If you were allowed to give one argument as to why the world should read your work, what would that argument be?

That’s a tough one.  I have no interest in writing something with a “message.”  That much I know.  But if I can create something eerie, or moving . . . that’s good. Really, my hope is that I can write something that will thrill people.  I hope that someone will sit down after reading a story, or a collection, or a novel I’ve written, and say, “Jesus Christ, that was good.”  That’s the argument, then: Chris McGinley’s writing is eerie, thrilling, moving.  Go buy his book of stories!

What compelled you to become a writer in the first place?

Reading.  The same answer as question #1.  You read something thrilling or eerie, or moving in some kind of way.  There’s a way in which words are used to create a feeling within you, one that increases your heart rate, and you recognize that it is the way in which the story was told that affects you, not merely the plot itself.  You say to yourself: I’d like to do this, write something.  Maybe I can.  Yes, I can.

Who are some writers every new/beginning writer should read and why?

People ought to read Edith Wharton’s ETHAN FROME.  It’s easy reading, technically-speaking, and it speaks to universal emotions, however clichéd that may sound.  John Knowles’ A SEPARATE PEACE for some of the same reasons, and Donna Tartt’s THE SECRET HISTORY. These novels tell great stories simply, with a nice balance of dialogue and masterful plotting.  John Cheever’s COLLECTED STORIES (and Richard Yates’) for their use of words and little gestures to evoke emotions, both felt by the characters and the readers.  There are a host of Appalachian authors that young writers should read, but don’t commonly get the chance to read because the sub-genre is still marginalized: Denise Giardina’s STORMING HEAVEN and Wilma Dykeman’s THE TALL WOMAN are great novels that use simple plotting and clever characterization.

What are some writing tips you would offer new/beginning writers?

Write flash fiction!  It teaches the basics in a nutshell.  It forces you to pare away all that’s unnecessary.  Also, be sure to identify every adverb on every page.  Ask yourself: Do I really need this one? (Answer: Probably not.)

Some books change our lives. Can you share which books have absolutely change the way you look at the world, the way you approach life? How did they affect this change in you?

It may be another cliché, but MOBY DICK.  The story thrilled me and made me think, I’d like to thrill somebody, to make somebody feel something new, and thus it hatched within me a creative spirit, or it was the catalyst that unleashed it.  In short, MOBY DICK made me want to be an artist, a creator.

What’s a movie that absolutely has to be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated (and why)?

APOCALYPSE NOW.  I saw it when it was released.  I was 12 or 13, and when it was over, my friend and I called my mother from the theatre to come pick us up, be we ended up asking her to come get us in three hours.  We wanted to see it again.  And we did.  The color palette is fantastic and the scope of the story, its giant intellectual and aesthetic horizon (I guess you could say) requires a giant medium.  HUD, too, what with James Wong Howe’s cinematography.

What can we expect from you in the near future?

I just published a short story on Cutleaf that I’m proud of, and I’ve finished an 85 thousand-word novel set in the Kentucky hills of 1901, for which I seek a publisher. (Anyone out there?) I’m also halfway through a gritty crime novel featuring a character who appeared in two stories from my collection, COAL BLACK–Sheriff and Vietnam veteran Curley Knott, of eastern Kentucky.  It’s an Appalachian potboiler set in the late 1970s, when domestic marijuana growers did battle with Johnny Law in the hollers and hills.


Chris McGinley’s Coal Black (Shotgun Honey, 2019) is a collection of crime stories set in the hills of Appalachia. His work has appeared in Pulp Modern, Mystery TribuneMystery WeeklyTough, and other forums. He teaches middle school in Lexington, KY where he lives with his wife.