A Good Editor is Hard to Find: The True Story of My Publishing Misadventure

Editor’s note: While we try to celebrate the world of small press and independent authors on Silent Motorist Media, it’s important, on occasion, to visit its pitfalls as well. No environment is perfect, and we’re publishing this piece in the hopes that an awareness of some of the issues addressed here will help new and seasoned indie authors alike make decisions regarding their work that will ultimately strengthen the integrity of self and small press publications.

SMM isn’t here merely to support writers by running a website. We want to help in any capacity we can. That’s why we offer professional editing services as well. We want your manuscript to be as successful as possible. As lovers of books, what you write becomes a little part of our world, a breath of the atmosphere we live in. That’s why we are personally invested in ensuring it’s the cleanest breath possible.

-Justin A. Burnett

Disclaimer: The editing of my book is in no way a reflection of my publisher, who fulfilled the requirements of our contract in a fair and professional manner. I was offered editing services from my publisher and chose to hire an outside editor to “fast-track” the publication.

-Shannon McCaslin-Nolen

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, I wrote a book. I was an inspired new author, head bubbling with ideas, spending more time with the Muses than other people. To put this in context for you, I was working on my undergraduate degree. In fact, I was finishing an undergraduate degree in English Literature. I lost touch with reality (it was fantastic). I spent more time with Shakespeare and Chaucer than I did my best friends. My days were filled with the words of the “Great Old Ones” (Lovecraft, anyone?). In such an environment, inspiration sparked, and the more I read the more that spark raged into a mighty flame.

I had a story to tell, and it consumed me. I could think of nothing else. My characters became real. I thought of them more often than I did my significant other. They wanted to break free from the confinement of my tiny mind and make their debut in the world. I wrote like a madwoman, every day and well into most nights. I wrote in the early morning hours before class. I wrote in between classes, in a spiral longhand, I might add. I wrote deep into the night when the entire world around me stood still and time seemed to slow, then I began the entire process again the next morning. I did this for a year. At long last, I had a novel. I had done it! I finally achieved what I considered an impossible task. And you know what? It was good! It was really good (this coming from a girl who cannot compliment herself). That was it. Move over Stephen King, here I come!

I was so excited, I could hardly sleep. I needed an editor. I needed an agent. I needed a publisher. To be honest, I had no idea what I needed. I was clueless as to where to start, so I did all three at once. My search for an editor occurred before the days of social media, so it consisted of me asking people I knew for recommendations and scouring the Yellow Pages. I began writing query letters to agents and publishers and sending my manuscript to anyone who accepted unsolicited manuscripts. I was on fire! It did not take long however, for that flame to fizzle and smolder. Rejection after rejection poured in via snail mail and email. Sometimes, no response seemed kinder than the agent or publisher who took the time to send that rejection letter, even though they often came with valuable feedback. That was it, I thought. I need a good editor. If I could just polish this piece, it would be my Carrie.

After a long an arduous search and many interviews, I found an editor. We will call him Maxwell (Any Thomas Wolfe or Ernest Hemmingway fans out there?). Well, Maxwell had an editing business, that shall go unnamed to preserve anonymity, with an advertisement in the Yellow Pages. He had over ten years of experience editing fiction and technical writing. Maxwell even had a degree. I was sold. I paid Maxwell $400 for a line and copy edit of approximately 60,000 words. At that time, the editing world was completely foreign to me. I had no idea if this was a fair price or if it was lower than what a good editor would typically charge. All I knew was that $400 was a lot of money to me, and I was certain paying this much guaranteed that my manuscript would come out polished and ready for publication. In the meantime, a small publisher picked-up my book. I was so excited, I signed the contract right then and there. I didn’t even read it in its entirety. I was being published! That was all that mattered.

This small publishing company offered editing services for my manuscript, but they also assured me a quick publication if I hired my own editor, which I had already done (she says in her best snobby, British accent). I was so confident in my editor, that when he sent back the manuscript I failed to review it thoroughly. Off it went. I felt like a proud parent who had just given birth and brought a new life into the world. I had trouble sleeping. I lie in bed imagining how my life was going to change now that I was a published author. I imagined book signings. I just knew I would be able to quit my day job and write full time. I was on my way to Stephen Kingdom. After all, King and I had so much in common! He had a Bachelor of Arts in English. I had a Bachelor of Art in English. He was a teacher for a while, and I was a teacher too! It was written in the stars! I was going to be a “for real” full-time writer. I couldn’t think of a better existence.

