Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Interview with Michael R. Hicks

Born in 1963, Michael Hicks grew up in the age of the Apollo program and spent his youth glued to the television watching the original Star Trek series and other science fiction movies, which continue to be a source of entertainment and inspiration. Having spent the majority of his life as a voracious reader, he has been heavily influenced by writers ranging from Robert Heinlein to Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, and David Weber to S.M. Stirling. Living in Maryland with his beautiful wife, two wonderful stepsons and two mischievous Siberian cats, he’s now living his dream of writing full-time.

  1. Tell us about ‘Season of the Harvest’.
Season of the Harvest is a techno-thriller that blends in a bit of science fiction and horror. The premise of the story asks the question, what if the genetically engineered food that we’re eating wasn’t developed by people? What if had a far more sinister purpose?
We then follow FBI Special Agent Jack Dawson as he investigates the gruesome murder of his best friend and fellow agent who had been pursuing a group of suspected eco-terrorists. The group's leader, Naomi Perrault, is a beautiful geneticist who Jack believes conspired to kill his friend, and is claiming that a major international conglomerate specializing in genetically modified organisms is plotting a sinister transformation of our world that will lead humanity to extinction.

As he pursues the truth, Jack is drawn into a quietly raging war that suddenly explodes onto the front pages of the news, and discovers that Naomi's claims may not be so outrageous after all. Together, the two of them must battle a horror Jack could never have imagined as he learns the terrifying truth behind the old adage that "you are what you eat..."

  1. Why did you write this book, and what do you hope to achieve with it?
I wrote it out of the really outrageous issues I discovered while researching the food that we eat. That research stemmed from the need for my wife and I to radically change our diets for health reasons, and if you more than scratch the surface of finding out what goes into our food, you’ll run right into the GMO – Genetically Modified Organism – issue. While I think it makes a great thriller, aside from the “bad guys” in the story (I hope, at least), everything else is based on fact. The information about GMOs, the locales, the organizations (well, except for the Earth Defense Society, the group of good guys in the book), and so on are all drawn from real life.
With my other books, thus far, which have all been based in the far future in a human-alien war, my goal has been simply to tell a story and entertain. But Season of the Harvest is also intended to be a form of education through entertainment. If I can get the reader to think just a little bit about what they’re eating, in addition to giving them a fun read, then I’ve succeeded.

  1. Is there an underlying message in ‘Season of the Harvest’?
Yes, and it boils down to the one-liner hook for the story: you are what you eat. And while it’s taken to a science fiction extreme in the book to further the entertainment aspect, it’s also very, very true in real life. I believe that it’s not a coincidence that the incidence of many of the diseases, allergies, and syndromes has skyrocketed in our population since the mid-1990s when GMOs were first introduced on a massive scale into our food supply. The government tells us that these things are safe to eat, but food manufacturers are prohibited from telling consumers if their products contain GMO-based ingredients. The companies that produce the GMOs are the ones who are “responsible” for verifying that they’re safe to eat. There aren’t any third party honest brokers to verify those claims, and many officials in the FDA and Department of Agriculture are former officials of GMO companies, or have vested interests in those companies. It’s a mess, and it’s scary.

  1. You were commissioned in the US Army. Has this helped you to create this work, and if so, how? 
I think my Army experience, brief though it was in the great scheme of things, has helped me develop some of the characters in this and my other books. I’ve also had the honour of working with quite a lot of military folks over the last 25 years, which has also been extremely helpful.

  1. Of the characters you’ve created, do you have a favourite? If so, why this particular character? 
I get asked that question a lot, and my answer is always the same: I hate trying to pick a favourite character, because it’s like trying to say which of your children you love the most. They’re all part of my family, so to speak, so I have to leave it to the readers to figure out which ones they like, or hate, the most!

  1. How is writing science fiction or fantasy different from writing other genres?
I can’t really say, as those are the only genres I’ve written in thus far. Season of the Harvest isn’t strictly science fiction; it’s more of a thriller, but it has a sci-fi twist and a lot of sci-fi fact. But my next book, which will be a standalone novel, is going to be something of a historical romance, but also with a sci-fi twist. So I’ll let you know after I get through that!

