What made you want to become a writer?
Unaddressed childhood trauma. What else?
Do you write alone or in public?
Always alone. 95% of the people who write in public just want to be seen as ‘writing’ when in reality they’re just a bucket of cunts.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
You’d have to ask the critic in my head, he/she’s got an ever-updating screed of shit stored away in my subconscious somewhere.
What has been the best compliment?
Probably getting compared to Chuck Palahniuk and Selby Jr. Whilst I’m familiar with their work, I wasn’t with the particular books that were mentioned along with their names. Getting a wicked comparison along with a future book to read is a good day.
What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you as a writer?
Being told that a reader whacked herself off whilst reading my work because it reminded her of her own teen years. As tempting as it is to say her name, I won’t. I will say that the story was called The Importance of Safe Sex though, just so she knows I’m talking about her.
What do you love most about the writing process?
Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?
Nah. Working sucks ass. So does writing half the time, but hey.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Easily both. I get a kick out of it sure, but most of the time it’s pretty stressful. Feels like you’re trying to force certain neurological patterns together that don’t want to be exposed. Once you do, you kinda realize what patterns of behavior you’ve been living out for years without realizing it. Scary stuff.
What are some common traps for aspiring writers?
Writing about writing and/or being a writer. You’re not Stephen King, so stop it. Now.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I guess it depends on the person. It all comes down to ego in the end, as I think Orwell mentioned once in regards to why he wrote in the first place. I think being egotistical about your own writing can only lead you into writing dull shit though. It’s more about exposing yourself, warts, bile and all.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
It’s pretty ironic for a drunk, but drinking doesn’t help me at all. I associate boozing it up with relaxing too much I guess. But yeah, I write and edit sober and reward myself with my vice. Works most of the time.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Great question. A tricky one too. Overall I think they could, but as a lot of what we do comes down to emotion and our overreaction to events because of them, their stories might lack in drama. If you understand emotion and the human condition though, you could definitely write. But as Frost (I think said): “No tears in the writer, none in the reader,” so what the fuck do I know?
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Stop getting drunk and trying to fuck everything. It’s not worth it and you’ll lose your mind if you don’t stop. I wouldn’t have listened. Maybe I’d just give myself a good old beating.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Another great question. Hard to say when exactly. Probably reading 1984. I tried to conceptualize it when I was about thirteen and failed miserably, but it stuck with me for years. I guess once you start to smell the bullshit all the adults around you preach, you start to realize how language manipulates people on a day to day basis, relentlessly.
What does literary success look like to you?
Well, it’s hard to leave my flat without a load of pussy being thrown in my face these days, but after I’ve batted them all away and one of them says they wrote an in-depth review of one of my books, that feels like success.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Kinda. I don’t go in for spirituality much but I can’t deny that I have my moments. On (I think) The Great Courses audiobook on Writing Fiction, the guy giving the lecture said something about the double-consciousness of writing, where sometimes how you feel about something can be expressed through one of your characters and still be seen to develop them at the same time. That feels fucking cool. The answers to plot problems and progressions etc can really feel fucking metaphysical at times too, as if one of your own thoughts went quantum or something and waited until it wanted to show itself to you. I guess that is partly spiritual.
How many hours a day do you spend writing?
Between 2-4 usually. Sometimes more but I tend to burn out.
What period of your life do you find you write about most often?
Easily my late teens/early twenties. I used to do shit then. It’s great sitting in an office inside, nothing but your underwear all day, but it doesn’t make for many decent stories.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
You get used to them pretty fast. The good ones you forget, the bad ones irk. The whole rating (out of 5) system is bullshit to me, but I do get a little annoyed when a reviewer says that my work is the finest in its genre only to see a three-star mark-up. Seems a bit contradictory but hey, any review is better than none.
What is the most difficult part of your creative process?
My outlines look like an abomination by the time I reach the end of a book. A pure massacre of my sanity. Luckily, you kinda forget what it is you wrote after a while. Stephen King said something about his past works feeling like the skin particles he’s lost over the years. I agree. Like everything, it turns into dust on a number of levels.
What are five books you loved? For one of them, why did you love it?
Tough. Mmm. I’ll deliberately avoid talking about the ones I’ve reviewed on my YouTube channel for this question. At least at the time of answering it anyway. Let’s see…
The Metamorphosis by Kafka. Journey to the End of the Night by Celine. The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas. Of Human Bondage by Maugham. The Goddam White Man by Lytton. I think that last one is out of print nowadays, but it really fucking shouldn’t be. Great piece of angry literature, so palpable you can feel the ink on the page seething.
