Q: How many cats do you own?
A: Sorry. At last count, I am one of only eight North American writers who does not have a pet cat.
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: There’s this guy in downtown Montreal, who stands at the corner of Peel and Notre-Dame between 2:02 and 2:19 on Thursday afternoons. Don’t be late! He wears a turtle neck (not the sweater, either, a real turtle neck) and answers to the name Maxime. Other times, I find them in my sock drawer.
Q: Do you remember the first SF or fantasy book you read?
A: Gee, it’s almost as if I’ve put the words in your mouth. Thank you for asking. It was in fifth or sixth grade, I borrowed both Danger: Dinosaurs! by Richard Marsten and Find the Feathered Serpent by Evan Hunter from the school library. Marsten and Hunter, of course, were actually Ed McBain (87th Precinct), who was actually Salvatore Albert Lombino.
Q: How old is your cat?
A: Let me repeat, I do NOT own a cat. I’ve had dogs over the years. Woofer. Shadow. Homer. Betsy. Woody. I miss each of them and wish they were here right now, lying under my desk, keeping my feet warm; I miss those days. Here’s the late Woody, bringing me some, uh, wood?:
Q: Is it true you once named a dog Krypto, but were so embarrassed to call its name in public, you quickly changed it to Woofer?
A: Who told you that? Who have you been speaking to?
Q: How did you choose the URL of michaellibling.com? It really seems to work for you.
A: I agonized over this, creating a long list of options over several weeks. These included stephenking.com, georgerrmartin.com, cocacola.com, and starwars.com. Unfortunately, all the best ones were taken. I’m not sure how, exactly, but michaellibling.com just popped into my head one sleepless night and the rest, as they say, is history. Funny how that works, eh?
Q: How old are you?
A: Ask my damn cat.
Q: Do you have any favorite authors or influences in terms of fiction?
A: Kurt Vonnegut, though the recent biography (And So It Goes by Charles J. Shields) was depressing on too many fronts. Thomas Pynchon (The Crying of Lot 49, anyhow). Barry Malzberg (especially Screen and Herovit’s World). Anne Tyler. Kelly Link. John Kessel. Richard Matheson. Robert Bloch. Robert Silverberg. Philip Roth. Stephen King. Larry McMurtry (with Lonesome Dove in my all-time top 5). Cormac McCarthy (for All The Pretty Horses). W.P. Kinsella. J.D. Salinger. Sinclair Lewis. Ray Bradbury. Joseph Heller. Ken Kesey. Bernard Malamud. John Irving. Ring Lardner. Sholem Aleichem. Patrick deWitt (ah, yes, The Sisters Brothers). E.L. Doctorow. And as far as current genre goes, Linwood Barclay writes some pretty nifty and disciplined thrillers. Reminds me of the early David Morrell. Yeah, I could go on.
Q: What about nonfiction?
A: What about it?
Q: Stop being a jerk, you know what I mean.
A: Start with The Accidental Terrorist by William Shunn. Admittedly, Bill is a friend of mine. But, man, what a great book. You’ll never look at a Mormon missionary the same way again. Also… Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson. Breakfast in the Ruins by Barry Malzberg. (An addictive, must-read for writers and readers of SF, horror and fantasy.) The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson. (Anything by him works for me.) Carnage and Culture by Victor Davis Hanson. Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Keith Lowe. (Forget everything you ever believed about post-WWII Europe.) MFA vs. NYC edited by Chad Harbach. Again, I could go on.
Q: From what I see in your home page photo, would it be fair to say you don’t have a lot of hair?
A: It depends on whether or not you are referring to my scalp alone.
Q: Who took the photos of you on your home page? They’re not half bad.
A: Not “half bad”? Are you kidding me? My so-called friend, Matthew Cope, is the photographer. He even made me buy him breakfast at some fancy-ass café in exchange for the shots. And what did I get in return? The mutant offspring of Elmer Fudd and Maria Ouspenskaya. Trust me, I am infinitely more handsome, younger and hirsute in person. I realized only too late that Matthew is insanely jealous (you know the type) and did everything in his power to cast me in bad light. In my eyes, at least, this is a far more accurate rendition of the current me:
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: This website. Nobody bothered to warn me how much work it would be. Jeez!
Q: What is your cat’s name?
A: Ginger Fluffy Marmalade Snowball Tiger Robespierre IV. Any other questions?
Q: You seem to have serious issues with cats. Why?
A: If a cat ate your pet Guinea pig, leaving the leftover guts on the sidewalk outside your house, you’d understand.