Interview with the humorous fantasy writer

M T McGuire, the author of the K’Barthan trilogy


Her biography in her own words:

>>  At 44 M T McGuire still checks all unfamiliar wardrobes for a gateway to Narnia. There’s probably not much else you need to know.<<



Q1: Is writing harder or easier than you thought it would be before you started?

Between you, me and the gatepost, I don’t remember before I started. I started writing stories for myself aged about five and it went downhill from there.

– Is it hard to do it well?

Oh yes but as the stuff I write improves so I get spurred on to try harder and make something better each time and when it works few things can equal the buzz.

Q2: Who/what do you write for? Yourself, your kids, a particular readership, money, fame, or something/someone else?

Me first and foremost – absolutely no question of that. Although I also imagine my nephew’s reaction and I hope my son will like it, too, when he reaches the right age. If anyone else likes my stuff that’s gravy but basically, I’ve written myself the kind of book I’d like to read because almost no-one else has.

Q3: How much knowledge/research you feel you need for your subject?

Well that’s tricky in many ways, quite a lot. I have to be grounded in the stuff I’m writing which means it has to be something I’m passionate about – cars for example – but to be as knowledgeable as I need to be for the purposes of a detailed plot, I have to cheat and make a lot of it up, ie snurds.

Q4: Who/what comes first and carries more weight? Your story line or your characters?

Well it varies. Usually I see or read something factual that will give me a germ of an idea. Then I’ll work out where the book ends and where it will begin.

I use the same approach for things in the book, worlds, science, genus of protagonists etc.

So for example, I read that in theory you can split the H2 from the O in water and run an engine from them but of course in practise you can’t wrench them apart enough to do more than line them up in a row HHO and get more than something slightly different called Brown Gas (no calm down there at the back, it’s nothing to do with farts). I especially like playing with a scientific theory like that so it sounds plausible even though it’s actually bollocks.

Then, usually while I’m listening to music, I’ll get some pictures. So in one particular instance, U2’s Even Better Than The Real Thing (perfecto remix) conjured up an image of a MK2 Jag with wings flying low over miles and miles of wet sand. What you got in the book was the hero of the story flying MK2-Jag-shaped flying car (snurd) away from a bank heist. I might start to get a feel for any emotional connection or conflict between characters at this stage, too.

Next, I’ll start to get conversation.

Sometimes I get the whole lot at once and just write down what I see. There’s a big chunk I’m working on now which arrived in my head, whole, after one listen to Endlessly by Mercury Rev. I love it when it’s that simple.

Eventually the odd scenes and the snippets of conversation start to mean something and it all slides together, like a pixelated photograph coming into focus, and I am able to makes sense of the whole story and where each scene fits.

Mmm… I guess that means plot comes last but to me it feels as if it all comes at the same time.

Q5: Do you feel that writing is a lonely business or just the opposite?

Yes and no. It’s lonely because I have to do it in a quiet environment and I have to shut the people round me out while it happens but it’s great fun. I wouldn’t say it’s a companionable past time, although it is when you start to get to know other writers and you can talk about your neurosis with fellow sufferers, but I certainly don’t have any trouble amusing myself in very boring environments. I just let my mind wander and follow it to all sorts of interesting places.

– Do you feel at home and comfortable in the world that you’ve created and the people in it?

Yes. I’m afraid I pretty much live there and I love the characters. When I’m old and lose my marbles I’ll probably think my characters are real and leave them money in my will or something. I can see myself asking for them in hospital when I’m in the geriatric and the nurses being completely dumbfounded as to whom the hell they are and asking my rellies, who won’t know any more than they do. Mwah ha hahargh.

Q6: What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

I take approximately one million years to write a book. If it’s all going well I could probably knock one off in about six months but I usually get stuck half way through and have to think for some months before the answer floats up from the murky depths of my subconscious.

Q7: How hard are your transitions between your writing self and your real world persona?

My writing person and my real world persona are the same. I am the ultimate WISIWYG. I can only be one person; this one. I can be me a little more discreetly in public and with less swearing – and of course on the internet I’m not so likely to deafen you with my laugh – but that’s about as good as it gets.

Q8: Apart from general interest in your kind of genre, which of your readers’ reactions pleases you most?

Recently, a couple of people have really enjoyed the K’Barthan Trilogy or at least, what exists of it so far. And they’ve written reviews and one of them described The Wrong Stuff, K’Barthan Trilogy: Part 2 as “unbelievably good” And I nearly fell over. And I’m still floating. And I keep sneaking back to read it again.

So, yeh, when people I’ve never met bother to they say stuff like that about something I wrote I get ludicrously over excited. I think I said somewhere on a forum – probably Amazon – that churning out hundreds of mediocre novels and selling them to people is not my goal. Writing a story that sells because it moves people, makes them laugh and makes them think is. I’m far too crap at sales to be able to shift something that won’t sell itself on its own merits and when I get comments or reviews that show me that has happened it makes me insanely happy!

Q9: To what extent do you think readers’ comments influence your next book?

Not hugely but it depends what they say. If they said, ‘loved it but it’s full of typos’ I’d definitely put a second edit in there. If they said, so and so is an arse, don’t write about him again I’d certainly not be changing the story to accommodate them. Not unless so and so was such an arse that I’d got as bored of writing about him as they did reading.

Q10: What’s your own reading of choice?

Ooo I read anything that takes my fancy – from the Kite Runner to Terry Pratchett’s stuff Hilaire Bellock to Betjamin (I hope I’ve spelled that right) – old, new, poetry, prose. I read quite a bit of humorous fantasy and sci-fi, obviously. I read a lot of self published and small press stuff, too, because if you look in the right places and choose it intelligently it’s just as good as the stuff the big six put out. And it’s cheaper. I have recently discovered a small group of like-minded authors in my own, or related, genres and right now, I’m really enjoying their stuff.

Thank you for interviewing me. I’ve enjoyed the questions.

Few Are Chosen

Few Are Chosen, K’Barthan Trilogy: Part 1

The Pan of Hamgee isn’t paranoid. There must be some people in K’Barth who aren’t out to get him. Unfortunately, right now, he’s not sure where they are. His family are dead, and his very existence is treason. So, he does the only thing he can do to survive: getaway driving. As if being on the run isn’t bad enough, he finds a magic thimble and decides to keep it. His decision can only mean trouble and sure enough, he unwittingly sets himself on a collision course with Lord Vernon, K’Barth’s despot ruler.Unwillingly, The Pan is forced to make choices and stand up for his beliefs. It’s a challenge because he wasn’t aware he had any. Faced with a stark moral dilemma, he realises his new found integrity might even stick… if he can stop running.

The Wrong Stuff

The Wrong Stuff, K’Barthan Trilogy: Part 2

The Pan of Hamgee has escaped from police custody in K’Barth, switched realities and foiled Lord Vernon’s attempt to kidnap Ruth, the Chosen One from the Festival Hall. Now, to save her life The Pan must introduce Ruth, the woman of his dreams, to the person prophesied to be the man of hers. And he knows he must do it fast. Before Lord Vernon finds her. But can he bring himself to unite them?

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  1. Shirley Hicks (@jcallenbooks)

    21/09/2012 at 10:24

    What a great interview. I love Mary’s sense of humor!

    • Mira Kolar-Brown

      21/09/2012 at 10:43

      Isn’t she great?!

      I just love writers who wear their minds on their sleeves. You can see them working like a fine Swiss clock.

      Thanks for your comment, Shirley.


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