Irreverent Questions with… Michael R. Hicks

Michael R. HicksMichael R. Hicks kindly took time out of his busy schedule of writing and fending off editor cats to be the first victim author to answer our Irreverent Questions!

With a unique perspective on e-publishing, he is the bestselling author of the acclaimed In Her Name Science-Fiction series.  You can read the first book for free (yes free!) although in all honesty, I would buy the Omnibus of the first Trilogy instead, as after I finished the first book, I had to read the rest.  You can read my review of the first book, In Her Name: Empire, if in any doubt!

Right, on with the irreverence!

What would you be or want to be (or still are), if you weren’t an author?
Wow. That’s really a hard question to answer. I’ve spent so much effort on becoming a full-time author, I’ve never really thought about any alternatives!

Do you have any rituals or processes before you can start writing?
Tea and dark chocolate, followed by trying to get the cats off my keyboard.

Editor Cats!Describe your working environment right now (desk, sofa, bathroom, etc.)
An old second-hand computer desk, a Gaiam ball-chair (I tried it for grins and have kept the stupid thing), along with my MacBook Air and Thunderbolt monitor. And usually a cat. Or two.

How did you celebrate when your first book was published?
You know, I don’t even remember. I think I collapsed into an exhausted stupor, because I had literally spent the entire winter scanning over 1,000 pages of the manuscript (this was for the In Her Name omnibus edition) into the computer, then editing the bugger. All while working a full-time job. But it sold three copies the first month. Yeah. Celebratory unconsciousness.

Whose opinion matters most to you?
My wife’s. The reasons should be obvious!

Do you get fully dressed to write?
I generally have clothes over at least 25% of my body. What parts are covered, however, can vary wildly.

What gets you in the mood or inspires you to write?
The possibility of starvation. My writing is our primary source of income now, so if I don’t do well, we don’t eat. That’s a great motivator!

Who would play you in the film adaptation of your life?
Probably Bill Murray.

What is the weirdest comment you’ve had?
That would have to be from one of the negative reader reviews of In Her Name, I think. People who leave negative reviews often provide some valuable insights, and I read those very closely. This particular one – no spoilers! – was just so far off the wall that it had me laughing the entire day.

What is the best experience you’ve had with fans?
When we were on our big RV road trip this summer and stopped in Pennsylvania on the way home. A couple of fans took me and my family out to dinner, and we had a great time. I also have to say that some of the emails and reader reviews I’ve gotten have been amazing, humbling, warm-fuzzy experiences in themselves. Most readers have no idea how important their words are for authors, and those sorts of things have gotten me through more than one tough spot on the way to where I am now.

What do you value most?
My family comes first, although I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t spend as much time doing things with them, especially the boys, as I’d like. Writing – or the other things that come with it as a profession, including social media, answering irreverent questions, etc. – takes a lot of time. In my case, sometimes ten or twelve hours a day, every day. Of course, that’s not as much as the twelve to sixteen hours I was taking out of every day when I was writing and had a full-time job on top of it.

How do you deal with negative comments?
Embrace the horror! As I noted earlier, I read them carefully for any potential nuggets of wisdom. Some readers have provided very valuable critiques. Once I’ve analyzed them for anything that might help me improve my work, I forget about them. Even the very best books ever written have gotten bad reviews (in some cases, quite a few!). It just comes with the territory.

Do you get requests for free stuff?
Actually, no, because I tend to give away a fair amount of stuff (well, books) for free. IN HER NAME: EMPIRE is free as an ebook just about everywhere you can find it, and I periodically also offer some of the other books free (mainly through Amazon, which is my biggest income source). I do giveaways every once in a while, too.

What do you do to relax?
Usually reading, watching movies, or – on infrequent occasion – playing games on the PS3. Learning to relax is actually something I’m still doing, because for most of the last three years I’ve worked like a dog and rarely had any time to indulge in anything but my day job or writing.

Do you have pets, and if so, describe them?
We have two outrageously spoiled Siberian cats, Nina and her big brother, Sasha. Along with two teenage boys, they keep things lively (and hairy!) around here.

