The Horror Tree Presents…An Interview with Marc Vun Kannon
Lucien – It would seem that you have a wide variety of interests including software engineering and bug hunting. How is it that you came to pursue writing?
Marc: I was originally a Philosophy student. I have a BA and I was pursuing a PhD when I had the dreams that led me to write my first novel, a fantasy story called Unbinding the Stone. I don’t usually remember my dreams, so I mentioned them to my wife, who uttered those fateful words, “That sounds like it might make a good book.” A few days later the first sentence popped into my head. I wrote it down and said, “What next?” I hate descriptive prose and didn’t want to write it, so I ended up creating a technique for describing the setting in terms of what the character is perceiving, not necessarily what he sees and certainly not what I see. Everything in the story is presented from a character’s POV, making the book not only character-oriented but character-driven as well, something that suited my philosophical outlook very well. It was not a technique I’d seen in any of the books that were available at the time. That’s probably what kept me going as a writer, beyond that first book, the fact that I was writing stories that I wanted to read.
Lucien – Does your bug hunting and/or engineering background come in handy in your stories?
The two have a lot in common, if you think of bug-hunting as looking for editing problems, which they often are. The skill sets overlap. For me writing and editing a novel involves following the logic of the story. When a story has a logic failure it trips me right up, and a computer program is often the same. I have also noticed a number of occasions when the story itself contains elements that are similar to what you might see in a computer program, but I try to avoid doing that.
Lucien – It also looks like you’re a bit of a genre hopper between fantasy, science fiction, and even paranormal based stories. What are your favourite aspects within of these genres? Do you have a favourite of the three genres you write for?
I started out in fantasy, which is a great genre for presenting abstract concepts like good and evil, right and wrong, in concrete terms. The downside is that you have to make up everything about the world yourself. That’s one of the benefits of writing from the perspective of the characters, I don’t have to invent everything, just the part that matters to them, which is also the part that matters to the story. If I genre-hop it’s partly because I hate doing things I’ve done before, so I’ll switch to a different genre simply for the variety of it. I think the different genres also force me to come up with different structures for my stories. The more ‘real-world’ the story, the more structurally complex they seem to be, at least to me.
Lucien – Who would you consider to be your top three influencers in your work?
This is probably the hardest question to answer, since I try to be as different from everything I’ve already seen as I can be. So to me an influencer would be a negative influencer, someone I tried not to be like, and there can be lots of reasons for that. I remember one book I kept available when I was writing my first novel because I thought it was very badly written and kept it as a bad example, but I may think they’re good writers in a style I don’t like, or I like the style but try to avoid being like them. I don’t know that anyone did or does what I do.
Lucien – Do you have any advice for new authors? Or advice you wish you had when you were starting out?
Do it for love. Remember that you are your own first reader, so write a book that you want to read. Writing to a demographic is writing for nobody, and nobody might like it.
Lucien – On your website you state in your About section that “the story and the storyteller should be the same thing”. Can you elaborate on that in terms of relating your real self to your stories? Do you think it’s easier or more challenging to put yourself into “genre fiction” rather than something like contemporary fiction?
The Character should come out of the storyteller, and the story should come out of the character, that’s what I mean by character-driven stories. When I create a character I don’t think of the plot and pull together all the characteristics my hero will need to handle it. I rip a hunk of my soul out and throw it on the page, then watch it to see what it will do.
I don’t write fantasy novels, I write novels about people who live fantasy lives. They get lemons and they make lemonade, but the lemons are fantasy lemons. The lemonade making is the same as anything any of us would do. My werewolf novel isn’t about the werewolves, but the people who become werewolves, the guy who hunts werewolves. How do you go through those 29 days, knowing that on the thirtieth you’ll turn into a ten-ton death machine? How does the hunter deal with his 29 days, knowing that on the thirtieth he’ll have to kill someone who’s innocent all the rest of the time?
I don’t think I’ve ever written contemporary fiction, but I think that I’m taking a contemporary fiction approach to genre fiction, if that makes sense.
Lucien – You have written for both long and short form narratives. What’s easier for you to write, novels or short stories?
Short stories are good for the more straightforward stories. They don’t have the room to get overly complicated plot-wise, but good strong characters will really shine in those. I have a dark sci-fi series of short stories I’m doing for a new magazine called Black Infinity. I’m not normally a dark writer, so it’s good practice for me, especially since it’s a series, so I can develop the MC over the series while focusing on a particular conflict in any particular one.
Novels are good for really getting deeply into the minds of the characters, especially in combination. That’s where the stories become the most interesting, since each character has their own plot, which may have nothing to do with the MC’s plot, and how do they react to each other? The longer the form the more characters can be brought into play. Novels take me much longer to write, though, years, whereas I can put together a short story in just a few weeks.
Lucien – Which of your stories would you recommend to a new reader who wanted to get the best example of your style?
My style is always evolving. Each book changes me as I write it, and I never write the same way twice. I would recommend my second fantasy novel, A Warrior Made, sequel to Unbinding the Stone, but just a little more intricate, the beginning of my experimentation with structure. For short stories you can try Boarding Party, which appeared in Black Infinity 2. It’s a science fiction story with a darker tone (creepy monster slime). On the comic side I would suggest Steampunk Santa.
Lucien – You can learn more about Marc and his work via his. Links to both his website and where to buy his books are below.