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Interview With Michael Patrick Hicks

CHHR: When did you start writing horror?
MPH: About twenty years ago. I’ve been writing horror for as long as I’ve been writing, which began way back when in a high school creative writing course.
I spent a few decades writing as a hobby before moving into freelance journalism with some local publications, and then decided to release my first novel, a sci-fi cyberpunk title called Convergence, after it became a quarter-finalist in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. Publisher’s Weekly loved it, gave me a great review, and I figured I should put it out there and see what happens.
Once that was out, I needed a bit of a palate cleanser as it were, and shifted gears back to horror with the writing and release of my novelette, Consumption. I spent a few years kind of going back and forth between sci-fi and horror, even sometimes melding the two depending on the story, but have always found myself gravitating more naturally to horror.
No matter what genres I’ve written in over the years, it always, always, leads back to horror.
CHHR: What scares you?
MPH: I was going to say spiders, but the truth is that now that I’m a parent of two, I’ve found that I’m scared of a lot more than I had ever thought. It’s all the unknown stuff that scares the hell out of me now. Getting those middle of the day text messages when I’m at work from the wife or babysitter asking me to call and there’s that slight moment of panic where I’m scared of what happened. When my oldest first started learning how to walk and climb up on things, he split his lip open, screamed up a storm, got blood everywhere. That was one of the scariest moments as a still-new parent.
CHHR:  What does your writing schedule look like?
MPH: It looks very unscheduled, very erratic and disorganized. When I began working on a new project, I used to have a personal mandate of a thousand words a day until it was finished. With two small children in the house and a full-time day job, that mandate is pretty well dead and buried. Now I write whenever I can, in those small moments of calmness when the kids are in bed, or I’m on a lunchbreak at work. It’s all about flexibility now, just doing whatever I can, whenever I can, however I can get it done. I’ve even installed a web-based word processor on my phone so I can write on the go, and access the document when I’m at home online.
CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing quirks? If so, what are they?
MPH: I don’t have time for quirks! Even when I wasn’t lost in the middle of the parenting tornado, I don’t think I had really any quirks outside of simply having to write.
CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?
MPH: It varies by project. Typically, I have a very, very rough outline of what the story is, and that’s just really the beginning, middle, and end. Once I get through the beginning, I am aiming toward those other two benchmarks. And that’s usually about as in-depth as my outlines get. I’m very much down with simply going with the flow for the most part.
CHHR: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
MPH: The editing experience, more than anything else, had the largest impact on my writing process. Many of the lessons learned then have since been ingrained in me, and I’m a lot more cognizant of avoiding things like infodumps, what my crutch words are and ironing those out of the manuscript, and building better sentences right from the get-go.
CHHR:  What do you think makes a good story?
MPH: Characters, first and foremost. I need believable characters, particularly if the story itself is pretty fantastical and unbelievable. And I’m not talking about likeable characters, just simply believable characters. I’ve seen great stories ruined by shitty, paper-thin, cardboard cutout characters, and I’ve seen not-so-great stories made bearable because of the characters. Obviously, if you have great characters and a great story, you’ve got a great book, so always strive for both! But I think characters carry the day more often than not.
CHHR: What do you think makes a great character?
MPH: Their story, which is not necessarily the story of the book itself. Characters need to have their own stories, their own motivations, which can sometimes be pretty incidental to the plot.
CHHR: What are you currently working on?
MPH: Right now I’m prepping for the release of a new novella, Broken Shells, which will be out Feb. 6, 2018. I’ll be reviewing paperback proofs very soon and getting everything finalized for that title’s launch.
Writing-wise, I am working on the third book in a trilogy of historical horror novellas that will hopefully be out late-2018. I’ve been plotting out a short story and jotting down some notes for it, and that will be my next project. And then it’ll be on to writing another novel.
CHHR: What authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
MPH: Lucas Bale and Alex Roddie put together a couple anthologies a few years back, and Lucas invited me and several others aboard. We had formed a small group and critiqued each other’s works for those anthologies, provided sounding boards for one another, and offered suggestions. Alex and Lucas worked together to edit all our stuff, and they had plenty of great feedback that helped improve the stories all the more. We were all pretty early into our careers then, with, I think, most of us having only one book out at that point. But it was an encouraging little band of upstarts from all around the world to have as a young, newly-published author, and the anthologies gave us a bit of room to maneuver and explore topics we might not have otherwise.
CHHR: What’s in your TBR pile?
MPH: Oh god. So freaking much. I’ve got a slew of Kealan Patrick Burke, Ronald Malfi, Craig Saunders, Edward Lorn, Brian Keene, JF Gonzalez, and Chuck Wendig titles I want to get caught up on. And tons of other stuff besides. There’s some Valancourt Books and Word Horde titles I’ve been meaning to get to, some stuff from Journalstone. Richard Chizmar’s short story collection, a handful of Stephen King titles I haven’t gotten around to. Those are the ones right off the top of my head, but god there’s just so much in my TBR pile. It’s ever-growing.
CHHR: What’s the horror scene like in Michigan?
MPH: Pretty cool, actually. We have the annual Motor City Nightmares convention, which I haven’t made it to yet unfortunately. It’s on my bucket-list. I’m a member of the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writer’s, and they’re a very active group, always attending regional events like local comic cons and horror conventions. I hope to be able to do more with them in the New Year. Michigan is also home to some great talent. We’ve got Tim Curran in the UP, and Josh Malerman, Kathe Koja, and Mark Matthews are in the Detroit area. The Horror Writers Association recently announced they’ll be holding StokerCon in Grand Rapids in 2019. So I think the horror scene in Michigan is pretty strong and healthy.
CHHR: If you could have a beer with one horror author, who would it be?
MPH: Kealan Patrick Burke. Besides being a horror author, he’s also an amazing cover artist. He did the covers for Mass Hysteria and Broken Shells, and I feel I owe him a few beers just for those. But I’d like to pick his brain over his writing process and see what I can learn/steal from him. He’s an amazing writer, and the amount of heart and emotional manipulation he packs into so few pages is mind-blowing.
CHHR: What is your spirit animal?
MPH: Probably a cat. Cats mostly just want to be left alone to sleep all day, which is how I feel more often than not.
CHHR: Do you have any advice for writers who are just starting out and trying to get published?

