Today's guest is Michael Patrick Hicks, author of the upcoming Broken Shells.
What was the inspiration behind Broken Shells?
Back in the summer of 2016, we were doing a lot of home remodeling (most of it not by choice, thanks to a vicious windstorm that ripped through our area) and discovering just how expensive parenting really is. Our budget grew very tight and we were cutting corners in as many places as we could to save money. I came home and found in the mail a big, bright yellow Money Carlo card from a local car dealership telling me I had won $5,000. I knew these things were a scam, so it went straight into the garbage, but I started getting these weird flashes of a story. Over the course of a few days, these ideas began percolating and finally took hold, and I set about telling the story of Antoine DeWitt and Jon Dangle.
Did you catch any hell for Revolver?
Not as much as I had braced myself for! I did get one e-mail, shortly after the story was first published a few years ago in the No Way Home anthology (currently out of print), from a reader who needed me to know what a godless communist he thought I was. I wish I would have kept the e-mail for when I need a good laugh.
Are you a Twilight Zone fan? I see some Twilight Zone in your books
Yes! I haven’t watched the show in some years now, but I certainly enjoyed the heck out of it. Henry Bemis is my spirit animal. And if you don’t know who Henry Bemis is, track down the episode “Time Enough At Last.” I’m pretty sure it would be my life story if I were to survive the apocalypse.
What do you think about the resurgence of the novella since the dawn of ebooks?
I love that the novella has made a huge return. It’s a format I love as both a reader and a writer, and I’m heartened to see readers rediscovering this particular form of storytelling. eBooks are the perfect medium for them, too. They’re cheap and easily digested, and the best ones can be supremely powerful in their themes and messages. I’m definitely a fan!
Are you a plotter, pantser, or something in between?
In between, I’d say. I typically have a mental outline that guides me through the opening, middle, and climax. Whatever happens in between those three tent poles, though, is fair game. Each project is different, though, and some come along fully formed. Others I just completely pants my way through and try to make it cogent enough to fix in a second draft.
Any publishing horror stories?
Not yet! I’ve found the horror community to be rather warm and inviting, and I’ve made some great friendships and connections over the last few years all across the speculative fiction realm. As an indie author/publisher, I’ve been fortunate enough to miss out first-hand on some of the big debacles in publishing, even if just barely. I’d had submissions with both Samhain and DarkFuse shortly before each declared bankruptcy and shuttered their businesses. Rather than having a couple horror stories, I feel like I’ve dodged a few big bullets here and there.
Who are your biggest influences?
Stephen King, for sure. Michael Crichton, Barry Eisler, Richard K. Morgan, Tom Clancy, Dennis Lehane. Most of these guys I discovered back in high school and college, and they certainly had a big impact on my writing initially or were at least responsible for my wanting to write in the first place some twenty years ago. Nowadays, I’m finding a lot of influences from many of my contemporaries in indie and small press publishing, mostly because I’ve become huge fans of their works and they as individuals. I look at guys like Jonathan Janz, Hunter Shea, Edward Lorn, Brian Keene, Adam Cesare, Glenn Rolfe, and learn a lot just from reading their stories. They’re all terrific story tellers and writers. Each have one hell of a knack for craft, rock solid work ethics, and I hope I can do just as well one day.
Favorite book of all time?
Stephen King’s IT.
Being a new (and continuing) father, how do you carve out time to write?
It isn’t easy! I work a full-time office job, so my writing time is very, very limited these days and can often take a backseat to more pressing issues, like sick kids. Right now, everyone in my house has the flu or a cold, including me, so not a whole lot is getting done! Not too long ago I bought a foldable keyboard and installed a writing app on my phone so I can write for a little bit during my lunch break. My wife and I developed a schedule that, in theory, would allow us both at least an hour every night and a couple extra on the weekend to focus on ourselves and our work, but the reality is, that just hasn’t worked out at all. It’s a nice pipe dream, though! Mostly my writing time comes down to just grabbing ahold of it whenever and wherever I can. If I can wake up early and write, I’ll do that. I’ll write on my lunchbreak, or before bed. Sometimes I’m only able to lay down fifty new words, other times I can get a thousand. It’s almost always a struggle, though.
What are you reading now?
I am halfway through an ARC of Barry Eisler’s second Livia Lone book, The Night Trade. I’ve been an Eisler fan for a while now, and Livia might be his best creation yet as far as I’m concerned. She’s a beautifully developed, highly tragic figure who kicks a whole lot of ass. It’s fantastic stuff!
What are you working on now?
I’m currently writing the final installment in a trilogy of historical horror novellas that I hope to release late 2018/early 2019 depending on how everything goes. These books are my first go at writing any kind of historical fiction and it’s presented some of the most enjoyment I’ve had as a writer. I studied history, along with psychology and journalism, in college and it’s been a lot of fun to flex some of those particular research muscles again, digging through historical records and searching out as much information as I can on some fairly little-known events, as well as more popular historical incidents that have primarily served as inspiration.
Do you think being publically horsewhipped in the town square is too lenient a punishment for identity thieves?
Far, far, far too lenient. As you know, I’m a recent victim of identity fraud and the hoops I’ve had to go through to get everything sorted out have been hellacious. If they ever find the thief, I’d love to introduce him to Jon Dangle! There’s some things in Broken Shells that just might provide sufficient punishment for identity thieves everywhere.