  1. What did you find most rewarding in the writing process?
Mostly what happens in the story; I never know when I start a book exactly where it’s going or how it will end. I don’t script things out or do an outline. I wish I could, because that would be more efficient, but that’s not the way my pea brain works. I get an initial snapshot in my head, a visual, of the story, and then I go from there. But I have no idea where my fingers are going to take me most of the time when I start typing!

  1. What did you find most challenging in the writing process, and how did you overcome it?
The most challenging thing for me is simply disciplining myself to write every day. This is something I’m still working on, and is even more critical now that I’m leaving my day job to write full-time. It’s often a struggle to sit down and start hammering out words, but the irony is that it’s never as hard to get going as I tell myself it is. That’s a mental habit I need to break.

  1. What have you done to promote and market your book, and what advice would you give to other authors?
Twitter is my gold mine. I’ve gotten some traction from Facebook, but Twitter is where I’m making my fortune and have gained my freedom from my day job. But the main advice I have for other authors is: 1) write, and keep writing; 2) improve your craft and yourself a little bit every day; 3) you have to write AND promote to be successful; 4) give it time – don’t expect your book to shoot up the charts just because you published it; and 5) keep writing. Did I mention that already?
I’ve put out a lot of information on self-publishing on my blog at http://authormichaelhicks.com, and am also getting ready to publish a guide on how I’ve done things in the upcoming book ‘The Path To Self-Publishing Success.’

  1. Who, do you imagine, would be your ideal reader?
I’ve had a number of readers comment that folks who enjoy stories along the lines of what Michael Crichton or Preston & Child have written will enjoy Season of the Harvest. Basically, if you’re looking for a thriller with a lot of action, a bit of science that’s not over the top, and a little horror sprinkled in for good measure, you’ll probably like this book.

  1. What advice would you give to help others build the confidence required to write their first book?
If you don’t write it, no one will ever read it. If your first book is a flop, learn from it and start writing your second book. Who does something really complicated and has it come out exactly right the first time? And when (not “if”, but “when” - it will happen!) someone pans your book, take to heart what they have to say, then move on. If you really want to be an author, if you want to succeed, start writing and keep writing. The only true way to fail is to give up.

  1. Would you like to see your book adapted for the screen? If so, do you have any aspirations, or reservations, regarding this?
Absolutely! I’ve had tons of readers say that they could easily pictures Season of the Harvest on the big screen (and the books of the In Her Name series, as well). Getting screenplays done and starting to pound the pavement in Hollywood is on my strategic “to-do” list for next year.

  1. Tell us a little about a good science fiction or fantasy book you’ve read recently.
Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel is the most recent one I’ve read. It’s not quite science fiction, but is a bit of an alternate history where airships, or zeppelins, are the dominant form of long-range transportation. It was a very endearing story that kept me quite entertained, and I bought the sequel and have started in on that.
One thing I’d also like to point out for other authors: reading is part of your professional development. I’ve had very little time to read over the last couple years, as I’ve been working 12 to 16 hours most days, between my day job and squeezing in as much writing and promoting time as I could in my off-hours. Now that I’m close to writing full-time, I’m trying to read more, as well.

  1. What are you doing now?
At the moment, we’re on another one of our many RV trips, this time for the weekend to Pennsylvania. And once I get this interview finished, I’m going to cook up some chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast!

  1. Describe ‘Season of the Harvest’ in one sentence.
After you’ve read Season of the Harvest, you’ll never look at an ear of corn the same way again...

  1.  Where can we find you and your book?
Season of the Harvest is available for all the major eBook platforms, including the Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, and Kobo. It’s also available in print on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



  1. Intriguing book! I quit eating corn (mostly) several years ago. My fave is heirloom seeds in my own organic garden.

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Susan. I hope you enjoy the site!

  3. You have a fabulous blog! I want to award you the Best of Sci/Fi Blog Award for all the hard work you do!

    Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.

  4. Thank you, Deirdra! I am honoured!