Show Me Your Shelves: Mike McCrary
The best way to meet an author is at a reading. That way you can tell how they feel about standing in front of people and having to say words at them outside the context of a conversation. In any case, I knew Mike McCrary before I met him in person because we’re both indie crime authors living in Austin. One day, he and I got to carry Stuart Neville on our backs at a local Noir at the Bar, and Mike killed it. His work is fast, dirty, violent, and hilarious. Since that day, I’ve hung out with Mike a few times. Now that he has a new book out, it was the perfect time to ask him to show us his shelves and talk shop for a bit. Here’s what he had to say.
- Who are you and what role do books play in your life?
I’m Mike McCrary author, reader, lover, and all around man about town. Books play several roles in my life now. They used to simply be entertainment. Ways to escape and explore and occasionally learn, but now in addition to those, they are a way to stay in tune with what people are doing out there in crime fiction or any genre. Being a writer of fiction I like to know what’s working and what isn’t in the marketplace. Books also play a large part helping me write. They inspire. Anger. Manufacture envy like a son of a bitch, but they also become a how-to guide of sorts. When I come up with an idea for a new one or I want to maybe work on something that’s a little bit out of my comfort zone I’ll find several books that match what I’m thinking of. Helps straighten me out. Sometimes.
So, yeah, all of that, but still even with that said, most of the time when I pick up a book I slip into the mode of the kid I used to be. The one that moved around a lot and books provided a great comfort when becoming the new kid every couple of years isn’t comfortable at all. The places changed. Schools changed. The kids changed, but the books didn’t. They stayed a steady constant for me and they still do I suppose.
So, final answer? Books play the role of comfort generator.
- You’re a lovely guy. Why crime and not romance? Your books are sexy.
I am lovely, aren’t I?
I think I’d be horrible at writing romance. Not that I’ve ever tried. Maybe I will. Nothing is off the table. Crime fiction has always just interested me I guess. I’ve always gravitated towards crime films too. I think I saw The Godfather when I was like ten or so and I just stuck. I’d talk to kids on the playground about the horse head scene and I’d get these looks like something was severely wrong with me. They were probably right, but I didn’t care.
I’ve always been fascinated with people that roam the margins of life. I also think crime fiction, at least the kind I write, I sort of a wish fulfillment for some readers. Characters that are able to do what they want, say what the want and take what they want in life is very appealing to many of us that spend our lives saddled with rules, economic realities, bosses and everything else that can weight you down. The stuff I write is more of the escapist side of crime fiction and designed to be entertaining and fun rather than depressing. It’s dark, but I try keep it fun. I have one simple rule – my books aren’t allowed to be boring. Hopefully that’s the case.
My books are damn sexy, aren’t they?
- Can you tell use about that lady who hated your book because you said fuck a lot? Also, what’s your favorite fuck in a book or film?
Such an awesome review. It was for REMO WENT ROGUE on Amazon in the UK. Here it is….
1 Star — This isn’t a review. I have not and will not be reading this book. The F word is used three times in the first three sentences. I can’t see any reason why this would be necessary, and I don’t need so much bad language. Once or twice, in context – OK. This isn’t OK. Sorry, but great as this book might be, there are many more great books out there without gratuitous ‘effing’ and I prefer to read those.
No writers, that I know of, love one star reviews, but I do take a certain amount of pride in that one. I offended this person so much that they felt an obligation to log into Amazon and crank out a paragraph relieving themselves of their outrage. That’s a success as far as I’m concerned. Box checked.
My favorite fuck in a book? Chapter one in SAVAGES by Don Winslow. Its two words and two words only – Fuck you.
My favorite fuck in a film? In GOODFELLAS, there are many I know, but when Billy Batts tells Pesci to get his fucking shine box, Pesci throws down his glass and screams “Mother fucking mutt.” That’s gold.
- I know humor can’t be taught, but you’re one of the funniest crime writers out there. Any tips on tone or theme or whatever for the rest of us?
Thank you, sir. Yeah, I have no idea on advice for doing funny. I think it’s just writing to your strengths. I remember when I was doing screenplays and I was writing these little indie comedy things and nobody was buying them. I’d get compliments and all that, but they never materialized into anything real. So, out of frustration, I wrote a serial killer horror script that was completely out of my normal thing. Nothing funny at all about it.
It got me an agent and was sent out all over Hollywood.
I remember the panic I felt when I met with people and they asked me what creepy horror movie I was going to write next. I was thinking, oh shit, they want me to keep doing those. Now, full discloser that script didn’t sell either but it got me a lot of attention and meetings and all that.
What I’m trying to say is if you write funny well and enjoy it then go write funny. If you write dark, family drama, tragedy well and enjoy that then go write those. To me its more about finding what kind of writer you are. Doesn’t mean you can’t do multiple genres, it’s more about discovering what you do well and, maybe more importantly, finding out what you like to write first. I like to read all kinds of things but know damn well that I’d suck at and be miserable trying to write some of them.
This isn’t a new statement, but writing is hard and it’s too damn hard to do if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing. Find that thing that you dig writing and do it until you want to take a swing at something else.
- What’s your latest about and why should folks click outta here and go get it?
My latest is a book called STEADY TROUBLE. The first book in a new series I’m starting about badass female protagonist they call Steady Teddy. She runs a smalltime crime biz in Austin TX until a stranger walks into her bar and offers an amazing chance to change her life. A chance that might kill her in the process. It’s a thriller with big action, giggles and some pretty cool twists and turns. I think people will dig it.
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of ZERO SAINTS (Broken River Books),HUNGRY DARKNESS (Severed Press), and GUTMOUTH (Eraserhead Press). His reviews have appeared in Electric Literature, The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, Marginalia, The Collagist. Heavy Feather Review, Crimespree, Out of the Gutter, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, HorrorTalk, Verbcide, and many other print and online venues. You can find him on Twitter at@Gabino_Iglesias