TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Michael: Thank you for having me. I actually enjoy writing with a Qwill!
TQ: Bonus points for being the first author to write that!
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Michael: Probably writing in long hand in a journal before I use the computer. It’s a more organic process to me that way. And it’s an extra stage of revision when I type the longhand into my computer. I call it a quirk because it drives my children and nieces and nephews crazy. They think I’m from the Stone Age.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Michael: Hmm. I’m a plotter by the seat of my pants? Does that count? I almost always ‘get’ the plot first. I have dozens of plots lying around. I don’t do anything with them until they have a character to tell the story. Once I had the idea of a horror/western mash-up as with Blood Riders, it took a while before Jonas Hollister jumped onto the page and said, “Dude, I got this.”
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Michael: It’s always getting the words down. Some times they come easy and sometimes they come hard. Usually I find there’s a point in the novel when ‘the dam breaks’ and at that point you can’t get the words down fast enough.
TQ: Describe Blood Riders in 140 characters or less.
Michael: Big scry vpire thgs try 2 eat a guy but he has big guns & stuff. Meets rly hot vpire chick 4 romance & butt kicking. #bloodriders #awesome
TQ: What inspired you to write Blood Riders?
Michael: A magazine article I read about human evolution. I started thinking about the progression of humanity from Neanderthal, to Cro-Magnon, to Homo sapiens. Then I thought in the fictional realm, where we assume monsters are real, have werewolves, vampires, witches and so on always existed as we perceive them now? The modern vampire mythos for the most part descends from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What if there were earlier ‘less evolved’ creatures than the Count? And then came the idea of an ancient race of vampires that is overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of humanity surrounding them coming to a crossroads. Retreat or fight to survive?
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Blood Riders?
Michael: I read a lot of critical texts on the vampire in fiction and literature. I also use Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces as part of the research on most of my novels. Then there was the historical and period research. I also spoke to a gunsmith regarding the weaponry my characters use. Though a lot of machines and guns used are ‘made up,’ I wanted to be sure the technology existed so that these things could at least be ‘technically possible’ if it were thought of at the time.
I also did research on the ‘real’ people who are characters in Blood Riders like Allan Pinkerton, Oliver Winchester and George Armstrong Custer.
TQ: In Blood Riders, you combine genres - Horror and Western. Why do you think that these genres work so well together?
Michael: I think all horror and western drama, whether in movie or novel form, is ultimately about a character making things right. Most of the time you have a lone hero or small group of heroes who are willing to do what no one else will. They ride in and clean up the town or they’ll go down in the dark basement to save the child. The archetypical western hero is so familiar to us it just seemed like a good idea to take one in that period and have him face off against something supernatural. Jonas Hollister in Blood Riders is a lot like Gary Cooper in High Noon or John Wayne in Rio Bravo except he has to rid the ‘town’ of something far more sinister.
TQ: You also have completely original characters, at least one fictional character from another vampire novel, and characters based on actual historical figures. Which characters were easiest to write and why? Hardest and why?
Michael: The hardest are always those you create from scratch. This was also the first novel I’d written for adults and the first novel I’d written in third person. It was much more challenging getting started because in prior books the first person voice just took off and told the story. In Blood Riders the multiple viewpoints made some of the character development more challenging, because each of the characters all have different reactions and feelings toward each other.
The historical characters were easier in terms of describing their appearance and there was research available, in some cases, their own writings and speeches to give you a sense of what they might ‘sound’ like. General Philip ‘Little Phil’ Sheridan was notoriously profane, for example. But in the end it’s fiction and they have to work as fictional characters within the context of the novel.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Blood Riders?
Michael: Sergeant Chee was a really fun character to write. And I think a lot of his scenes are among my favorite in the book. One of my favorites is actually at the very beginning of the book when he and Hollister meet in Leavenworth. Hollister immediately spots a brilliant soldier who has been completely overlooked and ‘buffaloed’ by the very racist post-Civil War US Army. Once he realizes what he’s going to be facing he wants Chee along with him. Chee sees in Hollister a leader who is truly a leader. Someone who chooses the best person, moment and tactics to win. He’s not driven by bigotry, false piety or any of the other emotions that drove so many people at this point in history.
TQ: What's next?
Michael: Right now I have two more middle grade series in the works. The first is in collaboration with my friend Roland Smith. He has written the first three books in his series I,Q, the most recent is I,Q: Kitty Hawk. We’ll be co-writing the next three books in the series, starting with book four I,Q: The Alamo. The I,Q series is about stepsiblings Q (short for Quest) and Angela, whose parents are famous musicians. They travel the country on their parent’s concert tour. Along the way they become embroiled in a mystery concerning Angela’s mother, a Secret Service Agent who died in the line of duty. Or did she? Was her ‘death’ a cover for her to infiltrate a deeply embedded terrorist cell? You’ll have to read the books to find out: I,Q: Independence Hall, I,Q: The White House and I,Q: Kitty Hawk.
I also have a new series with Scholastic called Killer Species. The first book Killer Species: Menace From The Deep will be out in 2013. It’s a series about two boys who live near the Everglades and a well-intentioned but deranged environmentalist who takes it upon himself to tinker with nature in an effort to combat invasive species that are devastating the eco-system. Of course when a scientist plays with nature, nothing ever goes wrong!
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Michael: Thanks for having me!
About Blood Riders
Harper Voyager, September 25, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
The Western Territories, 1880. For four years, Civil War veteran and former U.S. Cavalry Captain Jonas P. Hollister has been rotting in a prison cell at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His crime: lying about the loss of eleven soldiers under his command . . . who he claims were slaughtered by a band of nonhuman, blood-drinking demons.
But now a famous visitor, the detective Allan Pinkerton, has arrived with an order for Hollister's release. The brutal murder of a group of Colorado miners in a fashion frighteningly similar to the deaths of Hollister's men has leant new credence to his wild tale. And suddenly Jonas Hollister finds himself on a quest both dangerous and dark—joining forces with Pinkerton, the gunsmith Oliver Winchester, an ex-fellow prisoner, a woman of mystery, and a foreigner named Abraham Van Helsing, who knows many things about the monsters of the night—and riding hell for leather toward an epic confrontation . . . with the undead.
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What: Three commenters will each win a copy of Blood Riders from Michael. US ONLY
How: Answer the following question:
What is one of your favorite Western or Horror novels, comics, TV shows, or movies?
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Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Thursday, November 8, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.
*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*