"If you are wicked, the Messenger will find you"
Hey guys! So when I went to BEA this past May, I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Grant and receiving an ARC copy of Messenger of Fear - scheduled to come out at the end of September. I recently read the book and really enjoyed it, so here is the interview I held with the author! Closer to the release date I will be posting a full review of the novel.
Your GONE series was such a great one, but it was also so different from what readers can usually find on the shelf. What inspired the plot of Messenger of Fear?
There’s an old Swedish movie called The Seventh Seal. It involves a Grim Reaper character who plays a game with a man. So as I was pitching MESSENGER OF FEAR I’d tell people, “It’s the Seventh Seal with fewer Swedes and more teens.” This earned me many blank looks.
Which character from Messenger of Fear would you say that you relate to the most?
Oriax. Kidding. I’d be one of the wrong-doers awaiting my just punishment.
Do you remember what you were doing when you were inspired to write this novel? Is there any significance to the plot?
Mostly what I was doing was thinking, “Aren’t we all sick to death of dystopia? Oh, my GOD, make it stop!” I had done GONE which is very big-canvas, lots of story, lots of characters, sort of dystopian. And I had done BZRK which is sci-fi and very driven by gaming and technology and nihilism. I’d written both in third person limited and it had been a long time since I’d done anything in first person. So I knew I needed something more narrow-gauge and not dystopian. I was attracted to the idea of doing horror, and after the moral bankruptcy of BZRK I wanted something with a different message. And I wanted to write in first person, because I find it’s easier and I was kind of in the mood for it.
How long did you spend on the whole process of this novel?
Well, figure a period of maybe two weeks conceptualizing, creating the core characters, sketching out the world building, creating my “series bible.” And two months for the actual writing. And a bit of rewriting. Maybe 12 weeks total? Give or take a couple weeks.
Was there any part of this novel that you did not enjoy writing? I can tell you that the scene involving the dog was not an easy one for me to read, but proved a solid example to the story.
See, this is where I’m a strange person: all the stuff that is disturbing to readers is the stuff I love writing. I’m never happier than when I’m thinking, “Oh, man, this scene will ruin someone’s sleep.” I laugh to myself, sometimes out loud. Yes, an actual LOL because I’m thinking of people pushing the book away and going, “I can’t read any more!” and then, slowly, inevitably coming back to finish the scene. I have a sort of playful attitude toward readers, like we’re all in a game together and I’m trying to outwit them, teasing them, challenging them to engage. I have smart readers. I like them. And I trust them to get what I’m up to.
What is your favourite part of the writing process?
I hate editing. I shouldn’t, but I always take any editing notes as a rebuke, like I haven’t my job well enough. Actually I don’t get that many notes, and I love Katherine Tegen, but man I hate a revision letter. For me the fun parts are coming up with the initial concept, and writing the fun scenes. I’m a first draft guy, that’s what I like, when the words are coming without me thinking about it and my fingers are just beating the shit out of the keyboard. Yeah, that’s fun. There was a lot of that with MESSENGER OF FEAR. I told Tegen I was having so much fun she shouldn’t even pay me. Of course she knows better than to take that literally.
How do you react of feel when people say that they read a book in a sitting or less than 24 hours? Does it bring you pleasure knowing they got so into the story? Or do you feel it wasn't properly enjoyed because there wasn't time to soak up all the little things?
I love it. Are you kidding? My goal in life is to keep you up all night reading.
From the beginning of the novel, Mara was very level-headed, alert, and brave considering circumstances. As the story continues it is clear she goes through character development, but by the end she seemed to me as almost a whole new character. Is the going to change for the better or learn more about herself in the coming novels?
Character arc is tricky in series, doesn’t matter if it’s a book series or TV series, either way you have to grow the character without making the character a different person. So what we’ll see with Mara is a growth of maturity, awareness, responsibility, and doubt.
Another character that I am very intrigued about is Messenger. Will the next novel give any backstory as to his life and whatever wrong he might have done?
I am teasing out Messenger’s story little by little. But there’s a big reveal in Book 2.
Is there anything you can tell us about where the series will continue and what we can expect?
Well, the plan is for three books and two digital shorts. I’ve already written the second book and the first short. But I am sort of harboring this hope that the series does well enough that I can add more books. It’s very much a procedural, meaning its a bit like Law and Order in that there are defined elements that repeat. So there’s room for more. We’ll have to see. It’s fun to write so I kind of don’t want to stop, I guess.
One day I aspire to be a respected author, such as yourself, so is there any advice you would give to developing writers?
Focus on the doing and not on the being. It’s a job, not a state of grace. When you call a plumber you want him to know how to fix a toilet not watch him revel in his job title. As a writer you are no better than any other working stiff, and what the world wants from you is not you but the words you put on paper. Can you fix a toilet? Can you write a scene? Learn the job, get better at the job, do the job.
Is there anything else you would like to add for anyone reading?
When GONE first came out I’d get these reviews on blogs or Goodreads that would say, “You didn’t tell us enough! We want to know everything!” I’m getting a bit of that on MESSENGER OF FEAR. But by the end of GONE’s last book, LIGHT, everyone was saying, “He actually told us everything!” So I guess what I would say is: patience, people, all will be revealed, all will be clarified, I realize it’s hard not knowing, but frankly I revel in your pain so. . . Wait, that’s probably not the right way to put it. Trust me: in the end you will know all.
I just want to say a big thank you to Michael Grant for letting me pick his brain about his writing and this series, and you can follow him on twitter @thefayz!