Featured Interview With M.D. Massey
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I was raised in the Midwest and in Texas. For most of my early childhood I lived near St. Louis, on the Illinois side of the river, in a small town of about 3,000 people called Dupo. Our neighborhood was surrounded by farms and woods, which meant I got to spend a lot of time outdoors, an experience that I highly recommend for any kid. Later I moved to Jefferson City, Missouri, which was like moving to the big city to me. I experienced quite a bit of culture shock after that move, because my eighth grade class was the size of our entire junior high and high school in the town where I was raised.
Most of my summers and some of my high school years were spent living in South Texas. I’m Latino on my mom’s side, and we made the long haul every summer from St. Louis to deep South Texas to spend time with family and so we could be exposed to that part of our heritage. I speak a little Spanish, but mostly I understand more than I speak. Sadly, my mom refused to teach us Spanish, because she thought we’d be ostracized if we had a Spanish accent. Those were different times, mind you; my mother got a degree in English back when girls her age were expected to stay home and help raise their younger brothers and sisters. She had one professor who used to use terms like “greaser” and “spic” right in front of her, and she told us stories about how she’d leave the lecture hall crying every day. She was a tough woman, but I guess it affected her a great deal. Anyway, most of the Latino characters in my books are based on real people I knew growing up.
As for my current location, I live in the Texas Hill Country, just outside of Austin. I love living in Austin, my wife was born and raised here and I’ve been here 24 years now. I don’t think we’ll ever leave. Austin is really an artist’s town, despite the fact that rapid population growth and massive corporate development are destroying much of the old Austin through gentrification and urban sprawl. Yet it’s still a great place to live. But I usually lie and tell people they don’t want to move here—it never works though.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I can remember my mom taking me to this old-school department store in Columbia, Illinois before I’d even entered kindergarten, where she’d buy me these Little Golden Books. And I can remember reading them by myself, sitting on the sun porch in our house. I think when I entered school I was three or four reading levels ahead of all the other kids. By the time I hit third grade I was reading the classics like The Iliad and Homer’s Odyssey—pretty much anything having to do with mythology and folklore. Then I was introduced to fantasy and science fiction, and it was all over at that point.
I started writing non-fiction books back in 2003, because a friend who was a magazine editor encouraged me to do so. We were having a conversation about the business I was in at the time, and he said, “Mike, you have a lot to say. You should start writing.” So I did.
I didn’t start writing fiction until ten years later. For a few years before that, I’d been taking online classes and reading everything I could about writing fiction. But I didn’t feel confident that I could write anything worth reading, and I sure as hell didn’t know how to finish a novel. Then I read James Scott Bell’s “Plot and Structure” and it all clicked. I finished my first novel that year, and it was horrible—I recently worked with my editor to revise and edit it, and now it a freebie that I give away on my site as a prequel to my Colin McCool series. It’s definitely not my best work, but I’m proud of that novel because it’s the first piece of fiction that I ever finished.
Since then I’ve written six more novels, four in my paranormal apocalypse series, “THEM,” and two in my urban fantasy series. That series actually features the protagonist from my first novel, Colin McCool. They’re my best-selling books to date.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
I love reading high fantasy when it’s well-written. Of all the more recent authors to write in the high fantasy genre, Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss have impressed me the most. Also, I found Joe Abercrombie’s “Shattered Sea” series to be an entertaining departure from his grimdark stuff, which I also enjoy.
Of course, I read a lot of urban fantasy. For my money, Patricia Briggs’ work is the standard by which all others should be measured. I also greatly enjoyed reading all of Larry Correia’s “Monster Hunter” books to date, because I love a good urban fantasy action romp, and Larry gets the gun stuff right. I lament the fact that there aren’t more authors writing urban fantasy that isn’t paranormal romance or paranormal erotica masquerading as UF. Not that there’s anything wrong with writing PNR, or reading it. I just prefer my urban fantasy with less sex and more kicking ass.
I also occasionally read action-adventure and hard-boiled crime novels. I’m a big fan of Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series. And I’m also a long-time reader of Andrew Vachss’ Burke novels. I model my narrative style after Vachss, or at least I try to. He’s a master of that spare writing style that so many noir authors were known for, and it works well for his characters and settings.
And then there’s the oddball stuff I like to read, like Joe Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard novels. The great thing about Joe’s work is that he can write horror, he can do amazing literary work, and he can also write stories that are totally off the wall like those Hap and Leonard books. His stylistic range as an author blows mind.
As far as inspiration goes, I’m always inspired when I read really good prose that is weaved into an engaging story, especially when it’s done in such a way that it doesn’t detract from the reader’s experience. Rothfuss is a genius when it comes to using language in a way that makes it a pleasure to read. Yet, his prose only serves as a vehicle for telling a damned good story; it’s not the entire purpose of his novels. I read stuff like that and I think, “Damn, I need to work on my writing.”
Tell us a little about your latest book?
My latest release is the second novel in the Colin McCool urban fantasy and paranormal suspense series, “Graveyard Druid.” Obviously it’s the follow-up to “Junkyard Druid,” and it was challenging to write because there’s always a lot of pressure on an author to follow up a novel that sells well and that is well-received by readers. The whole time I was writing it, I kept second-guessing everything from my plot to my dialogue to Colin’s character development and internal transformation over the course of the novel.
One complaint readers had about the first book was that there was too much drama going on, and that it detracted from the story. But to me, a good story needs lots of conflict, and characters need damned good reasons for doing stupid things. And they need to do stupid things sometimes, because if a character always makes good decisions, you’re going to have a very boring novel. So, I tried to create as much tragedy in the backstory and tension between the main characters as possible in “Junkyard Druid,” because who the hell cares about a character who hasn’t suffered? I know I don’t. Heck, in real life I have a hard time connecting with people who have never experienced loss or grief or tragedy, and I think it’s that much harder for readers to connect with characters in a novel when they don’t have a deep emotional wound.
Also, I tend to think of my story arcs in tetralogies, so I can’t have all the character’s issues resolve in a single book. When I’m planning these novels, I’m looking at how the main character is going to evolve and change over three or four novels, and that’s what I’m doing with Colin. By the fourth novel, he’s going to be a much different character than he was in that first scene in the therapist’s office in “Junkyard Druid.”
But I also understand how readers can be impatient and want resolution now. So, in this second book I made sure that Colin had the opportunity to deal with some of the internal challenges he has that were revealed in the first book. I damned sure didn’t resolve them all, but he’s a bit stronger emotionally and wiser by the end of Graveyard Druid. And of course, he kicks a crapload of undead ass in this book as well. Because priorities.
Also, “Graveyard Druid” reveals more about certain supporting characters that are popular with readers, namely Hemi and Belladonna. There are a few Easter eggs that are dropped that will play into future novels in the series. Bells turns out to be a much more complex character than readers might have anticipated in book one, because she was fairly one-dimensional in that novel, by design. In this second novel you’ll see there’s more to her than I first revealed. And, Hemi has some secrets that are hinted at as well. Obviously, you’ll learn even more about their back stories in future installments.
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