As I mentioned nothing but fiction, I’ll be cheeky and also say anything by Robert Greene and Yuval Noah Harari. I especially recommend the audiobooks of both.
What is a book you didn’t like, and why?
The Great Gatsby. I could see it was well crafted and whatnot, but reading about a bunch of style-over-substance, bored rich cunts did nothing for me at all. Hated it. I also didn’t get why the narrator had such a boner for Gatsby, the only thing that sucked dick more than him was the novel as a whole.
What is a funny/interesting/unique anecdote about you as a reader?
Well, speaking of 1984. Some girl I had a huge crush on back in the day actually bought it for me for my birthday. I thought if I read it and understood it entirely, she just might touch my penis. Being the lazy twat that I was, I just pretended that I’d read it but got caught out in no time and my penis remained dry and frustrated. We were about thirteen at the time. Fast forward 5 years after I actually had read it and loved it, we bumped into each again inside a nightclub and well, big brother got to watch us bone.
How did you first fall in love with books?
Hard to say really. My memory of childhood is limited to say the least, but there’s just something about picking up or buying a book that nothing else compares to. You’re only ever a book away from changing the way you think. The trouble is finding them, especially the ones you need at the right time.
What book or books are you planning to read soon?
I’m finally getting round to reading House of Leaves in the next couple of weeks and I’m really fucking looking forward it. I’m also pretty desperate to get my hands on The Tenant by Roland Topor, but the edition I want that features an introduction by Thomas Ligotti costs a fucking bomb. I’m gonna buy it at some point, but I’m sure there’s quite a few folk out there who feel the same as me and it pisses me off that we can’t read it without a spare $100 to splurge.
What book do you always recommend?
Lolita for fiction, The Conspiracy Against the Human Race for non.
What book/books changed the way you see the world and your place in it?
Ligotti’s Conspiracy again and also Robert Greene again. Add in Machiavelli too. Not because they necessarily changed the way I see the world but more how they confirmed ideas/thoughts/notions that I’d always held but hadn’t ever read or been able to articulate before. They also made me feel far less of a freak for thinking the way that I do.
What was your favorite childhood book?
I can’t give you a title, but I tore through nearly every Goosebumps book I could find.
Do you have any favorite literary journals?
Nah. I plan on reading Pepys one day but that’s about it.
Have you ever read anything that made you think differently about fiction/nonfiction?
King’s Misery really made me see how many layers you can add to a book and how creative you can be whilst doing it. Reading it reminded me of being on cocaine. He definitely wrote his best work when he was a drunk.
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
The Goddam White Man by David Lytton for sure.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
I’ve still yet to get into Neil Gaiman but maybe I will at some point. So far, I’ve found his work to suck though. King also took me a while, but that’s because I read his out of rehab stuff before the genius self-destructive pieces.
What book have you read that has most influenced your life?
I think Bukowski and Bret Easton Ellis really gave me the kick in the balls to write the fiction that I actually want to write with a middle finger up to the consequences of it, but I reckon every book I’ve read that I’ve really enjoyed or even hated have each made their mark in some way or another. Without giving any particular reasons, I’ll also say The Catcher in the Rye, Crime and Punishment, and Frankenstein.
Who are your favorite writers?
Dostoevsky, Orwell, Bukowski, Greene, Ligotti, Nietzsche, Machiavelli, Maugham, Ellis, Camus, Celine, Kafka, Nabokov, Dickens, Atwood, Vonnegut, Palahniuk, Thacker, Shelley, Yarari, Tolstoy, Kundera, Shakespeare, Poe, King (when drunk), Sophocles, Pessoa, Saramago, John Williams, Pinter and Goethe. Also Lovecraft, but minus the dialogue. Oh, and De Sade, naturally.
End of interview
G.C. McKay is a writer of an eclectic blend of genres, ranging from transgressive to literary satire and psychological horror, often sprinkled with humorous ashes of the deepest black. Deriving the majority of his material from the debauched wet spots of his ever-questionable memory, you'll find his characters shackled inside a world similar to the one you inhabit; a place where promises are only made to be broken, betrayal is rife and more often than not encouraged and where identities wither and crumble under the weight of their own salacious, self-destructive desires.
Available books include his recently released debut novel, Fubar, and the short stories anthology, Sauced up, Scarred and at Sleaze. You can find G.C. McKay via his YouTube channel, where he talks about books 'that'll knock your balls off' and has also narrated a number of short stories. Visit gcmckay.com for more information and to sign up for his newsletter. You never know, you might just win a book.