Friday, September 30, 2011

Firsts Fridays: Debut Novelist, Michael Barclay

UPDATE: We have a winner for Michael's E-book!


Congrats to you! Enjoy the read!
I’m pretty excited to step out of the box with my next Firsts Fridays author. Michael Barclay doesn’t write young adult or any kid-lit for that matter. He has written an action packed espionage thriller! How cool is that? And lucky me, I am one of his virtual tour stops and he's going to tell us how it's been writing his first novel. Ready to hear more? Well, he is doing a pretty massive giveaway on his site HERE and I am doing a Hill 170 e-book giveaway on my site. As usual, comment below and I will a pick. Sound good? Cool. Now read on to get to know Michael Barclay.

DB: Hi Michael! Thanks for stopping by during your blog tour.

MB: Hi Deana, thanks so much for hosting my book tour today.

DB: First off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your book, Hill 170?

MB: Well, since I am so right-brained that I answered this question last (some of the answer is scattered below) I'll start off by saying I'm nowhere near as interesting as my stories. I'm the sort that, in a nearly empty room, I can disappear. But when I start to tell a story I become highly animated. The first storyteller I ever saw was a large, crinkle-faced man whose grand gestures and vivid expressions took me out of myself and threw me into a dream world that has been with me since. When I hear my 6 year old daughter tell a story, I recognize that she has been infected as well.

My goal for Hill 170 was to get readers to care about the characters, get drawn into the escalating action and to be satisfied with the ending (that 'well, that was good; I could read more of that' feeling). I've had comments about crying over certain bits (read the book!), finishing in one sitting (that's always a bit weird; it took most of a year to write!) and wanting a sequel. So, I'm pretty pleased with how it's worked.

Now I'd like to get more readers aware of the novel. Hopefully this tour will do just that.

DB: It sounds like you are well on your way to doing just that.
This is your first novel, but you have written many tech articles. Do you feel that experience has helped or hindered your dabbling in the fiction side of writing?

MB: The main advantage of having been through the publication process before was I knew bringing my first novel to fruition was going to be a lengthy, multi-stage process. Past experience kept me from worrying (too much) when my initial 'deadline' kept moving forward.

DB: That patience I’m sure was helpful.

I read on your website that you served in the USAF (United States Air Force) Intelligence and your book is about Sergeant Dodge Bryce who also serves with the USAF. How much would you say your experience helped you write this book? Are any of the characters in the book written after yourself or those you served with?

MB: As my afterword mentions, this all came about from that Navy ad from years back - "If someone wrote a book about your life, would anyone want to read it?" Initially Hill 170 was planned as a sort of collection of anecdotes broken into short chapters. Right about the time I began putting ideas to paper I was also re-reading Nobel House by Clavell. In his novel he takes bits from a corporate 'feud' over a 100 year period and crams them into one week. Following his lead I took three years and likewise squeezed them down to one week. It made the events really hum. Suddenly I was looking at an actual thriller. Of course, there are many purely fictional bits sprinkled in but I'll never divulge which is which.

DB: Oh, now that is cool!
MB: Most of the characters - with the exception of Dodge, Han and Lin - are based on people I knew and worked with while in the USAF. Mixed and matched to make them larger than life (a little from column A here, a bit from column B there...). I think if you take any 'normal' person and place them in those circumstances (read chapter 15 to see what I mean), a believable character is what you will end up with.

Interestingly, some former 6903rd members have commented that they recognize Moon. They're right.

DB: I’ll bet those you served with really love your book.

Most of my readers are writers too, so it is always an interesting topic around here to know how other writers write. Are you an extensive outliner (plotter) or do you take your experiences and your story and roll with it (pantster)?

MB: I laughed when I read this Q. Writing Hill 170 taught me one huge lesson (among many) - 'Know where you're going!' As I mentioned, I did not plan a thriller initially. I had a good 50k+ words down when the idea struck me. Out of those 50k I probably kept only 1 or 2 pages. For my current work - Sellebrity (working title) - I've spent all summer plotting it out, testing the characters, cutting to remove any fat and tweaking to make things gripping. By now I know the story inside and out. I’m sure things will change as I write the story (isn’t it interesting when the characters tell you what comes next?) but I won't start page 1 until it's as perfect as I can get it.

