Chris McAuley is everywhere these days.
His fantastical writings are seen on all shores and even a few planets. His short stories have recent seen the light of day (pardon the pun) in periodicals like Schlock!, House of Stitched, and Doctor Who.
He also has partners with notable genre professionals like Claudia Christian (Babylon 5); Dacre Stoker (yes, THAT Stoker) to form THE STOKERVERSE – a multimedia haven for all things Bram Stoker; and Legacy Comix for a new Dracula comic to be featured at Phoenix FearCon’s film festivals.
It’s about time we get to know McAuley from the [darker] inside:
Tell us about yourself
I am an Irish born writer who now lives in Canada with a wife and a cat. I specialize in the fields of Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Cyberpunk. I’ve written for comic books, helped craft characters for Marvel, currently have three novels an audio drama and a host of short stories published. I also mentor authors in the Horror Writers Association and have worked with Disney’s Terri Hard Jackson.
As a writer, what are some of your influences and inspirations?
I find all aspects of popular culture a source of inspiration. Visuals from films and video games can elucidate a ‘feeling’ which can be explored and crafted into a story. Giger’s work has influenced a lot of the design choices for my interpretation of Dracula’s castle for instance. When I was crafting the script for The Virgin’s Embrace graphic novel, I listened to hours of voice performances of ‘The Squaw’, the Bram Stoker tale that the script was based on. This helped me examine aspects of the story which emphasis was placed on. Authors that influenced me and gave me the inspiration to become a writer have been John Peel (whom I have since been lucky to work with on Doctor Who and Dracula’s Bedlam), Paul Kane, Clive Barker, Elizabeth Massey, Dan O’Bannon, J. Michael Straczynski and David Howe.
My aspirations are fairly simple. I want to continue to be published and hope that my characters and narratives find their way into different media. I’m lucky to have my universes represented in game format which opened my eyes to a new way to experience the stories I write. Gamers can truly interact with the characters; they can shape the stories due to their actions. I hope to get a chance to bring greater depth with television and film productions in the next few years.
What draws you to the fantastical?
Its an exciting place to live. I can’t write about the mundane. We live that every day. I want to transport readers to terrifying locations or exciting situations. The cipher of the fantastical can help break down cultural and social boundaries. It can make us confront personal fears and through heroic characters teach us how to overcome that. The fantastical can help us imagine and create. I don’t think I could write about people going to work or shopping. That’s very grey to me. I want to paint words in colour.
You are exuberant in your own promotion. What is your philosophy on work and visibility?
For any creative in business its important to have their work seen and talked about. You have to do that by putting it on display. Talking about a finished product and the events leading up to its publication is important. It keeps it (and you) in the public eye.
As I have multiple writing partners and business associates, I also use social media to help promote them. A simple ‘thank you’ to the web designer who has put days in constructing your site or to talk about how a fellow writer has enhanced your story idea. That’s important as well.
Dark Universes is a community, it can only exist if its being talked about and new ideas are embraced. I’m very proud of it and those I work with so I will always be comfortable about placing it in the public eye.
Your work spans all genres. Do you have a favourite?
I don’t think in terms of favourites or preferences. If a story will fit that genre, then I will use it. Genre to me is a tool, its also an opportunity to examine the rules of an establish trope and bend them slightly. You can be imaginative as a genre writer, in fact it’s a prerequisite as so many authors find a home there. I’m extremely excited by our upcoming CyberVerse range at the moment as it can effectively blend horror and science fiction into a truly vicious environment.
How do you approach a novel as opposed to a script?
I am a ‘plotter’ by nature. I will plot out the synopsis and each chapter. With Novels that’s the core of the process for me. Novels enable the writer to transport the reader into the environment and into the mindscape of the characters through extensive prose. Comic book scripts however must allow for a synthesis between the artists creative choices and the author’s voice. A comic book’s visuals are the vehicle for reader empathy – this can be a lot more challenging at times to craft than a straight prose story. Writing a comic book script is more about conveying the sense of atmosphere and design to the artist than being a readable piece of text.
Audio drama is about the emphasis to be placed on the actor’s voice or the sound effects. I have a process where I get to know the actor as the script is being written. I help craft the character with the actor and involve them in the process. I did this specifically with Simon Templeman and Dracula.
Writing Game narratives are challenging due to the space and scope needed to allow the players to make choices. They are essentially non-linear narratives and I’m grateful to our game design team to help guide me through that process.
How did you come to meet Dacre Stoker?
The formation of what we now call the StokerVerse is interesting. It stemmed from a short comic book I was writing. It was set in the future where Dracula had been captured by a Weyland-Yutani style company. He escapes and creates merry hell by ripping faces off and painting the pristine ship red with blood.
I sent the script to the Bram Stoker Estate – I was very mindful of Bram and his place in Irish literary society. I wouldn’t have used the Dracula moniker if it had offended or been out of place.
Dacre contacted me with a view to writing a graphic novel. An update of Bram Stoker’s – ‘The Squaw’. I penned the script and Dacre advised and proof read. It was the first of the StokerVerse products and hit a target market.
Dacre is very easy to work with, the important thing is that we are having fun while crafting the universe together.
Tell us about your work with the StokerVerse?
The StokerVerse came about when I was spitballing ideas with a friend of mine. I had come up with a concept which would craft a unified narrative and span over several timeframes and genres. Essentially, I could be seen as the ‘showrunner’ of the StokerVerse, crafting canonical stories and guiding other authors who want to work in the universe. My writing spans across novels, comic books, audios and games. I very grateful for that phone conversation with Ian Elliot as it certainly brought some fruit.
I presented this idea to Dacre as a framework for our products. He agreed that it was a good idea and then I went to work, crafting timelines, origin stories and alternative histories.