Welcome to another installment of Author Wednesday. Michael Patrick Hicks joins me today to talk about his first novel Convergence. This science fiction technothriller features Jonah Everitt as your everyday drug addict, memory thief, and killer. There’s bound to be an edge-of-your-seat story in the telling of his journey!
Hello Michael! Your book sounds exciting and chilling at the same time. Tell us a little bit about yourself as a writer before we delve into the plot of Convergence. When did you first discover your voice as a writer?
Probably in high school. I always dabbled with writing as a hobby, but in my senior year of high school–way back when now–I decided to get a little bit serious about it and took a creative writing course. I wasn’t quite prepared for the worlds it opened up for me, and I completely fell in love with the art. I’ve been writing pretty much ever since, in one form or another, either as a news writer, a blogger, a reviewer, or as a novelist.
Even though most of us writers know we’re writers on the inside, it sometimes takes a bit to announce it to the world. When were you first able to call yourself a “writer” or “author?”
After getting a degree in journalism and picking up several freelance writing gigs with local newspapers and websites, I felt pretty confident in calling myself a “writer,” since I was getting paid to do writerly things. The “author” label came a little bit later, and that was a title I’d wanted to hold for quite a long time. Once I completed work on my sci-fi thriller, Convergence, and it ranked as a quarter-finalist with pretty strong praise from Publisher’s Weekly in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 contest, I felt a little bit closer to the title. In 2014, I went all-in and self-published and have zero regrets. Now I feel pretty comfortable calling myself a writer, author, and publisher. My work is just getting started!
First of all, congratulations on the making it to the quarterfinals. That’s a great achievement. Sometimes it takes that nudge to be able to use the more lofty title of “author.” Tell us about your writing rituals.
When I start a project and have a decent enough outline or grasp of the material and have done enough research to get the ball rolling, my only ritual is this: A thousand words a day, minimum, at least five days a week. It’s pretty cut and dry, but it works for me. Oh, and coffee. Or whiskey. Or both.
I’m impressed. I always pictured myself at a typewriter like the one I use at the opening of Author Wednesday with a cigarette and a shot of whiskey. I keep the picture in my mind, but I type far too fast for a manual, I quit smoking twenty years ago, and I somehow lose my train of thought when I drink whiskey. Perhaps I should have tried it with coffee. What’s going on in your writing life these days?
At the moment, I’m putting the finishing touches on a short story called Consumption, which I’m planning to release in the fall. It’s a horror story centered around a group of guests eating some meals they really shouldn’t be enjoying. It’s my attempt at doing something quite a bit different than Convergence, while still staying in the realm of speculative fiction. There’s a pretty strong Lovecraftian-vibe to the work, and maybe this story will break some ground in a new food-gore genre.
I’m also working on my next novel, Emergence, which is a sequel to Convergence, and will be sending that off to my editors soon. That should be released in the first half of 2015, so stay tuned for more details!
That’s impressive. The plot concept for Consumption is fantastic. You write generally in the same genre, but do these novels have common themes or messages?
I’d wager that loss is a pretty common theme in my work, and the attempt to recapture something of the past. It’s certainly predominate in both Convergence and its forthcoming follow-up, and, in quite a different way, with Consumption, as well. And it comes about in different ways – coping with the death of a loved one, trying to find your child, loss of innocence, loss of peace, or recapturing a bit of forgotten history or attempting to provoke loss through devastation.
That’s a powerful theme, and one that all people share. Why have you chosen to write about this particular theme?
Loss is a pretty universal emotion, and I think we’re all pretty empathetic in these struggles. I know I’ve certainly lost a great deal, and there have been a few personal battles I can draw from. As a theme, it’s one that resonates pretty deeply with me.
The best writing occurs when we have a passionate connection to the subject. Let’s talk about the characters in your novels. Do you have a favorite character that you created?