Then came that dreadful day when I received my first ten copies of my book. I immediately read through it and my heart sank. It was a mess! Maxwell had not performed a thorough edit. Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming Maxwell or my publishing company. Ultimately, it is the writer’s responsibility to make sure his or her work is edited in a way that, ten years later, he or she will still be proud of the work. I am not proud of my work. I still believe I wrote a good story, but storytelling and editing are two different things.

Many writers are phenomenal story tellers, but struggle with the mechanics of writing, and that is okay! That is why we have editors! Some writers are gifted in both the art of storytelling, mechanics, and editing—good for them. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, so we play with what we are good at, strive to become better in the areas we struggle, and absolutely ask for help from other gifted individuals when we need to. A writer knows that it is always good practice to get another person, preferably a qualified editor, to objectively review a manuscript for content, line and copy editing. I knew this, but I learned just how important a good edit is the hard way.

I wish I could go back in time ten years and tell my naïve self, “don’t do it!” I wish I had the chance to explain just to myself how important it is to have a qualified and professional editor. I wish I could’ve warned that budding and overly enthusiastic writer that not all editing services return the same quality of work. I wish I could turn back the intervening decade to point out that it is good practice to have an editor in the interview process go over a page and return it so that the writer can evaluate the quality of work before committing to the editor. I also would tell myself that a good editor does not make mistakes like addressing the misspelling of “restaurant” by running a hasty spell-check that changes the word to “restraint” throughout the entire manuscript, so that “fast-food restaurant” became “fast food restraint,” or that what should have been “polka dot” was translated to “poke-a-dot.”

It’s an embarrassing story, but true. I have grown exponentially as a writer and editor since my first book. I know so much more now than I did ten years ago. I edit every single day for my “real job.” I give people writing advice for a living. I have furthered my formal education as well, and hold a Master of Arts in English. I say all of this to make the point that I am ashamed of my first publication. I wish my name was not on it, but sadly, these are things I cannot change. I cannot change the past, my naiveite, or my poor decisions. I also cannot alter the terms of my publishing contract, which states that I cannot have my book released in a new edition (with proper edits).

What I can do, however, is share my experience with others in the hope that they do not experience a similar situation. I can move forward with my new knowledge and not make the same faux pas. I know now that editing a piece is as difficult as writing it, and takes another skill set. I value my editor’s opinion these day, but I also have the experience I need to work with only qualified editors. I am constantly in awe of how improved my writing is after my trusted editor “rips it to shreds.” I think King said it well in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft: “To write is human, to edit is divine.” Long live the King!

–Shannon A. McCaslin-Nolen
Author of The Other Side of the Glass

A New Voice in Bizarro Land: An Interview with Christopher Rigel

I picked up Christopher Rigel’s debut novella, Oval Orifice, almost entirely by chance. I knew Chris from college and was delighted to discover he had written a book. He had always been one of the sharp students in my literature courses, and I was certain his work would be worth a glance. When I discovered that Oval Orifice was, not only pure bizarro fiction, but extremely well written, high quality bizarro fiction, I was shocked, thrilled, and chomping at the bit to help introduce him to the kind of readers who would certainly appreciate Rigel’s wild blend of rollicking humor, satirical nastiness, and incisive intelligence. To bizarro fiction fans everywhere, Oval Orifice is for you. Stop by his Amazon page, follow him on Twitter, friend him on Facebook, and, above all, help me give Rigel a bizarro welcome to our strange corner of the literary universe.

-Justin A. Burnett

“I began by asking how fiction should function–what its role should be–in an increasingly post-truth society. Strict literary realism seemed a daunting task, especially when stacked against the absurdities of real life… I realized fiction would probably have to be WAY over the fucking top to compete.”

-Christopher Rigel

Justin A. Burnett: I read your novella, Oval Orifice, and was absolutely delighted with the precision of your writing and the truly laugh-out-loud humor. I can’t seem to find anything else by you on Amazon, however. Is Oval Orifice your first book?

Christopher Rigel: Thank you for that. I’m certainly glad the jokes have translated at least decently well out of my head. And you’re correct: Oval Orifice is my first and currently only work of fiction for sale. If you search Amazon for Christopher Rigel, however, you’ll likely find a couple psychedelic pop songs I released a few years back.

Burnett: Awesome. So you do music as well? What do I need to imagine when you say psychedelic pop: something closer to Flaming Lips or Syd Barrett?

