In conversation with Wayne McCray

Our readers would like to know your inspiration (or story, if any) behind The Adoption of Odin.

I live in rural Mississippi. The nearest town is about 20 miles. Direction doesn’t matter. Living in nowhere, I have had many run-ins with nature. Snakes, skunks, raccoons, and like animals. But country life also attracts a fair number of wild dogs on my land. Unhappy locals and hunters will often abandon their canine pets. Those that survive nature somehow find my home and arrive either diseased or dangerous, but health menaces nonetheless. If I cannot scare them off, then I am forced to eliminate them. 

Then, one morning I am taking out the trash when I see two malnourished puppies. I could see their ribcages. The brown one was yelping at the black one. Usually, I would get my rifle, or try shooing them away, but for whatever reason I watched. To see what they’d do. The black puppy honestly looked to be on its last leg. It could barely stand and had hair loss. Now when the two went into the corn field. I figured: hey, they are gone. Goodbye and good riddance. I won’t see them again. Wrong! I later hear the brown puppy whining.

Feeling kind-hearted, I fed it some leftover food I had in the refrigerator. And that’s when the puppy did something remarkable. It carried a piece of scrap meat back into the cornfield for his dead friend to eat. Thinking it would revive him. Right then, I knew he was smart. After I had given him a thorough look over, I went ahead and adopted him. Beaux, is his name, a pitpull mix. He is the story’s inspiration.

Tell us more about your creative process in general.

My creative process, hmm. Let me see. I am a slow writer. No doubt about that. I spend much of my time with or near a pad and a pen, thinking up, re-reading, and scribbling gibberish. I do this for much of the day. I conjure up with story endings. After that, I work backwards. Devise ways on how to get there, with whom, and do it where. To do that, I rely on Kenneth Burke and his five elements: scene, agent, agency, act and purpose. 

It is a simple organizational tool I draw to plug in and out potential ideas. Some work. Others don’t. And when they don’t, I put it aside for later. Give creativity a brief respite. Let my mind focus on or find an idea in another art form like music, stand-up comedy, documentary, or movie to help reach that conclusion. 

I will never stay on one story very long unless it is written out and ready for scrutiny. That is when I read it aloud and make changes along the way. I want the story to flow as naturally as possible and reach a point where I am satisfied with what I have created and willing to send it to friends for edits and criticisms before making submissions.

Do you have any creative influences? What do you like the most about their work? Does it have a discernible effect on your writing?

Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, and James Baldwin. Kenneth Burke. Behind them, Ernest Hemingway and Raymond Carver. The first three used music, protest, and morality, respectfully, as a methodology to critique the color line of American society along with the black-and-white imagery and myths it produced. Ralph Ellison also mentioned Kenneth Burke as having an impact in shaping his writing style, in what he called comparative humanity, and being a fan of Ellison I naturally followed who influenced him. The last two are for their concise writing styles. Simple words and short connected sentences often express more than flowery ones. So, I am big on plain talk. Keep it short and sweet.

 I like playing with ethnicities, cross-blending them to create one individual or a couple. People we may have seen but ignored based on their overall appearance and our own fears and failure to have an open mind. Highlight a human failing no matter how small.

Are there any creative genres, forms, themes, techniques etc. you wish you could employ in your writing which you haven’t yet?

First, incorporate Funk, Hip-Hop, and Bebop characters and language into stories. Some words and images hit harder than others when used correctly. 

Second, I am fond of the narrative style. I enjoy it because it fits the oral tradition and storytelling I have grown up with. And, I am an earhustler. A low-end cultural anthropologist. I am someone who likes to listen to people talk, make noise, and gossip all day. They tell some interesting tales. 

Third, I enjoy playing with skin color. Tackling old tropes and images of ethnicities. Blur them. Blend them into a single individual. So every day, I describe a fictional someone.

And last but not least, I am always interested in another artist’s creative mindset. Isaac Hayes was inspired by a cowboy movie to write Walk On By. Miles Davis watched Ascenseur Pour L’échafaud in silence to create a soundtrack based on the film’s characters, actions, and movements on screen. Both saw art as a muse. To stir and motivate the mind to see something else and give it a voice for others to understand or feel. 

What are you looking forward to in your creative career?

I do have a bucket list. Get published in The New Yorker. Win a book award. But for now, I first wish to master my writing style and produce more fiction for wanting eyes. 

Wayne McCray is a Susurrus 2022 Pushcart Prize nominee and 2023 Best of the Net nominee. His short stories have appeared elsewhere in Afro Literary Magazine, Bandit Fiction, The Bookends Review, Chitro Magazine, The Dillydoun Review, Drunk Monkeys, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Hooghly Review, Ilinix Magazine, Isele Magazine, Malarkey Books, The Ocotillo Review, Ogma Magazine, Pigeon Review, Roi Fainéant, The Rush Magazine, Sangam Literary Magazine, Swim Press, and Wingless Dreamer. He works diligently from his book-laden junk room.