With his debut released today in the UK, we were lucky to be able to grab a few words with author TC McCarthy as he stuck his head above ground (almost Meercat like) to have a look at the environment away from the writing cave.
Here we bring to you the results of this brief forray to get a look at how a new writer deals with rejection as well as to explore the writing world deeper...
Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?
T C McCarthy: I'd say this statement is absolutely true. There are moments where I'm excited to sit down and bang on the keyboard because I have an idea that can't wait to get out, and that's a lot of fun. But then there are those other moments. You know - the ones where you have to get from point A to point B and there's nothing but a blank page in front of you...
FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?
TCM: I read anything and everything as a kid. Probably when I hit 12 I decided that I'd give anything to become a writer and I did! Albeit, 20-30 years later...
FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?
TCM: I don't know if this is true or not, but I will say this: I find short stories to be infinitely more difficult than novels. It's almost cliché to say that in novels you can afford to make mistakes, but it's true and short stories require so much more care and precision that it is an art I have yet to master.
FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?
TCM: Germline isn't military science fiction, it's war science fiction; if you like stories that immerse you in the mind of someone ill-suited for the horrors and consequences of combat, but who adjusts and overcomes, then you'll like Germline.
FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?
TCM: Buy Germline or you'll go bald.
FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?
TCM: Michael Herr is always on the shelf right in front of me, and if I heard that he was putting out another memoir I'd camp outside the store to buy it!
FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your ideas develop as you write?
TCM: Although I do outlines, the writing process usually takes me in directions that I hadn't anticipated and that result in drastically different characters than I had originally envisioned. So I'm half seat-of-the-pants, half planner.
FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?
TCM: I can't relax! I have a day job and three kids, so it's hard to get a quiet moment. The most recent book I finished was Lou Anders' superhero anthology, Masked; I recommend it!
FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?
TCM: I chew tobacco; it's really nasty.
FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)
TCM: I have three dogs, but there's one - an old terrier mutt - who sits at my feet while I write. She and I have a system of communication so I know when she has to go for a walk and I'd never put her in one of my books; she'd get mad.
FT: How similar to your principal protagonist are you?
TCM: So similar that I'm not going to answer this question!
FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?
TCM: I used to love surfing but there aren't many waves in the place I live now, so before I started writing novels spend a lot of my free time woodworking; it never really influenced my work but it was a great way to forget all my day-to-day issues since it requires a lot of concentration.
FT: Where do you get your ideas from?
TCM: This is a tough question to answer because they can really come from anywhere; I know this isn't an especially unique answer but it's true. For example, I got the idea for my novelette, The Legionnaires, from a panel title at WorldCon 2009 that said something about the fact that there tended not to be middle aged heroines in SF. As long as I keep my eyes and ears open, the supply of ideas is almost infinite.
FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?
TCM: I encounter it all the time and usually just work through it. Deadlines definitely help. With a date hanging over my head, there's little choice but to write no matter if I feel like it or not, and usually the block goes away after I write a few pages.
FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?
TCM: I write any chance I get because if I waited for the perfect time, it would never come. For example: right now my kids are screaming and throwing stuffed animals at my head and one is begging for a milkshake, but these are unusual circumstances since we're in our WorldCon hotel room! Under normal circumstances I write between 4 and 7 or 8 in the morning and late at night because it's the only free time I get, and my wife hates it because I completely tune out.
FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?
TCM: Music is important to me for sure. While writing Germline I listened to the Distillers, Steve Miller, The Pogues, The Rolling Stones, Elastica, The Breeders, Veruca Salt, and the list goes on - a constant soundtrack that I never shut off.
FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?
TCM: It was difficult. Nobody enjoys being rejected or told that their writing needs work, but eventually I had to learn to ignore the rejections that gave no feedback and the criticisms that were clearly out there. Anything else fell into the "potentially valid comment(s)" field, and then became something useful. Repeated submission is the only way to overcome this.
FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?
TCM: The best aspect is never having to leave the house! The worst aspect is that I'm a long way from writing for a living. Thanks for the interview!