December 13, 2012

Elbow Room and a Sense of Doom: an interview with Michael McBride, author of "Snowblind"

After being entertained by the new novella from Dark Fuse and Delirium Books, Snowblind, I had the chance to ask a few questions of its author, Michael McBride. We talk writing, reading, artwork, and the end of the world. Enjoy!

Gef: Your debut novel, Species, came out in 2004 if I'm not mistaken, so you're creeping up on a decade in the published novelist racket. Do you still feel like a greenhorn these days, or more like the grizzled vet?

Michael: Somewhere in between. I’ve learned a ton about the business, largely through trial and error, that has helped me better navigate the small press racket, but I won’t pretend to be an expert. I’ve found a few presses with whom I enjoy working and pretty much just stick with them, mainly because of my working relationship with the publishers/editors. Tons of promising presses pop up every year with publishers who show a lot of enthusiasm, but most find there’s a whole lot more hard work involved than they expected. I’ve been swept up in it, like most everyone else out there. It’s fun for a while. A lot of fun, actually. Ultimately, though, the work suffers for it. By now I know how I want my work to be presented, what I expect from a publisher, and what I’m prepared to give in exchange. My readers deserve the very best, both from the physical presentation and the work itself. To give them anything less would be unacceptable, both from a personal and a professional perspective.

Gef: Snowblind revolves around four friends elk hunting in the Rockies. Are you much of a hunter yourself out there in Colorado, or was the backdrop for this story a little less personal than that?

Michael: I hunted a fair amount as a kid, primarily because it was something that was important to my dad. It’s just not one of those things about which I get excited anymore. I still enjoy getting up into the mountains, though. There’s something both liberating and unnerving about distancing yourself from the rest of the world. It’s strange to think that you’ll find areas of forest where no man has ever laid foot within a day’s travel from a city like Denver, with a metro area population of nearly three million.

Gef: Snowblind takes place in a fairly isolated patch of wilderness. Is it that isolation that lends itself to the story, where so much of the population has been urbanized or suburbanized? Does the widening gap between urban and rural life lend itself to a story like this?

Michael: Totally. I won’t say I’ve ever lived a rural existence, but I find it far more appealing than this shift toward urbanization. I need elbow room, you know? All of the new construction around here seems to be a competition to see who can squeeze more people into the smallest space possible. I would imagine people who become accustomed to living in such a manner would find any form of isolation terrifying. With Snowblind, I attempted to use the remoteness of the location and the blizzard as a character of sorts. Isolation personified. It’s that invisible character who stalks the hunters through the majority of the story.

Gef: Where some folks have been wearing sandwich boards and proclaiming the end times for publishing due to the rise of digital media, you've been an author that's had more of an adoptive attitude. Are there any trepidations you have with a prospective "Kindle" generation, or do you just see it as the next go-round in publishing's evolution?

Michael: Adoptive attitude. I like that terminology. I think that’s about the best approach one can have at this point in time. The industry’s in a state of transition, but I think the ultimate resolution will be a pretty even split. There are those out there (myself included) who simply enjoy reading from a physical book with paper pages. (I’m actually something of a hardcover snob, truthfully.) I’ve sold a ton of eBooks and made a whole lot more money than I’ve made from the small press editions, but I refuse to sacrifice one in favor of the other. The industry needs publishers and, most importantly, editors. How else will a reader be able to find quality in a sea of typo-riddled, poorly written, haphazardly formatted self-published garbage? As the large houses are forced to lower their prices, I think you’ll see the market settle in and the importance of publishers reemerge. All of that aside, it’s wonderful to see so many more kids actually reading. If nothing else, I hope that trend continues.

Gef: I'm a monster fan, myself, so Snowblind appealed to me right off on that front. However, you mentioned in an interview with Dark Scribe a few years back that you prefer an apocalyptic kind of tale over classic monsters--all things being equal in the quality of writing, anyway. Dystopia and apocalyptic stories seem to have found new fame in recent years. How have you observed that trend, or do you try to ignore the ebbs and flows?

Michael: I would imagine the recent resurgence of apocalyptic/dystopian fiction in the mainstream is a consequence of the catastrophic turn the economy—our nation as a whole, for that matter—has taken over the last decade or so. I think people see some sort of horrible end as a natural result of the direction society is heading. (There’s only so far we can fall, right?) Zombie material fits that mold perfectly. I’ve noticed the trend, but I don’t have the ability to write in such a way as to ride the popularity waves. My muse is fickle; I write whatever she wants me to write, whatever that might be. I tend to write more thriller-type material anymore. Dark thriller, of course.

Gef: When it comes to the book cover, Daniele Serra did a heckuva job capturing the isolation and bleakness of the landscape and subject matter. Serra even won a British Fantasy Award this year. How did the working relationship come about there, and how impressed have you been with the covers for your stories?

Michael: Dani’s not only a killer artist, he’s an incredible guy, too. That’s important to note, in my opinion. I take great pride in working with stand-up individuals who deserve whatever success and accolades come their way. He’s given me some of his best work for sure. His covers for Predatory Instinct and Snowblind are both perfect for the stories. Shane Staley, the publisher of Delirium Books, has always done a good job of finding the right artist for my books. It was his idea to get Dani in the first place.

Gef: Okay, Christmas fast approaches. What's on your reading wish list? The wintery landscape of Snowblind looks to lend itself to horror fans this time of year. What more from your works would you recommend? And who are some other authors folks need to look out for?

Michael: I always love this time of year because I generally get new books from John Connolly, Lee Child, James Lee Burke, Jo Nesbo, Preston & Child, Michael Connelly, James Rollins, and (every other year) Michael Marshall. (If you aren’t reading outside the genre, kids, then your work will always be derivative.) Personally, I have a ton of new books due to be released this winter. In addition to Snowblind from Delirium, I have Vector Borne from Bad Moon Books and The Coyote from Thunderstorm Books, who will also be releasing my apocalyptic God’s End Trilogy in deluxe limited edition just in time for the end of the world on 12/21/12. And I always keep an eye out for the newest releases from guys like Jeff Strand, Gene O’Neill, Gord Rollo, Norman Prentiss, Brian James Freeman, JG Faherty, Nate Southard, and William C. Rasmussen, among others, who have some big futures ahead of them.


A big thanks to Michael for stopping by the blog. Be sure to check out his site (www.michaelmcbride.net), as well as SNOWBLIND.

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