Author Interview: Malcolm Vaughn

Water or Acid? is a collection of short stories “meant to appeal to an eclectic taste, bulldoze boredom, and grip you.” Allow me to introduce its author, Malcolm Vaughn.  

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name’s Malcolm Vaughn. I’m a literature and writing studies major who lives and works in southern California.

2. Could you talk to us about your collection’s title?
The title Water or Acid? comes from one of my short stories by the same name. My editor explained that he felt this particular story was the best work in the collection. I was scrambling for a title and since this is my debut, I wanted it to really stand out but I’m terrible at picking names and titles. Thankfully, he made the suggestion and I’m really happy with it because it cuts directly to a point and has the reader thinking even before they read page one—hopefully.

3. Do your stories have a moral?
Always consider the absurd! I realized as I was trying to write this collection, that I produced better writing when I allowed myself to play and one of the easiest/most fun ways to play is to skew everything to an absurd, whacky, outrageous, humorous state. After you’ve achieved this, any other perspectives or approaches pale in comparison.

So you might get a magic realism vibe from my work: a sense that clearly fantastical things are happening and it just business as usual. I love that kind of atmosphere—the weird and the banal coalescing to an absurd outcome.

4. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
That’s got to be Anna. When I started writing Eat the Elephant (the story where she’s protagonist) I wasn’t thinking about how it would fit in with other stories. I just sat down one day and wrote out this vengeful woman. She is the most interesting character to me because she is my aggression loosed upon the page. Her creation stems from all the terrible stories my female friends have told me over the years—all the abuse, and psychological damage at the hands of men. I suppose she’s something of a cathartic character for me.

5. What are you currently reading?
I’m currently trapped in the labyrinth of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves.

6. Any project in the works?
Yes. I am starting my second book of short stories. I’d like to keep it eclectic with stories that focus on the point of no return aspect of writing. I want to become an expert on pulling in all of the reader’s attention and locking them into the story.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Movies—everyone sees movies but it is sometimes maddening going through life having read a great book and not being able to share it with anyone.

2. Dogs or cats?
Dogs. Too many cats have clawed me up.

3. Summer or winter?
Winter. Stay inside reading and writing.

4. Cake or ice-cream?
Ice-cream. Chocolate shakes even in winter.

5. Car or motorcycle?
Car. AC and music over sweating through my clothes and helmet hair.

6. Ebook or physical book?
Any kinesthetic learners out there? Physical book so I can mark it up.

7. Nights out or nights in?
Nights in. Think of it as an extended pregame.

8. Living in the city or living in the country?
City. I’m already well versed in complaining about traffic so may as well stick with the fundamentals.

9. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
Telekinesis so I can force throw everything.

10. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
I’m going to preempt the McFly paradox and head to the future. Hover boards son!

11. Making a phone call or sending a text?
I’d prefer to talk. I can live with mumbling but spelling errors? Kill me every time.

12. Travelling by car or travelling by airplane?
Car. It’s a second home.

13. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
Hotel so I can trash it and start a new stereotype about writers wherein we are likened to libidinous rock stars with no concern for material possessions, authority, or decorum.

14. Working in a group or working alone?
Group. I always need someone’s help. I couldn’t claim any success in my life without first naming a litany of people who contribute to and bolster my work.

Thank you for joining us, Malcolm!


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