Broken Shells Author Michael Patrick Hicks chats to Kendall Reviews about finding inspiration, ugly book covers and tentacles.

I’m delighted to welcome Michael Patrick Hicks to Kendall Reviews. I first met Michael early 2018 when I hosted an excerpt of his novella, Broken Shells. Since then we’ve stayed in touch and now I’m thrilled to feature Micheal again, this time in an interview where music, movies and of course books and writing are discussed.

The kettle has boiled…

KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?

Sure! I’m a Michigan-raised author of horror and occasionally science fiction, and am a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers. I’ve been writing for about twenty years, initially just for fun before taking on work as a freelance journalist and photographer for local newspapers and magazines in the Detroit area. My debut novel was a cyberpunk book called Convergence, which was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 competition, and I’ve been writing and publishing ever since. My latest novel, Mass Hysteria, is work of hardcore horror and the Joe Hempel-narrated audiobook was recently named as a finalist in the 2018 Audiobook Listeners Choice Awards. My latest release is a novella called Broken Shells.

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KR: What do you like to do when not writing?

You can pretty much always find me with a book in hand if I’m not otherwise occupied by work or family life.

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

I don’t really have much recollection of one. Going through my parent’s basement, you’d find a score of those Little Golden Books, but I don’t remember reading a lot, or of being read to, as a child. I’m sure it happened, I just don’t recall it at all. As a father of two, though, with my oldest being two-years-old, I’m finding an incredible appreciation for Dr. Seuss. I have a blast reading those to my boy and getting tongue-tied on a few of them, which always makes him laugh and that’s just the sweetest sound ever for me.

KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?

Back in Black from AC/DC. I can also listen to The Black Keys and their Brothers and El Camino albums pretty much any time.

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Music does not play a central role in my writing at all, no. When I am writing, I prefer quiet. No TV, no music, no background noise, and the emptier the house the better. I don’t think music has played much of role within my works, either. Emergence might be the closest, with its opening nightclub scene, but music isn’t very integral to the book itself.

KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director? 

John Carpenter, and his film The Thing specifically. It’s one of my all-time favorite horror movies.

KR: What are you reading now?

I’m close to finishing a serial-killer thriller by Andrew Mayne called The Naturalist. Once I wrap that up, I’ll be digging into an ARC of Jason Parent’s upcoming Sinister Grin Press release, They Feed. That one sounds like it’ll be an awesome creature feature!

KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?

Stephen King, initially. In high school, I discovered both a love of reading and creative writing, and authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly, Michael Crichton, and Tom Clancy were my big go-to novelists. I could always find their works in any bookstore I went into, and when I first started writing for myself they were the authors that probably had the most immediate influence on my style and story ideas.

The beautiful thing, though, is that you can continue to find inspiration as you grow older and become a better writer, and become a better reader. Those were the authors that first inspired me way back when. I finally read Jack Ketchum for the first time this year, and after two of his novels I find myself having something new to aim toward in my own work. I wish I had discovered him prior to his passing. That man could write, and he knew how to use words and plot to cut you deeply. The way he could craft a story and haul you under, that’s fucking inspiring. There’s a lot to learn from his works.

                Jack Ketchum                             (November 10, 1946 – January 24, 2018)

KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

I’m definitely a pantser by nature. I typically only know three things about any given work I’m writing – the beginning, middle, and end. That’s the loose framework I go into a story with, and what hangs in between those three poles is usually a surprise. The ideas develop as I write, and any one of those three bullet points are subject to change depending on how things flow.

KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

It really depends on the book. My sci-fi titles required a hell of a lot more research than some of the horror stories. Convergence and Emergence required tons of research into drugs and their effect on brain chemistry, memory formation, DARPA projects, and the like. Lots and lots of science-based stuff. A story like Consumption, though, required very little research, save for finding an old serving menu to base the monstrous courses that cast of characters were subjected to. Broken Shells required a surprising amount of research, but it came about piecemeal over a number of drafts and feedback from beta readers and my editor, and my own dissatisfaction with the initial concepts I had for the creatures at that book’s core. I ended up taking a pretty deep dive into Native American mythology and finding some inspiration in Hollow Earth theories, far, far more than ever made it into the book. The good news, though, is that a lot of that research prepared me for future novellas, which I’m working on now.

