Seanan McGuire is the author of the October Daye urban fantasies, the InCryptid urban fantasies, and several other works both stand-alone and in trilogies or duologies. In case that wasn’t enough, she also writes under the pseudonym “Mira Grant. Seanan McGuire was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her novel Feed (as Mira Grant) was named as one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2010. In 2013 she became the first person ever to appear five times on the same Hugo Ballot. Please enjoy my reading list with Seanan McGuire.
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I write books. Yes, real books. Um, I don’t know, do you read science fiction? Okay, you might have read some of my books. Yes, they’re in bookstores. I don’t know your cousin. There are a lot of people who write books. Are we with the same publisher? Oh. No, I still don’t know them.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I can remember, in order, the first story I ever wrote, the first good story I ever wrote, the first story I ever got paid for, the first novel I wrote, and the first story I ever collaborated on. I cannot, however, remember where I put my keys.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A writer! As soon as I found out that was an option, that was what I wanted to become. And I did it, so score one for wishful thinking.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
She would think I have awesome cats and a whole lot of My Little Ponies, and would only be disappointed in my failure to marry either Jeff Goldblum or Geena Davis.
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be and why?
A complete Aarne-Thompson Index to Motifs in Folklore and Fairy Tales. Those things are expensive, and it took me forever to track one down. Having one earlier would have been absolutely amazing.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
Nope! If I’m not writing or playing video games—I play a lot of Overwatch—I probably have a book in my hand. It keeps things moving.
Can you talk us through your writing process, from the first spark of an idea, to having your first completed draft?
It is very boring. I have an idea. These days, I probably tell my agent I have had the idea, and she goes out and sells it to someone. (Conversely, sometimes anthologies ask me to write them a story, and then I take their topic and use that to spark an idea.) I sit down at my computer and write X number of words per day for Y days, where “X” is “the minimum to hit a final count of Z” and “Y” is “the amount of time I have minus one week per estimated 10,000 words.” I finish writing. I send the file to my beta readers. They give me edits and suggestions. I revise the file. I keep doing this until we either run out of time or I feel the story is as good as it’s going to get without new eyes. I send the file to my actual editor. My editor gives me edits and suggestions. I revise the file. My editor accepts it. It goes away. I return to start.
By me, or that I read? By me, probably Every Heart a Doorway, which has opened so many doors, no pun intended. It wasn’t my first success and hopefully it won’t be my last, but it brought me to the attention of people who had never noticed me before. That I read, almost certainly IT by Stephen King. It changed the way I look at story.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
Give yourself permission to write crap, and don’t listen to anyone who says they have the secret to becoming an overnight success. They don’t.
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
Oh, absolutely. Some are by friends, and some are books we’ve shared, that made a difference for us as people.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Recently, Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys. It’s an absolutely incredible new way of looking at the Cthulhu mythos, like Wicked for The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
Do you think reading is important?
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
All books are real books, but I prefer to read physical books.
Name a book that you feel everyone would benefit from reading and explain why.
Honestly, it’s one book that’s also two books. I think everyone should read The Stand by Stephen King, in both its original and expanded versions. The best version of the book is, I feel, somewhere between the two, but it’s a masterclass on what editing does both for and to a work of fiction.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
I keep saying it, but IT by Stephen King. It has brought me so many strong, essential friendships. I don’t know where I’d be, or who I’d be, without it.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I don’t know. Isn’t it wonderful?
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
Chaos, Cornfields, and Corroborating Accounts: The Seanan McGuire Story.