new series.
Craig: Well, 'The Somnibus' is based on a premise that began as an entirely different concept. I began writing a story about a boy who had a special creepy relationship with his own shadow. My mind wandered, as it so often does while I'm writing, and the plot that became 'The Somnibus Series' took over. I shelved the boy and his shadow story, and I went to work on 'The Somnibus'. It has taken much longer than I'd hoped, but the time I have to devote is limited to say the least, probably like the majority of indie authors.
Griffin: What are you working on next?
Craig: Book II is in the works and I'm loving the character development so far. It’s why I like writing. I know it’s working when I’m able to just sit back and let my characters tell me what they want to do, or what they don’t want to do (and in that case, that’s usually what I end up putting them through). I’m a big believer in beating my characters up to make them show the reader what they’re made of.
Griffin: Describe your journey as a writer.
Craig: Hmmm. It’s still a little odd to hear someone call me a writer. Well, when I was a kid, I always loved to write. I placed second, I think, in a countywide creative writing contest when I was in fifth grade. I would write stories, read them, and then throw them away. I never really showed it to anyone, not even my mom. I was always afraid of what people would think about my writing. I still suffer with this today actually. When I decided to start writing again, I kept it to myself for almost a year. I told my wife, and eventually a few close friends, but other than that I kept it to myself. I’m turning 40 this year, how’d that happen, and I decided I wanted to try to get something published. With the indie market so open, I saw it as my opportunity to put my stories out there and see what others thought. It has been such an incredible experience. I have met some really cool people, like you, that have really been forthcoming with a willingness to help. I try to do my best to help promote many indie authors out there. I love the fact that writers are able to write, edit, format, and publish their own work if they choose to. The intimidating prospect of trying to go the traditional publishing route quite honestly is one reason I kept my writing to myself.
Griffin: Thanks! Do you have a writing schedule and if so what is it?
Craig: I have a full-time day job that requires full-time attention, a young family, and I race triathlons. So, I write when I'm on my bike trainer in the morning, at lunch sometimes if I can clear my head enough, and at home when I can't sleep (which is way too often). In other words, whenever I can. My writing schedule is less of a schedule than what I like to think of as my efficient use of random free time. My workouts allow my mind to wrestle with new ideas, resolve sticking points, and just kind of clear out a bit. It helps take my mind off the pain I may be going through during my training. My training is very therapeutic for my sanity. It helps me solve problems not only in my writing, but also in life in general. Whether it’s work or family issues, I often end my training sessions with a sense of clarity that was missing when I started.
Griffin: How much planning, outlining and research goes into each of your books?
Craig: I usually start with a few paragraphs as a plan for a story, then let thing simmer and evolve. I find it hard to plan much more than where to start, where it might end, and I know I need to get my characters through stuff in the middle. Other than that, sit down and start typing away.
I tried the outline thing, and I couldn’t keep it going. I found myself stressing out because I strayed from the outline too much, and then I redid the outline and it caused a snow ball of wasted time for me. I’m sure there’s a happy medium between using an outline and following it to the letter, and using it as a loose guide. Right now, I’m using a loose version of an outline and it seems to be working for me, for now at least.
My research is dependant on the subject matter of the story I’m working on. I do a fair amount for some things, and others just come from my mind and have no basis on reality, so there’s not much to research, except maybe with a therapist as to why I have some of these crazy thoughts.
Griffin: How do you deal with writer's block?
Craig: What’s that? Just kidding. If I’m stuck on something, I try not to focus on that story for a little while. I have plenty of stories that are in various stages, as I’m sure most writers do, because the link went down and I became stuck. I’m okay with it. I’ll go back through them sometimes when I am stuck, and sometimes it breaks the barrier down or I may start writing on an old story. I’ll work on a short story, read from something outside of my normal choices, or just do nothing about it. I guess that’s easier for me to do because I’m not depending on writing to feed my family. I’m sure I would feel much more stress if I had to sell my stories to eat. I have so much respect for full time writers. I know on a small scale what goes into publishing and promoting a book. You guys, and girls that do it full-time have to be rock stars to make it happen.
Griffin: Any thoughts on the current state of the publishing industry?
Craig: I don’t really know enough to speak with any authority, as with most things, but the way I see it, indie publishing has its work to do. There will be constant headwinds, as with any business venture that puts David against Goliath, but in the end, I believe those who put in the most work will be successful. The support of other authors is crucial to the success for all of us.
With that being said, there is some real junk put out that gives indie authors a bad rap. The errors that slip through after many edits and revisions aren’t what I mean, I know because I find them in my work at times, it’s the writing that looks like a C student high schooler put it together that hurts us. There’s nothing wrong with a C student high schooler, but I don’t want to pay to read their work.
Griffin: Good Point. What authors inspire you?
Craig: This question really is too hard to answer. All authors inspire me really. When my eight-year-old daughter, Emma, sits down and starts writing, I’m her biggest fan. She is a main inspiration for sure. I love to read King horror, H.P. Lovecraft has become a favorite. I don’t know there are so many I could list, I’ll stop there. Oh, there’s this guy who writes really creepy stuff that keeps me up sometimes, Griffin Hayes, or something like that I think
Griffin: Never heard of him. Sounds like a hack. Ahem...So what's the best thing about being a writer?
Craig: Being able to kill people off and not get in trouble for it. Oops, did I say that out loud? Really, for me it lets me feel like a kid again in certain ways. Before we grow up and have families, sign up for mortgages and have all these responsibilities, we are allowed to just be. We didn’t have deadlines, except to maybe be in before dark, we didn’t have to pay bills or worry about the crappy state of the world. When I write I’m allowed to step away from all the grown up stuff. Those things might take place in my stories, but I have control. Hell, if my main character is going to lose his house, he can find a briefcase full of money. Now, there are sure to be attachments with the money that will no doubt have consequences and kick his butt, but I can do it. My characters can say whatever they want without real life repercussions. He/she might get punched in the face for saying it, but it’s all make believe. That’s why I like writing. It makes me feel like a kid. That was a fun question to answer.
Griffin: Good. I'm glad you liked it. Here's one you're gonna hate. What's the worst thing about being a writer?
Craig: Self doubt. That’s pretty much it for me at this point. I don’t like the fact that I doubt myself about something. I go back and forth before I let someone read my stuff. I constantly ask myself, What if they don’t like it? I’m getting better about the answer I give, It’s okay. If some people don’t like it, it’s all right. I’ll still get to play with my kids in the pool, I’ll still go to dinner with my wife, and I’ll still have friends and family that care about me, they might not read my stuff anymore, but they care.
Griffin: If you weren't doing this interview right now, what would you be doing?
Craig: It’s Saturday night, so probably hanging out with the wife watching trashy reality shows or Tosh.O. At this point in our lives, that’s what we look forward to on the weekend. Well, I think we do. I know I do.
Any last words?
Thank you so much for the opportunity. I really enjoyed the interview. Also, I want to thank you for all the help and support you have shown me, a complete stranger, over the last months. I truly appreciate all the time you have spent helping me out with my writing. I wish you the best in your future, and I look forward to reading more of your stories that keep me up late at night.
Thanks so much for stopping by Craig and for all the kind words. I'm very happy to help and also grateful for letting me bounce ideas and early drafts off of you. Best of luck on The Somnibus series and I know in the future we'll be hearing plenty more from you.
Visit the links below to read some of Craig's work or to interact with him on Twitter or his blog.
‘The Somnibus: Book I’ Amazon U.S./U.K.
My Adventures in Writing Blog
Posted by Griffin Hayes at 7:42 AM