Authors are frequently asked questions about writing, probably because, well, they’re writers, so people assume they know what they’re doing. This FAQ is my attempt to answer the questions I have received so far, and may expand as time goes on.
Questions about arranging interviews or appearances are included in the General FAQ, as they are not a part of the writing process.
Q: Can you give a simple description of the series premise?
A: The zombie apocalypse happened more than twenty years ago. Contrary to popular belief, we didn’t all die out, largely because we’d had years of horror movies to tell us how to behave when the dead start walking. We fought back, and we won…sort of. The dead still walk; loved ones still try to eat you if you’re not careful; the virus that caused the problem in the first place is still incurable. But at least we lived, right?
The Newsflesh Trilogy is a story about blogging, politics, medical science, espionage, betrayal, the ties that bind, the ties that don’t, how George Romero accidentally saved the world, and, of course, zombies. It’s thoughtful horror, and horrific science fiction, and I’m very fond of it.
Q: What is the publication order?
A: Book one, Feed, was released in May 2010. Book two, Deadline, was released in May 2011. Book three,Blackout, will conclude the trilogy in May 2012.
Q: I thought book two was called Blackout. What gives?
A: The name of book two was changed fairly late in the publication process, to avoid confusion with another book of the same name, and because Deadline was just a better title. I promise, book two isDeadline.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: A detailed plan to guarantee my survival in the inevitable zombie uprising.
Q: How do you find time to write as much as you do?
A: There are some really fascinating theories about this, most involving my theft of sleep from clones in parallel dimensions. I find this notion awesome, but the fact is that I’m one of those people who quite literally can’t sit still. I’m always working on something, and I enjoy setting little deadlines and word count goals for myself. It keeps me moving at a decent clip, and I can always feel like I’ve accomplished something.
Q: What do you write with and/or on?
A: I’m primarily a word processor girl—aren’t we all these days?—but I take notes longhand, and have been known to free-associate to figure out where I’m going next. This occasionally results in my writing entire chapters in tiny little portable notebooks. This would please me more if I didn’t have to transcribe afterward.
Q: How long do you spend on average on research, writing, revising, etc. until you are happy (or it gets sold, whichever comes first)?
A: This is hugely dependent on what I’m doing. A Mason book requires a lot of research, since they each deal with a different slice of the zombie apocalypse, and take quite some time to prepare for, much less write. I’ve finished books in as little as six weeks, and taken as long as two years. That’s just the writing and revision process, mind you; sale is a very individual thing, and a little too big to generalize.
Q: Who and what were and are your influences on what you write?
A: Everything! I started reading voraciously at a very early age, and you can make a case for my being inspired by everything from Bradbury and Baum to Kipling and King. I’m very influenced by classical mythology, folklore from around the world, and classic horror movies. I love old horror comics and the way they compressed the essence of horror into four or five lushly illustrated pages. And I’m constantly listening to the people around me, following trends in conversation and natural dialog, looking for the way that people talk.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for a beginning writer?
A: Read. Read everything you can get your hands on, and learn where you personally draw the lines of “good” and “bad.” One man’s classic really is another man’s catastrophe, and learning where you fall will do so much for you. Write. Sit down every day and write. Even if it’s just a few lines, it’ll keep you in practice.
I think every author has their favorite books on the craft, but really, I recommend Stephen King’s On Writing as an excellent place to start.
Q: Do you have an agent? Did you have an agent before you sold your books?
A: Yes, and yes. I was very fortunate in that I managed to find an agent who appreciates the fact that I am marginally crazy in that “happily does twenty things at once, all the time” sort of a way.
Q: Who represents you?
A: I am represented by Diana Fox of Fox Literary.
Q: Will you refer me to your agent?
A: I’m sorry, but no. If I don’t know you personally and know your work, I’m not going to refer you to my agent. (Basically, it’s a matter of “if you need to ask me, the answer is not gonna be yes.”) You can definitely check her agency information to see whether she might be the right agent for you, however.
Q: Will you read my book/story/idea?
A: Again, I’m sorry, but no. From a legal standpoint, it’s a bad, bad thing because there’s always the chance that you and I might be working on similar ideas—there are a lot of zombie novels in the world, for example, and only so many ways to shamble. So just to keep the waters from getting muddy, it’s really not a good idea.
Also, while I may be stealing sleep from my parallel-dimension clones, I still only get so many hours in the day, and if I read everything I was asked to read, well, the phrase “never get anything done” would come into play. Fast. And that would be bad. My editor would kill me with my own machete.
Q: Did you have an “in” with the publishing business?
A: No more than anybody else. I submitted to a lot of houses before I sold my first book, and to a lot of agencies before I found the right agent. Getting published isn’t a matter of knowing who to talk sweet to; it’s a matter of working hard, learning to have a thick skin, and being prepared to take it on the chin a time or twenty. If you can do that, you’ll get there.
Q: Who is Seanan McGuire?
A: Trapped in a world she never made, theories about the origin of Miss Seanan “genetically engineered dinosaurs are for life, not just for the holidays” McGuire range from the silly to the seriously silly. She’s the lost princess of Halloween; she was grown in a demonically-possessed pumpkin patch, and intended as the High Priestess of the Great Pumpkin; she’s a figment of somebody’s imagination, possibly her own.
What we know for sure is that she’s the author of the October Daye fantasy series, as well as a great many short stories, and the winner of the 2010 Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She lives in Northern California with a plethora of blue cats, collects comic books and My Little Ponies, and knows way too much about the venomous wildlife of the Pacific Coast.
More seriously, Seanan McGuire is my real name: Mira Grant is the open pseudonym I use for my horror writing. For more information about my other projects, please visit my main website at seananmcguire.com.