1. Michael, your first book was a memoir about your service in the Marines during the Vietnam War, and your second was a historical fiction based around the Civil War. What made you decide to switch over to writing a mystery?
A. Here’s the long answer: I didn’t write my memoir, “The Proud Bastards,” until twenty years after the war. It was such a painful subject that I kept hoping the memories would just fade away, but that didn’t happen. So I faced-up and tackled it, and a year later I had a book.
Almost immediately I began a semi-autobiographical sequel, a novel entitled “The Private War of Corporal Henson.” It’s the story of a group of combat vets going through group counseling for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s about 85% factual and includes some experiences I left out of my memoir. In those days PTSD wasn’t the household word it is today due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Private War” was written in about nine months, but it wasn’t timely. I stuck it in a drawer for twenty-something years. It will be published by Stairway Press late spring or early summer 2014.
My second published book, “Of Blood and Brothers,” is a two-part historical Civil War/Reconstruction Era saga based on a true family who lived near where I grew up in the Florida panhandle. I took what I knew from the real family’s history and wove a story around it. It took almost ten years of research and writing to complete, with some delays thrown in. Book One was released September 2013, and Book Two is due out March 2014.
So why did I switch to writing mysteries? Frankly, I was burned out with war and the pain it takes to write about it. I’ve always liked mysteries, so I decided to give it a try. But wouldn’t you know that my protagonist is a retired Marine with combat experience that still haunts him? I suppose you just can’t get away entirely from some things! Still, what a relief it is to let the story roll along where the characters lead without having to dredge up painful memories.
2. There is a lot of debate about the best POV to use when writing a novel. You chose to write Deadly Catch from 1st person. Is this something you debated with yourself? How did you decide to use this perspective?
A. I simply believe that 1st person is more intimate, and that the reader can get inside the head of the narrator much better than with 3rd person. My memoir was written in 1st person-present, as though the action was happening at the moment and drawing the reader into the immediate story.
I also wrote “Of Blood and Brothers” in 1st person, although there are three different narrators. It was a challenge to give Daniel and Elijah Malburn their own distinct voices and quirks, but I believe I pulled it off. Calvin Hogue, the young reporter who listens to and records the brothers’ story, wasn’t as much of a challenge, although I did have to keep his voice in the 1920s.
“The Private War of Corporal Henson” was my first and so far only foray into 3rd person narrative.
3. Mac McClellan, your protagonist, is quite the fisherman! Did you have to research to get the fishing details correct or are you a fisherman yourself?
A. I grew up in Panama City, Florida, along the panhandle coast near where “Deadly Catch” takes place in the fictional town of St. George. I can’t remember when I didn’t fish, whether fresh, brackish, or salt water. As kids we would snorkel the shallows of the bay and catch blue crabs, scallops, and pick oysters as well as fish. Later, I worked on deep-sea party boats, seeing to the needs of forty or fifty fishing tourists on an average day. So it wasn’t a stretch to have Mac reacquainted with his love of fishing after his career in the Marine Corps.
4. The book cover states that “Deadly Catch” is “A Mac McClellan Mystery” yet I can’t find any other Mac McClellan books. Is this the start of a new series? If so, when can readers expect book #2?
“A Mac McClellan Mystery” is a planned series. The second book, “Deadly Ruse,” is scheduled for a Fall/Winter 2014 release from the publisher, Seventh Street Books. I’ve finished the third book and am now working on the fourth in the series. My agent hopes to swing a multi-book “Mac” deal, but nothing in the publishing world is set in stone.
5. What was your writing process like for mystery writing? Did you outline the mystery, the clues, and the resolution first or did you just write and let it all unfold on its own?
A. I envy those who can sit down and produce a good, workable outline. I’m simply not organized or disciplined enough to do that. I usually have a general idea for the story, a beginning and hopefully an ending in mind. Then I just start writing my beginning and see where Mac, Kate Bell (Mac’s girlfriend), and the other characters take me. Dead ends can be a good thing. As the story progresses, the characters usually start talking to me (really, and I don’t think I’m a total whacko!), and begin to lead the way. It’s my job to follow along and keep them from straying too far. That’s the only way I can do it, at least that’s been my experience so far!