At Gothic Bite Magazine we love welcoming new patients to become part of our asylum. We question them and learn about them. It doesn’t matter what creative field they are part of because they’re our patient now. This week, we welcome Theresa Halvorsen!
Patient Name: K.D. McQuain
K.D. McQuain grew up in the Alphabet City neighborhood of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. In the spring of 1985, he became involved in the early Hardcore Punk scene and always kept a dog-eared paperback in the cargo pocket of his fatigues.
K.D. graduated from the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts and received his BFA in sculpture.
He worked as a glass bender in the neon industry for several years before starting his own record label, Skully Records, which became widely known for popularizing the Gothabilly genre.
He now lives in Virginia with his wife, son and a menagerie of loving but continuously underfoot animals.
Arielle Belle Lyon (ABL): When did you find out you wanted to write novels?
K.D. MCQUAIN: I used to run an independent record label, Skully Records. We put out a bunch of cool stuff, but we became known for our series of Gothabilly compilations. To help support the new genre, I started an internet magazine Gothabilly.net, long since defunct.
We had music, of course, fashion, an advice column, and an ever-expanding Goth cocktail recipe section. I found that readers were coming every few weeks to check out the concert lists and maybe browse around a page or two and be done.
So I was looking for something to keep readers coming back. I decided on a serial and began plotting chapters and looking for a writer, but all the talented writers were too busy to take on another project with biweekly deadlines, so I started writing it myself.
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Eventually, the record company went the way of all independent labels, thanks to Napster, and the magazine folded along with it, but I turned the serial into a novel and stuck it in a drawer. A few years later, I pulled it out and reread it. It was awful, so I threw out at least half and reworked the whole story.
ABL: Set in paranormal or Gothic settings, would you let our readers know why you are more attracted to that genre?
K.D. MCQUAIN: I grew up on the New York Punk scene when there weren’t the clear divisions between Punk, Hardcore, and Goth that developed later.
It seemed like an ideal setting for my first novel, atmospheric, highly politically and socially charged, with a lot of great material to draw on. I’m also writing vampire fiction, and the Goth subculture has always embraced the dark and otherworldly.
ABL: When writing about paranormal, do you do research, and if so, how far do you go with your research?
K.D. MCQUAIN: I do a lot of research while preparing a story, maybe too much. I’m determined to root my work rather than simply make things up. If I talk about a location, then that’s the way it was to the best of my ability to verify.
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Anyone who was there should find it recognizable and believable, and anyone who will get as accurate a portrayal as possible.
ABL: What is most important to you when writing your novels?
K.D. MCQUAIN: Obviously, telling an engaging story. If the reader isn’t enjoying the ride, I’m not doing my job. If someone buys my books, I want them to be happy and eager to see where the story goes. That said, my books aren’t for everyone.
I don’t shy away from social taboos. I don’t fade to black and leave everything to the reader’s imagination. I write mature subject matter for mature readers. People have experiences, things happen, not all good, but telling a true story, or at least one that feels true, means laying it all bare.
ABL: Which authors influenced your writing?
K.D. MCQUAIN: I couldn’t really say who has influenced me. I’ll leave that to the readers. I will say that I have read many fabulous authors and continue to read.
I started reading voraciously when I was around ten with authors like Lloyd Alexander, John Christopher, and Ursula Le Guin. Later I moved on to space operas like Orson Scott Card and David Feintuch.
Then it was high fantasy by David Eddings, Kate Elliott, Melanie Rawn, and Dave Duncan. Now I read a lot of history and historical thrillers, books about past cultures, forgotten faiths, and missing objects of spiritual or mystical significance.
ABL: Which of your novels is your favorite, and why is it your favorite?
K.D. MCQUAIN: That’s like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite. Of course, they have one, but that may change from one moment to the next.
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I love all my books equally, but each has something unique, NYV: Punk was my first and gave me a real sense of accomplishment.
NYV: Goth allowed me to explore my characters more fully and really begin expanding the world I was creating.
Amym let me branch out and explore something very different while staying in the same universe, and my new book is a radical departure.
ABL: Do you believe in the paranormal? By that, I mean in hauntings, that there are creatures out in the wild we still don’t know the existence of?
K.D. MCQUAIN: I try to have a very open mind. We live in an incredibly vast galaxy containing an incalculable number of solar systems.
The notion that we could know or even comprehend all that does or could exist is hubris. The fact that I haven’t seen certain things or failed to recognize them does not imply that they can’t exist.
ABL: What made you decide to start your own imprint?
K.D. MCQUAIN: I read a bunch of vampire fiction when I first wrote, and I felt that I had something different to bring to the genre. The mainstream publishing industry, however, is fickle.
When I felt that my first novel was ready, the big publishing houses had moved on from vampires, there were publishing werewolf stories and were starting to look to mermaids as the next big thing.
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I spent six months sending out queries and pitch letters but finally decided to start my own imprint and let the readers decide if they liked my work or not. So far, I have been well received.
ABL: What sets you apart from other paranormal and Gothic authors?
K.D. MCQUAIN: I don’t write gushy teen romance with glittering male heroes and fawningly besotted, paper-thin female characters. I don’t write gratuitous gore and try to substitute nausea for intensity.
I want my readers to feel as if they are in a real-world, with real characters, having real experiences. I don’t gloss over the icky or inconvenient. I don’t ignore the messy aspects of life.
Though I sometimes write about young characters, I don’t turn them into two-dimensional teen cutouts. I try to give you incredible events happening to relatable people.
As for Gothic, most authors seem to simply say that a character is misunderstood or depressed, so they’re Goth. They dress in black, so they’re Goth.
Take out a couple of sentences, and they could be talking about anyone. Maybe they think it will set their work apart.
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Real Goth authors don’t seem to put much effort into writing Goth-centric stories. I don’t either. I’m simply taking my characters through a natural personal expression and experience progression.
ABL: What can readers look forward to from K.D. McQuain in 2022?
K.D. MCQUAIN: I am nearly finished with a standalone novel. I call it a Disco-Era Biological Thriller. As I mentioned, it is a radical departure from my previous work, and it certainly won’t be for everyone, but I believe that those who like it… will love it.