Rigel: Yeah, I do music and poetry and some visual art… no sense in arguing with the muse, you know? And yes, at the time those songs were recorded, I was listening to a ton of the Lips.

Burnett: I completely understand that. I dabble in the three myself. I don’t think any artist could possibly be “too diverse,” despite the industry-standard shove towards specialization implicit in the emphasis on “branding.” Before we get back to Oval Orifice, how would you describe your visual art?

Rigel: I like to combine text and images to create sardonic anti-memes that can hang on someone’s wall.

Burnett: They certainly sound interesting; I’m trying to think of another artist who, as I recall, combined text and image ironically, but I’m coming up short. The mention of memes sort of brings us back to Oval Orifice in that it seems critical of the media culture surrounding both sides of the current political divide in the US. Do you want to give readers a brief summary or plug for Oval Orifice before we discuss it more directly?

Editor’s Note: For further criticism of media culture, memes, and the duality of political views engendered by the “viral” phenomenon, see “Reading in the Age of Trump: the Danger of Low-Hanging Fruit on SMM.

Rigel: Yeah, the fringes of the main narrative look at our sociopolitical left/right divide, particularly in media portrayal and subsequent audience interpretation. While I myself am certainly left-leaning, I hope that I at least somewhat skewer both sides.

Burnett: You do so much more than that, I feel, but I’ll return to that point. First off, it’s not a conventional narrative at all. This site generally promotes what I loosely call “the literary weird.” Horror, experimental, and bizarro fiction is frequently featured, and your book falls beautifully in with some of the best of bizarro fiction. Did you set out to write a “bizarro” book?

Rigel: It is sort of serendipitous that Oval Orifice fits into this bizarro literature category. I did not begin the project with that label in mind, nor was I fully cognizant of its existence, I’m afraid. Ultimately, though, how else could one address honestly the recent (and still roiling) wave(s) of American strangeness?

I began by asking how fiction should function–what its role should be–in an increasingly post-truth society. Strict literary realism seemed a daunting task, especially when stacked against the absurdities of real life. I mean, FFS, there was an NSA whistle-blower named Reality Winner; readers, I suspect, would roll their eyes at such a name in fiction.

And, of course, there was *sigh* fake news, the prevalence of which further sowed public distrust and political discord and… whatever… we all know this already. My point is that I realized fiction would probably have to be WAY over the fucking top to compete.

Burnett: That’s a very good response. I agree that addressing an overtly absurd reality requires even more absurd fiction. There’s also the FART Act and children in cages; as reality increasingly leans towards the bizarre, fiction has to shout louder than normal to get its point across, I think. Did any particular political event “spark” the writing process? If not, what made you decide to write Oval Orifice?

Rigel: OMG, the FART Act! I’m so glad that happened after I released my story. I would have otherwise probably admitted defeat.

The main narrative began with my knee-jerk reaction to then-candidate Trump: “Fuck this guy.” And once I interpreted my reaction literally, well… there you have it.

The specifics then derived from the uncanny resemblance of Trump to a comic book villain, whom craft into the fictional Daniel J. Trounce. And isn’t a common comic book trope the dichotomy of hero and villain? It at least seemed accurate enough, so I tried to develop a superhero in direct contrast to President Trounce.

Burnett: I cant remember who said it–it was probably someone’s Tweet or something–but someone pointed out the irony that a culture obsessed with superheroes can’t recognize a real supervillain when faced with one. Despite the apparent dichotomy of good and evil, however, you paint a pretty even-handed picture, as we’ve already mentioned. Even though it’s imbedded in a huge, hilarious portrayal, there even seems to be a tinge of sympathy for Trump. In the book, it’s pointed out several times that a man that fucked up must be hurting somehow. The truly comic aspect of Oval Orifice is that your Trounce is more human than Trump. Is this tiny bit of sympathy real for you in any way?

Rigel: Trounce is more human than Trump… that’s probably the nicest thing anyone’s said about this story so far. Thank you for that. To answer your question: No way, man. I have zero sympathy for that heartless monster. The sympathetic light in which I attempt to cast my version of him perhaps sugarcoats his vileness to an almost palatable level, but its actually another attack. I suspect that someone like Trump would be insulted by the idea that someone felt sorry for him. Or I hope so, at least.

Burnett: I absolutely agree. He seems to have no use for pity, given the fact that he vocally advertises his own perfection. Another impressive aspect of Oval Orifice is that it doesn’t read like a debut release. You came out swinging with a highly developed voice, a strong command of grammar, and a lyrical precision that I simply don’t see much in new writers. How did you develop your “chops” outside of writing poetry?

