Smoking With Michelle McMahon

by Andrea Kneeland Read the Story July 25, 2010

What is your favorite parable or fairy tale? Can you talk a little about what makes that parable/fairy tale particularly special to you?

How about my favorite fairy tale heroine? Pippi Longstocking. I grew up on her adventures. She really was my hero as a child, and, in some ways, she embodies a lot of things I still value as a grown woman. She’s so tough! She literally has superhuman strength, like she can lift her horse over her head with one hand. She has no fears, doesn’t take shit from anyone, especially bullies and mean adults. And her fearless sense of fashion! I don’t know how many Halloweens I made my mom stick a hanger through my hair to make two braids stick out from my head. Pippi has no family except for her dad, who is a captain off sailing the seas while she lives on her own in Villa Villekula. She doesn’t really go to school but she’s like “street” smart and sneaky and inventive. I think part of my love for creating stories came from reading about her making up funny, far fetched stories to tell her friends, Tommy and Annika. I named my dog Pippi and my first son Tommy, so, yeah, I think that kind of speaks for itself.

If you were hosting a dinner party for Werner Herzog, what would you serve?

Have you seen the documentary Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe? Maybe I could stew a shoe! I don’t know though. I’m a vegetarian and not much of a cook. I make good cookies. Maybe we could sit together and have milk and cookies while he tells me how he wants to make documentaries about the narrators of my stories.

Where do you like to do your writing? Is it the same place you like to do your editing?

I like to start writing pen and paper style. But then, once something sparks and feels right and like it’s headed somewhere, I get to a computer to keep it flowing since I can type so much faster. I like to lie on the floor if I’m at home starting a story, or hide in the library somewhere surrounded by books. I usually edit standing up at a computer in the library. Editing is so “business,” and I get antsy, so I need to be able to shift around.

Do you camp often?

Ha! I have camped once, and only because my husband begged me and was convinced I would love it. I do love nature, the woods and the beach and sitting outside in the grass or reading in a tree, that kind of thing. But sleeping in a tent? Oh, I am much too paranoid and imaginative for that. I think about all the psychos in the woods just waiting to rape me and cut me into pieces with an axe and roast them over a bonfire. Being away from busy streets and not seeing people go about the business of their lives for more than a day or so depresses me. We went on a hike on that trip, and we were all alone at the top of this mountain. I don’t think we had even seen another person for a couple hours, and I just started crying, like panic attack hyperventilating crying. It was scary feeling so isolated. That’s not the only time I’ve had a panic attack on a trail…

How do you feel about this interview?

I love it. It’s always nice to feel like someone cares and is actually listening. That’s why we write, isn’t it? To connect with other people? Telling stories, reading other people’s stories, that creates such community. After I read someone’s story, I feel like I know her, like we’ve shared something. I am always grateful to the writer of a good story after I finish it, thankful that what she created has become a part of my memory forever.

About the Author:

Michelle McMahon spends most of her time in alternate universes created by memories, where she writes short stories, experimental fiction, and poems. Some of the places her work has appeared are Shelf Life, Wheelhouse Magazine, River Walk Journal, Getgo Magazine, SHAMPOO, and Hot Whiskey Magazine. Read some of her stories at