Barking Mad? A Dialogue with Author Tracie McBride…

David AET, Dark Moon Digest: Last Writes Blog (DMD): Issue 2 of Dark Moon Digest is where we find your story ‘Barking,’ I must say it has a pretty unusual voice; the narrator is at once aggressive, disturbing and also pleading for help it seems- where did this originate?- it is chilling.

Tracie McBride (TM): I wrote “Barking” several years ago when I was studying for a Diploma in Creative Writing.  The assignment was to write a story within a story, and it reminded me of the time when a bloke in the pub pulled the same trick on me as the narrator in “Barking” does on the young woman in the story.  The rest of the (totally fictional!) story grew from that seed. 

DMD: The creature or the confessor in the story, I was feeling it was a lycanthrope, what seems to afflict the narrator- or is it madness?

TM: I deliberately left the unnamed narrator’s condition ambiguous.  I see him as being a man who struggles to control his base animal urges at the best of times.  Perhaps he really is a lycanthrope, and that’s why he is the way he is.  Or perhaps the whole lycanthrope thing is just a ruse to fool the psychiatrist and himself, to excuse his actions.

DMD: You have a blog and have been published a fair bit, how does writing fiction fit in with your daily life?

TM: I have the same complaint as most writers who have day jobs, it seems – there’s never enough time.  I squeeze it in where I can.  Having three young children isn’t conducive to a writing career, either.  Being a mother places me in a minority amongst my female writer friends.  But as I have said since I started writing, the kids gotta sleep some time.

DMD: You mention a speculative fiction, how would you separate this bigger idea from just fiction writing, isn’t it all speculative in some manner?

TM: Yes!  I’m so pleased you said that.  The simplest definition I have come across for speculative fiction is that it features creatures, situations or creations that cannot exist, have never existed or do not exist yet.  Having said that, genre definitions are mostly useful to the people whose job it is to package and sell fiction, and to those readers who have narrowly defined reading tastes.  When I say ‘speculative fiction’, it is a catch-all phrase to include science fiction, fantasy and horror.  And just to complicate matters, not all horror is speculative in nature.  “Barking,” for example, could be categorized as non-speculative, if you go with the interpretation that the narrator is mentally ill and not literally turning into a dog.

DMD: On your blog ( I see you took some pause with Biscuits and Gravy- did you eat it?

TM: Yes, even although it really didn’t look like it was meant to be eaten.  I found it…inoffensive.  I’m assured that homemade biscuits and gravy are far superior to the commercial stuff served in hotel breakfast buffets.  I had much more fun with the automatic pancake machine.

DMD: Being a New Zealander who now lives in Melbourne, Australia, you have some different themes in your folklore, what effect can you see in your writings of fiction and poetry, especially when comparing to the British horror classics (Stevenson, Shelley..) and American writings (from Poe to King , etc.?)

TM: That question is more complicated than you might think.  I wrote a blog post on the subject (January 2011, “But it’s my culture, damn it!”) that prompted some heated discussion.  Australia and New Zealand are both very young countries in terms of European colonization, and both have much older indigenous cultures with their own myths and legends, but no written language (until white men came along and wrote it for them).  Both the Australian Aborigines and the New Zealand Maori can be fiercely protective of their intellectual property rights if it looks like someone is about to make inappropriate use of them; which makes it difficult for me, being of both European and Maori descent, when I write a story that deals with Maori mythological creatures and a publisher tell me that it is too much of a political hot potato to print. 

In my early works, I deliberately cultivated an American voice because I was submitting almost exclusively to American markets (there was no dedicated speculative fiction paying publications in New Zealand at the time).  But then I learned that the rest of the world is actually interested in reading tales from other countries.  So these days I put aside my cultural cringe and write how and what I want to write.

DMD: Where can our readers find more of your writing and what is your current project?

TM: Dark Continents Publishing recently released my first short story and poetry collection, “Ghosts Can Bleed”.  It’s available in e-book and paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. As always, I am constantly plugging away at writing new short stories and poems and submitting them to suitable markets.  I also have a couple of collaborative projects, on the go with some of the Dark Continents crew, which are slated for publication in 2012.

DMD: That is very cool to hear! Now with the growth of the internet, blogs, and other publishing avenues, have you changed your outlook on publishing and the industry, or do you feel the traditional will always be favored?

TM: If I were to put on my cynicism hat, I would say that it is the traditionally published authors who are most likely to advocate maintaining the status quo.   They talk about the need for gatekeepers and the role of traditional publishers in maintaining standards.  It’s difficult to [take] these assertions seriously when Snooki [of ‘The Jersey Shore’ infamy] can get a mainstream publishing contract, whereas countless worthy but unknown novelists are getting bypassed because of commercial imperatives.  What the traditionally published authors are really saying is, “I’m across the bridge, so I’m alright, Jack – go ahead and blow it up.”

I actually find it an exciting time to be involved in the publishing industry.  Those of us running small press companies have the opportunity to take advantage of 21st century technology and be instrumental in revolutionizing the industry.  And savvy writers can have more control, both artistic and financial, over their work.

DMD: In fiction writing do you find horror to be an easier genre, as there are many standards to pull from (monsters of any type with their own sub-genre, or general madness and murder)?

TM: For me, I think the multitude of horror tropes makes horror harder to write because it’s difficult to contribute something new to the genre when the existing ground is already so well-trodden.  On the other hand, who says you have to contribute something new?  Ultimately, the writer’s role is to entertain the reader, to divert his or her attention for a short while from the outside world.  And if what entertains the reader is a comfortably familiar zombie apocalypse novel, then by God, somebody needs to give ‘em one. 

DMD: Thanks a lot you have been most giving with your time and thoughtful responses, it has been a real pleasure…Any parting words?

TM: Yes – please buy my book!!! ([amazon_link id=”0983160368″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Ghosts Can Bleed[/amazon_link])

DMD: Always glad to plug for friends. (Of course after we plug [amazon_link id=”0978792572″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Dark Moon Digest The Horror Fiction Quarterly[/amazon_link], and other [amazon_link id=”0978792599″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Dark Moon Books[/amazon_link]! )

2 thoughts on “Barking Mad? A Dialogue with Author Tracie McBride…”

  1. Wonderful interview Tracie! I too am a mother of three young children and I feel your pain about finding time to write. I was fascinated by the things you said about politics and the aboriginal stories, I am so glad that our hands aren’t tied in such a way here in America. I hope you will find a way to get those stories out because I’m sure they are fantastic! And if you ever need a recipe for killer biscuits and gravy, give me shout 🙂

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