MPH: Finish your book, first and foremost. If you are going the indie route, get your work edited by a professional, and get your cover designed by a professional. Find a real cover artist and a real editor. It will be expensive, but it will also be worth it. When you release a book, it has to be top-notch, high quality stuff. Well-edited, well-designed, well-formatted. Put your best foot forward. Releasing a half-assed book tells the world of readers you are not ready for this business. Oh, yeah, you also have to realize this is a business. Writing as a hobby is terrific, but if you are going to publish, you need to understand that writing is also a business.

Author Bio:

Michael Patrick Hicks has worked as a probation officer, a comic book reviewer, news writer and photographer, and, now, author. His work has appeared in various newspapers in Michigan, as well as several The University of Michigan publications, and websites, such as Graphic Novel Reporter and Leelanau.com. He holds two bachelor’s degrees from The University of Michigan in Journalism & Screen Studies and Behavioral Science. His first novel is CONVERGENCE.

Synopsis:

The world has fallen beneath the rule of alien invaders. The remnants of humanity are divided into two camps: those who resist, and those serve.

Darrel Fines serves. He is a traitor, a turncoat who has betrayed his people, his wife, and most of all, himself. In this new world order, in which humanity is at the very bottom, Fines is a lawman for the violent and grotesque conquerors.

When the offspring of the Marque goes missing, Fines is charged with locating and recovering the alien. Caught in the crosshairs of a subdued worker’s camp and the resistance cell that he was once allied with, Fines is forced to choose between a life of servility and a life of honor.

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