Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
I’m Mike MacDee, and I’m as young as I feel!
Fiona: Where are you from?
Born and raised in Arizona.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I grew up in the Glendale area in AZ and used to vacation in Denver, Colorado and Bandon, Oregon a lot. I’ve been a writer, artist, game designer, and generally awkward individual since childhood. My current day job is working with dogs and cats at a pet resort — pretty much a dream job for any animal lover, barring all the hours of endless cleaning. Love dogs and usually find an excuse to fit one into my work somewhere.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’m hosting a two-day book signing event at Drawn 2 Comics in Glendale, AZ. People can come say hello, buy stuff, get free stuff, and/or nerd out with me if they like. The events take place on June 27 from 5 to 7 pm, and June 30 from 2 to 8 pm.
My dystopian thriller Kingdom of Famine recently got a 5-star review at Reader’s Favorite, and I’ll be selling autographed copies at both events for $5.
Finally, I co-wrote a radio play with David King for his Midnight Marinara channel on youtube. The radio play is a two-parter called “Shadow Out of Crime”, and it’s based on my Bishop & Holiday urban fantasy comedy books. We’re planning to do more B&H radio plays in the future. There’s a link to the playlist on the Bishop & Holiday page at MikesToyBox.net.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I got into it when I was a kid, partly from a combination of over-productive brain and inability to socialize. I’ve had a love of cinema from a young age, and being able to create cinematic sequences myself is always a thrill. Except when a scene or chapter isn’t coming together. Then it’s just a pain in the ass.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I first started putting pen to paper on a regular basis I guess. That’s all it takes, really: habitual writing makes you a writer, especially if you can’t help it.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The mistaken belief that I could make a living on it. Ha.
I don’t really remember my first complete “book” project, so I guess I’ll go with my first novel that got an accolade, which is Kingdom of Famine. All my works are odd genre mixes. Basically any time I come up with a story, it’s the result of my wondering what will happen if I mix pizza and ice cream, then giving it a shot to see if it’s any good. Sometimes it’s pretty awesome, others it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Kingdom of Famine was my second Winter Agent Juno book, a series that mixes dystopian fiction, men’s adventure books of the 70s and 80s, a little bit of the American western, and satire of internet politics. The series started as a joke about what sort of world tumblr feminists would want to live in, but I ended up making a really fun setting as a result: a little bit of a genderswap Mad Max if it were set during nuclear winter. Kingdom is about the protagonist, Juno, going back to her home town to bury her estranged mom, and finding out that Mom was murdered by her friends. Along the way she reconnects with her sisters and a bunch of other dubious people from her past. Oh, and she kills a lot of bad folks, too.
I submitted it to Reader’s Favorite for their contest that I believe posts results in early September, and one of the perks of entering was a free review and mini-critique, so I gave it a shot. I submitted a couple of my works, including Kingdom of Famine, which came away with a glowing 5-star review and a neat sticker I posted on the cover. I about fell out of my chair when I found out.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
In Juno’s world, food can only be produced in the biodomes thanks to the nuclear winter thing. So if you control the food, you control the populace. The plots often somehow revolve around someone abusing the food ration estates, or trying to gain control of them. “Kingdom of Famine” seemed like a nice way to summarize that. The mob boss controlling Juno’s home town is even referred to as the Famine Queen by the populace because she starves her enemies until they do what she wants.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I guess people recognize my writing by the snappy dialogue and engaging characters. I make sure even my minor characters have a dash of humanity to make them seem a little more real.
My current chosen genre is adventure fiction, so the hardest part is action sequences. It’s easy to make them boring or confusing if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’m told my action is easy to follow and very visual, but whether it’s any good, I dunno.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Little tidbits here and there are stuff from real life. Juno uses a couple quotes I really love: one from King Lear, another from Buddhism. Sometimes one-liners, anecdotes, or names are taken from real life if they seem appropriate. The biggest one is Juno’s mom, Opis, being based somewhat on feminist author Alice Walker, in that she’s a self-indulgent narcissist and a poor parent.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I would love to do that, but I can’t afford it. So I use image searches, absorb tons of articles, and sometimes abuse Google Maps Street View if necessary.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I did. I’ve studied artistic composition and done comics for years, and I’d rather have an imperfect but striking cover than a professionally-made cover that looks exactly like everything else on the market. I have yet to see a cover designer portfolio that impressed me with standout designs, and maybe that’s partly the fault of the authors who commissioned them.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t consciously put messages in my work and hope people just read for fun. But I guess there are a couple you could take away from Kingdom of Famine. One is that the world isn’t black and white: good people do terrible things, and even the vilest people are capable of kindness. Comedian Russel Brand is a huge prick and a womanizer, but he buys food for homeless people and treats them like human beings.
