Today, I am very pleased to present this interview with Craig, conducted in August via email.
Michael K. Rose: Your newest release, The Somnibus: Book I, is a horror/paranormal thriller. What drew you to that genre?
Craig McGray: Well, I've always enjoyed reading the genre. It was only natural that when I started writing, I wrote those kinds of stories. Even as a kid, my stories were along those lines. I often wrote stories and kept them to myself. Part of it was the lack of belief in myself as a writer, and another part was the content. Even when I was young. I would creep myself out sometimes when I wrote certain stories. I find myself fighting the urge to put a twist of horror in everything I write, so I guess my answer is, it feels natural to me. It's usually appropriate for the type of stories I write, but when I'm writing with my daughter (Emma is 8) it's better if I keep the premise of the fairy in our story boring into the little girl's brain through her ear and making her do bad things, to myself.
I enjoy reading things that scare me. When I have someone tell me that my story was scary, as in they had to leave the lights on to go to bed, I am thrilled. To me that is the biggest compliment I can receive. Well, there are others, but that's for a different interview. ;-) I am experimenting with stepping out of my comfort zone and writing in other genres. I was surprised to find that I am beginning to enjoy that aspect of my writing. Maybe it's my ripe old age of 40, but I think I just like doing something new; learning new things.
MKR: Do you believe in anything paranormal, or is it all fiction to you? And if you do believe, have you ever had a paranormal experience?
CM: I work in the medical field, so I believe in science. I also know there are things that science can't explain. Personally, I have never had anything happen to me that I thought was paranormal in nature. I do enjoy hearing the accounts of others that say they have experienced it, but I think it's the result of an overactive imagination more than anything. Now, do I think those people are lying? Absolutely not. I think they truly believe they had a paranormal experience. Well, some of them may be lying just to get attention. I'm also not saying I want to go stay the night in some abandoned asylum or anything, though I would if the opportunity came up, but I have yet to see any real proof that haunting, or ghosts, exist. I think loved ones do somehow visit those they've left behind. My daughters have both told me things that I believe about that, but that may be a different discussion.
In other words, I guess I believe in some things paranormal, but since I haven't seen it myself, I would put an asterisk next to the believe part. As far as haunted houses and the like, I don't buy it. I think our mind is very strong and plays tricks on us sometimes. I get creeped out by watching the movies, but not because I think it's real or could happen to me. With that being said, if I actually did experience an attack from a ghost, or I saw something in a haunted house that I thought was a ghost, I would probably need a new pair of shorts after I ran out like a teenage schoolgirl.
MKR: As a marathon runner, I'm sure that your training would serve you well as you ran out screaming like a schoolgirl. Now, The Somnibus series is about a young man named Michael who learns that he possesses, via a mysterious stone that belonged to his mother, the ability to access a shadowy other world where creatures called the Somnibus exist and from which he can actually enter into the bodies of other people. You mention there are things science can't explain, and as Clarke famously said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Are you approaching your story from a purely fantastical point of view, or could there be something of science (parallel worlds, for example) behind it? You've mentioned in another interview that you are a fan of Lovecraft and for me, the most remarkable thing about his writing is that in many of his stories he is able to take seemingly supernatural events and ascribe scientific explanations to them. Without giving too much away, is this a possibility you're going to explore with the rest of the series?
CM: Yeah, my triathlon training would definitely have me out of there before anyone else. What do they say about avoiding Zombies, "You don't have to be faster than everyone, just faster than someone." or something like that. Anyway, as far as The Somnibus series goes, it is based on fantasy. The world I want to create with the series could be nothing but fantasy. As my answer may have pointed to earlier, I don't think there are any in between worlds, or other dimensions that we are going to find, at least none that science has shown yet. Now, other worlds as in other planets, I do think that will happen, eventually. That's probably more your area of expertise, but I do believe the science fiction of today may be the reality of tomorrow, or maybe a couple hundred tomorrows from now.
