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?
Hello. I’m Mike Bockoven, author of FantasticLand and Pack. I’m 41 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’ve lived in five different states but settled in Grand Island, Nebraska, smack in the middle of the country. I’ve been here for just over 15 years.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
During the day job I work at a history museum, serve on a couple of boards (including the board of a local historic theater) and run my kids around. I’m busy, like a lot of people, but I find time while waiting for kids, before work and during other spare moments to write nasty little thrillers.
For the record I have a wife, two daughters and an exceptionally dumb wiener dog named Sherlock.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My first novel, FantasticLand, has been optioned for a film and is pulling over four stars on Goodreads. I’m working on getting my third novel where my agent wants it and am simultaneously writing another story I lit upon recently.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have always written for work on on the Internet but never anything like a novel. One of my “bucket list” items was to have a stack of books on my bookshelf with my name on them. After a lot of starts and stops I realized if I didn’t start soon I would never get it done. I worked about 9 months on my first novel, FantasticLand, found an agent and had it sold roughly two years after I had finished it.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Always and never. I always “wrote” as a verb, but still have a hard time believing I’m a published author or that anyone would pay me for what comes out of my brain.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
After having lots of ideas that never went anywhere I was inspired by a family trip to Disneyland. Amidst all the fun and pageantry part of my brain was wondering “what could go wrong here.” A few weeks after getting back I heard a piece of music that took my brain in a different direction and I came up with an idea I really liked. That’s how it started. Once I proved to myself that I could write a book, it was like a wall coming down. I now have several books published, a few that will never see the light of day and more in the pipeline.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My publishers changed the title on both my novels. They were right each time.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I’m not sure my writing style is overly distinctive, but I know that consciously I value dialogue over description and like to weave story elements together throughout a novel. As far as the challenges of the genre, truthfully, thrillers and horror novels are the only thing I want to write and I don’t find them overly challenging because that’s where my interests lie. It’s largely what I read, it’s largely what I watch and it’s what I want to do well.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I will draw character traits and maybe lines of dialogue from my life but most of what I write is invented. I don’t want to make characters or situations too recognizable or I could get into trouble.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I do a decent amount of research but travel isn’t usually necessary. I wish it was. I love traveling and don’t need much of an excuse to pack my bags.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover for Fantasticland was designed by Laura Klynstra. The cover for Pack was designed by Rain Saukas, Great work, through and through.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, but it depends on the work. If I have an overarching idea it’s that people are capable of terrible things and there’s a lot less protecting you from that evil than you think there is. I think the Stanford Prison Experiment is essential to understanding why people are the way they are and why the world is the way it is.
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 really try to shake up my reading diet and read both fiction and nonfiction. If I have a favorite author it’s likely Joe R. Lansdale. He is prolific, profane, his descriptions never fail to amuse me, his characters are rich, his stories can get really out there and he’s who I want to be when I grow up.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I have a friend named Stephanie Romanski who pushed me along when I was writing FantasticLand. She wouldn’t edit my work, exactly, but would provide motivation and positive feedback when I sent her chapters.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Right now it’s a side hustle. If it could become my full time gig, that would be one of the best things to ever happen to me.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I learned something valuable with my second novel, Pack – get other people involved in your writing early and often. After going through the editing process for FantasticLand I thought I knew what to expect, but I was wrong. My publisher had some shake ups, my second novel was passed around a bit and it didn’t get the solid edit it needed. There was also not a singular editorial voice guiding it. As a result, there’s a lot I would change. I still like the story a lot and think it’s a fun book but it’s got some mistakes and it’s not as good as it could be. I could have fixed this with a few solid beta readers.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Quite a bit about legends, the psychology of dreams, what kind of guitars Metallica plays, the qualifications for law enforcement in different states, WiFi security and more. My google history was a mess and I loved it. Research for a book is fun that way.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
For FantasticLand, a book with many different characters, I only had one actor in mind to play one role. The rest were people I knew or characters created out of whole cloth. So the answer is “I don’t know”, with one exception – Tony Shalhoub. I love that guy and I’d love to see him play Richie Fresno from FantasticLand.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Time is not your friend. If you haven’t written a book but always wanted to, life is not going to slow down. Time isn’t going to magically present itself. You need to figure out how to fit your writing into the time you have or how to make more time. That’s the bad news.
The good news is if you can write a thousand words a day you can have a book in three months (500 a day, six months and so on). I found putting your head down, getting into a routine and pounding it out is the best way to outrun your doubt and your fear. Wake up early. Stay up late. Skip lunch. Get that story down because that day when you open a package with your book in it is an absolute game changer. I’m not that smart and I did it. Most people out there, with the right game plan, can do it too.
If you’ve got your routine down, please find good beta readers and don’t believe (like I did at one point) that every idea you have is a good one.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Three years after my first book came out I still have a hard time believing that you, a reader, would pick up something I wrote and read it. I’m legitimately grateful and humbled. Even the bad reviews are a blast. Thank you.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m just finishing up “Parkland” by xxx and have Lansdale’s “Bubba Versus the Cosmic Bloodsuckers” on deck.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I don’t. I wish I did.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I’m an emotional person so I don’t need much to get the waterworks going. Usually it’s art of some type. As for laughter, I’m a fan of stand up comedy (which is what my third book is about).
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
As someone who works at a history museum that’s a big question. After bouncing around between a dozen names for the past 20 minutes I’ve decided this question is unnecessarily cruel. I’m not usually the indecisive type but you’ve stumped me.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I play music in my church band (a contradiction to my writing, I know) and am 1/3rd of the podcast The Atomic Weight of Cheese. We talk cult cinema and have fun.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m late to the party on Veep and I don’t know why as I was early to the party for “In the Loop” and I think “Better Call Saul” is the stealth best show on TV right now. As for movies I’m usually watching horror films or superhero movies because of my kids.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Foods – I am not picky but go for Mexican if I have my way.
Colors – I’m partially colorblind so anything I can see that’s not dark or light grey.
Music – I try to stay diverse. One minute it’s an old Kinks record, the next it’s the Rev. Horton Heat. Not big on current top 40 unless I am. No promises.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Retire off my writing earnings. Kidding. I would continue my current gig at the history museum. It’s a place I believe in and that is doing good work.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Again, a cruel question, but (presuming society was not breaking down in the process) here’s my day.
Morning: A cinnamon donut from Hurts Donuts, first round of good-byes, spend some time laying in a field looking at the sky.
Afternoon: Really good tacos, walk with the family, second round of good byes, drive really fas somewhere, get some affairs in order, send some emails to people who are expecting me to do things, watch Big Trouble in Little China one last time.
Evening: Really good Italian. Almond cake for dessert. Punch at least one of my enemies in the face. Do some stand-up or karaoke. Kiss my kids good bye, romance my wife and spend the final seconds watching the stars, grateful for what I was able to do and the people I was able to do it with.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Cremation all the way, but if the urn had a cool design on it, I’d approve.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?