Interview with Maurice M. McKiernan:
Matthew Toffolo: What is the general theme and tone of your novel?
MMM: The theme is that things aren’t always as they appear, and the tone is dark… very dark.
MT: Why should people buy your novel?
MMM: I have spent countless hours painstakingly writing and editing the stories included in this collection to ensure that the reader has an enjoyable experience. The last thing I want as a writer is to waste people’s time, so I have put in the work to make sure these stories are worthy of my audience’s attention. I realize that my readers have busy lives and don’t want to take time out of their schedule to read something that is substandard or leaves them wishing they had spent that time doing something else… I want my readers to enjoy the ride, and I truly believe the stories in “Manuscripts of the Macabre” meet that requirement.
MT: How would you describe your novels in just two words?
MMM: “Original” and “morbid.”
MT: What movie have you seen the most in your life?
MMM: Probably “Casino” with Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci. The fact that it has so many different themes (such as things aren’t always as they appear), and complex relationships between the characters — not to mention that it is all based on a true story — make it a favorite of mine.
MT: Was being a novel writer something you’ve always dreamed of doing?
MMM: Absolutely. I knew I wanted to write when I was a teenager, but I couldn’t do it at the standard I hold myself to — not at the time. I knew I needed more life experience and formal teaching to get to the point I wanted to be, so I jotted down ideas while going to college and majoring in philosophy and getting a minor in journalism; the philosophy gave me substance to write about, the journalism gave me the know-how to get my thoughts across in a short, effective manner. After college, I still waited a few years (and learned more about life) before I truly felt I was ready to unleash what my mind had to offer.
MT: Do you have an all-time favorite novel? Have you read a novel more than once?
MMM: The novel I find myself rereading and still in awe of is “The Hellbound Heart” by Clive Barker. The story, the complexities, the writing… I love it all. As a horror/suspense/thriller author, when I read “The Hellbound Heart”, I feel like I am playing one-on-one with Michael Jordan — comparing myself to the best. The first time I read it, I felt so overmatched, like I would never be able to accomplish something so vivid and masterful. But, as time goes by, I have worked on improving my writing, have reread the book, and I feel like I stack up a little better to it each reading… I still can’t “beat Michael Jordan”, but I have grown in my craft and feel like I could make a bucket or two against him. I think it’s important as an author to reread your favorite works and analyze what they have that you don’t. Only by this kind of comparison and examination have I persisted in becoming better at my craft.
MT: What motivates you to write?
MMM: There are a lot of things, but I think the most common factors are pain and intrigue. I think that most authors whose work centers around dark subjects are like that: they experience or perceive some sort of pain and it feels cathartic to get it out; also, there are some things that just intrigue me, like how some people do certain things to others and still live with themselves, in which case, as an author I put myself in their shoes and try to imagine how they do it — what experiences have they had, and what beliefs do they hold that could justify the actions. For me, writing comes from pain and intrigue — AKA experience and curiosity.
MT: What artist would you love to have dinner with?
MMM: Marquis de Sade. I would love to meet the man and see whether his personality matched his writings, or if the stories were simply figments of his imagination. Let me be clear, he is not my favorite author — the translations of his work are written beautifully, but the content is so descriptive and hardened that I wonder if he truly was such a malicious person that his name deserved to be turned into a synonym (Sadism) for taking enjoyment in causing pain to someone. Obviously Napoleon thought so, but I’ve never read about any accounts where the man actually performed the depraved acts that his writing is notorious for.
MT: Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
MMM: I’m passionate about life; enjoying it, learning lessons from it, and applying those lessons in the future. On a smaller scale, I am passionate about music — writing it, playing it, listening to it.
MT: Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
MMM: I try not to give advice, but suggestions on things that have worked for me: Read what speaks to you, and read it often — look at the intricacies of what exactly it is that you enjoy or can relate to. That helped me to focus on what I needed to add to my writing. Another thing would be to just write — it may be something that you end up scrapping, but that’s a part of the process of becoming a better writer, and who knows, someday you may use aspects of it for something you hadn’t originally intended. Lastly, I would suggest writing stories that you enjoy; this is such a tough business that most authors don’t “make it big” and at the end of the day, whether my book sells or not, I can hang my hat on the knowledge that I tried my best to write stories that I enjoy. That seems to help me sleep soundly at night.