M.C. Tuggle is our guest here today, a writer living and working in Charlotte, North Carolina. His fantasy, science fiction, and literary short stories have been featured in several publications, including Space Squid, Kzine, and the anthology Unbound II: Changed Worlds. Novel Fox published his novella Aztec Midnight in December, 2014. Solstice Publishing will release his second novella, The Genie Hunt, in mid-May, 2017.
In addition to fantasy, science fiction, and crime novels, his reading includes history, especially military history. He has given presentations on Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign to several historical societies. An avid weightlifter, tennis player, and student of martial arts, he has been married to Julie Tuggle since 1982 and is the proud father of a daughter, Jessica.
So, Mike, have you done any projects that took you way out of your comfort zone?
In my story “Cameron Obscura,” the protagonist had to learn to rappel so he could keep a promise he’d made to his dying father. I had no idea how to rappel, despite a lifetime of backpacking, hiking, and camping. So I did the same thing I had my protag do, and that was to learn from a YouTube video. I rappelled off the second story of my house into my side yard. A neighbor spotted me and stared as if deciding whether to call 911.
What about your most recent work?
I’d call The Genie Hunt a thoughtful tragicomedy. It’s a modern fantasy set in present-day High Point, NC. While the story is packed with oddball characters in even odder situations, it deals with issues very important to me, including the betrayal of the middle class by politicians and big business. Here’s a quick intro: Buddy Vuncannon, an attorney, and his friend Coot Pickard are heading out of town for a fishing weekend when they’re surrounded by a SWAT team. Four eyewitnesses have identified Coot as the gun man in the latest of a string of robberies.
To defend Coot, Buddy must stand up to a bullying district attorney, uncover the identity of the real robbers, and battle a powerful genie who serves the robbers. Buddy’s investigation implicates an old friend, reigniting long-forgotten friction between Buddy and Coot. Old and new loyalties clash, leading Buddy and Coot to a desperate chase that forces them to seek the help of a madman they both fear. Now that’s fun.
Who’s your favorite character you’ve written so far and why?
Coot Pickard, one of the protags from The Genie Hunt. Despite a bad start in life, he’s turned himself around, is one hundred percent genuine, and would do anything for a friend.
Who are your writing heroes and why?
I could go on all day, but I’ll pick a few. Jack London, for his tenacity and dedication. I mean, he taught himself everything, and lived a life of high adventure that inspired stories that crackle with energy. Flannery O’Connor is another. Her brutal honesty jumps off the page, grabs you by the collar, and forces you to pay attention. And like it. And of course, J.R.R. Tolkien, for his vision, and for making fantasy not just respectable, but mainstream.
Any basic writing philosophy or tips?
Keep it simple.
Where do you come up with ideas for new characters or stories?
Everywhere. Song lyrics, overheard conversations, childhood memories, you name it. And I’m always reading, constantly on the lookout for interesting characters and situations. Any time something grabs my attention, I wonder, “What if?” For example, an article in a science journal talked about a stretch of “man-eating” soil near Lake Michigan that nearly killed a boy. The article used the term “man-eating” figuratively. But what if it were literal? I turned that idea into my short story “Hunting Ground,” which was featured in the Unbound II anthology.
How do you come up with character names?
Whenever I encounter an interesting name, I log it into my “Ideas” notebook for future reference.
How much do you structure your stories before you write them?
I envy those souls who write by the seat of their pants. I know I’d end up painting myself into a corner if I tried that, so I outline every scene from beginning to end. I have to know where my characters start, where they end up, and how they get there.
Do you find it more difficult to write your first draft or to revise?
Getting that first draft done is like giving birth – no, I’ve never done it, but I was on hand when my daughter was born, so I have a pretty good idea of the process. Once the basic structure of the story has been shaped into a coherent form, I go into revision mode, which I love. I really believe I could revise forever, tightening up the prose and fine-tuning the rhythm of the dialogue. That’s pure joy for me.
Do you have any revision tips to share?
Be ruthless. Revise or delete anything that doesn’t work. That said, I think it’s okay to have “darlings,” but put them through the same acid test you do everything else in your manuscript. If they work, keep them, and be proud of them.
What has been the hardest thing about publishing for you?
Waiting to hear from editors.
Any advice for aspiring authors?
Get Stephen King’s On Writing. Skip the biographical section in the book’s first half, unless you really like to read the nitty-gritty about famous people. Keep learning. Pick the best seminars and writing books, dive into them, and get your money’s worth. Read all the good stories in and out of your genre, and write whenever you can. Start a writing blog, and use it to build an audience and keep your writing chops sharp.
What author’s style do you admire the most?
If I have to pick one, I’d say Mickey Spillane.
What’s something most readers would never guess about you?
That despite my love of classic country and Celtic music, I relax to New Age Music.
Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?
Reading, of course. Hiking. I’m fascinated by primitive weapons, such as the sling and the tipstaff, and am proficient with those two and several others. I have a large collection of Native American stone relics I have identified and organized. While my music abilities are limited, I do enjoy playing the guitar and the Irish whistle.
Tell us something that will surprise us.
Folks who read my blog and stories are well aware of my love of the outdoors and the environment. However, I was once a member of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, and programmed automated decision-making systems for the insurance industry. I also taught statistics for Continuing Education credit to members of the insurance industry. Maybe those years of living and working in abstractions made me yearn for what environmentalist Charlene Spretnak calls “the Real.”
Thanks so much for joining us here, Mike. 🙂
You can read an excerpt from The Genie Hunt here: https://www.amazon.com/Genie-Hunt-M-C-Tuggle-ebook/dp/B07282SDDN/.
Contact M.C. Tuggle at his blog here: https://mctuggle.com/.
Happy Reading! 🙂