Recently, I managed to nab an interview with the legendary Gary McMahon for Starburst magazine. Gary McMahon is responsible for some of the darkest and disturbed horror that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. I’m talking real twisted. I’ve included part of the interview below.
Starburst: If we could start with the idea behind Pretty Little Dead Things. How did it come about? Where did this idea first take seed?
Gary McMahon: Initially, I wrote a bunch of short ghost stories featuring the character of Thomas Usher. After a while, it became clear that he wanted his own novel, so I started sketching out a few scenes which then grew into the book. At that point I didn’t have a publishing deal, so when I approached Angry Robot I had about half the novel written. By the time they got back to me that they liked the synopsis and chapters, the book was finished.
Thomas Usher is a complex character. The victim of so much tragedy and horror, yet he still desperately tries to do the right thing. What was it like to create such a compelling character?
Oh, it was great fun. I love flawed characters. I can’t write – or read about – any other kind. Flaws make us real, they highlight who we are, what we are. I’m more interested in people’s flaws than any other part of their personality. I find it easy to create complex characters, because aren’t we all complex?
The mature adult themes this book explores are of the darkest nature. You have a talent for forcing a reader to look at parts of the human condition we would rather hide from and pretend wasn’t there. To write about so much corruption of the human spirit must have been a difficult thing to do. How do you cope?
Thank you. I believe that horror fiction can be a great way of facing what’s unpleasant about the human condition. I’m not really one for cheap scares. I like to get right under the skin of my characters and find out what makes them tick, then dismantle them piece by piece and see what happens. I like works of art that leave me scarred, and so I tend to lean this way when I write. To be honest, writing about dark subject matter is what helps me cope with the terrible stuff that happens in real life.
Of course, every hero – if that’s what we can call Thomas – needs his villain, and the Pilgrim soon makes his presence known. How much fun was it to write about an entity such as the Pilgrim?
I loved writing about the Pilgrim. He took on a life of his own, growing bigger and bolder on the page as I wrote about him. He’s an evil bugger, of course, but he’s also fascinating. He has his own agenda, and he doesn’t necessarily see what he does as bad. He’s indifferent to human suffering most of the time; the rest of the time it simply amuses him. Most evil people don’t realise they’re evil. They don’t look in the mirror and think “Wow, I look really evil today.” They do whatever it is they do for their own reasons, and I made sure that the Pilgrim was the same. He isn’t just evil for evil’s sake.
Follow the LINK for the full interview.
Pick up a copy og Gary’s book from here. Pretty Little Dead Things