I suppose another is that gender roles can make people assholes whether they fight or support them. The men in Juno’s world are kept in glorified kennels because masculinity is considered a threat to society; yet they also aren’t allowed to have long hair that makes them look un-masculine, so whether they act like men or not, they’re looked down upon. Opis’s mother is a self-indulgent hedonist who neglects her four children because she won’t degrade her sex by being tied down to a family, despite those children depending on her for guidance and emotional support.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I’ve been reading a work-in-progress novel by David King of the Midnight Marinara youtube channel that’s really engaging and has a lot of fun characters in a pirate setting. Just have to get around to finishing it.
It’s hard to pick one favorite writer. I love Dashiell Hammett for his economical narrative; Raymond Chandler for his amazingly hardboiled dialogue; Lovecraft for his nightmarish ideas and visuals; Richard Stark for his gritty crime stories; Elmore Leonard for his westerns; whoever wrote those ridiculous Super Mario Bros comics published by Valiant when I was a kid; the list goes on.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Randy Schadel, my Japanese history and culture consultant. He was a huge fan of my Mata the Fox stories and helped me ensure that each story was at least as accurate as the average chanbara flick (aka Japanese period drama with emphasis on swordplay). He was the polar opposite of how I felt about my work: I thought it was too niche for any market, he thought it was amazing samurai fiction and would undoubtedly get picked up by someone (it eventually did by Pro Se Press in a freak accident).
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
If you asked my younger self, he would say “Absolutely” with stars in his eyes. Now as a realist, I would say no. I work with dogs and cats for bank, and write on the side and hope somebody notices.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
My latest book was The Amityville Nuisance, a supernatural romantic comedy. I don’t know that I would change anything about it, honestly. It’s short and sweet and makes people laugh, and none of the scenes go on long enough to get boring. And it’s probably got the best cover I ever drew. I’m pretty proud of it overall.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned that monster girls make any romance novel ten times more interesting. How does a medusa style her snakes in the modern world, anyway?
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
If Kingdom of Famine were a film, I could see Emily Blunt as Juno, and Dave Bautista as Freeman. Would be great to have Yancy Butler in there somewhere, since she inspired the main villain Karla.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Don’t quit your day job.
Okay, okay. There are two ingredients for a good story: engaging plot, engaging characters. You only need one of the two to succeed: if one is weak, the other will carry it through.
Star Wars = Paper-thin characters, but the story is an amazing adventure.
Blade Runner = Train wreck of a plot, but the characters are so complex and fascinating you can talk about them for hours.
Cobra = No plot, no character. Baaaad.
Robocop = Larger-than-life characters that really come to life and stay with you; great story that mixes satire, sci-fi, horror, action, crime, comedy, schlock, and even biblical allegories. Pretty much the greatest film ever made.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Don’t be afraid to say hello if you bump into me. I’m not as abrasive as my writing.
Also, I will never charge to sign your book if you bring it up to me, because I think it’s gross when authors do that. I’ll charge to sell you a copy, I’ll charge for admittance to a reading, but I will freely sign for anyone who wants me to.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m supposed to be finishing an SOBs novel, and I have a ton of Mack Bolans, Destroyers, and John Carters to get to at some point.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I think it was The Hungry Hungry Caterpillar.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Lots of lowbrow stuff makes me laugh, like Deadpool and the Three Stooges. Any scene involving a kid and their dad makes me weep like an infant.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I’d love to meet Jennifer Lawrence because she would be awesome to party with.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Outside of the writing, drawing, and game design thing, I’m a nut for vintage toys, mostly from the 70s through the 90s, and it doesn’t matter if they’re for girls or boys as long as I love the design. I collect Mighty Max, Polly Pocket, and their respective knockoffs; I’ve got a treasure trove of Sailor Moon junk somewhere; I got a box full of Pinky Street dolls I sometimes play with (I’m bringing one of Juno to my signings from now on); and like most toy collectors I’m a sucker for Mego superhero dolls, which I sometimes restore to their former glory. I loathe Funko Pop toys and would love nothing more than to burn down every Pop display I come across at conventions.
I’m a tabletop gaming nerd, too. Escape from Atlantis, Heroquest, Arkham Horror, Bang!, Pathfinder, Stars Without Number, Zombicide, Cards Against Humanity, Uno, Above and Below, anything that isn’t a stupid expensive war game or an insipid party game.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m a huge nerd for Mission: Impossible and several cool Japanese shows from the 70s, like Shokin Kasegi (Bounty Hunter) and Oedo Sosamo: The Untouchables. For modern TV, I haven’t cared about television since Justified went off the air.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I’m always down for Vietnamese or authentic Mexican (not Tex-Mex). Add some Jazz to the mix and I’m golden. I listen to a lot of film, TV, and video game soundtracks, too, especially when I’m editing: I even compile faux soundtracks to whatever project I’m currently obsessed with. When I write Winter Agent Juno, for example, it’s a lot of moody 80s synth and New Retro Wave.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Sail the seven seas to fight monsters and bed Arab babes like Sinbad.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Giving all my money to a couple of tall, curvy brunettes for a 24-hour sex party.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“Never gave up, against his better judgement.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Anything I’m up to is posted at MikesToyBox.net, so go follow me there!
Winter Agent Juno:
Mata the Fox:
Bishop & Holiday: