In an urban national park setting you wouldn’t think you’d find a Bistro Restaurant. But you look up from a stroll along Ocean Beach and there it is. The infamous Cliff House in San Francisco is rich in history and lore. But a spectacular ocean view isn’t the only lure to settle down in the bar and enjoy a glass of wine. After all, it’s Tuesday and on this day, bottles of wine are half off. Maybe the wine special was what brought us in the door, but the draw for me was to get to know writer Rob McKay a little better and to talk about his work, Unbound.
Do you remember the very first character you ever created? How old were you?
On June 13, 1964 , having just turned 12, I embarked on my writing career with the “publication” of my first book, “A Tale of Three Dogs”, featuring Joe the Labrador and Harold the Husky, talking dogs who could fight and build contraptions. But of course! Their stories were basically re-tellings of early sci-fi epic adventures such as “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “The Time Machine”. Their owner was none other than boyhood hero and San Francisco Giants (then with the Baltimore Orioles) reliever Stu Miller! Well… in my story, at least 🙂
Would you rather be tooling up a coastal highway in a convertible or four-wheeling it through the sand dunes anywhere in the world? In other words, where’s your favorite destination to escape to? Not to write, but to get away from it all for a break?
A coastal highway please, with lots of beaches and appropriate land masses along the edge of the World 😀
Are you a Big Bang person or a Walking Dead person?
Oh, Big Bang, definitely (see NASA covers)!
What kind of environment do you prefer around you when you write? Complete solitude or a bit of static noise in the background? Does that include listening to music?
I need complete solitude to write, having learned the hard ways that anything disruptive is hazardous to my creative undertaking. My thoughts (and stories) are rather involved and convoluted, and I need time and space to think them through. I’ve been a music junkie since the time I began writing (see above), and love listening to it, but can’t do both at the same time. So, quiet is good
I must find a way to get me some of this complete solitude I hear so much about. Since I asked about music, does it flavor your writings in any way? Do you need to listen to music in order to set the mood for a scene while you’re creating it?
If I play music I’ll be compelled to listen to it, and that halts my creative process/flow. At one point in the creation of UNBOUND, I put together a 3-cassette set of songs as an “Official Soundtrack” but (of course) ended up listening to it instead of writing! I’ve found that “music of the unconscious” such as that by The Ozric Tentacles, provides sounds that are conducive to creation; that and the instrumental jam-session “Bastard Universe” by The Church also provides a suitable sonic backdrop. The music and my thoughts can then play with each other as each wanders and wonders about the other. Usually though, I’ll have the emotional pitch of a song in mind before writing, and in the scene mirror the sentiments of the song. An example would be in Chapter 1.2 of UNBOUND, where Lily & Will are on the pier watching the sunset, with him humming Tom Petty’s “Walls” and wishing Lily’s would fall…
Who influenced you the most to take that fire in the belly and become a writer? A teacher, another author, a parent?
Maya Angelou visited our Creative Writing (or Modern Lyrical Poetry) class in high school sometime in 1968, and we were to bring in our favorite self-written pieces to be read by her to the class (as I understood it). Being a rather typical teenager, I brought in the first poem I’d written, a five-page piece called “Night Sky, 1AM” that I figured would tie her up for most of the duration. I was the first one to step up to the podium where she stood and handed it to her, then returned to my desk, satisfied that I’d shortened the program considerably. Unfortunately (for me), I missed the part about US having to read our work! Halfway back to my desk, she asked me, “Young man, where are you going?” “Back to my desk?” “No, you’re going to read your poem to us.” “But I thought you -” “Why should *I* read it? It’s your poem!” (Insert cruel classmate laughter here.) So… being unaccustomed to public speaking (and etc) I VERY reluctantly read my humongous poem. IT TOOK FOREVER :-O When finished I tried to scurry back to my desk, but she kept me there while she led the class in a standing ovation! After class was over, she pulled me aside and told me that I should pursue a career in writing, and even though it took forever (and a day or two), I’ve at least done that 🙂
Well if Maya Angelou gave you a standing ovation and suggested you become a writer it must’ve been destiny! Did you always have the confidence though to put your work out there for the public, or did it build slowly over time?
I’ve always had the strongest confidence in the story, but have always known that promoting it would be a real problem for me and this since 1978, when I first seriously considered writing, and when the author’s face wasn’t more important than their Work. It’s exponentially worse these days with the accent on instant celebrity-hood and pretty faces but shallow content. Pretty much like every other field! I’ve never wanted to be famous or notorious and would rather be invisible, to be honest, and just write. If the book brings it to me, then that is as it should be, and the Readers will determine the quality of my work, which should be what it’s all about: the Reader and the Story. I hold this relationship sacred.
Do you pay attention to negative reviews or criticism at all?
I haven’t gotten any on this project (yet?), so I’m not sure. I tend to ignore the negative, but if the knowledgeable critic has useful information that can improve my writing I’ll consider it. If my First Readers found something “off” then I’d fix it. Informed Readers are more important than biased critics.
On the flip side of that, how do you handle praise when people gush over your work?
I just had my first “outsider” review (by way of detailed feedback), and I have to say that it thrilled me! I was gratified to see that they clearly “got it.”
One such reader said:
It’s been my honor and pleasure to have been involved with “Unbound” since the early days. Unbound has evolved into a fascinating story. Past and Present, Good and Evil, Heaven and Hell, Angels and Demons. This is a kaleidoscopic story that contains not only love and compassion, but hatred and despair; it’s very light, and very dark as well. It’s a sometimes horrific story that crosses and contrasts religion with spirituality and ultimately is transcendent. It’s a story about Love.
My (non-friend/non-family) First Readers were quite enthusiastic during the writing of it, so the story has received a lot of compliments, but when they gushed I reacted more along the lines of “well, good then, it works” rather than “oh yay, they really love me!” My real concern was with how Readers might react to this different sort of Story, and as I’m still awaiting my first Amazon review, we’ll have to see about that. I can definitely say “gratefully” though!
The positive feedback is always a kick to hear. If you could sit down with one author and ask one question, which author would it be and what would you ask?
I’d like to ask Stephen King HOW he managed to write his earliest stories all the while juggling a new wife, babies, moving and so on! To be able to compose while dealing with distractions mystifies me; I attempted doing this for years without any satisfactory progress. If I recall correctly, I think his point was that “if I can write this way, anyone can.” I submit that since not everyone is capable of dealing with chaotic matters in his particular (and productive!) way, that no, anyone cannot, and that some writers need quietude in order to commune with their Muses, and they’re capable of great stories too. They just take longer to write them! The question would be “How to write gracefully under pressure?”
Are you ever tempted to write outside the genre you’re best known for?
It’s hard to describe the genre I work in, much less what genre UNBOUND is! Upon publishing through Kindle, I chose “metaphysical/visionary” and “horror/occult” as those descriptions cover the types of stories I would like telling in and beyond UNBOUND. Using Detective Mulligan to spin off a solid Mystery might be interesting and fun to try, or using other minor characters as actors in a straight-up Fantasy story might as well. On the other hand, writing strictly original stories outside of this UNBOUND arena in another genre doesn’t seem appealing. So, I’m open to the idea as long as the “alien genre” is covered by my own interests. “Write what you know.” 🙂
What’s the one quirky thing about you that you’d like people to know that isn’t already out there in the public domain? The one thing that’s just a bit odd?
What I haven’t already put in the public domain via my website and blog doesn’t amount to much, as I’m fairly open and innocuous. “Mostly harmless” comes to mind! Although I could point out that I’m honest to a fault, and all-too-willing to say things that others might not. That’s basically the fault. So I prefer keeping a low profile and my mouth shut 😛
Oh. I use smilies. A LOT. Because periods are so… boring. And appear as cold and unfriendly endings to (social) sentences. Too final. There’s nothing like a smilie and an exclamation point to liven things up!!! 🙂
What is your own favorite character or storyline in your work that you love more than anyone else’s, more than any other author you’ve ever read that’s all yours?
That would be Lily Godwin and her soul-searching quest, by far. An ideal woman, but… not. Beautiful but flawed, curious but amnesiac, cheerful but melancholic, pacific but feisty; she satisfies on so many levels that at times she is simply breathtaking. But then I am fairly biased 😛 Seeing as how other readers have also loved her magnifies it further, as is appropriate for this particular “love story like no other” (as one First Reader put it) 🙂
What are you working on now? And why did you choose it or did it choose you?
Presently I’m polishing up UNBOUND Book Three: Water, to hopefully be released at the end of February (chaos permitting), with Book Four: Fire to follow the next month. Being the middle bits of a four-book series, it not only chose me but chained me to the mast! Thankfully they’ve been completed, edited, proofed and reviewed and are all ready but for a final examination for flow, and the snipping of lyric snippets that I hadn’t got permissions for. I’d always felt assured that a proper editor would be a final set of eyes before publication; going Indie means that those eyes have to be mine. We do what we must 🙂
Where can people find your books? Your website? Your blog?
They can be found on Amazon’s Kindle Store for now, with other formats to follow; eventually I hope the Story to be available in print.
UNBOUND Book One: Earth http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ASJRKO2
UNBOUND Book Two: Air http://www.amazon.com/Unbound-Book-Two-Air-ebook/dp/B00B5NK9UM/ref=pd_sim_sbs_kstore_1
My website dedicated to UNBOUND and other related subjects: http://unbound.org/
Its Blog, Alastor’s Reflection, is more entertainment-based, mainly on anime these days since as a writer I’ve become enchanted with the medium as it relates to storytelling and character development (and animation), and it resides at http://unbound.org/wordpress/
A big Thank You to Vickie McKeehan for her invaluable assistance and support; you’re the best 🙂
And thank YOU for Reading! I hope that you get a chance to accompany Lily on her troubling, but transcendent, journey 🙂
It was my pleasure, Rob. Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions.
Now that we’ve got the promotion stuff out of the way, let’s order lunch.