Today’s special guest is Brian McKinley, author of the new ”vampire noir” (my term) Drawing Dead. He’s also a lot of fun to interview, and has been at Portals before. Say hello again to Brian!
Q:Do things feel different now that “Drawing Dead” is in the world?
A:Right now, it all still feels slightly unreal. The book is both out-but-not-out, kind of like Schrödinger’s cat, in that it’s available for pre-order but no one is really reading it yet. No one can leave reviews on Amazon yet. I’m still waiting for the “opening weekend box office” to see if all these promotional efforts will pay off.
Q:What project are you currently working on?
A:Right now, I’m writing the sequel to Drawing Dead which is tentatively being called Drawing Thin. It will move the story along into the 1940s and deals with Faolan’s first real challenge to his new-found power as well as some problems in his personal life.
Q:What were some of your influences when coming up with the character of Faolan O’Connor?
A:That’s an interesting mix, actually. When I first created Faolan, he was an antagonist for a group of werewolves that I writing about. My original inspiration for him came from the Dennis Leary character in a movie called Judgement Night (which I wonder if anybody even remembers). I liked the combination of street-level rawness combined with humor that he had and I wanted something like that for my villain. Well, as time went on, I built up Faolan’s backstory and began using him as my character in roleplaying games and I added layers of Jimmy Cagney from The Public Enemy and Bogart from The Petrified Forrest since that was the time-period I wanted him to come from. As I wrote him, I found that he just took over the scenes he was in and, more and more, I didn’t want to lose him as a character. So, in draft after draft, he became less of a villain until I started to realize that he was being wasted in that story, since he now only had a peripheral part to play. Friends had been telling me that I should tell Faolan’s story and I finally decided to do that.
After that, Faolan began taking on all kinds of added layers: I went all the way back to classic characters like MacBeth, Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, Hammet’s Continental Operative, and Fleming’s original James Bond to see how they were written and the kind of traits they shared. Finally, to personalize him a bit, I added some elements that I remembered from my grandparents—figures of speech, mannerisms, interests, and attitudes. It still wound up being very difficult, truth be told, since I needed to take a potentially unsympathetic protagonist through a story that would change him without losing the rough elements that made him so interesting in the first place!
Q:What do you think sets your work apart from other dark fantasy or urban fantasy authors—Jim Butcher, for instance, if you’ve read him?
A:I love Jim Butcher, as a matter of fact! It’s difficult for me to analyze my own work compared to other authors, but I’d have to say that I don’t see quite as much grittiness and attention to the mundane in other authors’ series. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing! I think I like to pick apart the conventions and question why things work the way they do a bit more. I try to pay attention to the little details of life when I can.
Q:What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
A:I watch TV, mostly shows with good writing and supernatural elements like Penny Dreadful, Game of Thrones, and such. I also love to pretend to be a vampire in roleplaying games, because I’m a big dork at heart. I try to read, but I seem to have so little time for it anymore that I’ve fallen way behind on some of my favorite series.
Q:Do you listen to music when you write? Any favorite bands/albums?
A:Yes I do. I try to create playlists with music that puts me in my character’s mindset, so I’ll use different music for different novels and characters. For Faolan, it’s a lot of Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra, Metallica, and other hard rock despite him being a product of the Jazz Age. Avery from Ancient Blood was lots of Weezer, The Offspring, Concrete Blonde, The Killers, Oingo Boingo Type-O Negative and other bands like that. However, when I was writing my female werewolf protagonist, I was listening to Evanescence, Carly Simon, ABBA, Miranda Sex Garden, and Blondie. For some reason, I find music to be a very important element of a character and a way into their headspace.
Q:What would you like your readers to know about you?
A:I’m single, reasonably attractive, and welcome sexually-explicit fan-mail.
Q:Do you have any particular goals you’d like to achieve, writing-wise?
A:Aside from NYT bestseller status? I’d like to get my level of discipline to the point where I can write my novels more quickly. I’ll never be the type who can just churn stuff out, but even a steady 1 per year would be nice.
Q:What’s your favorite food?
A:Depends on my mood. It’s hard to pick a single favorite.
Q: What person—living or dead—would you most like to meet? Christopher Walken.
Thanks for your time, Brian! Always a blast.