Interview by Matthew Morrison
Andrew J McKiernan is a writer and illustrator from the Central Coast of New South Wales. First published in 2007, his stories have since been short-listed for multiple Aurealis, Ditmar and Australian Shadows awards, as well as being reprinted internationally and in a number of Year’s Best anthologies. His short story collection, Last Year, When We Were Young, was awarded the 2014 AHWA Australian Shadows Award for Best Collected Work.
Your work has been a big influence on my own. Who has influenced your work in the past, both in writing and illustrating?
My illustration influences have been, and always will be, Virgil Finlay and Hannes Bok. Both were born in 1914 and worked extensively for Weird Tales magazine and Arkham House Publishing throughout the 1940s and 1950s. It is their wonderfully evocative black and white work that will always be in my head whenever I read Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith or Robert Bloch.
As far as writing influences go: that began, I think, with Stephen King and Dan Simmons. Their work really shaped my early reading of horror and science fiction, and my first attempts at writing as a teenager were definitely trying to imitate them. Over the last 10 or 15 years, my reading has expanded into so many other genres, and I’ve also become a much more critical in my examination of how others pull off the various tricks of good literature. These days my writing is shaped much more by the works of Tim Winton, Cormac McCarthy, James Sallis, Flannery O’Connor, William Gay, Donald Ray Pollock and Don Winslow.
Congrats on the Shadows Award win for Last Year, When We Were Young. What has this done for your creativity?
Thank you, it was a great honour and a wonderful surprise for my collection to win. I’m not sure if winning the award actually helped or hindered my creativity, but I’ve had a fairly tough time with my personal life that certainly put a dent in my ability to get new words down on the page. They’re issues that I’ve finally been able to overcome in the past few months and I’m feeling creative again and getting things back on track.
See above re: personal life problems… That slowed the novel down quite a bit. I’m working on it again now and very happy to be doing so. It took a lot of re-evaluation of what I’d already written, and I lost a few thousand words in that process to bring it back to where I need it to be, but I’m happy now with how things are progressing. It has been a very different experience, working on a full-length novel in a genre (crime) that I’ve never really worked in before. I think I’ve got a handle on it now though, and even though I write relatively slowly, I’m certain I’ll have it finished before the end of 2016.
I’m not really working on any other writing projects – apart from maybe setting out ideas for my next novel project, which will be a mainstream, non-genre novel – but I’ve been immensely excited about a film option I’ve had recently signed with a producer/director for my short story ‘The Message’ (which was included in my collection, Last Year, When We Were Young). It’s only going to be a short film (about 15-20 minutes) for the festival circuit, but the Director is a very experienced, award-winning music video and television commercial director, and he has a great enthusiasm for the tale. I’m hoping to be fairly close to the entire film-making process, learn a lot about screen-writing and how to translate a story into the visual, so that is all very exciting.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
A novel by Melbourne author Paul Rasche called Smudgy in Monsterland really blew me away. It’s an ultra-violent far-future space opera, with Nazis and Satanists and an enormous theme park in orbit around Neptune, and it was an amazingly fun read. Ticked so many boxes for me.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
I’ve never been on a long plane trip, and I’m the sort of person who’s more interested in reading quietly or sleeping, than chatting. But if it had to be anyone, I think it would be Cormac McCarthy. I think he’s the sort of person who wouldn’t yatter on the entire trip, and anything he did say would be interesting. He’s had an amazing life, and he’s very conversant on science. I think he’d be a great person to sit next to.