Rigel: That’s very kind of you to say. Thank you. Outside of writing poetry? I don’t know, man. I can’t really separate myself from it. My background consists mostly of songwriting and competitive/slam poetry. I approach prose with the same sort of performance mindset. If there’s a command of grammar, I must have some pretty great English teachers to thank.

Burnett: What about influences? I sense some David Foster Wallace in your writing. Are there others who have helped shape your style and vision?

Rigel: Yeah, DFW for sure. I’ve also recently taken a shine to Pynchon and DeLillo. My earlier influences include Vonnegut, Bill Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, and probably a little from Palahniuk. And, I mean, that list of names feels like such a cliché, but whatever.

Burnett: The fact that they could be called a cliché is a testimony to their greatness. I’ve recently warmed back up to Pynchon myself. What have you read by him so far?

Rigel: That’s a valid point. I’ve only read three Pynchon works so far. I started with Gravity’s Rainbow… earned my merit badge for that one. Then I read The Crying of Lot 49… hilarious, btw. But Bleeding Edge, his most recent, wins it for me. He captures the energy of very specific and perhaps nearly forgotten moment in America between the dot-com bubble and 9/11.

Burnett: I loved The Crying of Lot 49 and his Slow Learner collection. I’ve recently tried (again) Gravity’s Rainbow, but had to put it aside for other obligatory reading. I have to say, while it was an easier go for me now than it was, say, five years ago, it was still a pretty rough first hundred pages. I have to ask: does it get any better?

Rigel: I think it does, yes. I can’t claim to have fully absorbed it after one reading, or that it necessitated the hype, but I found a lot of the ideas presented to be quite worthwhile… mathematically tracing the arc of human destiny between pinpoints of love and war… I mean, maybe I misread it, but whatever… still pretty rad.

Burnett: That’s good to know, and the mathematical arc sounds spot on, given what I’ve read on it. I’ll have to give it another try soon, although I may read Bleeding Edge first. It’s been sitting in my Kindle for a while, but I haven’t touched it. Let’s get back to your work. Are you going to write another book? Please say yes.

Rigel: Oh, most definitely, yes. I have notes started for a few other ideas, but so far nothing has captured and demanded my attention with the same urgency that Oval Orifice did. But yeah, someday for sure.

Burnett: Awesome. That’s truly good to hear. Are you planning to self publish again or try the traditional submission route?

Rigel: I guess it depends on the finished product. If it turns into another bizarro piece, I’ll certainly let you know.

Burnett: Awesome, man. I’ll definitely be looking forward to it!

©2018 Silent Motorist Media

Unlikeable Characters: An Interview With Jessica McHugh

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing yet another accomplished, talent writer: Jessica McHugh. No additional introduction is needed, so let’s jump right in!

-Austin James

Jessica McHugh Pic2

“I never realized how quickly children want to put visually unappealing things into their mouths.” -Jessica McHugh

Austin James: So, I’ll start off with a generic question that might make you wonder why you agreed to this interview: what drives you to create through writing?

Jessica McHugh: Art has always been very important to me, but I didn’t always know writing would be my creative outlet. When I was younger, I tried all sorts of artistic expression to nail down what allowed me to convey my emotions best, and writing was the one that (1) allowed me to let go and truly become absorbed by creation, and (2) I enjoyed enough that I didn’t mind working to become better. Both have lasted to this day.

James: Wow, that’s a great explanation. As an interviewer I sometimes think about how I would answer my own questions – I’m jealous of this answer. You mentioned trying “all sorts of artistic expression” … care to talk about some of the other things you’ve dabbled in?

McHugh: My parents were pretty cool about allowing me to explore different types of art, and we already had a bunch of art kits since I’m the youngest of three, so it was pretty easy for my parents to find something to occupy me for a few hours. I love drawing and painting, but I wasn’t very good at it. I played with fashion design for a few years. I spent a significant portion of my adolescence dancing and singing, and I basically lived in the theater during High School. Anyone who follows me on social media knows I still sing and dance to this day, but it’s solely for joy whereas writing is for joy, release, entertainment, education, and (I hope) connection.

James: I have indeed seen you post a couple FB videos where you sing and dance and frolic and such—looks like fun! So, when did you first start to realize you were getting “good” as a writer?

