Terrie Leigh Relf: What types and forms of writing do you do?
Mark McLaughlin: I write horror and dark fantasy stories, articles, poems and novels. Many of my most recent stories are Lovecraftian horror tales. For a long time, I wrote a lot of comedic Mythos-oriented stories, most of which were collected in the trade paperback, Best Little Witch-House in Arkham.
It did have a few serious Lovecraftian stories in it, like “Der Fleischbrunnen,” “The Embrace of Kugappa,” and “A Beauty Treatment for Mrs. Hamogeorgakis.” Lately, I’ve been writing a lot of serious Mythos stories, many in collaboration with a new writer named Michael Sheehan, Jr.
Those stories have been compiled in two Kindle collections currently available from Amazon: The Abominations of Nephren-Ka & Three More Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, and The Horror in the Water Tower & Five More Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos.
TLR: What are your areas of subject matter expertise? How did you discover these niches, and what intrigues you about them?
MM: Over the years, I’ve written every type of speculative story imaginable – science-fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, Lovecraftian fiction, vampire tales – you name it. Growing up, the local library was my babysitter; my folks would just drop me off there and then run errands for hours. Fortunately, that library had plenty of Lovecraft and Arkham House books to help me pass the time. I grew up reading tales of Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, Yog-Sothoth, and more.
I was intrigued by the works of Lovecraft because they were so different. . .so bizarre and so breathlessly exciting. These days, when I’m writing Mythos stories, I strive to add in new cosmic monstrosities, like my monsters Kugappa and Ghattambah, and also some intimate relationships. Most of Lovecraft’s characters were academic bachelors who cared more for grimoires and rituals than matters of the heart. But hey, I figure that witches and wizards have urges, too. . .
TLR: How do you balance your creative and work time?
At my day-job, I write for the company, and when I get home, I write my stories and books. Pretty simple, really! But then, I don’t have any children. Well, no flesh-and-blood children – only my stories, my word-children. I’m sure that writers with children have to work especially hard to balance all their time commitments.
MM: Don’t worry about trends. The trends will have changed by the time you finish writing the book! Write what you love. . .the reader will be able to sense the passion you put into the story.
TLR: What are your thoughts on the creative process in general and your creative process in particular? Where do your ideas come from? What inspires and intrigues you?
MM: If you’re working on a long project, it’s always good to keep a notebook (or an electronic version of one) in which you keep notes on the specifics of each character. That way, if you’re trying to remember, “Where did that character go to college?” or “What was the name of that character’s younger brother?” you can always check the notebook – instead of poring over the manuscript to dig up some obscure fact.
What inspires and intrigues me? Nature, ancient history, and science, for the most part. The more you know about science, the more you realize how lucky we are. We live in a universe that’s mostly dead. . .the harsh vacuum of space, flaming stars, rocky asteroids, planets shrouded in frozen toxic gases. . .and yet we manage to thrive on a nice green planet with plenty of water, oxygen, and tasty plants, and animals to eat. Did I mention that we’re lucky?
MM: My fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in more than 1,000 magazines, newspapers, websites, and anthologies, including Galaxy, Living Dear 2, The Best of All Flesh, Writer’s Digest, Cemetery Dance, Midnight Premiere, Dark Arts, and two volumes each of The Best of Horrorfind and The Year’s Best Horror Stories DAW Books).
My latest paperback fiction release is a collection of my darkest stories from over the years entitled Hideous Faces, Beautiful Skulls. Other collections of my fiction include Best Little Witch-House in Arkham, Beach Blanket Zombie, Motivational Shrieker, Slime After Slime, and Pickman’s Motel.
I also wrote the novel, Monster Behind the Wheel with collaborator Michael McCarty. I once won the Bram Stoker Award for Excellence in Poetry, along with co-authors Rain Graves and David Niall Wilson, for The Gossamer Eye.
I have some books co-authored by Michael McCarty coming out this year, but it’s too early to start talking about them. I also have another collaborative project, this one with an Egyptian theme, coming up. Keep an eye on my Amazon Author’s Page – all my new books will show up there eventually! That’s also a good place to find out more about my current print and Kindle books.
MM: A vampire project, more tales of Lovecraftian menace, that Egyptian project, and a cookbook jam-packed with wholesome Amish dessert recipes. Okay, I may be kidding about that cookbook!
TLR: Who are your favorite characters? What do you love – or loathe – about them?
MM: I love each and every one of my characters because I am their daddy. I am a proud parent to all of them.
I love my Lovecraftian insect-god, Ghattambah, from The Horror in The Water Tower because he is so ravenous, predatory, and utterly grotesque. In some of his incarnations, he is highly intelligent, while in others, he is little more than a malignant beast.
I love the witch Athena Moth in my story collection, Hideous Faces, Beautiful Skulls, because she is kind, loving, helpful, thoughtful. . .and misshapen. She wears an elaborate geisha costume to hide the oddness of her constantly morphing body.
I love the Bride of the Crawling Chaos in The Abominations of Nephren-Ka because she’s so brave. It takes real courage to love an all-powerful monster.
I love Kugappa, my vile octopus god from Best Little Witch-House in Arkham, because he has an affinity for all types of systems, including the Internet. The Internet Witches, characters of mine who appear in many of my stories, also love the Internet because it is a frontier, and witches love frontiers; their laws are so loose and difficult to enforce.
TLR: Since you’re also a prolific and established poet, what forms do you write in? What is it that you love about these forms?
MM: I’ve written many books of poetry over the years, the latest being Bride of The Two-Headed Poetry Monster, co-written by Michael McCarty. Most of my poems are written in free verse, but I also enjoy the discipline that goes into writing sonnets.
MM: I don’t belong to any writing groups. They’re good for some people, but for me, writing isn’t a group endeavor. I like writing either by myself or with a collaborator.
TLR: I know our readers would love to hear about your networking, marketing, and promotional experiences – including tips.
MM: Here’s my biggest tip: When you are promoting your book, start with a short, concise write-up of what your book is about. Be able to describe your book in three or four sentences. If a potential buyer asks you about your book, don’t launch into a twenty-minute rambling account of the plot. Think about how a great waiter interests you in a restaurant selection. He doesn’t give you the entire recipe! Rather, he tempts you with a brief but well-phrased overview of the best ingredients and their wonderful flavors.
TLR: What would you like to see more of in your specific genre? In the publishing field?
MM: Naturally, I’d like to see more Mark McLaughlin titles in bookstores everywhere, as well as on Amazon lists of Kindle best-sellers!
TLR: Thank you so much for creating the time for this interview, Mark. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the introduction for Bride of The Two-Head Poetry Monster, too! Be sure to check out Mark’s bio below – and BUY HIS BOOKS!
Mark McLaughlin has been writing tales of horror and dark fantasy for more than 35 years. He has written many tales of comedic horror, which have been compiled in such books as the trade paperback, Best Little Witch-House in Arkham, and the Kindle collections, The Slime of Our Lives and Drunk on The Wine That Pours From My Wicked Eyes. He also has written serious horror tales, such as the ones you’ll find in his trade paperback, Hideous Faces, Beautiful Skulls, and his Lovecraftian Kindle collections, The Abominations of Nephren-Ka and The Horror in The Water Tower (both co-written with Michael Sheehan, Jr.). Mark is the co-author, with Michael McCarty, of the novel, Monster Behind The Wheel. Also, Mark, Rain Graves, and David Niall Wilson are the co-authors of the Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, The Gossamer Eye. You may learn even more about Mark by visiting his author website and his amazon.com page.