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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An Interview with Author Dennis McDonald

PARANORMAL LIBRARIAN caught up with Oklahoma author Dennis McDonald on a rainy day in spring as winter reluctantly kept a toe-hold on the region.  Our meeting occurred in a warm medieval style tavern tucked away on a quiet and forgotten street.  It was a sensory banquet that brought visions of ancient knights, wizards, and heroic quests. The dark beams were satuarated with the aroma of strong ale, chunks of Irish peat moss on the fire added a smoky intimacy, and across the room there was a small group  with lute, bodhran, and a fiddle playing a muted but lively jig.  The horror/fantasy author of 13 Nightmares, Ebon Moon, and Undead Flesh was sitting at a cozy corner table, a mug on the table, and a broad smile on his face as his fingers kept time to the music.  I was warmly greeted and we settled down to learn more about this up and coming voice in the world of horror and fantasy.



When you are not writing or being you, what is your work or activity?

I work for Diagnostic Labs of Oklahoma and pick up lab specimens from hospitals and doctor offices. I do a lot of driving every weekday.

When did you become an author? How did it develop, and what was your inspiration?

I published my first book 13 Nightmares about four years ago, but in reality, I’ve always been a writer since the age of 13. It just took me forty years to actually finish something I started. I wrote and published my own role playing game system back in the early nineties titled Adventure Maximum. I sold all the books and have since retired from gaming after thirty years involvement in the hobby. My love of writing continued however. I found a site called FanStory on the internet where writers could post their stories and get them read and critiqued. I wanted to be a fantasy writer and posted chapters of my novel up on the site. I received a few positive reviews, but that was about it. This site also sponsored contests for short horror stories. I entered a few of my horror tales and won against a hundred other writers. One Halloween story contest I won four hundred dollars. I decided to switch from writing fantasy to horror. In 2009 I decided to put out a collection of horror stories called 13 Nightmares. Since I was a total unknown writer and knew very little of the publishing world, I decided to self-publish like I did with my game system to see if readers would embrace me as an author. I’ve since self-published my werewolf novel Ebon Moon and just released my zombie novel Undead Flesh. 

What are some interesting events from your career as a writer? Any bloopers? 

I can’t think of any real bloopers. I’m sure they are there, I just can’t recall any. I can tell you that I started writing Undead Flesh a couple of years ago for Nanowrimo. The basic premise of the novel was zombies rising from the grave after a massive earthquake in Oklahoma. It was while writing about the earthquake one morning, that a real quake rattled through the state. I had lived here all my life and never experienced a quake until that morning. Now we have them all the time. Hopefully, we don’t have the big one like in my novel.

What do you think your impact has been among members of your audience? Your community? 

I hear about my books every day either by people in the town, the internet, or through my work. As a self-published author you reach out to readers first, instead of publishers and distributors. You build a dedicated readership among the people in your community and spread from there. I continue to do just that. 

What would you have liked to do with your work if there was more time, money, wider support, funding, staff, etc.

I would love to see my stories on the big screen. I scripted a small film from my short story The Last Trick or Treater and it shot by a woman filmmaker in Tulsa. I went to the premiere at the Circle Cinema and it was so cool to see my story and dialogue on the big movie screen.

Where do you see yourself in the coming years? Will [insert author name here] remain or transform within the book world or move on to something else?

I’m a writer to the end. I don’t even think of myself as an author. I’m a writer first. My goal now is to take on the traditional publishing world. I’ve proven to myself that I can write and sell books. I’m ready to move to the next step.

As a writer, what and who are your influences? Where do you get your ideas?

I saw a saying on the internet that a writer is someone who has a thousand tabs open in their mind at once. This is me. While writing this, I’m thinking of a short story where someone has a computer with the power to reach back in time to interview the greatest authors of all time and post their ramblings on the internet. I’m imagining the story in my head as I’m thinking about what I’m writing right now. As a teenager I read voraciously back in the sixties and seventies. My favorite authors were Asimov, Clark, Heinlein, Tolkien, Bradbury, and Robert E. Howard. 

Readers often like to find authors similar in tone, subject, or style to another. Who would most enjoy your work: readers of Stoker, Lovecraft, Shelley, King, Koonze, etc? 

Probably King. I’ve had a lot of fans of Stephen King say they enjoyed my work. 

When you write, do you require a special place, quiet, mood music, a favorite chair or sweater, etc.?

I live in a hundred year old home and my writing room is an upstairs bedroom. The walls are covered with pictures and posters of dragons, Bruce Lee, Count Gregore, and art work. My chair is a broken office chair in front of my Dell. I write in silence most of the time. 

Who is Dennis MacDonald? How similar are the two personas of author and  Dennis? In the real world, do you like sports or other pursuits? On any given day where would someone find you and what would you be doing?

I’m usually just sitting at home most of the time. I’m basically a recluse when I’m not at work. I like to watch Netflix and play a few games on my Xbox. If you want to lose your social circle, be a writer. It’s a lonely craft. On the other hand, I’m a convention junkie and love sci-fi horror cons, writing conferences, book signings, etc. These are the times I get out amongst people and away from long hours on the computer. 

What is the next big thing on your personal and professional agenda? 

Since I finished my trilogy of terror, I’m shifting gears into my fantasy novel. The first 100,000+ word manuscript is done in rough form. The project is too big for me to self publish, so I’m sending it to traditional publishers. I still write short stories when I need a break, and have a couple of horror novels on the back burner.

The evening was creeping up to peer in the windows at us and the after work crowd began to shuffle in bringing the scent of more cold rain.  As I left Dennis McDonald friends were hailing him and a discussion of a recent convention began to fill the void left by the departing musicians.  It looked like a perfect night to read his newest work....if I dared.