Monday, March 19, 2018

Interview with Paul Michael Anderson

CHHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

It's just something I've always done.  Other kids were into sports or video games or wrestling.  I dug stories--telling them and hearing them.  It's the one thread that runs through everything I have been or am in to, from comedians to pop rock.

CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like? 

I'm a teacher, married, and a father, so writing, for me, is restricted to at night, after the kiddo goes to bed.  I know other people--Paul Tremblay, off the top of my head--can write in little dips here and there, the way other people might be able to read a paragraph or two of a book, but I'm not like that.  I try to write daily and try to write 1,500 words a session.  Note the word "try".  Sometimes exhaustion, day-job, etc. get in the way. 

CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?

I recently quit smoking, so my ritual's in the process of changing.  I never smoked in the house, so cigarette breaks provided me with breathers on a scene, interaction, etc.  Anymore, my routine is writing at my kitchen table (I used to have an office, but hated it) with a cup of coffee, a toothpick (oral fixation), and Foo Fighters's Wasting Light or A Perfect Circle's Thirteenth Step playing on repeat. 

CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?

I'm mostly known for my shorts (because they've been published!  and some were reprinted! in my book Bones Are Made to Be Broken!), but I've written a few (ahem--unpublished) novels.  Both formats have their own pros and cons, depending on the story I have in mind.  I've been on a novella kick, recently, though.  Two pieces coming out this year--"I Can Give You Life" in the anthology Ashes and Entropy and "How We Broke" (co-written with Bracken MacLeod) in Chiral Mad 4--are novellas.

CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?

You're cute.  The local Walmart has a special horror movie section every October (yay?).  I live in a fairly conservative area, where "fantasy" is if the menfolk "let" their women cut their hair short and "horror" is the reaction a father feels when Junior takes a knee at the local football game. 

CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?

Go with the flow.  I always have the fragments of scenes in my head around an idea and sometimes they'll get used, sometimes they mutate, sometimes they get completely cast aside.  I'm an Alfred Bester kinda guy on that front; the book is the boss.  I just transcribe what the characters do and how they react within the parameters I set up for them.

CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?

That's actually kind of hard to answer!  There's always the charge you get when you see your name in print--but actually changing the process?  Hmmm. 

I started writing for pay back in college as a college journalist and, when I saw the audience reaction to my column, I tended to lean into that--not a recycling, but a matter of "Oh, you like this type of humor/rant/topic?  Good, 'cause I'm gonna write more of it."

In fiction, I've found I pay attention to characters and character beats more than anything because that's what's been commented on by readers and editors.  I don't forsake the actual story--I hate the pretension of that idea; lives don't fit into a narrative, but stories do, otherwise we're just reading a bunch of fairly fantastical but overwhelmingly dull character sketches--but I look for those moments with characters in situations where the emotion or psychology can be laid bare and resonate. 

Christ, that sounds obnoxious.  Okay.  People seem to like the emotional rollercoasters and impacts my characters feel so, if anything, I found myself looking hard at them when they arise in a story.  I don't manufacture them, but when they show up, they have to be as hard as can be. 

Also, getting published meant I worked harder than before. 

CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story? 

Emotional connection.  Character beats.  Reactions that, to me, feel authentic.  You can do anything to a character as long as that character feels real and reacts in a way that doesn't become wish-fulfillment or writer-edits. So, when the shit hits the fan, you care.  You skin's a little thinner so the impact is tougher.

CHHR: What are you currently working on?

A bunch of solicited short stories.  A book.  My tan and sweet muscular definition. 

CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?

Off the top of my head of what I remember is on the shelf next to my bed--a re-read of the first three Sandman Slim novels by Richard Kadry, Dogs of War by Jonathan Maberry, Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen, Found You by Mary Sangiovanni, a reread of Neuromancer by William Gibson, Redbreast by Jo Nesbo.  I just finished reading an unpublished novel by Kristi DeMeester (writer of Beneath and the collection Everything That's Underneath) and I'm looking forward to diving into a reread of Damien Angelica Walters' collection Cry Your Way Home.

CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?

Funny you say that.  I was re-reading King's Night Shift collection and the story "The Ledge" got to me, even though I've read it about a billion times by now.  Heights bother me. 

I'm finishing Grady Hendrix's My Best Friend's Exorcism and there's a scene involving tapeworms that, at the moment I was reading it, unnerved me but nothing more and I read about 20 pages after that scene.  However, when I closed the book and put out my nightstand light, that scene came back to me--vividly.  It took me about two hours to fall asleep.

CHHR: What is your favorite horror film?

Toss up between Romero's Dawn of the Dead, Carpenter's The Thing, and Cronenberg's The Fly.  I should probably be hipster and say some random obscure thing that, like, ten people saw, but those movies were viewed under the right circumstances, at the right times in my life. 

CHHR: What is your spirit animal?

You know those dogs they show in cages on the ASPCA commercials--the focus of those slow tracking shots with Sarah Mclachlan playing overtop?  I'm one of those dogs. 

CHHR: What is your favorite beer?

I don't drink anymore, but when I did it was Yuengling or Michelob Ultra.  Keep it simple.

CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?

That's the thing with social media--half the people I would name I've either worked with, talked to, hung out with, or met already.  But, fuck it, I'll go with my first writer's crush.  I'd meet up with Sarah Vowell, an essayist and armchair historian who got her start on This American Life and her books Take the Cannoli and The Partly Cloudy Patriot, for coffee.  We could get snarky about Americana and obsess over that one Lincoln relative who couldn't help but be around whenever a president was getting assassinated. 

Author Bio:

Paul Michael Anderson is the writer of BONES 

ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN and numerous 

short stories and articles. He lives with his wife 

and daughter in Virginia. Find him on Twitter 

under the inspired handle of @p_m_anderson or 

at his website

This collection features 14 works of fiction by Paul Michael Anderson, including "All That You Leave Behind," "To Touch the Dead," "Love Song for the Rejected," and a title novella written specifically for this book. Every story within is illustrated by artist/author extraordinaire Pat R. Steiner, who created the artwork for Qualia Nous Illustrated. The stories in BONES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN are a speculative blend of horror, science fiction, and unfiltered emotion. As Marge Simon puts it, "Anderson’s style is tensely exciting. This collection is a treasure for any horror or dark SF fan’s library." Gene O’Neill sums up this collection with "Paul Michael Anderson writes like no other writer in dark fiction. Simply, he writes a Paul Michael Anderson story—the highest compliment any serious writer can hope to achieve."

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