Robert McCammon Interview
I met Robert McCammon when he was in Salt Lake for World Horror. It was only the second time I’d ever geeked out over meeting an author (the first time was Steven Erikson). You see, McCammon has become one of my favorite authors. In the midst of my geeked-out mumbling, I managed to ask if he’d be willing to do an interview. To my surprise, he agreed. I don’t get to say this very often about big-time authors, but I left my brief meeting with Robert McCammon more impressed than I was going into it. I think the best thing I can say is that he in genuine in every positive aspect possible.
EBR questions are in bold, McCammon’s responses are in normal text.
EBR: First, thank you for agreeing to an interview here at Elitist Book Reviews. Our tradition here is to start by giving the author a chance to introduce themselves, and maybe even brag a bit. Not that you need much of an intro…you’re Robert Freaking McCammon. So, tell our readers why they should be reading your work.
I guess because I consider myself a pretty good storyteller. I’ve been doing this a long time and I kinda sorta know what I’m doing by now. Is this bragging? Well… I do believe I know how to tell a good story and get the reader “involved”. I am pleased when I get a review that states the reader was at first put off by the size of one of my books, and then he or she wishes the book had gone on longer because they enjoyed it so much.
THE PROVIDENCE RIDER (Amazon) is the fourth Matthew Corbett novel. What is it about this character and time-period that keep you coming back? Was there a light-bulb moment when you thought, “Geez, I need to write about this guy…”? No light-bulb moment, but maybe the flicker of a candle. I wanted to do something different from my horror works, and this came to mind. Actually it didn’t start off to be a series. SPEAKS THE NIGHTBIRD was going to be a standalone novel, and then I started thinking about the character more and I guess that’s when the candle flickered. I thought… “A series… hmmm, never done one of those before but this might be the time and place to do it.”
Subterranean Press has given you new and old novels alike superb treatment. Why did you end up publishing through them rather than a different publishing house? Any prayers of the first two Corbett novels being done by them?
Long story, involving clashes of egos and much gnashing of teeth. I should let that story alone. Yeah, it’d be great if Sub Press could do the first two Matthew Corbett novels. We’ll see. (Is that evading the question enough, or what?)
The ending of THE PROVIDENCE RIDER is fantastic, and opens so many doors for future stories. What’s next on your writing agenda with Matthew Corbett, potential spin-offs and non-historical Horror?
Next Matthew goes back to the Carolina colony to escort a young lady to a dance, but finds himself involved in a murder, a mob tracking the killers through the swamp, and something in the swamp tracking the mob…
How much research do you typically put into a novel?
Lots. Tons. My shelves groan with research books. Actually now I’m able to do a lot of the research through the Net, which is kind of interesting. If I had to rely solely on the library to do my research for each Matthew book, it would take years to write. If I could ever find all the information I would need.
On a more personal note, most authors go through rough patches. What’s the most difficult experience you’ve endured while an author, and how did you grow from it?
Oh my God. Where do I begin with this one? Rough patches? Ha. I can’t talk about this one, because it’s an ongoing thing. Been going on now for about six years. How did I grow from it? I’m still writing.
When people say “Horror”, it seems like there are some negative connotations to it. Why do you think that is, and why do you think that Horror is fantastic?
Well, “horror” can mean so many things, can’t it? I can tell you that I have known “horror”, and it is not anything that people think it is. I can’t go into this anymore, but true horror is… not vampires, or werewolves or zombies or ghosts or freak-geeks with knives and chainsaws. That’s all “fun” stuff. Real horror is quiet and moves slowly, like a python very slowly encircling you. Very slowly, very quietly… and then you are caught, and you are squeezed. So… do I think “horror” is fantastic? I think the “fun” horror that we all know is cool and fun to write and everything… but… I know the real thing, and nothing I nor any other horror writer living or dead could devise is equal to it.
Is there a recent literary trend that just baffles you with its popularity?
Not baffled by the TWILIGHT series, because I understand how it relates to young women, but the writing is so flat…just lifeless. No, not baffled by any trend’s popularity. Just glad people are reading, I suppose.
You’re in a bookstore, and a random customer asks what book(s) you recommend. You can’t pitch your own novel, because they’ve obviously read everything by you. What do you tell them to buy?
Anything by the late great Ray Bradbury. Also one of my favorite books, JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL by Susanna Clarke. Love that book!
I’ve had my likeness maimed and murdered in quite a few novels now. It’s a point of pride. What do I need to bribe you with to be horribly killed in one of your novels?
A bottle of Johnny Walker Red should do it. I’m easy.
Again, Mr. McCammon, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. Any last words? I don’t mean that in an ominous way (unless is helps with the prior question).
Any last words? Not yet or for awhile, I hope. I intend to keep doing my best at my calling. I intend to create worlds and characters that speak to people I have never met, and will never meet, in places I will never go. I have tried and wanted to do my best, and always to keep challenging myself. I want to keep going forward. I want to speak and be heard, and I also want to listen and hear. I want to live in the moment, and know joy in my life, in my work, and in my relationships. I want to be known as a writer who can be trusted to tell the truth as he understands it to be. Certainly not everything I write will be “great” or maybe even “good”, but I never want to stop learning how to write. I am faithful to my calling. That’s all I can say.
Robert, Robert, Robert . . . we need to introduce you to a decent Scotch. A wee single malt from Islay, perhaps, or at least a Glenfiddich. JWR, now that's horror 😉
Nice interview. I met Mr. McCammon at a book signing for Mister Slaughter…great guy. Always excited when he releases new material.