Interview: with Brad McNaughton
Brad is an Adelaide writer of Aussie speculative fiction, whose biggest influences include Pratchett, Micallef and Mitchell Hurwitz. Observations on life can be found at bradism.com, and the time travel adventure Chase is available now on Amazon. His story Fritz is featured in Breach Issue #04.
First of all, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am, what the industry terms, an IT Professional. That essentially means I’ve gotten really good at pasting error messages into Google and understanding which of the results is most relevant (and won’t make things worse if applied to systems currently being used by hundreds of people).
In most of my spare time I’m a writer, and husband, and puppy daddy.
I’ve always loved reading and storytelling. I grew up on RL Stine, Christopher Pike, Discworld, Stephen King, Star Wars novels and everything in between at my library. I started my blog back in 2001, I think before ‘blog’ was even a word. I used all my optional credits at university to take creative writing topics. This definitely improved the quality of the comments in my code. For my prose, we’ll see...
I have ambitions to write many speculative fiction shorts and novels (okay, that part’s already done) and have them published (working on it).
Time Travel is a huge source of inspiration for me and my work. How does it fit in with fate, destiny, and the rest of the things which shape the stories we read and live. For example, how often is a detective’s dark past somehow related to the crime they are investigating? Is that a convenient-for-plot coincidence? Or the visible effects of the riptides of time travel.
I also believe the universe is almost definitely a simulation, and that the things we do while we’re alone are all logged in a quantum computer somewhere.
Are there any horror/fantasy/sci-fi tropes or sub genres which you feel are played out? And vice versa, what tropes would you like to see more of?
Played out tropes, I feel, tend to disappear naturally from traditional markets due to publishing fatigue.
For readers, context is important. I mean, pretend you discovered Dracula after never reading a vampire novel, and you loved it. Imagine how freaking pumped you would be after typing ‘Vampire’ into Amazon and clicking search? And in a time when cassette tapes are apparently making a comeback, I don’t think anything can ever be safely considered ‘played out’.
What I would like to see more of is science fiction set in contemporary settings. Like, Urban-SciFi. Every time I read a blurb about some amazing power or technology, I’m partly disappointed to discover it’s in use in some far away world, or deep into the future, to challenge antagonists with equally advanced abilities. Where are the stories about people discovering time travel and using it only for personal reasons? Or the impact of new technology on existing society, where the antagonist is a social issue, rather than a cyborg or something.
Do you have any particular writing rituals you are comfortable sharing?
I’ve never looked back since switching to writing every first draft by hand. Usually this involves liberal use of placeholders, notes in margins and in the headers of the following pages. It does cramp the fingers after a while, but it makes the words flow, and it is nice to turn to the next page and see a scribbled plot point already waiting.
Typing up, therefore, becomes a second draft, with edits not disrupting the writing flow. However, there is some cursing when I try and read my own handwriting.
What books are beside your bed right now?
In contrast to my writing style, my reading is pure digital, and only my phone hangs out beside my bed for any significant period of time.
On my phone, I’m working through old issues of Asimov's Magazine on my e-reader app, as well as John Yorke’s Into the Woods when I have more time. I also have Elan Mastai's All Our Wrong Todays in audio for long commutes, and someday I will start on part two of Don Quixote.
What are your thoughts on indie publishing in Australia?
Indie publishing in Australia, and in general, seems like a pretty tough gig. From an author’s perspective, I follow a bunch of independent magazines on the maelstrom which is Twitter, and whenever it comes time to submit I find half of them have closed down!
I thought Australia, with it’s urban sprawl, tyrannies of distance, and terrible broadband, would be a ripe market for fiction, but I feel that Facebook and Reddit and Netflix have ripped away any chance of publishing being lucrative in Australia. Maybe house prices share some blame too... I also have a sneaking suspicion that the majority of readers of literary magazines are aspiring authors themselves. Which is still a market, I guess.
I am a strong believer in supporting these magazines if you can afford it, which not everyone can, but probably more than currently do could. I sometimes find myself baulking at paying a few dollars for an issue of something, but then I remember I’ll drop that much on a coffee. But that’s easy for me to say, I’m an IT Professional.