This week’s blog is an interview with Michael Black, the author of nearly forty novels in several genres. He is also a military and law enforcement veteran, a fascinating man, and a good friend. Welcome, Mike.
Q: Mike, I met you a couple of years ago at the Public Safety Writers conference in Las Vegas, and we instantly connected. You have an extensive background in law enforcement, and as I recall, you are also a military veteran. Can you give our readers a snapshot of your service?
A: Has it really been a couple of years already? Time flies, doesn’t it? Well, I guess time flies in a lot of ways. Suffice it to say I was an army Military Policeman for three years a couple of wars ago, and after that entered civilian law enforcement for thirty-two years, eleven months. How’s that for a snapshot?
Q: How did you start writing?
A: I’d always wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first short story in the sixth grade. The rest of the class laughed and the teacher scrawled D—Poor Work in big red letters across the front and told me never to try it again. Naturally, I didn’t listen.
Q: I’m currently reading GUNSLINGER: KILLER’S BRAND. This is a western you’ve written under the pseudonym A.W. Hart, and it reminds me of a Louis L’Amour novel. Did his writing influence yours?
A: I’m flattered to be compared with Louis L’Amour. He was a great storyteller and writer and I’ve enjoyed his books. I suppose I’ve been influenced by a lot of writers, and certainly, he’s among them. I have a special affinity for the western genre because the legendary Zane Grey was a distant relative of mine.
Q: Other than westerns, what have you written?
A: I’ve been very fortunate to have written 38 books, the vast majority of them novels. I have a couple of different series under my own name, and also wrote the Executioner series under the name Don Pendleton. Additionally, I co-wrote two novels with television star Richard Belzer. I’ve been published in a variety of different genres as well, including mystery, thriller, western, and sci-fi.
Q: Explain the use of the various pen names you’ve written under and why you use them?
A: Well, as I mentioned, I’ve done eleven or so novels under the name Don Pendleton in the Executioner series. Those, like the A.W. Hart westerns, were write-for-hire projects. Basically, a publisher has an established set of characters in a series and wants it continued. A professional writer is then hired to step in and mimic the particular writing style and storyline that has made the series a success. I’ve always been sort of a chameleon, able to mirror whatever writing style required.
Q: What is your writing routine?
A: I view writing as a very pleasurable job. When I have a project, I make it a point to write every day, producing at least 1000 to 3000 words. I seldom take a day off. I write on my laptop at the kitchen table, with no outside distractions or music to disturb me. The only distraction I have occurs when one of my cats decides he or she wants to curl up in front of my keyboard.
Q: What is your favorite part of writing?
A: Actually, I love all of it. I love getting an idea or coming up with a fetching first line and building a story from there. The actual writing is great fun, and I never get tired of revising either. One of my writing idols, Roald Dahl, once said, “Good writing is rewriting.” I couldn’t agree more.
Q: There are two types of writers: pantsers and plotters. I’m a pantser, meaning I write by the seat of my pants and don’t plot my novels before I write them. Which are you?
A: I’m definitely a plotter. I do a comprehensive outline prior to beginning, and use it as a roadmap as I write the story. It allows me to pick up my writing each new day and know exactly where I am in the story. While I do change these outlines at least three or four times as I make my way to the end of the manuscript, I think knowing where you’re going, and how you want to get there, is important.
Q: To write in the western genre, it seems you would have to be somewhat of a history buff. What do you do to provide authenticity to your western novels, especially as far as weapons, tools, and horse tack?
A: I’ve had a lot of experience over the years with weapons so I know what it feels like to fire them, and be fired upon. For westerns, I do a lot of research on the guns of the particular era I’m writing about. I try to keep it accurate. I also research the time period whenever I’m doing a historical novel, which a western is. While I openly admit that I imbue a bit of traditional western mythology into the writing, like the fast draw, I try to avoid anachronisms as best I can.
Q: Current projects?
A: I signed a contract to do four novels in a new series called Trackdown about modern-day bounty hunters. The character I came up with is Steve Wolf, a half-Indian ex-Army Ranger who served time for a war crime in Iraq that he didn’t commit. He tags up with his friend and mentor, an ex-Green Beret, and they get involved in a series of adventures. Along the way, Wolf is trying to clear his name and soon realizes the powerful man who framed him is now out to kill him. It also involves an ancient, stolen artifact from the National Museum of Iraq. The first book in the series, Trackdown: Devil’s Dance, is debuting on Amazon on November 18th from Wolfpack Publishing.
Q: That sounds amazing, great characters, and a terrific plot. I can’t wait to read it! Mike, where can we buy this new release today?
A: All of my books are available on Amazon. DEVIL’S DANCE is releasing today. (Click on the linked title to help Mike have a great debut!) You can also find my backlist books and audiobooks on Crossroad Press.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: Besides doing the four Trackdown novels this year, I also had to do one A.W. Hart western (Gunslinger: Killer’s Ghost). That makes five novels I’ll have written by December 15th. Consequently, I haven’t had much time for any hobbies lately. I do try to stay in shape and I’ve studied the martial arts my entire life. Other than hitting the weights and the bag at the gym, I take a daily power walk in the park. (I used to run but my hips and knees ain’t what they used to be, but I hope to get back to it soon.) I also love to draw and do wood carving when I have time.
Q: Favorite authors?
A: Man, there have been so many. I credit John D. MacDonald as having had the most influence on me. I suppose I’d pick James Dickey’s Deliverance as my all-time favorite novel due to his poetic style, I’d be hard-pressed to pick a solid favorite author. While I’ve read countless others (Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, John Updike, Ed McBain, Sue Grafton to name a few) during my formative years, I also readily enjoy the works of Michael Connelly, Jonathan Kellerman, Sara Paretsky, Andrew Vachss, and a host of others. They’re all masters of their craft. Sara, along with my mentors, the late Stuart Kaminsky and Donald Bain, taught me a lot about writing when I was starting out, as did Stephen Marlowe, who was gracious enough to give me a blurb for my second novel, Windy City Knights.
Q: Thank you for the informative interview, Mike.
A: You’re welcome, brother. Thanks for the opportunity.
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