McHugh: It was probably during my fifth novel, Song of Eidolons. I hadn’t quite found my voice yet, but writing that story made me believe that I truly had a kind of magic other people didn’t. Many of my stories felt somewhat derivative at that point, but Song of Eidolons could only have been written by me. It was the first time I was 100% satisfied with the world and characters I created and with my progression as an author. It is unfortunately out of print and needs to be updated before I’m able to submit it for possible publication again, but it’s always in the back of my mind.

James: It’s crazy to me as a relevantly new author to hear “my fifth novel”… haha. I hope that Eidolons comes back to life in the future, hopefully with a big “homecoming” party. Other than Eidolons, which of your piece(s) are you most proud of?

Green Kangeroos Coverart

McHugh: I’m extremely proud of The Green Kangaroos, which I wrote during my first year of NaNoWriMo and was published the following year by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. I feel like my voice truly shines in that story, maybe because it was so personal. It’s also where I discovered just how much I enjoy writing unlikable characters. To be frank, I think it’s because most real people would be considered unlikable characters if you lived in their heads for more than a day. But I loved playing the part of Perry Samson. Addiction and depression have been knotted up in my life for a long time now, so writing that story felt somewhat therapeutic. I’d been wanting to tackle the middle child/addiction story for a while at that point, and I’m glad something like NaNoWriMo exists because it forced me to get it out.

I’m also really proud of my first ever short story collection, The Maiden Voyage & Other Departures. It explores my weird alternate history beepunk world, starting with a story on the Titanic. It really pushed me to my limits and forced me to stretch my creativity. It wasn’t quite as fun to create as The Green Kangaroos, but I learned a lot about myself and my writing during the process.

James: You’ve got quite a library of published works. It’s an honor to be speaking with you (by the way). Who all have you published with? Have you ever self-published?

McHugh: Thank you! I’ve worked with several small presses over the last ten years, some of which have folded and others that have flourished. Post Mortem Press was the first one I worked with that became a real family to me. That publishing house has three of my works and likely another by the end of the year. Then there’s Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, whom I’ve worked with on two novels and a few short stories, and Unnerving Magazine who I also work with on short stories, including my first collection. Raw Dog Screaming Press released my latest novel and since I’ve known those folks almost as long as Post Mortem Press, I’m jazzed to be a part of their amazing family now.

I self-published one book: a humorous illustrated collection called Virtuoso at Masturbation & Other McHughmorous Musings, and while it wasn’t a bad experience exactly, I prefer the working relationship I build and nurture with my publishers.

James: I know this can be a touchy subject, one that most of us can absolutely relate to (especially those of us that must CREATE in order to stay alive), but I really like how you phrased “addiction and depression have been knotted up in my life for a long time now, so writing that story felt somewhat therapeutic.” Are you comfortable expanding in that a little bit?

McHugh: Absolutely. My brother is a recovering heroin addict, as well as the middle child, so I’d be remiss not to acknowledge how much he inspired the character of Perry Samson in The Green Kangaroos. And I had my own struggles with self-medicating with alcohol during periods of depression in my 20s. I didn’t know I was experiencing depression, however. I didn’t realize how bad it was getting until I start to see my various relationships crumbling around me. Again, I would remiss not to acknowledge how much that version of me inspired the character of Rebecca Malone in The Train Derails in Boston.

It took me a long time to realize I’d been experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety pretty much my entire life, and I think the unwillingness to see those symptoms is apparent in the characters and relationships I built in both of those novels. At the time I wrote both, I still was not on medication, nor did I think I’d ever need to be.

I couldn’t be happier that I finally woke up to my problems and that I’m able to get treatment. I believe a lot of addictions begin because people don’t have access to adequate mental health treatment.

James: Do you think you’d be an unlikable character if we were in your head for more than a day? (Also, so you don’t have to ask, any of my friends will tell you that I’m an unlikable character after spending twenty minutes with me).

Jessica McHugh Pic1

McHugh: I’m not sure it would take an entire day to reach that conclusion. It’s like Wackyland from Tiny Toons in there.

James: Which is not important: Quentin Tarantino’s cinematic menu or Van Gough’s pallet?

McHugh: Both are very important, but personally…ehhh…Van Gogh has been less influential. I don’t know who I’d be if not for Tarantino’s True Romance script.

James: (writes “you’re so cool” on a napkin…) What does a typical day look like in your life, currently?

