Name C. Michael Forsyth
Where are you from I was born in New York City and live in Greenville, S.C.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I am a graduate of Yale College, where I majored in English Literature. I also hold an MFA in film production from NYU. I’m married with three children, including a pair of identical twins.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I recently launched a literary services practice. I’m now available to proofread and edit the works of other writers. I’ve also begun to narrate and produce audiobooks. My current project is writing and illustrating a graphic novel entitled Night Cage, about vampires running amok in a women’s prison, which will come out next year. I just attended Dragon Con, where I got to meet James Marsters, who starred as Spike in TV’s “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” I posted an account of my experiences at the convention on my blog. Next weekend, I’ll be leading a writing seminar at the Augusta Book Festival
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing since childhood, first creating elaborate comic strips. My first paid writing gig was in corporate communications, doing scripts for business videos: sales, training, motivational, etc., in the late 1980s.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was in high school, I received a lot of praise from a creative writing teacher and my classmates. I began to realize I had a knack for the craft.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My girlfriend at the time read nothing recreationally except historical romance novels. At the time, there were none that featured black heroines. I set out to write one for her. The Blood of Titans takes place in an ancient, highly advanced African civilization.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My style is very visual. Perhaps this comes from my background in cartooning and later as a film student. I don’t consider a scene fully written until I – and the reader – can visualize it from beginning to end.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The Blood of Titans comes from the very last line of the book. A holy man says that the descendants of the ancient African protagonist will always have courage because “through their veins runs the blood of titans.” I loved the line, and how it both captures the book’s central theme that we come from a race of strong, noble people, and conveys the passionate nature of the main characters.
Hour of the Beast, about a werewolf, was originally titled Nature of the Beast. There’s a mystery in the novel that is only solved when the true nature of the beast is understood. I was disappointed when a title search revealed that there were already several books, movies and record albums with the name. But it turned out for the best. “Hour” packs more punch because it suggests an imminent threat.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In the Blood of Titans, the main character Princess Halima must choose between duty to her people and romantic love. The cost of her choosing the latter is enormous. I want the reader to examine the idea that, as important as romantic love is to us, it is in also a very selfish thing. All that matters in the world when you are caught up in the emotion is you and your lover. Hour of the Beast is a meditation on the nature of good and evil in a man. The reader sees that what we call “evil,” – lust, aggression, and so on – is generally just the animal side of our nature. Repressing it doesn’t work, but we have to choose whether or not to embrace it.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The Blood of Titans is set in mythological African kingdom, but I did a tremendous amount of research into African culture – everything from food to religion and proverbs. Those are woven throughout the story, and I’ve been told they give people a strong sense of realism. And a lot of the emotions I experienced in my first real relationship informed the love story. Hour of the Beast takes place on a college campus with spooky gothic buildings and mysterious tunnels, much like Yale. I borrowed a lot of imagery from there, and lifted entire anecdotes from my four years at the college. For The Identity Thief, about a con man who impersonates the worst possible person, I researched real cases, and incorporated some of the most fiendishly clever scams. My most recent novel, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Harry Houdini in The Adventure of the Spook House, is chock full of biographical details about the two legendary figures. I read Conan Doyle’s autobiography, several biographies and a collection of the 1,500 letters he wrote, so that I could really bring him to life as a character in fiction, and recreate his speech patterns.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I read voraciously when I was younger and some of the classics influenced my writing a lot. Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlet Letter, used symbolism brilliantly and I often use symbols in my work. I always loved those powerful monologues in Shakespeare. King Shomari, the love interest in The Blood of Titans, speaks with a nobility that might remind you of Othello.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I can tell you about a writer who has been around for decades, but is new to me: Charles Saunders. He wrote as series of sword and sorcery novels about a character named Imaro who is like an African Conan. It’s a pity his books are not better known, because he is a wonderful storyteller. Tom Wolfe is one of my favorite authors. What impresses me most is how he creates suspense in every scene. We don’t necessarily fear that the character will be hurt physically, it may be that he faces humiliation. Either way, you must turn the page.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I joined a small writing group. At each meeting, we read aloud what we’d written in the intervening weeks. Knowing with certainty that someone would be hearing my next chapter gave me the impetus to keep forging ahead. Also, the constructive criticism was invaluable.