Snapshots: TC McCarthy interviewed

What are you working on now?
Literary fiction. It seems to me that if one is going to claim that one writes, then one should try to write in as many different ways as possible. At least try. And if the attempt fails, chalk it up as a learning experience. But if a given writer is going to claim that he/she writes “literary” speculative fiction, then he/she needs to show me publications in peer reviewed, non-genre literary venues before I believe them – preferably venues from academia. I have a similar peeve when it comes to SFF ‘zine editors. Don’t give me the self-licking ice-cream cone argument that your magazine publishes literary speculative fiction because “I and my staff have MFAs and we say it’s literary.” Prove it; publish more stories from authors who have real literary credentials outside of genre, writers not from the same crowd we find lobbying one another at WorldCon every year for the next Nebula or Hugo or Campbell. Christ; take a chance for once and try something different. Maybe then your publication might not have to panhandle via PayPal to stay afloat.

But back to the question: right now a literary novella is in the works and there’s a specific market in my sights.

What have you recently finished?
I just finished a literary novel that my agent is sending out and it’s “absolutely fantastic” (someone else’s words, I swear). I don’t want to give too much away. But it’s about an adolescent genius who puts his intelligence to use in lawbreaking, and who is really confused about whether he’s gay or straight.

What’s recently or soon out?
The second book in my military science fiction series just came out, Exogene, and the third book, Chimera, is about to hit shelves in August. Also, I have a digital SF-horror novelette coming out from Orbit in the next month or two (Ellen Datlow, pay attention!), and will be releasing my own short story within the next couple of weeks. Look for “Sunshine” and “Somewhere it Snows” wherever e-books are sold.

What inspired the Subterrene War series?
This is a really good question but one I don’t want to answer. At least not truthfully, so I’ll be vague. Most people have to, at some point, experience a bit of hell because that comes with being alive. The Subterrene War series is semi-autobiographical; it finds its origin in my darkest years.

You’ve lived in lots of places but always end up back in the South – what is it that draws you back? How does it influence your writing: are you a Southern writer, or just a writer who lives in the South?
I’m a southern writer. Completely. Although I lived in California for a bit, I spent most of my life in the deep south, and it influences me in ways that are hard to describe. Last week I drove from Aiken, South Carolina, to Savannah, Georgia, and saw towns that I’d forgotten because the world also forgot them and they were left off the maps. These people clung to the textile trade for decades, hoping it would last; they made the wrong bet. Milliken & Company ran so fast in 2008 that it left its factory in the kudzu the same way a bank robber abandons getaway cars (by pushing them over cliffs) and all the barbed wire was rusty despite the fact that someone still mowed and weeded the factory lawn – like maybe if they kept the place neat the mill Gods would return. People stared. But nobody yelled or threw rocks at my car because I belonged there since we were all on the same sinking ship and I think they saw the same look in my eyes that they knew was in theirs: one that says you can’t escape fate. Much of my writing has fatalistic overtones and although I hesitate to say that this is a widespread feature of all southern writing, it is my reaction to having lived here for so long. Kudzu is a hell of a weed; it gets into one’s head and not much will stop it.

Short fiction or novels – what are your preferences as writer and reader?
Novels. It is much harder to write short stories because you have to get every word right, and I love reading novels because they go on longer; there’s more to enjoy.

Describe your typical writing day.
Up at three AM. Write until six AM. Get the kids ready for school, go to work, come home and help with homework until the kids go to bed. Write from 9PM to 11PM. Sleep. Do it all again. Sigh.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
Many that didn’t make it to the Campbell, Hugo, Clarke, Philip K Dick, or Nebula short lists. Seriously; we see the same names on some of these lists year after year, and it’s not always because those authors are the best. But among those overlooked, there are some that I’m just flabbergasted didn’t get award nods. Here are my picks:

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (not nominated for any awards? REALLY?)

Miserere, by Teresa Frohock

Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence

A lot of Camille Alexa’s work is great – who the hell is noticing this girl? Nobody?

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Ignore the snark from certain reviewers, editors and authors out there on twitter and in the blogosphere. Just write. Some of those people are the enemies of fiction and they’re too stupid to realize that advancing socio-political agendas at the expense of story is the same thing as firing a sawed off shotgun at Virginia Woolf. Write what’s in your gut.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
The future of publishing? Somewhere between what we have now and a total Amazon monopoly. Amazon is winning the war and its goal is to “eliminate the middleman,” which means getting rid of literary agents, distributors, and publishers. I see their argument. The downside, however, is that once this is done, they’ll be the only game in town, which the anti-trust people in government will never let happen (and which would be an author’s worst nightmare). So I can’t give a more clear answer than what I’ve already said, but in 5-10 years people will be reading a lot more stuff that’s going for 99 cents, and weeding through garbage to get to good books because there won’t be as many of the old-style publishers out there to filter out crap. So… I’m teaching myself how to self publish too.

Exogene by TC McCarthy

TC McCarthy is a critically acclaimed southern author whose short fiction has appeared in Per Contra: The International Journal of the Arts, Literature and Ideas, in Story Quarterly and in Nature. His debut novel, Germline, and its sequel, Exogene are available worldwide and the final book of the trilogy, Chimera, will be released in August 2012. Visit him at, or find out more about TC at The Big Idea.

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About Keith Brooke and infinity plus

Keith Brooke is a writer of science fiction, fantasy and other strange stuff, and editor and reviewer of same. He is also the publisher at infinity plus, an independent imprint publishing books by leading genre fiction authors. View all posts by Keith Brooke and infinity plus

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