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

I mentioned earlier that I have two very young children. I don’t really have a usual writing schedule, let alone a writing day anymore. In between a full-time office job and family, I find that I have to squeeze my writing in whenever I can, and it’s not every day. I just don’t have the time to be habitual about it anymore, so it gets to be pretty sporadic. If I can find time to lay down a thousand words per writing session a couple times a week, I consider that a significant win.

KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?

I have a soft spot for Consumption. Prior to kids, I used to be a bit of a foodie and my wife and I would have date nights at fancy restaurants and do multi-course dinners once in a while. We were more than a bit addicted to Food Network and Anthony Bourdain. We were watching Chopped one night and the contestant got freaked out when they pulled tentacles out of the basket. I had joke that it was Cthulhu, and forgot about it. Or thought I had forgotten about it. Something had taken root, though, and an idea began to percolate, and I wrote Consumption in a bit of an energetic, feverish rush. It just poured out of me. So, it’s always had a special place for me.

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KR: Do you read your book reviews?

I do, yeah. I probably shouldn’t, but I’m always hopeful I can learn something from them to help me improve. Every now and then you get a good glimmer of insight from a negative review from a reader who is critical and has identified issues you can avoid or iron out in the next work. If it’s just a review that boils down to “it sucks” but doesn’t offer anything beyond that, I don’t waste my time on it. Ditto if all that’s offered is “it’s awesome.” While that’s great to see, it doesn’t give me much information, doesn’t let me know what worked or if there were any significant hurdles I should be aware of.

After five years of publishing, though, and having spent the better part of my life writing I think I have a fairly good idea if a story works, if a book is bad or good, or somewhere in between. But, you also have to know you’re not going to please every reader. Some readers will hate your work no matter what. Others will love it no matter what. Sometimes they’ll have good reasons, one way or the other, and sometimes they won’t. I think I’m reaching that point where it’s better for me to maybe not read the reviews. That’s time I should be using to write, damn it! And as my fellow author Edward Lorn has said time and time again, the reviews are not for the author; they’re for the reader. I take some exception with it, as noted for those reasons above, but mostly I think Edward is right in that regard, particularly the longer you’ve been writing. When you’ve been writing for five, ten, twenty years, how much cache can reviews carry for the author? I think new authors would probably do well to read their reviews, but after a few years and a handful of releases you better have your own personal radar and critical honesty with yourself on if a work passes muster or not.

KR: Any advice for a fledgling author?

Oops. Um, see above?

Beyond that, I’d say put together some good beta readers who can provide you with honest, critical appraisals of what works and what doesn’t in your story. If you’re going indie, do not – DO NOT – skimp on editing and cover design. Some authors are so freaking in love with the sound of their own voice that they skip editing, and it is always, always, always to their detriment. And whatever else you do, for the love of all that is good and pure, do not use those stupid, ugly 3D video-game-looking covers. Those fucking things are universally atrocious. Hire a professional cover designer who actually knows what they’re doing.

Finish your work. Edit your work. Get an awesome cover for your work.

KR: What scares you?

The biggest fear is that something bad is going to happen to my kids, be it illness or getting caught up in one of the daily school shootings we Americans feel like doing absolutely nothing about, or some other disaster. That scares the hell out of me. But also heights and spiders. Those are my big two phobias.

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

All of the above! I love my Kindle and it’s my go-to format for reading, but I still love print.

KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?

Broken Shells is a gory little creature feature that finds a down on his luck man responding to a promise of easy money when he really should know better. He finds himself abducted and buried deep below ground, surrounded by vicious living nightmares as he fights to escape and get back to his family.

KR: You can read an excerpt from Broken Shells on Kendall Reviews. Just click here

KR: What are you working on now?

I’m wrapping up the third novella in a trilogy of historical horror novellas set in the years following the American Revolution and follow a freed man’s confrontations with the occult. Once I finish this final installment, I’ll begin editing it as a whole series with the aim of having it released later this year or early 2019.

KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?

You can choose…

a) One fictional character from your writing.

Mesa, from my book Emergence, because she deserves a chance to start over with a clean slate and define her life on her own terms.

b) One fictional character from any other book.

Jack Reacher from Lee Child’s books – he’s a survivalist, would likely help see us through such an ordeal, and can kick all sorts of ass if there ends up being pirates.

c) One real life person that is not a family member or friend.

Donald Trump, for a number of reasons – it would get him out of the White House, it would be insanely gratifying to see Jack Reacher beat the snot out of him repeatedly, and he’s nice and fatty and would be good bait to help us lure in food.

KR: Thank you very much Michael.

You can follow Michael on Twitter @MikeH5856

To find out more about Michael please visit his official website www.michaelpatrickhicks.com/

Please visit Micheal’s author page here

Antoine DeWitt is a man down on his luck. Broke and recently fired, he knows the winning Money Carlo ticket that has landed in his mailbox from a car dealership is nothing more than a scam. The promise of five thousand dollars, though, is too tantalizing to ignore.

Jon Dangle is a keeper of secrets, many of which are buried deep beneath his dealership. He works hard to keep them hidden, but occasionally sacrifices are required, sacrifices who are penniless, desperate, and who will not be missed. Sacrifices exactly like DeWitt.

When Antoine steps foot on Dangle’s car lot, it is with the hope of easy money. Instead, he finds himself trapped in a deep, dark hole, buried alive. If he is going to survive the nightmare ahead of him, if he has any chance of seeing his wife and child again, Antoine will have to do more than merely hope. He will have to fight his way back to the surface, and pray that Jon Dangle’s secrets do not kill him first.

You can buy Broken Shells from Amazon UK & Amazon US

IT CAME FROM SPACE…

Something virulent. Something evil. Something new. And it is infecting the town of Falls Breath.

Carried to Earth in a freak meteor shower, an alien virus has infected the animals. Pets and wildlife have turned rabid, attacking without warning. Dogs and cats terrorize their owners, while deer and wolves from the neighboring woods hunt in packs, stalking and killing their human prey without mercy.

As the town comes under siege, Lauren searches for her boyfriend, while her policeman father fights to restore some semblance of order against a threat unlike anything he has seen before. The Natural Order has been upended completely, and nowhere is safe.

…AND IT IS SPREADING.

Soon, the city will find itself in the grips of mass hysteria.

To survive, humanity will have to fight tooth and nail.

You can buy Mass Hysteria from Amazon UK & Amazon US

You Are 

 

 Reclusive chef Heinrich Schauer has invited six guests to a blind twelve-course tasting menu.

While snow blankets the isolated Swiss valley surrounding his estate, the guests feast eagerly, challenging one another to guess at the secret tastes plated before them. 

What You Eat 

As they eat, each guest is overtaken by carnal appetites, unaware of their host’s savage plans…or of the creature lurking below.

One thing is clear: There is more on the menu than any of them have bargained for.

You can buy Consumption from Amazon UK & Amazon US

Memories are the most dangerous drug.

Jonah Everitt is a killer, an addict, and a memory thief.

After being hired to kill a ranking officer of the Pacific Rim Coalition and download his memories, Everitt finds himself caught in the crosshairs of a terror cell, a rogue military squadron, and a Chinese gangster named Alice Xie. Xie is a profiteer of street drugs, primarily DRMR, a powerful narcotic made from the memories of the dead. With his daughter, Mesa, missing in post-war Los Angeles, Everitt is forced into an uneasy alliance with Alice to find her. 

Mesa’s abduction is wrapped up in the secrets of a brutal murder during the war’s early days, a murder that Alice Xie wants revenged. In order to find her, Jonah will have to sift through the memories of dead men that could destroy what little he has left. 

In a city where peace is tenuous and loyalties are ever shifting, the past and the present are about to converge.

You can buy Convergence from Amazon UK & Amazon US
KR: I didn’t realise how eye opening (and often terrifying) the rabbit hole I would fall into whilst googling tentacle images would be! Who knew?

 

 

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