What are your preferred conditions for writing, i.e. silence, background noise, TV?
It varies depending on what mood I’m in. Sometimes silence is what I need. Other times it might be movie theme music from James Horner. Still other times it might be Lady Gaga or Pearl Jam.

What is your favourite type of music?
Again, it’s a mix. I’m a child of the 80s, so most of the music I like is rooted in that era. But I also enjoy a lot of the pop (if that’s what it’s even called anymore) sorts of stuff now like Gaga, Kesha, Leona Lewis, and others. I’m not a complete musical fossil. Yet.

Do you have any phobias?
I don’t particular care for heights, like being up on a ladder or looking down into the Grand Canyon. But being in aircraft doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I love flying in helicopters with the doors open (or off). Most cool.

The RVDo you find the time of year makes it easier or harder to write, are you inspired by spring or delayed by the summer heat for instance?
All I can say about the time of year thing is that I hate winter. I don’t like being cold, I don’t like cold and yucky weather. I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, and this four seasons stuff is for the birds. I’m counting the days until our boys are off to college and we can go full-timing in our RV, following the good weather!

Slippers, socks or barefoot?
Barefoot when it’s warm, socks when it’s cold. And I still have my eyes peeled for that special pair of pink bunny slippers…

A huge thank you to Michael for taking part in our new feature and you can find out more from his Website, Facebook and Twitter!

All pictures used with permission of Michael R. Hicks

Irreverent Questions is BookThing‘s fun, new feature where we ask a series of random questions that popped into Grete’s curious head. If you are an author and would like to take part, please get in touch!

In Her Name: Empire

I read In Her Name: Empire in literally one sitting.  I couldn’t put it down and was so engaged I didn’t even want to stop for food!

There are almost two parts to this book.  First, an invasion of colonised space by an alien species, and humanity fighting back with enormous losses.  This is followed by a more fantasy-like setting with a gladiatorial feel which fills the rest of the book.  The two styles didn’t lessen the impact of the story at all, and if anything they made it more intriguing.

I loved how Michael Hicks showed us Reza’s life from a very young boy through to a man, and he is my favourite type of hero.  He never tries to be heroic, he just does what he can to survive, but without compromising his ideals.  Reza’s initial survival was enabled by ultimate sacrifice and incredible courage and from then on, I was hooked.  His decisions were wonderfully reasoned and played out, and even after I’d finished the book I kept thinking about it, and what would I have done in his situation.

The Kreelan race provided a puzzle for me, and I think it’s down to Hicks’ clever writing that while you know they are the enemy, you slowly come to realise they are also a deeply connected and spiritual people, with their own strict way of life that is completely alien. Their history and their mystical way of life was brilliantly envisioned and made it really easy to empathise with them, despite their role.

It wasn’t until the end of the book I was reminded that they are in fact, the enemy.  And I cried.

The plot was really well laid out, driving us through a series of events that forge Reza into a survivor, from young boy to man, with amazing strength of character and very likeable.

The character of one of the Kreelan warriors was really well conceived.  Again, it’s down to excellent writing by Michael R. Hicks that I hated the character at first, but as Reza grew and his perceptions changed, so did mine and I ended up loving her (no names, to avoid spoiling it)!

The Kreelan are a warlike people who are bound together by soul and so deeply steeped in honour, tradition and ceremony that it is stagnating their culture.  I thought it was interesting that on the Kreelan planet, there is no evidence of technology nor that the people could be capable of space flight, but it’s a given that they are since they are waging war on humanity. I suspect that will feature more in the next books of this trilogy.

The pace is tricky as it covers a long period of time but I thought Hicks handled the jumps forward well, and I enjoyed the book all the more because I got to see Reza at so many points in his life, and eventually learning who he is now.

The ending didn’t really come as a surprise, you knew the eventual outcome was always a possibility but that didn’t detract at all from its power.  Reza’s honour, belief and loyalty made him stand out amongst heroes and it moved me to tears.

In Her Name: Empire is a book that has heart, emotion, sacrifice, and courage and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Michael R. Hicks
  • Format: Kindle
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)