Today we have the mystery, science fiction, and fantasy writing team of Robert and Darrin McGraw sitting down for an interview. Read more about them and their books at their website.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
Robert: I started freelancing for magazines and writing television scripts back in the 1980s. It was about twelve years ago that each of us independently started to be serious about writing fiction.
Darrin: Yes, I started working on a couple of fantasy novels around then, and at the same time he was writing a historical mystery which is slated to come out this year.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Robert: My first nonfiction book (Learning to Laugh at Work) was published in 1996, but Animal Future is the first novel we’ve published.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Robert: My nonfiction is traditionally published through a business publisher. Right now our fiction is entirely e-published online. I also wrote a traditionally published children's book, but it is currently out of print.
Where do you write?
Darrin: Our projects together tend to begin with brainstorming conversations while we’re sitting around the living room, and that part can take days or weeks until we have a plot ready to go. When it comes to actually generating chapters, I write seated at my desk, but he finds it more comfortable to use a stand-up desk or to type in bed.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
Robert: If I don’t need to completely concentrate I might listen to music – usually classical.
Darrin: Upbeat music helps move the writing along. Paul Simon’s Graceland album is one we both happen to like.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Darrin: We tend to write about fantastical events, but characters can come from composites of real people: Huero, Shadow Guy, Susi, and the Himalayan sheep at the Karma Kabab are examples of characters who can be traced to real experiences.
Describe your process for naming your character?
Darrin: I do a lot of tinkering. Should this character be named Megan? Too ordinary. Mason? Too trendy. Mabel? Wrong decade. I let it simmer for a while before deciding. In any case her name will often end up being something else entirely, like Guinevere.
Robert: Usually my weird characters name themselves...although sometimes I'm introduced to one at a party.
Real settings or fictional towns?
Robert: I've done both. There are pros and cons each way.
Darrin: My preference is always to create a fictional place – it sounds like it takes less research. But you have to pay for it later by inventing the details from scratch.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Robert: In Animal Future, the cat is a little bit crazy; he speaks almost completely in literary quotations, especially Whitman and William Blake.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
Robert: Do you mean, what would it be if I weren't so dang-near perfect?
Darrin: We both wear a lot of hats. No, I mean literally. I have a bucket of hats in the closet.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Darrin: Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn. Certain books are unimprovable, and that is one of them.
Robert: The Voynich manuscript, because I'd love to hand it to a publisher and say, “OK, wise guy, let's see you copy edit that!”
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
Both: We wish we’d started writing even earlier.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Darrin: Drivers who tailgate.
Robert: Drivers who drive too slowly in front of me.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Robert: A Gulfstream G650ER jet, a pilot, a runway.
Darrin: A web server with fiberoptic connection; a camera so I can post images on my website of this absolutely unspoiled paradise, with vacation packages starting at $8,999 for a limited time only; a team of travel agents to help take the reservations.
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
Darrin: Picking up trash after company parties.
Robert: In graduate school, working all night at a convenience store and having to shovel snow off the parking lot at 3am. (It's slightly worse than being a test dummy for a cat-o-nine-tails factory.)
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Robert: Not sure. I haven't finished it yet. Maybe it will be one of yours :O)
Ocean or mountains?
Robert: If possible? A humble 7-bedroom cottage in the Santa Barbara Mountains with a view of the Pacific. Rent-free.
City guy or country guy?
Darrin: We’re both in-betweeners; Manhattan is too much, Mojave too little.
What’s on the horizon for you?
Robert: On the horizon to the west, it's the Ortega Pass. To the east, it's my neighbor's trash cans.
Darrin: We are working on the second book in the Animal Future series – look for it this spring.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
Robert: Please buy them. I don't want to have to work at that convenience store again.
In a near-future Southern California full of mentally enhanced animals, three unlikely companions— a Vietnamese-American policewoman, a well-dressed chimpanzee, and a fast-talking spy— find they have no choice but to combine their talents in order to stay alive. While being hunted by fanged assassins, corrupt officers, and some chillingly methodical robot snakes, the trio investigates what turns out to be a terrorist plot masterminded by unknown foreign interests.