MKR: The Somnibus is your first major project as a writer. I know how exciting it is to get that first major work out to the public. I also know the doubts and fears that accompany that. So what do you hope will come of it? What is your goal as a writer, where do you want it to take you? You've mentioned being worried about how others will receive your work. What other fears do you have?
CM: Great question. I guess I just hope I can create stories and worlds that people enjoy reading about. I know that seems like a cookie cutter answer, but it's true. I haven't come into this with some great expectations of being the next Stephen King, James Patterson, or Michael K. Rose (though I wouldn't run away from the label). I just want to put out stories that people can read and be satisfied with when they are done. Reading is time consuming, so if I'm fortunate enough to have someone spend their valuable time reading my book, then I don't want them to feel like it was a waste of time. Time is a limited commodity, and I understand that.
As far as where I hope to go as a writer, honestly I'm not sure. I plan to write stories that I like to read, and see where it takes me. Of course I want to sell a few books, but that's not the main reason for my writing. I have a full time job to pay the bills and that's my first priority behind my family. Much like my stories, I have a loose outline for myself when it comes to writing. I'll let life and readers help to put me on the right path. That, and I'd love to walk into a bookstore and see one of my covers staring at me and my family from the shelves.
Fears. Let's see. I don't like to say I'm scared of anything. However, I'm not a big fan of roller coasters, or spiders. It's not that I'm worried about being attacked by spiders or anything, they just give me the creeps for some reason. I don't mind snakes, or any other animals or insects, just not a fan of spiders. I'm getting better with roller coasters to some degree. My 8-year-old Emma is getting into roller coasters, which I have never really enjoyed. I get through it by acting like it's no big deal, like any tough guy dad would do, but I secretly hope she changes her mind sometimes. A more serious fear is the fear of something happening to my kids. I don't know how parents deal with a true tragedy or illness when it comes to children. Sorry to bring down the tone of the piece, but it's a legit fear for me.
MKR: The Somnibus will be a trilogy, correct? Do you have your next project planned? Do you think you might continue The Somnibus beyond those first three books?
CM: My plans when starting The Somnibus series was to have a trilogy when it was all said and done. As I'm working through Book II, there may be more story to tell. I'll just have to see where the characters lead the story, and what the readers want.
I am also working on a collection of short stories. I love writing the short stuff, so I always have a few of those going at the same time. Sometimes, if I'm stuck on one project, I'll go back over some unfinished work. That may get me through my block, or I might put more work into the shorter story. It just depends on the mood.
I have this premise for a sci-fi type project that I can't stop coming back to. I haven't put much down yet, but I think I'll have to start it. It keeps tapping on my forehead, wanting the story to be told. That project will be a large project and take a considerable amount of time, I think. We'll just have to see with that one. I may need a little science-fiction creative direction. I've heard of this kick ass writer, Michael K. something, I think. You ever heard of him?
MKR: Haha! I may have. Care to give us a teaser on what that science fiction story will be about?
CM: Well, when aliens try to take over the earth, there's always this big battle with violent aliens. I think there are smarter aliens out there, aliens that could rid the earth of humans without destroying everything in their path. They are more patient in waiting for us to be gone. The characters have to figure out a way to undo what the aliens have done before it's too late to recover and the human race is no more. Here's a hint, it's not a disease that threatens to rid the earth of humans.
MKR: It sounds intriguing! Thank you for your time Craig. Anything else you'd like to mention?
CM: I'd just like to thank you for the great interview. I'd, also like to thank you for all of your help and support. It's nice to know that there are authors out there willing to help each other out. I hope to release The Somnibus: Book II by late fall, and my collection of short stories before year end. Maybe I'll make it a creepy Christmas time release. Thanks again for the fun interview.
You can connect with Craig at his website, Facebook or Twitter. The Somnibus is available at Amazon's Kindle stores (US, UK).