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Certainly. For the 14 years I worked for American Media, the publisher of The National Enquirer, it was a 9 to 5 job for which I received a bi-weekly paycheck. Now that I am an indie writer and publisher, I work even harder and take it just as seriously.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would have proofread it at least one more time. When I was recording the audiobook, I came across several mistakes that had eluded both the proofreader and myself. Most excruciating were instances where I used a different first name for a minor character in different chapters, and similar continuity errors. The gaffes were annoying enough that I had the layout person fix them and uploaded an updated version. A benefit of Print on Demand is that you can do that.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It emerged from childhood play. My cousin and I would watch shows like “Star Trek,” and make up our own adventures. When I got too old for make-believe, I still craved the experience of creating stories.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Night Cage takes place in an underground, maximum-security prison for women. It’s a hellhole, where race riots, shower room catfights and abuse by brutal prison matrons are just part of the day. Things really get out of hand when a fledgling vampire is locked up for murder. The contagion quickly spreads, and soon virtually every prisoner and guard in the joint has joined the ranks of the undead. The only survivors are four badass female cons who had been tossed in solitary confinement at the very bottom level of the prison. Their only hope is to battle their way up to the surface through an army of bloodthirsty vampires who were vicious gang leaders, serial killers and ax murderers even BEFORE they got converted. It was fun to write, and it’s fun drawing the sexy girls and cool monsters – but a lot of work
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I attend a lot of the book festivals and conventions. They’ve taken me as far as Chicago (from South Carolina). Promoting yourself in person is part of the job as a writer.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover art for The Identity Thief and The Blood of Titans was by the wonderful artist Mshindo Kuumba. The cover designer for most of my novels is Iraeus. (The one word is his professional name).
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The research. I spent months researching the Conan Doyle book, and I kept chafing at the bit to start the first chapter. I always tell myself the next novel will be off the top of my head and require no research. But inevitably, each book has needed considerable digging to create an accurate setting.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
The value of a strong outline. When I wrote my first two novels, I just told the story as I went along. It was a very organic process letting it unfold that way. The problem was, I’d keep reaching dead ends, and have to keep doubling back, like working your way through a maze. I’ve found that starting out with a solid roadmap makes the journey a lot smoother.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
I’d love to see Lupita Nyong’o play Princess Halima, the heroine of The Blood of Titans. My dream cast for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Harry Houdini in The Adventure of The Spook House would be Hugh Grant as Conan Doyle and Patrick Dempsey as the escape artist.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Join a writer’s group. Constructive criticism is essential.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Check out all the books, even those in a genre you don’t typically read. Historical romance, horror, mystery, thriller – I’ve enjoyed writing in each area, and you might be surprised to find you get a kick stepping out of your comfort zone.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Order of The Seers by Cerece Rennie Murphy. A great piece of dystopian fiction about a group of psychics held captive by the government, which uses their visions for its own nefarious purposes. When they escape and go on the lam, they discover the full extent of their powers.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. Reading it to my children later, I was struck by how it combines a sense of chaotic fun with teaching.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I am a huge movie fan. I will laugh to tears at the latest Melissa McCarthy movie. And heartbreaking scenes – like Patsy being whipped in Twelve Years a Slave will move me to tears of sadness.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Jesus, for obvious reasons. It would be fun to spend a day with Mark Twain. I’d love a chance to meet the president to say how America’s problems could be solved.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
“He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.” It’s a line from one of my favorite adventure novels, Scaramouche, and it’s how I like to see myself.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I draw a lot. My son is an aspiring artist and we’ll spend an hour every Saturday on art projects.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m addicted to “Orange is the New Black.” It’s remarkable how characters are rotated from background to foreground, minor to central and comic to tragic. Those revealing backstories add depth and dimension to each character. As each actress gets her chance to step up to the plate, she knocks it out of the ballpark. It’s an amazingly talented ensemble cast, all the players able to handle dramatic and comedic scenes adeptly. And a range of ages, ethnicities and body types that don’t often get much screen time.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would have love to have been an inventor. Science fascinates me.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My website is http://freedomshammer.com. You’ll find book trailers and sample chapters of each novel, fascinating facts and images related to African civilizations and much more. My main blog features news satire https://forsythstories.com