Name: N.T. McQueen
Where are you from:
I grew up in Lake County in Northern California for most of my life and, after I married my smoking hot wife, we moved to Sacramento, CA and have been there ever since. I earned a BA and MA in English from CSU-Sacramento and now I am waiting to do my student teaching to become a credentialed teacher for middle and high school English. My favourite people are my three daughters and the aforementioned smoking hot wife.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
The latest news is I had a short story called “Cleanliness” accepted for publication in Transition Magazine based in Canada. The best part is I actually get paid!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Back during my undergrad, I was an English major suffering through literature classes. Most of the texts we read were fairly awful because the way writers are canonized into academia is ludicrous and grossly misrepresented by omitting world authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Ryunosuke Akutagawa, R. K. Narayan, Carlos Fuentes, Clarice Lispecter and other international writers. Not to mention the only African writers ever mentioned are Chinua Achebe and Oladah Equiano. It’s stupid.
Anyway, as I was reading some short story in class, I had the realization that, if what I was reading could be considered a classic, then I could probably do this. So I tried writing a short story. And then another and another. They were fairly awful but no worse than some of the texts I was reading in school so I persevered and now have a couple books and several publications to show for it.
The why? I became a father. In the past, I had tried writing and it never really grabbed me. But once my first daughter was born, my priorities, perceptions and passions seemed to realign and I was able to access a part of me I didn’t know existed. When you are responsible for another life, you experience a reality of responsibility and love that changes you and, because of fatherhood, I was able to write on a deeper, more emotional level that I previously did not or could not access.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think there is a great distinction between an author and a writer. Author tends to connote publication and some level of accomplishment from a public perspective. However, a writer is someone who writes because it is a need, a means of understanding existence through reflection or narratives. I guess I considered myself a writer when I felt uncomfortable when I didn’t write on a given day. Almost as if I had wasted my time by not scribbling 500 words down that required thought.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Between Lions and Lambs was an attempt of faith. I didn’t know what I was doing in terms of craft but it worked out for the most part. The main premise or topic that interested me most was the concept of hypocrisy within religion. I grew up in a small-town Assemblies of God church and, while there were wonderful people who attended, an aura of judgmentalism and hypocrisy simmered underneath the facades. This isn’t a small church issue but, on a global scale, you have mega evangelists who speak one truth and walk another.
It can be easy to vilify hypocrites, especially religious leaders, but, in reality, they are human beings who make mistakes. As characters, they are actually complex figures who struggle with themselves and the vices we all face. The issue is Christians tend to get caught up in the “celebrity” of leaders and worship the representative rather than who the evangelist represents. The novel wanted to humanize a wayward evangelist while discussing the doubts and struggles of those who follow these leaders.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My writing tends to let the image speak for itself which I guess is more poetic than anything else. Ironically, I am not a poet and do not read poetry but I naturally write with a poet’s perspective to have an image or action convey meaning rather than telling the reader the meaning. I guess my writing has more symbolic meaning and subtlety. You have to pay attention otherwise you might miss a crucial element of the story.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The book is full of liminal moments with liminal characters so the word ‘between’ is very important. For Between Lions and Lambs, there are two factors that go into the title. One, there is a scripture where the lion will lay next to the lamb meaning opposite forces, through Christ, can coexist. The other aspect is that several characters are both lions and lambs, predator and prey, victim and victimizer.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Don’t judge people’s actions since you don’t understand what they have gone or are going through. This doesn’t mean what they are doing is right or ethical but don’t be quick to vilify someone. Also, for the religious, remember the deity you chose to believe. Don’t worship the person on the stage.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The hypocrisy is based on experiences I have had or news stories I have heard. Also, some characters, mostly minor, are facsimiles of different people’s actions I have encountered over the years. The book is realistic because hypocrisy is an ancient dilemma all over the world over every culture both in religious and nonreligious settings.
For The Disciple, the novella is a retelling of the life of Judas Iscariot so it is based on reality completely though I attempted the narrative from the perspective of Judas.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
The Bible was and is the most influential. Jesus Christ was one of the best storytellers whose parables changed lives and has influenced my writing and life in profound and inexplicable ways.
If I were going to choose some novels, I would say Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Light in August by William Faulkner, Rashomon and other stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor, Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford by Ron Hansen and some other books I can’t think of right now.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
To be honest, I haven’t read many new authors. Actually, I have read some stories from Phil Klay’s Redeployment which are interesting and heartbreaking all at once. I used to be voracious about fiction but I have started to drift from reading fiction. I mainly read nonfiction or look for interesting articles since they help get the muse working again. I found the more fiction I read, the less inspiration I was getting since the majority of novels I read I had no interest in reading again. Don’t get me wrong, I still read fiction occasionally, but, for my writing, inspiration in true events leads to more productivity in my fiction writing.
