Q&A With Joel McKay

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Q&A With Joel McKay 

Another author whom Mickey Mikkelson connected me with is author and economic development professional Joel McKay. Joel recently released It Came From The Trees And Other Violent Aberrations & Wolf At The Door & had a short story released titled Number Hunnerd. 

Q: Joel, would you like to tell the readers of the blog and I about the work you released this year and how you came up with the ideas for the stories?

A: My first collection of stories—It Came From the Trees and Other Violent Aberrations—is due out January 26 2024. It’s a compilation of five stories I wrote over the past three years. They’re all quite different, with the only real thing tying them together being a persistent theme of dread. And, of course, me. The titular story “It Came From the Trees” is an ode to the X-Files episode “Darkness Falls” and focuses on a group of tree planters in Northern B.C. who accidentally release a parasitic beetle. It’s a quick, fun, monster-of-the-week piece.

Other stories in the collection include “A 21st Century D.B. Cooper”, “The Silent Screamer”, “The Warrior’s Task” and “At the Spider God’s Altar.” One is a science fiction thriller, another grim dark fantasy and two are cosmic horror. The ideas for each mostly come from questions that pop into my head such as, who wouldn’t be happy if teleporter technology was invented? Airlines. Or what would happen if a British museum captured a Lovecraftian god to put on display? Madness.

I try to root or connect the stories to my home province of British Columbia, drawing on places, characters, issues or sometimes even just borrowed names to infuse each story with a bit of home.

Q: Did you know early on in life that you wanted to write or was it while you were starting out being an economic development professional? 

A: I’ve been practicing writing fiction since I was twelve. I say practicing because I’m not sure many people ever feel masterful at it, certainly not me. The drive to write came from nothing other than a desire to create stories and other worlds and escape into them. We didn’t have enough money growing up to get involved in filmmaking, and I’ve never been a talented artist so the only real option was to put words together and try to come up with stories for the ideas in my head.

I think of writing as my first job, and economic development as something I’m doing along the way—it just happens to be a career that pays well and allows me to spend my spare time writing. I landed in economic development by way of public relations, by way of journalism, which was what I studied in university and also practiced professionally for a number of years.

Q: Would you say that your time as an economic development professional had an influence on your writing in any way? 

A: Actually, yes. My specialty is rural and remote development, so I spent a lot of time in small resource-dependent towns and have been steeped in their culture, history and issues. It bleeds into my work now. An example is “It Came From the Trees”. It’s a monster story but it draws on Canadian forestry issues to make a go of it. Even “A 21st Century D.B. Cooper” tugs on the culture present in small post-secondary institutions in Canada.

It’s nice being able to find a home for the economic development work in my head. I think at times writing fiction helps to reveal some of the underlying anxieties or concerns that coincide with my work that are difficult to communicate about in a public forum.

Q: What are you currently writing right now or is it too early to reveal any details?

A: Unsurprisingly, a horror novel set in Northern B.C. that draws on industry-town themes. Shocker! I’m about 77,000 words into the first draft. I’m hoping to button it up by the end of 2023 and then move into revisions before finding a home for it. I won’t say much more except that it’s batshit crazy and I’m having a ball writing it, while also learning a lot.