I really like writing Mesa Everitt, the daughter of my main protagonist in Convergence. She’s brash and wounded and spunky. We don’t see too much of her in the first book, but she has a much larger role to play in the next book, and it was really fun getting inside her head for a while. I like strong, tough women, like Buffy and Veronica Mars, (and my wife, of course!) so Mesa has a bit of that in her, but maybe with a little bit more of a punk vibe.
I’m glad you added your wife! Are you planning to continue writing in the same genre?
Looking at my writing plans and the ideas I’ve got brewing for the next few books, yeah, speculative fiction will definitely be my home base, genre-wise. It’s a wide field, though, one that’s very broadly defined and has all kinds of different flavors. I can dabble in sci-fi, or maybe thrillers that just have a bit of an advanced technological bent to it, and horror or fantasy. Really, anything that has a bit “what if” somewhere in the premise. So, yeah, I’ll be sticking around in this genre for a while.
What’s the best thing said about Convergence by a reviewer?
Early-on in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, one of my Vine reviewers, who was judging the excerpt round, said “This isn’t a genre I generally read, but I want to be able to read the rest of this book so I know wtf is going on.” These words brought a huge smile to my face, and I’m pretty proud of having elicited such a reaction. It was a huge compliment!
Yes, it is. Anytime you can draw in the reader, you’ve hit pay dirt. What’s your one sentence pitch for Convergence?
Memory thief and addict, Jonah Everitt, scours the war-torn ruins of Los Angeles to find his abducted daughter.
Sounds very intriguing. How did you choose the title?
The title reflects a few different things about what’s happening in the book – on one level, there’s the convergence of mankind becoming enmeshed with technology, there’s the convergence of past events rippling out and into the lives of people in the present, and it’s the name of a certain data-grouping algorithm that’s used in the book, called the Convergence Web.
While the title of book one has been the same since day one, I had tossed around a few different titles for book two. In early drafts, it was going to be called Divergence, but then I heard about Veronica Roth’s Divergent and didn’t want to muddy the waters too much and confuse readers. Also, some pretty significant things happened plot-wise that prompted me to change it, and I felt that Convergence was a more evocative and suitable title.
I’m going to ask the question I often am asked. How long do you estimate it took you to take the book from an idea to a finished, published?
The central idea, that is the idea of the technology at the center of this book, came from a science news story back in 1999, so it’s been with me for quite some time. I wrote Convergence over the summer of 2011 and did my first round of edits in time to submit to the Harper Voyager Open Door period. I never heard anything back from them, and put the book into Amazon’s contest in 2013. So, roughly four months of writing, and at least another six for editing and then second draft work, and then I had it professionally edited after the Amazon contest ran its course.
Is the book traditionally or self-published?
The book is self-published simply because I wanted to retain control over it, and the royalties in self-publishing are much better than they are in traditional publishing, particularly for a newbie like me, who would probably have to carry a lot of the burden of marketing on his own anyway. Given that, author-publishing seemed like a more suitable field to experiment with. I’d gotten strong praise from Publisher’s Weekly and advance readers thanks to the Amazon Breakthrough contest, so I felt pretty comfortable in tackling the role of going Indie and putting together my own team of editors, designers, and formatters, and releasing the book straight to readers without the support of a publishing house.
I agree with you. I’ve gone both ways and after a few years and a few books with traditional publishers, I dropped out. I emerged when the Indie movement began gaining momentum. You might still be waiting for Convergence to be published if you went the trad route. What is the best thing someone could say about Convergence?
“I loved it! Where’s the next one?!”
That’s the highest praise ever. Thank you so much for stopping by today, Michael. I enjoyed getting to know you and hearing about another genre of fiction.
About Michael – Michael Patrick Hicks has worked as a probation officer, a comic book reviewer, news writer and photographer, and, now, author. His work has appeared in various newspapers in Michigan, as well as several The University of Michigan publications, and websites, such as Graphic Novel Reporter and Leelanau.com. He holds two bachelor’s degrees from The University of Michigan in Journalism & Screen Studies and Behavioral Science. His first novel is Convergence.
Links to Michael and his books: