Wednesday, May 8, 2019

An Interview with Lish McBride

I have a special treat for you today kind readers of The Friendly Necromancer. Lish McBride (author of Hold Me Closer Necromancer, Necromancing the Stone, and more -- see her website for details) agreed to do a Q&A interview for us! 

I'm so happy she could find some time in her busy schedule to talk with us today! I'll definitely be adding her to my list of VIPs on the sidebar. Enjoy!


Click here for more about Lish McBride

Question: At the back of your second book, Necromancing the Stone, there is a really good Author Q&A that answers a lot of the standard questions. You explain that the story behind your necromancer books stemmed from essays about a fast food worker getting attacked by Vampires and the undead, which you wrote back in school. Was it hugely gratifying to finish these books and watch them come to fruition from those essays?

Answer: Not really an essay, but a truly awful short story that I wrote during down time in my brief stint in alternative school. Comparing that short story to my novel...well, they really only have the barest of things in common, but I consider that a good thing. Hopefully my writing has improved since I was eighteen. Ha! That being said, it's immensely gratifying to have anything you make up published into book form. It's still a little surreal, honestly.


Question: While running the Friendly Necromancer blog for the past 10 years, I’ve had a couple of interesting emails from random strangers asking if I had any information on how to become a real-life Necromancer. I made sure to let them know that I write about video game necromancers and not training books for something that in the real world would get you arrested. What was it like researching necromancy for your books? Did you run into any interesting characters?

Answer: Most of my research was done via mythology books (like the Encyclopedia of the Undead by Curran) while I was living in rural Mississippi (where we'd evacuated during Katrina) and New Orleans. So basically book and internet without coming into contact with pretty much any humans at all. I love research, but it's not terribly exciting for most people. 


Question: On the back of your first book, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, the dictionary definition for “Necromancy” is front and center – and I admit, before playing a necromancer in games like Dungeons and Dragons, Diablo, Everquest, Guild Wars, and Wizard101, I didn’t have a very good understanding of what “Necromancers” were. Was there a fear that readers just wouldn’t know what Necromancy was and, being that it does seem a bit of a darker topic, that the book wouldn’t sell?

Answer:  Dark topics aren't really a worry in young adult books--the age range for YA is actually somewhere between fourteen and early twenties. It's a rough time and you're dealing with a lot of really dark and terrible things. Horror actually helps a lot of teens cope with real life topics. (Believe it or not I wrote a paper on that in college.) So no, it wasn't a dark topic issue. It was, in fact, an issue of people not knowing what a necromancer was. I'm a mythology nerd and cut my teeth on horror and fantasy and I honestly didn't realize how few people knew what a necromancer was when I wrote the book and the publisher was concerned. There was also the unexpected fact that some readers--and we're talking adults here--mixed it up with other similar words. Some decided that the "romance" part of the word meant HMC,N was a romance novel. (I am 100% not knocking the romance genre here, but HMC,N doesn't fall into the category.) A few mixed up "necromancer" and "necrophiliac." No joke--I got an email from a librarian in Louisiana who had her own little free library and one of the neighbors was really upset about my book being in there because she made that mistake. Basically, the publisher wanted to be clear and they were worried that people would put the book down instead of taking the time to google, which is a valid worry. 


Question: I see you’ve written at least one other short story surrounding Sam and Ramon from your Necromancer books. Will there ever be a third book in the series?

Answer: There are...four? I think there are four short stories with HMC,N characters. Death & Waffles is Ashley's first appearance in a short story I wrote in graduate school. We Should Get Jersey's is a Frank short story. Freaks & Other Family is a bundle with two short stories (One Sam, one Ramon) that I published myself but were originally written for my Patreon page. (There are several more on there that I haven't polished up yet.) Heads Will Roll is a story I wrote for Tor.Com and actually does feature a cameo from Ed, one of the minor characters from the Necromancer books. I have all the short stories listed on my website if anyone wants to look at them all in list form. I do plan a third book--I promise! The series is meant to have at least one more book. The problem was that my publisher wanted me to move on, so I wrote the Firebug books (which are set in the same universe) and now I've moved publishers. I'm currently writing a whole new thing for Putnam, but that doesn't mean I'm comfortable leaving Sam where I left him. I will write at least one more Sam book, even if I have to publish it myself.


Question: You also have a newer series of books out surrounding a Pyromancer, which I have yet to read. Which do you like writing about more, Pyromancers or Necromancers? Will we see books about different types of magic (like perhaps a wizard that can channel life magic) in the future? 

Answer:  I enjoy writing both for different reasons. There is a weird amount of overlap as both characters have to deal with the fact that their powers are fairly destructive. They both have to deal with the possibility that they might become corrupt, destructive monsters. Both books have fun and weird side characters--I might miss writing the gnomes, but the Pyro books have biker were-rabbits, so...I love them both. Honestly, since all the books take place in the same universe, they didn't feel that different to me. Ava is snarkier than Sam and has definitely had more of a rough time of things. As for the future, who knows? 


Question: Do you play video games and have any served as inspiration points for your books? Would you ever give Wizard101 a try (I’d love to see if the starting quiz for the game would place you as either a Necromancer or a Pyromancer)?

Answer:  I almost never play video games anymore. When I was a kid I was hugely into the Sierra games King's Quest and Space Quest and Sim games. I would also beg my mom for quarters so we could go play Rampage in the arcade at my local bowling alley (small town life) with my brothers. The thing is, I'm not very good at them. I never rescued the princess in Super Mario Bros. I can't remember what all the buttons do on most controllers and I get lost in large map games. The last game I seriously played was Fable and I was constantly getting distracted and forgetting my quest. (I spent a lot of time kicking chickens.) I'm more of a computer game person, and until recently I spent all my time writing, working a day job and juggling kids, so most downtime involved reading. Most of the kinds of games I would like now force you to interact with other humans and I play to get away from people, so it doesn't really work out. This is probably a good thing though as my husband and sons are huge gamers and I would have to fight for the TV. Right now my house is all Red Dead Redemption 2 and State of Decay. That being said, Wizard 101 looks like it would entirely be up my alley.

Might I suggest the name Samantha Skullmancer? Give it a shot!


Question: Mounts and pets are all part of the fun in Wizard101!  During Necromancing the Stone, Sam summons an Undead Elk (if I remember correctly??), which in my mind becomes his “mount.” (He even talks about bringing it back to the mansion with him.) He also ends up gaining a Chupacabra pet, which he finds in his basement bathroom of all places. Any backstory to those choices, or did they just naturally happen during writing?

Answer: You are correct on the elk! The elk was mostly chosen based on what animals are natural to the pacific northwest--I needed something big enough for Sam to ride and elk won. Plus, elk are really cool. I grew up in the PNW, and we spent summers camping and such, and we'd occasionally get to see elk, especially if we were at my stepdad's cabin up in Forks. Yes, that Forks. I never saw a vampire there but I did get to play with a machete, so I'm calling that a win. As for Taco, the pygmy chupacabra...I found the idea funny? Honestly, when I'm writing a book, at least during that first draft, it's just me for long hours staring at my laptop. I have to entertain myself. I had to come up with something to hide in that closet and the very idea of Taco made me giggle. Which made my writing buddy ask what was wrong with me and all I could get out was, "pygmy chupacabra!" over and over. Fortunately, he's known me a long times so he understood.

Find out more from Lish's FAQ on her website


Question: One of the things that really stands out in your books is your love of puns. Case in point, the very title of the book Hold me Closer, Necromancer is a play on words from Elton John’s song Tiny Dancer. In fact, every chapter title in your Necromancer books contain this same fun word play with song titles and lyrics. To be honest, it reminds me a lot of quest titles from Wizard101! Ever thought about working as a writer in the games industry? 

Answer: It's funny because the joke in my house is that I hate puns. This isn't true--I don't hate them, but it's a kind of word play that I'm generally not great to be honest. Also, my husband is a pun-master so I mostly make fun of him for them. If we didn't make fun of each other, I'm not sure what our relationship would be based on. I have thought a little about the game industry, and I do actually have a game writing credit--a minor one from the game Dark Void. My friend Jose threw a little work my way because their game writer was overworked and very tired. The thing is, most game writers don't seem to have much in the way of control. It's like screenwriting that way. I'm okay with doing either of them, but I like getting to do things my way most of the time. 


Question: There’s a great scene in Necromancing the Stone where Sam spends time in a huge music room full of old LPs and great music. Three questions: Does this music room exist in your real life, what’s your favorite song of all time, and how does your love of music play into your writing?

Answer: The music room does not exist. In fact, my small record collection was destroyed in hurricane Katrina and I haven't really had the heart to rebuild it. The only record that survived was a single of the Patrick Swayze song, "She's Like the Wind" from Dirty Dancing. My husband framed it. Someone did gift me a Tom Jones record recently, because they felt Patrick needed a friend, so I've been considering breaking down and getting a record player again. I don't have a favorite song of all time. I also can't answer the favorite book question--so much of it depends on mood and changes every few moments. I did grow up with a lot of musical influences and that does show up in the books. (My mom loved Bobby Darin so much that my oldest brother is named Darin.) Lots of oldies and classic country and musicals from my mom and stepmom, lots of punk and rockabilly from my oldest brother. My brother Jeremy mostly listened to pop music and rap. I grew up in a small town about an hour from Seattle. There wasn't much to do besides go to the freshly built mall or go to the movies. I didn't have any money for the movies and I hate the mall. The only other option, besides loitering in the bookstore, was to go to shows. So lots of bands in barns and basements and community centers. Social interaction was largely based on what kind of music you listened to. Seattle is also a very musical city, so it would make sense for Sam to be into it.


Question: As with any fandom, there are a lot of artists and writers that draw inspiration from their game of choice (like Wizard101). Have you done any fan fiction writing in your past that no one knows about? Do you have any words of wisdom for those out there who may want to break out of this type of writing and develop a universe of their own as you have?

Answer:  I have not done any real fan fiction writing, sadly. Well, except for a short story I tried to write in elementary school that was clearly David Eddings fan fiction except Belgarath the wizard was a cat. At that age, everything was cats. At that age I also didn't know what fan fiction was. I think fan fiction is really cool, but it just never occurred to me to join in. I have several writer friends that started in fan fiction and I think it's a great way to learn, really. The other thing you can do besides that is to reread favorite books critically--how did the author pull of the things that you liked? What about their writing do you love? Most of writing is practice and developing your voice. What works for some authors won't work for others. I went to an MFA program to help me figure some things out, but you don't need an MFA to write well. I read books on writing. For world building, I'd check out Wonderbook. That has a lot of good stuff in it from many different authors. I don't have an official writing group, but I've built up a list of friends that I can talk to if I'm stuck or need to work something out, or if I need a quick read on something. Chuck Wendig has some great writing advice on his blog that he compiled into an ebook. It's funny and very practical, but if you have issues with cursing it will not be your bag.


Question: If Necromancing the Stone and Hold Me Closer, Necromancer were ever made into video games, what would you hope they end up being like?

Answer:  I don't know if I have anything current to compare them to. It would be cool if someone made them so you could explore the world like games like State of Decay do, but I wouldn't want it to be that serious. Something bonkers and fun...but probably gory, like that movie Tucker and Dave vs Evil.