Sunday, December 27, 2015

Author Interview: T. Mike McCurley

Hello, and welcome to an all new series of author interviews.  The long anticipated anthology "We Were Heroes" will be coming out in 2016, and in preparation for this release we'll be running interviews of various contributors.

MTI:  Today I'm interviewing T. Mike McCurley, who contributed two stories to this anthology:  Everything Breaks Down—Even the Jackhammer, and Forgotten But Not Gone.  Thank you for being here.

TMM:  Thanks for having me. It’s an honor. And hey -- I brought cookies!

MTI:  Excellent.  Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

TMM:  Well, I’m a Cancer, and I like long walks on… Oh, wait. My bad. You meant writer-wise! I’ve been scribbling little bits here and there for nigh on to forty years now. I enjoy telling stories, and writing them gives me the freedom to do so on a grander scale. I mean, trust me – it ain’t like you want me knocking on your door and saying, “Hi! Can I tell you a story?” Years ago, I started submitting a few short stories for publication online, and the following that developed from them represent quite a few more doors I don’t end up knocking on.

I’m part of the Pen and Cape Society, an affiliated group of authors who as one part of their writing or another, put superhero prose on the shelf (even if those shelves are sometimes only digital). We’ve got some very talented folks in there, and I’m proud to be a part of the group. By the way, we don’t knock on doors either, but come check us out some time!

On the personal side, I enjoy the far-too-little time I get to spend with my wife and daughter, and I’m looking at ways to add to that time. I dig old roleplaying games, and have a whole mess of them on my shelves. Camping, hunting, and hanging out with friends should probably be thrown on that list as well. I am proudly eclectic. Oh, and bad jokes. Can’t forget that. I love bad jokes.

MTI:  Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

TMM:  Probably my first fictions were those intended to keep me out of trouble (sorry, mom!) and, having two older brothers meant I had to be good at it. Even in my early school years I used to write “stories” in my notebooks. They might not amount to much now, and in fact the few I can recall are the kind of things that --were I to find them today -- I would set on fire and dance around as they burned. Those stories, though, taught me things that I would need to know to grow as an author. Sentence structure, basic plotting, cliffhangers, characterization, and a whole mess of other things all came from tales that had minimal actual story to them. In high school I also did a lot of RPG fan fiction (although I don’t think anyone called it ‘fan fiction’ back then) based on characters in the games we were playing at the time.

My favorite type of story to write is the kind that comes out fun to read. I can write drudgery, but what would be the point? If I don’t like it, at least a little bit, I’m sure as hell not going to subject anyone else to it: “Hey, Bob! I wrote this story and it sucks. Read it anyway!”
As far as genres go, I do love to throw some super-folks on paper. The abilities that put them in a position separate from others means they have to work harder to maintain their own humanity (or, failing that, they can happily discard it and dance among the ruins). It can make for some very interesting internal dialogue between the positive and negative aspects of a character. Plus, let’s be honest: It’s fun! Writing about folks who can knock down buildings opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Unfortunately, it also adds exponentially to your potential plot holes. “Why didn’t The Catalyst turn himself into salt to stop the Were-Slug?” (Note to readers: If you are indeed The Catalyst, I would like to apologize for outing your mistake like this. Next time, dude. You’ll get that slug next time.)

MTI:  Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?

TMM:  It’s kind of a cheat, because several authors have written under the umbrella of the original name, but Don Pendleton got me into more serious writing. I had a friend in grade school chuck a copy of one of the Executioner series into my lap and tell me I would enjoy it. I really bit into the action of the series, and before I knew it, I was reading as many of them as I could get my grubby little mitts on. I still love action sequences, and many of my stories are based around them. I’ll envision some scene in my head, and suddenly I see how it can play out on a larger stage. Pretty soon I’m running with it, and building the events that led up to the scene comes later. Kind of like I did as a kid: Let the events unfold and then decide how I’m going to explain them.

MTI:  Your two stories, appear in We Were Heroes, an anthology devoted to the theme of aging, retired, or out of their element superheroes and villains.  Tell us a little bit about your contributions to this collection.

TMM:  Well, Everything Breaks – Even the Jackhammer is about a man who was present at a tragedy that completely changed the way he sees himself and everything around him. He has retired from the life of heroics, but puts on the suit one last time for an interview about the events of that horrible day. It’s a story of forgiveness and self-loathing that shows how easily some people can come to terms with outside events but not those that plague us from within.

