Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Q&A with M.C. Grant

This week, we sat down with M.C. Grant (also known as Grant McKenzie), author of Beauty with a Bomb.

Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
M.C. Grant: I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t writing—and even before I knew how to string the words together, I loved to create adventures with my toys. And when I didn’t have toys, I would sit on the sidewalk and create stories using bottle caps and discarded cigarette butts, or twigs, seaweed, stones, cardboard boxes, anything really. I was one of those kids who could play by himself for hours and, actually preferred it. Of course, if you don’t play with others, you’re labeled odd, but I never minded being odd. It came as a shock to me when I first started school and the teacher told my mum that I would need to transfer to “special school” because I was writing some of my words backwards. This was before they understood or even had a word for dyslexia. Fortunately, my mum insisted that despite my quirks, I didn’t have a learning disability—and I soon taught myself how to put the letters in the “correct” order. My first recollection of showing my writing to others was when I wrote and performed a series of short plays in elementary school. I attempted my fist novel in junior high, and after several rewrites, including the purchase of my first typewriter, finished it by Grade 12.

MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
MCG: I’ve always been a voracious reader with a strong attraction to crime thrillers and mysteries. My first mysteries were Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, followed by S. E. Hinton’s amazing YA novels, which led into collecting the entire Mickey Spillane library, plus Gregory McDonald, Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett. From there, it has been a smorgasbord of talented writers from Robert McCammon to John Sandford, Andrew Vachss, Stephen Hunter, James Rollins, James P. Hogan, Ben Bova, and Isaac Asimov to name a few.

MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
MCG: It would have to be something creative: working behind the scenes in theatre, television or movies seems like a natural fit. In high school, I was the stage lighting designer for our theatre department and loved it. I also acted and wrote, plus I was the assistant editor of our school newspaper. I actually debated between studying journalism or theatre in university, but writing won out.

MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
MCG: I was a newspaper journalist for 30 years, but I am presently the Director of Communications for Our Place Society, a unique inner-city community center that provides over 1,200 meals per day for the poor and vulnerable citizens of Greater Victoria.

MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
MCG: I love to read, dabble in art, and relax with my wife and daughter.

MI: What was your inspiration for this series?
MCG: Interestingly, I wrote the first draft of Angel With A Bullet, the first Dixie Flynn novel, many, many years before it was published. I wanted to write a noir-style mystery series that contained both explosive action and dark humour. Dixie also allowed me to give the series its heart.

MI: How does the Dixie Flynn series compare to your past works?
MCG: Dixie is quite a bit different from the stand-alone thrillers that I write as Grant McKenzie. For one, Dixie is written in first-person, present-tense, female perspective, while my thrillers are third-person, past-tense. I also try and have more fun with the Dixie books by including more humour and quirky, fun characters. With that said, however, the plots can be dark and dangerous, but only because I know Dixie can handle them.

MI: Tell us about Dixie Flynn. What inspired you to write a feisty newspaper reporter?
MCG: Dixie is such a fun character: she’s fierce, witty, sassy, and headstrong. And although she’s proven unlucky in love, she’s a loyal friend and protector to those she cares about. As a veteran journalist myself, I wanted to explore how that profession has changed, but also bring back some of the grimy glamour of the sliver age when the best reporters were the rebels and not necessarily the nicest people. In the 1960s, ‘70s, and early ‘80s, editorial meetings were more like cage matches of passion and intelligence, with everyone fighting to showcase the best story. Today, the decisions are made from the top down without any real input from editorial at all. Dixie is a bit of the antithesis to this, one of the last rebels working the crime beat of San Francisco.

MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
MCG: My favorite has to be Mike Hammer as I just love the way Spillane could tell a fists-clenched, uncompromising story. The pulp era heroes never apologized for taking the law into their own hands and getting a bit bloody.

MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
MCG: I really love the mystery in The Fear In Her Eyes. A distraught father receives a note from the person who killed his daughter in a drunk-driving accident one year earlier. The note includes a visitor’s pass to the prison where the driver is incarcerated, plus seven life-changing words: "I was paid to kill your daughter."

Grant at work with Flower and Boo
MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
MCG: I can’t imagine not having a cat. I have two at the moment and they love to curl up on my lap when I’m writing. Flower was found frozen in a barn in the middle of winter by a farmer who rushed to put her in a low-heat oven. Remarkably, she survived and has been with us for 16 years now. Boo is a pure black cat who spent a whole year in an animal shelter before we adopted him. It has taken some gentle coaxing to earn his trust, but now his purrs fill the room.


MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
MCG: I’m a big fan of soup. All different kinds of soup. I could probably have a bowl of soup and a chunk of San Francisco sourdough bread every day for lunch.

MI: Do you have a favorite recipe?
MCG: I do, but I’m one of those cooks who doesn’t follow recipes. I love to eat something new and then make a guess at how I would re-create it at home. So I rarely make the same dish in the same way twice as I’m always changing a bit here and there, or adding something new. I would love to try Turducken one of these days though—it sounds delicious.

MI: What’s your favorite part about being an Inker?
 It’s an absolute thrill to be published alongside such a great bunch of talented writers. And the editorial team is such a wonderful support—they really want the books to succeed.

Beauty with a Bomb, the third Dixie Flynn Mystery, is available online and in bookstores now!

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