It’s a pleasure to have you here, Andrew. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 6’1″ tall with long blonde hair. I like romantic evenings and long walks on the beach… oh, sorry, wrong intro! Start again. I’m a writer and illustrator. Married, home-dad, and I’ve been running my own one-man graphic design and web development business for the past 10 years. I was the Art Director for Aurealis magazine for the past 8 years and my own illustrations have been published in numerous books and magazines and on their covers. My first short story was published in 2007, and since then I’ve had over a dozen short stories and novelettes appear in print and have been twice nominated for Australian Shadows, Ditmar and Aurealis Awards.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a pencil. Of course, my early works were indecipherable, but eventually I learned to use like real letters and words and stuff. Mainly it was poems, song lyrics,
observations on life and that sort of thing. Occasionally I’d write something with a real narrative, a few aborted attempts at novels, but I never thought about publication. Writing was just something I did for myself, not something I ever thought other people might be interested in reading. It wasn’t until 2006 when my wife read a story I’d written and said I should start submitting. So, I submitted to an anthology and got my first acceptance. That was a buzz. And then I received a real copy of a book with MY story in it. That was an even bigger buzz, and I’ve been an acceptance letter junkie ever since.
Do you know the ending of a story before you write it?
Most of the time I start with nothing but a title. I find it hard to start anything if I don’t have a title first. A title without a story is like a puzzle to me and I’ll play around with it in my head for weeks or months, trying to figure out what sort of tale might be behind it. Once that title coalesces into an idea, I just sort of run with it. Often, I’ll know where I’m going to start and I’ll have a pretty good idea of where I WANT the story to end. But it is more an anticipated ‘story trajectory’, I suppose, than a real ‘plan’. In the process of writing from that title and starting point, I’m happy to not hold myself to that ending that I’ve had in mind. I never want to force a story to go where it doesn’t want to go. Sometimes, when I get to the end, my trajectory has been pretty much on target. Other times, the story can veer off course into wonderfully unexpected places. I like that. If my story can surprise me, hopefully it will surprise the reader too.
What books/authors have influenced your writing most?
Stephen King was probably my first real big influence. I started reading Carrie when I was 10 years old, and most of my early stuff (shredded or hidden away, never to see the light of day) was a very poor imitation. I guess I knew this, and it’s probably one of the reasons I was never interested in having other people read my stuff. But, eventually I found other authors to throw into my melting pot. I think, the more authors you add the more you come to find your own unique flavour of storytelling. These days, I’m most admiring of authors such as Cormac McCarthy and Tim Winton and James Sallis. I don’t think I’ll ever have the ability to truly write as well as they do, but it is that aspiration that drives me.
How do you handle acceptance … and rejections?
I handle acceptance extremely well! If you want to keep me, and my family, and all the people around me happy, just send me more acceptances. Rejection? Well, let’s not talk about that, shall we?
What inspired your story in Night Terrors?
I live on the Central Coast, north of Sydney, and we’ve got a lot of back roads up here that run through the bush. Twisty turny things, with un-guttered edges and rough paving. Almost all of them are lined in some way with little white crosses marking the place where someone has lost control of their car and wrapped it around a tree or a telegraph pole. I started photographing these roadside memorials – some of them crude, some elaborate, many of them decked about with flowers and photographs – and I noticed the birth-death years written upon them were almost always young drivers. One day, I drove past one I’d photographed previously and there were all these teenagers sitting around the memorial, talking and
smoking cigarettes and drinking beers. That was the moment when I knew I had a story. Most of ‘White Lines, White Crosses’ was already written in my head by the time I got home.
What are you working on now?
Mostly more short stories. I’ve just finished writing ‘The Final Degustation of Doctor Ernest Blenheim’, which will be appearing in Midnight Echo #7, and I’m just about to finish another about Iraq and
American ‘Black site’ interrogation installations and djinn. After that, I’ll probably get back to my alternate-history ‘Teslapunk’ novel … I’m determined to finish that this year.
Where can you be found on the internet?
Normally hanging out somewhere between the cat pictures and conspiracy theories aisles. I do have a website at www.andrewmckiernan.com and I twitter as @AndrewMcKiernan. Lately, I’ve been posting a lot of stuff to the Dead Letter Drop on tumblr (deadletterdrop.tumblr.com) and I write news, reviews and opinion pieces for the Thirteen O’Clock Australian Dark Fiction website (www.thirteenoclock.com.au).