Children of the Mark: AJ Scott is a typical teenager. The only thing he wants to do is survive high school. Clair Anderson and Dougie Edwards have been his friends since the third grade. The teens stumble across a bizarre ritual and their night of adventure quickly turns to panic as they witness the culmination of the Cult of the Elder’s attempt to pull a monstrous deity from the netherworld into our world. A hasty escape leaves the teens terrified and AJ marred from the event. His knew found malady proves to be much more than a simple mark and the trio are pulled into a world of deceit, monsters, and old fashioned horror.
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Gef: What was the impetus behind Children of the Mark?
Michael: It's been a long time coming. I had the idea for this awhile before I published my first two books, but it was slow going. Most of my life is focused on my kids so I wanted to write something that was in-line with my other books, but also something I wouldn't have to cringe handing it to one of my kids. Children of the Mark comes close to that. I think it's still a little too graphic for my two youngest, but my teenager enjoyed it a great deal. I've always had a fondness for H.P. Lovecraft and there was a great deal of inspiration from his works that went into this book. I didn't want to simply write a second-rate continuation of something he'd done so it took a great deal of time creating my own mythology to base the series on.
Gef: What, if anything, did you approach differently in writing this one compared to your previous work?
Michael: Children of the Mark took a very different approach. There is much more of a suspense/mystery vibe to the story than anything else I've ever written. It was a good challenge for me as a writer making sure every end of the narrative tied together.
Gef: How intensive does the research process get for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?
Michael: I'm not sure how any writer could produce a good work without taking research seriously. My process never changes regardless of the book. I write a first draft which I probably wouldn't ever let anyone read. I use that as the basis for discovering holes in the plot and also figuring out what I really don't know enough about. From there I develop an outline of topics I need to educate myself on in order to give the story the depth and accuracy it needs.
Gef: High school is a great petri dish for all kinds of weird rumors. I remember one about a student's father rumored to attend satanic rituals in the middle of the woods. One of the more laughable rumors, yeah, but the occult did pop up once in a while. Anything like that in your experience?
Michael: I had a good one when I was a kid. I come from a military family and we were living in Germany at the time. The rumor was one of our friends older sister was involved in some type of cult ritual and she had to be institutionalized. It really freaked us younger kids out for a few years, and was my first exposure to the word cult. I found out years later she was sent back to the states to live with her grandparents in order to attend a local college. The kicker is, you just know her little brother, who was our friend had to have known the truth entire time, but he never said a word. Kids!
Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of the horror genre?
Michael: What I love about horror is that it's always evolving. I am a firm believer that if you're going to write something, make it you're own, don't redo something that's been done over and over again. Horror (or fear) has endless possibilities, my goal is to always make it more than just about what's going to happen to the characters, but to make you care enough about the characters to morn or celebrate them.
Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?
Michael: Wow, there's been so much. The one I see time and time again is, "Get your book out there as much as you can, any way you can." This really only helps to a certain point. Twitter and Facebook are littered to death with a constant stream of people pushing their books. It doesn't take most people very long to completely ignore these. There's a limit and once you pass it you simply become spam.
Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?
Michael: I'm a complete comic book nerd. I haven't collected actual comic books in years but I'm a sucker for anything comic book related. I'm lucky enough now that my middle son loves all of the comic book movies, so he and I geek it up together quite often.
Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?
Michael: I'm always writing. I'm working on the follow-up to The Last Infection and I'm editing a book that's more sci-fi based, currently entitled Silent Invasion. Unlike most, I'm trying to reduce my online footprint, it's all become a bit too much for me, but I keep my Facebook and web page update with all of the latest.