McHugh: Summer looks really different than the rest of the year because it’s the busy season for most of my part-time jobs. But on an average weekday, I start out my day with coffee, news, emails, and spending as much time with my husband as I can before he leaves for work. Once I’m alone, I either jump straight into writing and editing or I do my Just Dance workout. I plug away at various projects until it’s time to leave for my creative writing workshops, and after those, I typically come home and do some more writing if my brain isn’t mush. I used to attack projects much harder in the evening, but I’ve cooled off in recent years with mush-brain becoming more frequent. Oh, and if I teach workshops in the morning, there tends to be a bar visit in there somewhere. I really enjoy writing at happy hours.

James: You teach creative writing workshops?

McHugh: I work for a nonprofit called Writopia Lab that runs workshops for kids 8-18.

James: Dude, that’s so cool.

McHugh: It’s a lot of fun! I also teach after school science labs occasionally!

James: Got any cool stories to tell from teaching children creative writing skills?

McHugh: Nothing specific comes to mind, but it’s always wonderful seeing kids venture into genres they’ve never written before. Writopia Lab encourages exploration and frowns on censorship, so there’s a lot more opportunity for young writers to experiment in a safe, judgement-free environment.

James: Any cool stories from the science workshops? Blow up anything good?

McHugh: It’s just really crazy teaching those. I never realized how quickly children want to put visually unappealing things into their mouths.

James: It’s the most basic of instincts, at least, according to my children.

McHugh: It’s a good thing I’m not a parent. I definitely don’t have the patience for that eternal full-time job.

James: I think the goal is to keep your offspring alive without punching them. That’s what I do.

McHugh: A noble goal indeed!

James: What are you working on now, any projects or books you want to talk about?

McHugh: I’m currently working on the sequel to Rabbits in the Garden, which I’ve admittedly been editing off and on for quite a while. I’ve been writing, submitting, and releasing short stories almost exclusively for over a year now, so I’m really excited to be focusing on a novel again. I did just have a novel released last month though! Raw Dog Screaming Press published my Nightly Owl, Fatal Raven, a dystopian fantasy about a vigilante facing off against a corrupt government.

Also, Carrion Blue 555 recently released a flash fiction anthology, in which I and the other authors have fifty-five 55-word stories.

Nightly Owl Coverart

James: Oh, sweet! Was it a challenge to write a compelling 55-word story?

McHugh: Oh absolutely! But so much fun! 14 of them chronicle my stages of grief over four months, because I started the project a few days after my cat/best friend died.

James: Sorry to hear about your loss. As a fellow cat person, I understand. It’s fun when you can put constraints in a story specifically to force creative generation. And I’m glad you had that outlet to exercise your mourning

McHugh: Thank you. He was a cool dude. I truly loved being part of that project. And needed it.

James: So now you’ve got to tell us a crazy cat story!

McHugh: Oh man, Tyler would legitimately play hide-and-seek with me. We’d take turns and try to scare each other. It was hilarious. And my husband was pretty stunned the first time he witnessed it.

James: Haha, that’s so cool. So back to writerly stuff: being that this interview is going to push you farther into super-stardom (right?), which of your works would you recommend to first time readers?

McHugh: The Green Kangaroos. It has everything: horror, humor, love, science fiction, action, people who sells chunks of their flesh for drugs… what else could you want? Or if you want some a liiiittle less gory, Rabbits in the Garden.

James: What are your favorite current TV shows?

McHugh: I love Black Mirror on Netflix, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon, and Game of Thrones on HBO. I’ve also been a loyal fan of America’s Next Top Model for yeeeeears.

James: Why do you think Black Mirror chose that specific S1:E1 as its series premiere?

McHugh: Because it dances that fine line between humor, morbid curiosity, and psychological horror. We can easily picture ourselves in a world where something like that could happen, so it makes a great intro to a series where horror seems all too real.

James: I know a few people who never watched beyond that point until I insisted. I kinda like the “fuck it” edge of starting off such an iconic series in that fashion.

McHugh: I agree. It’s pretty up front about what kind of show it is.

James: Do you have any upcoming readings or anything along those lines we can look forward to?

McHugh: I have a Patreon page with work in progress stories from a forthcoming collection, singing vids, and more.

James: Very cool. Any questions, comments, concerns, shameless plugs you wanna drop before we wrap up this interview?

McHugh: To all my reader friendos out there, please support small presses and indie authors, especially those who boost women in horror, LGBT writers, and POCs in every genre ever. There are so many rad voices out there now, and if can be a tiny speck in your diverse catalog of authors, that’s good enough for me.

Please hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

And thanks so much for the interview, Austin!

James: Awesome, thank you! This was fun!
Austin James writes obscure and uncomfortable fiction.