>On The Way Up: An Interview with Mike Saxton

>Today at On The Way Up, we’re talking with sci-fi author Mike Saxton, author of the thrilling new novel 7 Scorpions Rebellion. It’s getting rave reviews on Amazon, so it comes very highly recommended! I’ve gotten to know both Mike and his wife, Amy, at Facebook, and Mike’s a regular fixture at the Writers Digest online community. (Photo: Mike with wife Amy and son Chris.)


When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?

I used to “bat around” the idea when I was in my early teens and I was into role playing games. It was solidified when I was 19, two years into a lucid dreaming period that would serve as the inspiration for my novels.

You’ve said that, like many of us, the first book you fell in love with was Charlotte’s Web. What was it about that novel that had an impact on you?

As a kid, I really liked the dedicated friendship between Charlotte and Wilbur, especially the lengths to which Charlotte went to insure that her pig friend was not slaughtered. It was also exposure to dealing with the death of someone close to you (although it was and still is heartwarming that three of the baby spiders remained behind with Wilbur).

Who are some of the other writers and books who have influenced you and why?

Stephen King was big for me. Funny enough, Eyes of the Dragon was the first “adult” novel I ever read and I finished it in two days. Considering that I’m dyslexic, that was quite a feat. I liked his style and the depth to his characters and some of my own writing style is what I learned from him.

I know I’ll catch hell for this, but I also admire Stephenie Meyer (I have never read the Twilight series but my wife says that I would like The Host) and J.K. Rowling (I have read Harry Potter). I have to admire the success that they have attained in light of the rejections that they suffered through. Most people would have given up after what they experienced and I know that the majority of authors do indeed give up, often before they ever truly begin. Meyer and Rowling have shown that if you stick with something, you can become a success at it no matter what others think or say.

Tell us about 7 Scorpions Rebellion. Where did you get the idea? Why did you choose this genre?

The formation of 7 Scorpions is interesting. It is based on four years of lucid dreams that began right after my sophomore year of high school and ended right before my junior year of college. For those that are unfamiliar, a lucid dream is when you are consciously aware that you are dreaming. The 11 years that followed involved me attempting to make sense of what I had seen during those lucid nights and to organize it into a coherent story (which is not as easy as it seems, dreams are notoriously full of holes and paradoxes).

Science fiction and fantasy has always been my favorite genre but as far as choice, it is a genre that chose me. I really have no idea how I would even attempt to write outside of the genre (except maybe nonfiction).

You have a family and a day job. How do you make time to write?

To me, writing is something that I do for enjoyment. Like anyone else with a busy schedule, most of us manage to find the time to do something that we like. I am also self employed so I make my schedule. Of course, time will be a little shorter now that I am pursuing a doctorate.

This one’s for your wife, Amy: is it tough to live with a writer?

No. Sometimes it is tough to live with Mike when he is in a joking/teasing mood! 🙂 

Amy, I have no trouble whatsoever believing that, which brings me to my next question….about this world domination business. You and William Kendall both seem to be plotting a takeover. Who’s going to win and why?

The winner is unclear but I think William and I have a lot to gain from at least a temporary alliance to weed out the rest of the competition. We can later battle for domination Sith style so that the more powerful wins and the true ruler can be revealed. In the meantime, I think that, of all times, conditions will be ripe quite soon for a worldwide takeover.

You’ve become a favorite target of internet spammers. It’s a regular topic on your blog. You seem to be wearing a SPAM ME sign.  How do you deal with that?

Funny enough, about ten years ago a friend of mine decided to load my email address into spam engines as a joke. Of course, it quickly got out of control. Fortunately, spam filters have helped curtail that and I pulled myself off of the legitimate lists. Once your email address makes it out there though, you become a target for the fraudulent emails that I’ve been posting on my blog.

With phishing emails, they spammers know that most people are not going to fall for it but there is always someone who does. Especially nowadays, in desperate times, people grasp onto false hopes and fall victim to scams that they may not have normally. Many of the emails that I have gotten have not made it onto spam alert web sites. 

Thank you, Mike and Amy. I have a feeling we’re going to be seeing a lot of this author in the future–whether it’s as an exciting new author, a crusader against spam, or when he eventually takes over the world.

I’m posting a link here for anyone interested in purchasing 7 Scorpions Rebellion, and if you have any questions for Mike,  feel free to post them here. I’ll have an interview with poet and advocate April Morone next time.

 7 Scorpions Rebellion

>On The Way Up: An Interview with William Kendall

>Welcome to “On the Way Up,” a new blog feature in which I’ll be showcasing the literary stars of the not-too-distant future–writers who are not yet under contract to a commercial publisher, or are opting to self-publish their works.  This week, I’m talking with William Kendall, who’s the author of a fascinating new thriller titled Heaven and Hell. William is also a graduate student in history in his native Canada….

William, how long have you been writing? 

Since I was eleven or twelve. I think those of us who are of a creative bent, whether it’s in art, music, or writing, that side of us starts to develop around that age.

Which authors inspired you? 

I’ve been reading since before I went to school, and it’s a habit I’ve never gotten out of. To start, I’d say historians like Stephen Ambrose and David McCullough stand out as personal favourites because they’re storytellers. I’ve read plenty of history books where the authors can’t engage the interest of the reader, but that’s not the case with these two. 

Jack Higgins is another personal favourite. He writes in the spy thriller genre, and his primary character for the better part of a couple of decades now has been a former IRA enforcer turned British operative named Sean Dillon. Dillon’s a fascinating character, never apologizing for his background. The dynamic Higgins wrote between Dillon and the character Hannah Bernstein, in the form of bantering and occasional bickering, is a partial influence for my two main characters. And like Higgins, I’d like to find ways to fit Irish terrorists into every book I can. 

My favourite novel is The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. It tells the story of the battle of Gettysburg through the eyes of some of the men who were there. It’s a book I always come back to, like an old friend you visit again just to see how they’re doing. His son Jeff has taken up his father’s mantle with a series of books exploring history through the eyes of the people who lived it. Jeff and Michael have been big influences on the way that I write, in terms of style and focusing tightly on character.

Heaven & Hell has a very intriguing, controversial premise. Tell us more! 

In a brief blurb, Heaven & Hell is centered on a group of terrorists who try to start a war in the Middle East by manipulating all sides involved, and a group of intelligence operatives who are trying to stop them. By writing much of the book set in Israel and dealing with the terrorist issue, I’m practically inviting controversy. Particularly when it comes to the central event of the book.

I know that you’ve done some extensive research. Tell everyone about some of the more interesting experiences you’ve had in developing the background for Heaven & Hell. 

A lot of it starts, of course, in the library. I’ve been writing about Israel, so the sort of things I was looking for included religious customs, archaeology, history, architecture… it’s involved a lot of note taking, searching about, finding information that might prove useful in the book. That’s an ongoing process, of course. There’s always something in the writing process that requires looking up something fresh that you might have overlooked. 

I haven’t been to Israel, so it’s required reaching out, being creative in talking to people. I got a lot of assistance (and a great suggestion to add a sequence at the Masada) from a fellow at the Israeli embassy. It’s something I’d really suggest if you’re writing about a foreign nation; talk to someone from an embassy or consulate. Just be careful how you open up conversations. After all, I was talking about terrorism in Israel as a novel plot, and wondering the whole time how much of the conversation was going to be added into a field report. 

I’ve also done the same, generally online, getting information from public relations staff, from places like Oxford University to the Israel Museum. I’ve gotten technical information from police officers on firearms, and just recently, some critical information from a fire fighter that helped me get past a bit of a dilemma I was in. 

Aside from that? One of the great benefits to the internet is the ability to gather lots of photographs of distant places, so that when you’re writing, for example, about the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, you can see these places with your own eyes.

You’ve told me how the Stryker character was created. Share that with my readers, please. 

Certainly! He’s a character who’s third generation, in a way. In high school, I was in a creative writing class, and one of the assignments was a long form story, like eighty to a hundred pages. That’s where he started out, as a private investigator named Robert Stryker. I haven’t looked at the story in years, and the only thing I might tell you off hand about it was that the climax of the book was set at a fire tower in the Muskoka region of Ontario, a place I know very well. 

The second version of the character was one I wrote just for myself for a long time, a primary character named Christian Stryker and the people in and out of his life. Something of a continuing work, where the character went through a number of occupations, from police to espionage to federal agent. He started out in archaeology, but abandoned that profession early on. This is really the training ground for my current writing, where I honed my craft. 

And so Tom Stryker is the third generation of the character. Like his predecessors, he prefers his last name only, and like Christian, he’s a former archaeologist. So he’s been a long time in development. Meredith Devon is a bit of a different story. She’s a mixture of previous characters I’ve written, but a lot of her is fresh and new. I’d known when I was contemplating writing seriously that I wanted to write two lead characters, a man and a woman, both strong and opinionated, rather then go with the lone wolf example created by Ian Fleming. 

How much of Stryker is you? Come on, ‘fess up! 

We’re both rock climbers. That’s how Stryker gets introduced in the book, climbing Mont Blanc. Rock climbing is one of my favourite activities, so of course I had to make him a climber. We both share the same irreverence in our personalities. And making him an archaeologist was deliberate. Like every other kid who ever saw an Indiana Jones film, I thought of going into that line of work. To this day, archaeology and ancient history fascinate me. Unlike Stryker however, I’m not multilingual, nor am I a partial Lakota, and I’ve never been tortured. Except by the sound of Justin Biebers’ voice.

Another thing you’ve discussed with me is your parents’ response to your story. Care to share with everyone?

My mother’s actually the one who started me off on this book, with her response to a question I once asked that forms the premise of the Very Bad Thing. She’s an avid reader, with a great imagination, and she’s liked what she’s heard of what I’ve been up to. My father, however, will never read the book. He dislikes violence in any form, and any time I’ve mentioned what I’ve written or ideas that I have in mind, his reply is to wonder what he and my mother did to end up raising a son who writes things like that.

You’ve made it clear that The Very Bad Thing is going to remain a secret until the book is published. Not even a hint?

The Very Bad Thing goes back to watching a newscast years ago, featuring rioting Palestinians, and asking my mother what would happen if terrorists ever did this and that. This and that being the Very Bad Thing. No, I’m not telling. I’ll just say it involves a very big explosion and a cataclysmic amount of casualties. And out of that, the threat of war.

A fellow author once asked me why someone as funny as I am (or as she thought me to be) would write such serious fiction. Since you’re the funniest person I know, I’m going to ask you that same question. Why?

You know, I think it comes down to what interests me as a reader. I like the notion of the worst case scenario. I like spy thrillers, so that’s what I’m going to write. I also think that my sense of humor, my irreverence and general outlook on life gets more then its share of outlets already. I write parodies, humor material, and that’s out there. Anyone reading my blogs or comments I make can see that.

At the same time, the humor still finds its way into the book even as I write. The bantering and the chemistry and energy between Stryker and Devon is such an example. There’s a line that I have in mind, for late in the book, and I still don’t know which one of them is going to say it. The two of them are in the middle of a firefight, shots going off all around them, explosions and so on… and one of them’s going to smirk and say, “You know, we go to the loveliest places.”

How serious is that for the situation?

William Kendall. Heaven & Hell. Remember it. This is an author we’re going to be seeing on future bestseller lists. And while you’re waiting for the book, check out his great blog: Speak of the Devil