Marshall Payne is an awesome US writer of fantasy, horror, science fiction and any number of hyrbid crossovers. His work has been published in venues as diverse as Aeon Speculative Fiction, Brutarian, Talebones, Hub Magazine, Triangulation: End of the Rainbow, Fictitious Force, and Polluto: The Anti-Pop Culture Journal. He has also been a reviewer at Tangent Online, reviewer and interviewer at The Fix (as Eugie Foster’s assistant editor – nice pedigree!), and an interviewer at Fantasy Magazine.
And he (a further mark of awesomeness – if one was needed) is the fact that he’s just been signed by Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Cameron read Marshall’s urban fantasy, Petrol Queen, and it struck a chord – huzzah! Much Snoopy Dancing resulted.
1. If pushed: music or writing? Or are they complementary art forms?
They’re not complementary for me. I remember years ago Pete Townsend of The Who relating the difference between getting high in America and getting high in England. In America you smoke a joint, turn up the music and jump up and down on the sofa with a bunch of other crazy people in the room. In England you toke up alone, go outside in the drizzle, take a walk in the park and pick up a twig and study it, then go home and have a cup of tea. As to writing fiction, I feel more productive in Pete’s drizzle. I never listen to music while I write. I consider myself a rhythmic writer and having conflicting rhythms in the room (in my head) works against me hearing the music I’m trying to create on the page.
But to answer your question: writing. Music was my old passion; fiction-writing is where I’m at today.
2. What are the five essentials of any story?
Location, location, location! No, those are the principal things for starting a business. Fiction, huh? Plot and character are the big two. Meaning people in the story to care about and the horrible things that happen to them. I could add that conflict is the all-important element in fiction, though I think that falls under plot. Having a fresh idea is important, or at least a new twist on an old one. Though a story can be successful without it if the plot and characters shine. And especially in SF/F, detail in rendering a unique setting onto the page is important, which brings us back to: Location, location, location!
3. What makes any character irresistible?
Outward passion and a sense of humor. Wanna write a flat character? They seem to be popular in our misanthropic times. Then leave out these two ingredients. A character doesn’t have to dish out bon mots, but fictional folks who constantly ponder how miserable they are have to have something else going for them. A suicide plan? Although it’s an overused device in urban fantasy, a character who can laugh at him/herself with a detached sense of irony will leap off the page quicker than a navel-gazer who whines a lot.
4. How do you deal with your rejection slips?
By keeping a lot of stuff out there. I always keep the subs in the double digits. And when a story comes back, I send it right back out. I used to have a defense mechanism when I booted up the PC every morning. My mantra was, “Go on, kick me in the teeth. I can take it!” My skin is pretty thick nowadays, so I don’t need the mantra anymore. I’ve been selling stories for over four years now, so I’ve seen the patterns. For some reason I seem to be the king of feast and famine. The dry patches suck. But the feasts are oh so sweet. I’ve learned that the good stuff will come if I keep my work out on the market.
5. Donuts or danishes?
What, no scones? Why can’t this question incorporate scones? Truth told, I’ve never had a scone. I need to get out more. I wonder if Pete ate a scone with his tea when he had the munchies.
He maintains a Super-Sekrit Clubhouse here. Scones are the currency for entry into said Super-Sekrit hideout :-).