CS McMullen – an Aurealis Interview
interview by Dan Allan
CS McMullen is an Australian author and screen industry professional. She shares the mantle of youngest ever writer to be published in a professional science fiction magazine (Interzone at age 10) and professes a deep love for all things robot or dragon related. Her short story Monday-Child features in issue #57 of Aurealis – Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy.
In five words or less, what is Monday-Child about?
The power of matching sets.
What were you hoping to achieve story-wise with Monday-Child? Were you trying to really scare people? Or blow their minds? Or did you just want to put a certain idea into a story?
With Monday-Child, I was hoping to write a story that was subtly creepy, without being outright horror. The central idea of the story, that of a girl called Monday who lives in the forest with her mother, has been in my head for a few years. The interesting parts of the story came from asking why she was there, and the story certainly didn’t end up where I thought it would.
What were some of the cornerstones that informed/inspired Monday-Child?
I was very influenced by Stephen King’s short story writing, and throughout the writing process, I re-read some of my favourite stories of his to try and analyse how he creates that sense of tension and impending doom so well. The other key influence was more generalised, and came from strong heroines in TV shows I love, like Buffy and Battlestar Galactica – I really wanted to create a heroine that reacted intelligently to a bad situation, and if I get the chance to expand this world further, I hope to make Monday a smart, ruthless heroine who can hold her own against any threat.
I’d definitely be interested in writing another short story in this same world, possibly from the point of view of another character, and then seeing if I think there is enough there for a whole novel. Nothing’s written yet though – hopefully this story being published will spur me on!
You mentioned a love of Stephen King’s short fiction. What is your preferred story-telling medium?
If you’d asked me a few years ago, it would without a doubt have been prose. But in recent years, I’ve come to love what is being made on screen more and more, particularly in TV. I’m pretty torn between the two as a favourite. My only real preference would be that I like robots or dragons in the things I consume (or possibly robotic dragons). If it’s a book or show without some form of genre in it, I’m not interested.
What would be your favourite robot-dragon collaboration (real or imagined)?
One of my favourite series that blends genres is the Temeraire novels by Naomi Novik – she combines fantasy and alternate military history so well, that I’m inevitably disappointed when reading actual history books about the period she writes about – I keep on waiting for the dragons to show up!
What is your writing process like? Are you a regimented, every day, 2K words, sort of person or is there less of a routine? Do you free write or outline?
I’d love to be writing 2K a day! I work full-time currently, so writing is always about fitting it in where I can, after work and on weekends. This means that it can be …sporadic at best, but I try to make sure I do something every week, in some form or another. I’ve also just started doing a regular writing workshop with a very talented friend of mine, which will hopefully force me to have something ready to show her every fortnight.
I tend to free write, but I’d love to be disciplined enough to outline and stick to it. Free writing can be very inefficient, especially if you spend hours on a scene, only to cut it. I’m going to keep on working on being a disciplined outliner though.
What do you consider the author’s most important job? Do different authors have different purposes? Can this change over time?
I think an author’s most important job is quite simply to write well, and write clearly. Everything else is just a matter of taste, or perspective. Different authors can indeed have vastly different purposes: to entertain, to educate, to titillate, or all of the above.
Do you prefer a well-written story or an imaginative one?
Definitely a well-written one. Ideas are easy, and every good idea has been done before anyway; it’s the execution that matters.
What project would you most like to be working on at the moment?
Probably a science-fiction YA novel that I’ve had in my head for about 3 years now. Or my feature film script that has also long been neglected. Or…. one of the many other ideas that bubbles up from my brain, with not enough time to do them all justice!
If you could live in any fictional universe, what would it be?
If I could live in any fictional universe, it would be the Discworld – I figure I spend so much time there anyway, I might as well be efficient!
Issue #57 of Aurealis – Science Fiction and Fantasy, featuring Monday-Child, is available here.
This post has more information about the recent partnership between Aurealis magazine and Dark Matter.