Short, Sharp Interview: Tony McMillen

NTPDB: Can you pitch NEFARIOUS TWIT in 25 words or less?

Tony McMillen: A bent, psychedelic odyssey of vengeance and family that reads like Shel Silverstein by way of William S. Burroughs.

PDB: What music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

Tony McMillen: I’ve been reading the comic book Saga since it came it last year and I’ve been loving it immensely. Also the comic book Sex Criminals is hilarious and unexpectedly sweet. Just the recaps about the last issue, the previously on Sex Criminals sections are funnier and more leisurely brilliant than anything else on the stands.

Music wise, the latest Queens of the Stone Age record was the sexiest and most heartbreaking thing they’ve ever done. As for films, I really liked American Hustle and World’s End was top notch. And I’m not just saying that because I met Simon Pegg. However, I am just saying that so I can brag about meeting Simon Pegg.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

Tony McMillen: For me not usually but it’s possible. If something is really, really good I’ll forget, at least temporarily, to think about how the writer managed to pull this off and I’ll just be knocked out by the story. That being said, there is still usually a moment when I’ll step outside mentally and go, so how are they doing this exactly?

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

Tony McMillen: Yes, the first things I ever really wrote were film scripts. They were mostly god awful Star Wars meets Pulp Fiction mashup types of travesties but that’s where I really got started and I’m still a very visually oriented writer now with my fiction. But the one thing that sours me on the whole shebang is that writing for basically any other medium requires a higher level of collaboration than just writing novels or fiction.

With fiction you have an editor sure, but ultimately it’s just you. TV, film etc, your voice is going to be enhanced and diluted by many other voices. So it’s tricky to still get your vision across, at least I imagine it is. That being said, I have co-written some indie films my friends have made over the years and there are some really fun things to be found with collaborating on a story. I’d still love to do some more for a visual medium but it’d really be dependent on how much I trust the people I’d work with and vice versa,

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

Tony McMillen: More than you think. By which I mean I have made it a point so far in most of my fiction to invent artificial worlds. Nefarious Twit isn’t science fiction or fantasy by any means, but most of the main characters are of Darjmainian ancestry and Darjmainian is completely made up ethnicity. So throughout the book I explore this fictional culture, its customs, history, epithets, folklore, everything. Also the title character Nefarious Twit is himself a fictional children’s book author with a bunch of nonexistent books that I discuss at length in the novel.

But despite all this made up stuff, I still end up doing research on history to make sure that my alternate history and fake stuff makes sense alongside the world we all know. So even when I invent stuff just so I can avoid having to do research I end having to do a bunch of research just so my world building feels as real as it can.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

Tony McMillen: A lot. And that’s something I’m kinda of ambivalent about, because I kind of like it when certain authors or creative people aren’t so available. They’re a little bit mysterious that way; they’re a little larger than life. I think that’s a little sexier sometimes. And sure, most of that is just bullshit but it’s still kinda more fun for me as a fan, I dunno. But where I’m at, I can’t do that. I gotta be out there glad-handing and kissing babies and talking up all my stuff and hawking my literary wares. Which is probably a good thing for me, because it keeps me grounded. I’m such a non-entity that there’s no fear that any praise or attention I do get will go to my head. Which is good, obviously I don’t need any help in the smug department.

PDB: What’s on the cards for 2014?

Tony McMillen: Nefarious Twit is already for sale in paperback and on kindle at Amazon.com and you can get it at a few bookshops and comic shops in the Boston area as well as my old haunt of Tucson Arizona but I’m going to be pushing it into more stores and hopefully into a couple of different chain stores that sell music, clothing and various other pop culture knick-knacks, so Nefarious Twit will be unavoidable in 2014.

I’m also working on some new projects, one is going to be an all ages story, either a comic book one shot or a fully illustrated children’s book. It’s going to be called Anti-Vampire Bread and it should be really fun and hyper insane. At the same time I’m working on collecting a bunch of my essays and articles and combining them with new material to create my first non-fiction collection, which will probably be titled Touch the Wonder after my column in DigBoston. Hopefully both those projects will be finished or nearly finished by the end of the year. After that it’s time to work on my big, honking, science fiction, rock and roll novel that I’ve been threatening everyone with for the last couple years. Lock up your daughters and hide your more open-minded sons, because that thing is coming for them. Eventually.

Bio: Tony McMillen lives near Boston but grew up mostly in Tucson, Arizona. He writes the humor column “Touch The Wonder” where he performs droll vivisections on pop culture with equal parts vitriol and whimsy. The column is published by DigBoston.