Then there’s Forgotten but Not Gone. I was trying to imagine what would happen to a man with earth-shattering powers who suddenly had them stripped away. What kind of person might they become? What bits of their morality might change, and what parts would remain?

MTI:  Who's your favorite superhero (or villain)?

TMM:  Oh, man… This is gonna take a while. Let me consult a mile-long list. I’ve been a fan of Deadpool for many a year now, and I suppose he plays both sides of the hero/villain fence quite well. I admire the tack the writers have taken with the character through the years. He just does what he wants to, and when read it really feels like he’s driving the story – kind of writing it for himself, as opposed to being written by others. That’s a testament to the talents of the fine folks who put pen to paper to make him come alive. Yes, I am looking forward to the film, for those of you who might be wondering.

MTI:  If you, yourself, could have any superpower, what would it be?

TMM:  I always think I’ve figured this one out, and then the next time I think about it, my answers always change. Currently, I think I’d go with the kind of photographic reflexes that Marvel’s ‘Taskmaster’ has. The ability to watch someone do something and then be able to do it yourself has an appeal on many levels. Then again, tomorrow I’ll probably be back to something else – probably something that would up the fun quotient by a few powers of ten. I hate to say it, but I’d be a terrible super-being. I’d find some kind of entertaining way I could use my powers rather than the whole ‘great responsibility’ route. If I suddenly gain the ability to fly, I’m getting a glow-in-the dark suit shaped like a flying saucer. Sorry in advance, folks, but I’m a horrible joker. And of course now, the first time someone sees a UFO, they’re gonna be on the horn asking me if I learned how to fly…

MTI:  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

TMM:  I’ve got a few irons in the fire at the moment. I’m working on the fourth book in my Firedrake series, Inquisition, and if Drake thinks he’s had problems before, he ain’t seen nothin’ yet! This is the start of a darker arc for the whole series. Even for a seven-foot dragon, life is about to get very interesting. A lot of characters from the previous books and several new ones will make appearances, and things will change for the metahuman community on a national, soon to be global scale. Oh, yeah, and spoiler alert: Drake will probably make fun of someone and then hit them a lot. I know, I know. No one expected that. Seriously, though, it’s looking like a lot of fun as the villain known as Inquisitor makes himself known publicly.

My short stories about the cursed gunfighter Jericho Sims are building in number and size. I ran four short tales up last month as part of National Novel Writing Month, and as they get past the editing stage, they’ll be dropped into the mix. Jericho is discovering that the world around him is infinitely stranger than he had ever imagined. Chock full of paranormal, otherworldly, and downright weird subject matter, Jericho will have his hands full dealing with things that go bump in the night…and day…and pretty much any time they want to.

On my website, I’m dropping free short stories in a setting I’m calling Z262 – a colony of miners and farmers working to extract the riches of a new planet. The characters of Z262 are anthropomorphic animals caught in the midst of a war. Some of them are fighting back against the rodents who seek to destroy them, while others simply want to be left alone. Slice-of-life vignettes show up whenever I throw them out there. It’s a fun project, and I’m doing it strictly for the entertainment value.

I’ve got a few short tales out for submission at the moment as well, and I’ve got high hopes for a multi-part story I’ve built up around an assassination and robbery. It actually tells the story from the point of view of several different involved parties, and would be a serial format thing.

MTI:  Other than these fantastic tales appearing in We Were Heroes, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?

TMM:  The next ones on the block are the Jericho Sims tales I mentioned above. I have one in beta phase now, and the others in various stages of editing on the first drafts. All of them will be self-published so I can get them to the folks that have been waiting.

MTI:  On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

TMM:  Oh, man, thank you for asking this one! I am seriously, deeply digging on the new Ash vs Evil Dead series. I saw all three of the original Evil Dead films in the theater way (yeah, I mean WAY) back when. Bruce Campbell is one of those actors I can sit and watch for hours, so it’s an absolute pleasure to see him getting to let loose and be Ash again. If you’re reading this, Bruce, thanks again for everything through the years!

MTI:  How about music?

