T. Mike McCurley lives in a quaint suburb of Oklahoma City, but superhero and action prose pour from his battered laptop. Mike’s imagination created the Emergence – a worldwide explosion of metahumanity. This birthed his popular character, Francis Drake, an Emerged cop born in the form of a humanoid dragon.
I was wondering where you get your story ideas?
It’s one of those things where I can see a sight, hear a song, or a particular sound even, and it makes me wonder about a certain thing, which leads me to daydream some weird series of events. I usually just snag one of those events and run with it. I grab random pictures from the Internet: landscapes, people, odd scenes. I try to imagine what is going on there or how it could be twisted in some way and then see where that thought process leads. I am a huge daydreamer, and I link thoughts in patterns that often make little sense. My train of thought derails every few minutes.
What is the usual process for your fiction writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Usually I have an idea of what might happen and a general direction I want the story to follow. Sometimes I even have an ending in mind before I start. Generally, though, I run with things as they come up. My characters often direct themselves in the story. Yeah, I know that is kind of a cliche, but it’s true. Once you know the personality of your character (and you’d better before you try to write them), they can easily turn one situation into another. What you as a writer expected to lead to point A, the character tells you should – by their own kind of logic – lead to point Q. Sometimes, this is more trouble than I expected when I began the tale, but it also opens up vast possibilities. I am experimenting with developing a more detailed plot prior to beginning the actual writing process, and I hope to see the results of that soon.
Once you have an idea that sparks your imagination do you research your idea or do any world-building exercises, or do you just begin to write and see where the Muse takes you?
If I have questions about something then I will research it, at least to the point that I know what I’m dealing with. Well, I say that, but lets be honest: sometimes I fake it. I won’t just make up, for example, how an internal combustion engine functions, but I will happily lie about the systems involved in the Hyper-Quantum Fusion Projection Cannon created by former Armscorp Omega weapons engineer The Mechanic. There is a certain amount of lenience allowable, I believe, but I do try to make things seem close to what reality would be…if reality included my characters.
I am looking into the possibility of building an entirely new background and separate universe of super-types, and for that, the world-building process has definitely begun. The ideas I have for it are far darker than those I have explored in the Emergence setting.
What is your daily writing time like?
I write when I have the time and inclination. At the moment, I am not devoting specific time every day to the task. I am not, as opposed to many I know, a full time author. I write to settle that voice inside me that demands a story be told. There are times I wish it spoke to me more often, or in a louder tone, but I will take what I can get. I have a full time job and a family, and I write ‘on the side’, as it were.
Are you a full time writer? If so when did you make the decision and what factors led to the decision. If you are not a full time writer…Is your plan to one day being a full time writer?
It was once a dream of mine to be an author, and of course that dream blossoms again from time to time, but I think for now I am happy simply creating and seeing where the story takes me. When I write a story, I have fun with it, and part of me fears that if it ever became my sole source of income, that the joy would vanish from it. If ever anything of mine takes off, then I will happily run with it until it becomes not fun. That’s kind of my personal acid test: Is the writing fun? If not, then I say, “Better to chuck it and go shooting.”
Can you tell us about your experience working with your current publisher? (Any other publishers?) (Or your self-publishing experiences?)
When I first started throwing letters on a page, I submitted a story to a superhero fiction website. Matt Heibert took a chance on my writing. The stories I published there formed the backbone of my Emergence universe. Soon after, Nick Ahlhelm accepted the first Firedrake story to his Metahuman Press website, and they ran there for roughly three years. Both Matt and Nick were great to work with. Between the two of them I met people whose writing I admire to this day, and with whom it has been my immense pleasure to work on occasion.
I later threw my collected works into POD form and then dropped them onto Amazon as well. I’ve enjoyed working with Amazon, believe it or not. Yes, all the work is mine if I want to promote it, but I’m also not beholden to anyone else for anything that crops up. I deal with the issues myself.
When we in the Pen and Cape Society put out a recent anthology, I got the privilege of dealing with Ian Healy over at Local Hero Press. He showed great poise in working with me. I know several people who would gladly tell you how much they would rather stick their fingers in a fan than deal with me, so…thanks, Ian!
What is your current release and (without spoilers) tell us about the new book or series.
I have begun work on the fourth volume of Firedrake, and hopefully he will see fit to tell me more about himself so that I might put a fifth out as well…or one day even a tenth. As long as people enjoy it, and I have fun with it, I see no reason to stop.
I was an early member of the Pen and Cape Society, a cabal of writers whose works feature superhero prose. We have recently released an anthology of short stories and offered it for free to get the public acquainted with our works. You can find THE GOOD FIGHT at Smashwords if you would like to take a look. It includes a previously unseen Firedrake short, plus a dozen other stories by authors whose stories are above and beyond what folks would expect in a genre oft-maligned as belonging in the kids’ section of the bookstore. As I said to someone the other day, “These ain’t comic books, pal.”
Can you tell us about some of your other writing (fiction or nonfiction) and any appearances or signings that you have planned?
I am currently revising and completing an earlier work: Skyfall, which is the story of the aftermath of a worldwide meteor storm and the reactions of several involved parties. It is a tale of survival in a world devastated by a cosmic event, told from the points of view of a group of Boy Scouts, a radio pirate, a combat reporter, a movie star and her bodyguard, and numerous other people. Each has a story of their own, but it is how the stories converge that will make all the difference. Skyfall was originally begun as an internet serial, but after discussion with some interested parties, it is being resurrected from the ages and brought to completion.
As an author what inspiration or advice would you give to a writer who is working to make the transition to Author?
First let me say I don’t usually use the word Author to describe myself – although now that you mention it, it would look pretty sweet embossed on a business card. I’m a writer. I write things. Sometimes those things actually make sense. That being said, my advice to those wishing to be the published author types is as follows: Don’t stop writing. Read all you can. Find your style and stick with it, and use it to tell those stories that scream inside your brain to be told. Most of all, be ready to be rejected. Writing is a world where you will be at times quite casually told, “You’re just not good enough.” You have to be ready for that. It hurts, because you’ve just handed someone something that came from your heart and essentially they’re spitting on it. Bear in mind, most publishers will not be this blunt, and frequently its not that your story sucks, but that it doesn’t match what they’re looking for at the moment. Still, it can come with a hefty emotional price. Even self-publishing won’t save you from this. You can just as easily snag a review or even simply an email from a disappointed reader comparing your work to something less impressive than a fast-food menu. Hopefully, that editor, reviewer, or reader leaves you some decent advice on what would make your work better.
Who is your favorite author, and can you recommend a book by that author?
It varies a lot depending on the mood in which I find myself. I’ve been a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft for a long time, and Dan Abnett from over in the UK – he writes a lot for Black Library and Games Workshop; used to script Judge Dredd – is always a big draw.
One of the authors I fall back to more often than not when I simply want to relax and enjoy a good read is David Drake. His military science fiction is a personal favorite, and I can read the “Hammer’s Slammers” series over and over. I think I have owned at least six copies of his book, “Rolling Hot” through the years, so I would recommend that one. A lot.