DB: I do love it when the characters take on a mind of their ownJ
Have you self published or traditionally published Hill 170? And how have you liked the process of the route you chose?

Self - and I'm very happy with it to this point. I know military espionage thrillers are not leading at the bookstores (What's left of them that is. Huh, there's an interesting correlation that just came to mind; a dearth of Crichton and [good] Clancy concurrent with a dearth of bookstores. Hey, I'm just sayin'.) and there are no agents going to take a chance on such a debut. With traditional (aka legacy) pubbing, Hill 170 might never have seen the light of day. And while many readers would rather be bitten in the neck than pick up anything with the word military attached to it there are a great deal of target (i.e. - military) and non-target readers who are really enjoying Hill 170. It's very gratifying that I was able to get the novel to them, pretty much on my own - or should I say, following the lead of other self-pubbers like Amanda Hocking and J.A. Konrath.

DB: You’re a funny guy MichaelJ I’ve got to say, you’ve intrigued me. I can’t wait to read your book!

What do you see the future holding for you as far as your writing goes? More novels, more tech articles?

MB: Novels all the way. Once the cork was popped there was no replacing it. I have a bookshelf in my library that is dedicated to my future novels. To help keep the ideas distinct I'll buy a book, turn its cover inside out, write my future title on the blank spine and set it with the others. Notes for each book go into a large filing cabinet. The shelf currently has 14 books on it. I've got a lot of work to do.

DB: Isn’t it crazy how writing one does that?
Last question and this is just for fun…

In your bio you have a hard time expounding on the person that is Michael Barclay beyond the military and writing. So I am going to challenge you here and ask you to tell us something about yourself that doesn’t have to do with those things that readers would love to know about you?

MB: That is a challenge. I'm going to cheat and give two answers right off the top of my head. First, and this is why this is such a challenge to me, I don't think I fit in with people. Not by choice; it's just that I seem to see things very differently than most people (okay, everybody) I come across. Maybe I am naive. For example, when I once watched Survivor I quickly decided that if I went I would say 'Let me win and we can all divvy up the prize evenly. This way we all get a nice, 'back to nature' vacation and a fat payday afterward.' When not one person even came near suggesting that, I turned it off.

Second, which ties in perfectly (and maybe helps explain the first), I have always gotten along unusually well with animals. Deer, cats, squirrels... all walk up to me like they know me. One of the coolest things is what happens with butterflies - they love to flutter around me and use me as a landing pad. I have no idea why, but this has been going on my whole life. No, I did not mention this on either my USAF questionnaire or my college entrance papers.

When my wife and I saw the scene in Avatar where the floaty white things cover the MC, she leaned over and said 'That's you!’

DB: I can’t believe it! I am interviewing the male version of Snow White. I think this has to be the most chuckle-worthy interviews I’ve ever done.

Michael you’re awesome! Thanks so much for being here today. Best of luck with your book and future endeavors!

DB: Thanks very much for having me. It's been fun.
If you all thought Michael was as great as I did, go check out his website HERE, and buy his book HERE.

And as always, don’t forget to sign up for the Killer Characters Blogfest. I’ll be fun!


Matthew MacNish said...

What a fun interview that was! Thanks for hosting him, Deana.

Deana said...

Matthew- I really enjoyed it!

Book Lover said...

I loved the interview!! Too Funny!

Unknown said...

"male version of Snow White"
Seriously though, great interview. Off to check out the book!

Join me at the Rule of Three Writers' Blogfest!

Deana said...

Mandie- He is a funny guy isn't he:) It makes me more interested to read his book.

Damyanti- Thanks!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Great interview, Deana. And what a coup. Good job.

Loree Huebner said...

Nice interview. I always love learning about other authors. Thanks for hosting, Deana.

LisaAnn said...

Awesome interview! Great questions, Deana! :)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Great interview. The book sounds really interesting too.

Unknown said...

Yay!...thanks for letting me know :)