TMM:  Yes, please! I love music. My writing playlists have everything from Bagpipes to Body Count, Slayer to David Bowie. Country, instrumental, orchestral, opera, death metal, old school punk, hardcore, glam, thrash…it’s all there. I’m experimenting with different tempos based on what type of scene I’m working on, but right now I just plug in the headphones, switch on a block of tunes, and type. As far as favorites go? Blue Oyster Cult. I’ve been listening to them since the late ‘70’s. I’ve had them on vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD, and now digital. Probably no other band that I’ve held onto for as long. Their songs are generally stories in their own right.

MTI:  What was the last movie you watched, and what did you think of it?

TMM:  It was either The Professional or Heavy Metal. I remember them both from a while back, and I probably had them running on the same day. They’re both in my top ten list and I watch them frequently. They each have meaning for me beyond their simple entertainment value, but from a moviegoer’s standpoint, they’re great flicks. The Professional is full of beautifully-executed cinematic violence and some very interesting characters. Heavy Metal is one of those films that tells stories within stories within stories. It’s one I’ll always turn to if it’s on, written (and voiced) by some greats. I don’t watch movies (or TV) the way I used to. I’ve reverted back to reading more, and I’m a slow reader. Now the last one I saw in a theater was The Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was a lot of fun. Flashy where it should be and dark where it needed to be. I know there are purists out there screaming at me right now about the way things unfolded in there, but I have been trying to approach these new films with a more open mind, as if I had no previous knowledge of the subject matter. I had to after a few of the past ones.

MTI:  Readers love samples.  Do you happen to have a story excerpt you'd like to share with us today?

TMM:  Sure! I can share a bit from an upcoming Jericho Sims story:

Murphy reached up to grab the hand. A second later, he had jerked the man forward and down. Powerful hands encircled Albert's head and tilted it aside. A mouth filled with long, needle-like teeth gaped open to an extent that Jericho would have said was impossible, were he not watching it with his own eyes. The mouth wrapped around Albert's neck and the ranch hand shrieked as the sharp teeth ripped into his flesh. A liquid gurgling sound came from Albert, accompanied by a steady slurping, sucking noise from Murphy.
Colleen screamed as her terror suddenly overcame the shock that had held her still from the moment she saw her father attack his employee. Jericho swore and palmed his revolver as Murphy looked up.
The cattle baron was improving while they watched. His eyes were open and staring now, and he wiped away blood with the back of a hand to clear the vision in the left one. He smacked his lips around teeth that were normal once more. When he stood, the limp body of Albert fell to the floor. A piece of the ranch hand's neck the size of a man's fist was simply gone. There was no blood around the wound, and no fresh was pumping out.
"You return to my home, Mister Sims? Meddlesome does not begin to describe you," Murphy said. He slicked back his messy hair, ignoring the fact that he was smearing blood through it. His teeth ground as he looked at Jericho. He shook his head. "Like a bad penny, you turn up where you are not wanted."
"Me? You're the one that just ate that hard case," Jericho said. "You couldn't just give him his walking papers?"
Murphy chuckled. "He knew the risks. Like all my servants, he was willing to die for me."
Jericho glanced at the cooling body that lay sprawled in the foyer. "Well, I reckon we gotta take your word for that, then. Ain't like we can ask him."
"I cannot allow my secret to be revealed," he said. "If it is any consolation, Mister Sims, I'm going to kill you as well."
"Nope. Don't make it any better," Jericho said.
"Well, I thought perhaps -"
"How is that supposed to console anyone? Telling them you're going to kill them? Like saying that's gonna make them feel better about what you're gonna do?"
Before Murphy could respond, the Colt in Jericho's hand erupted in thunder and flame. His left hand fanned the hammer through an entire cylinder, all five rounds slamming into the chest of the vampire from less than ten feet. Murphy looked stunned as the world seemed to fall away, and he slumped to the floor in a heap.
"You see?" Jericho asked no one in particular. "I didn't tell you that was coming. So much more effective that way."
 TMM:  Martin, thank you again for having me. It’s been a real pleasure, and I look forward to reading all the stories in We Were Heroes.
 MTI:  And thank you for taking the time for the interview, sir.  It was  a real pleasure.  I hope everyone picks up a copy of We WereHeroes, so they can check out more of your writing.

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