Favorite author is always a hard one to narrow down. Based on their body of work, I would lean toward Cormac McCarthy though I find Faulkner, Marquez and O’Connor to be wonderful writers. McCarthy’s mythic, Biblical writing style in his bleaker novels I soak up when I read. However, he can have a lighter touch as well in his Border Trilogy and in Suttree. Though his writing can be rather cryptic at times, his use of subtly and metaphor are profound.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My faith in God is a source of support for me. I tend to belittle myself and my writing but falling back on my beliefs for help and reassurance helps me to carry on. He gave me the talent to write and so I ask him to guide me on my writing journey.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It can be a career but that is a tough gig to get. For me, it is more of a desire and passion rather than a career. I would embrace it as a career if the opportunity were to come about that I could financially support my family with my writing but, let’s face it, that is not a likelihood. You have to love writing to do it and, for me, you can have a career and not love what you are doing. So, I guess I would say writing is not a career for me.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Between Lions and Lambs was pre-education as far as learning the craft of writing so I sort of wrote it blindly. If I had it to do over again, I would have probably rewritten the entire thing to be economical in my word choice and use of language. In reality, there are probably a lot of things I would change but I haven’t looked over it in years.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I have a draft of a novel called The Blood of Bones about a tribal Ethiopian boy who grows up in a tribe untouched by modern society. He struggles with his identity and goes on an ontological journey to come to terms with his past and himself. There is a tribal practice called mingi where “cursed” children are thrown in the river or left in the wilderness because they were born out of wedlock or their top teeth come in before their bottom. This is an actual practice among the Omo Valley tribes though groups like Omo Child are trying to rescue children and eradicate the practice.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
It would be so much easier to simply tell rather than show but I think letting the showing show is more impactful to the reader and elevates the story to a different level. On the other hand, it takes a long time to find the right words and the right image/action to convey the meaning you want and it can be challenging, especially when it isn’t working for a specific scene.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not at all
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Mike Leon did the cover for Between Lions and Lambs
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
For Between Lions and Lambs, knowing where to go was difficult. I felt like I was on a precipice the entire time because I was wandering through the first drafts and never knew if everything would line up down the line. By a divine act of God, it all came together in the end.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Big words aren’t helpful unless used properly. Being more selective with my word choice is something writing my first book and my writing education helped me understand. Simplicity can go a long way.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
The role of Ezekiel Clemens in Between Lions and Lambs would be a toss up between Daniel Day Lewis and Joaquin Pheonix. For Gerald Lambough, I kind of saw Philip Seymor Hoffman in the role though he was a little short.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Embrace rejection and stick to a daily writing quota. Also, read a lot of books.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Please write reviews online. They are essential to authors on any level.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading two books right now. In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick (which is much better than the film) and Desperadoes by Ron Hansen.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Maybe Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Cry? It depends if it is a good cry or sad cry. Good cries usually come from watching my daughters dance around in their princess dresses. Sad cries recently come when I think about my mom who died last October. Not really a fan of crying at all.
Shows that make me laugh are Impractical Jokers and Seinfeld. Also, my girls make me laugh when they say random things to each other or run around like maniacs.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I would love to sit down and talk about parenting with Jim Gaffigan. I would probably pee my pants by the end of the meeting.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
The entire text of Fox In Socks in tiny print just so everyone has to bend down and squint to see what it says.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I brew my own beer which is a fun hobby since I can experiment with my own recipes and try to create new concoctions to give to my friends and family.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
TV: Arrested Development (Seasons 1-3), Seinfeld, The Office, Luther, That Mitchel and Webb Look, Grimm, Bloodline, Hell on Wheels, Walking Dead
Films: Awakenings, There Will Be Blood, Memento, Inception, Seven, The Elephant Man, Beginners, Inglorious Basterds
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Foods: Thai and Japanese
Colors: Whatever colors my wife tells me to wear
Music: Thrice, Glassjaw, Tool, Brand New, Jose Gonzalez, Ed Prosek, Lydia, Death Cab for Cutie, MuteMath, Copeland, Avett Brothers and the list goes on and on
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I have no idea. Be a dad and go on vacations with my family would be nice if they have a job title for that.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I also have a Facebook account as well.