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Interview with Michael Koryta 2016

Cath Staincliffe author promo image

In 2015, Michael Koryta introduced his army of fans not only to Markus Novak with Last Words, but also to the deepest darkest caves of America. Now Markus is back, on the trail of his wife’s murderer, in Rise The Dark (Hodder & Stoughton). A novel guaranteed to keep its readers electrified.

“For better or worse I decided early on in the process of Last Words that I was not going to answer or even come close to answering the question of who murdered Lauren Novak,” Michael explained recently. “I wanted to make Mark embark on a deeper journey to get there. I kept saying to myself: ‘this is a saga, not a series.’ Now, leaving that question unanswered seemed to anger a lot of readers. I get it, and I understand that it seemed to violate a traditional pact with mystery readers…but you also are going to get my best work only when I’m pushing to break new ground for myself, pushing at fresh challenges. I won’t always succeed, but I’m always going to give you that effort. It’s the only way I know to go about it.”

A home grown terrorist group in the USA is determined to bring chaos by plunging the country into a deep darkness by destroying the country’s electrical supply. Tight writing allows what might in the hands of some authors become bogged down with detail. Never is this case here though, as Michael provides just enough information without ever going into jargon overload. “I always worry that I’m going to overload the reader. My former editor, Michael Pietsch, and also the former CEO of Hachette USA, David Young, were both very encouraging of my desire to bring some of my journalist background to bear in the novels; to deliver thrillers that teach something about a unique world or profession or skill. This is a particular passion of mine, and it is what I miss about being a reporter.

“The encouragement from those two not to avoid it, but rather to hone it and use it well, is very important to me. David retired a few years ago, but it meant the world to me when he reached out with an e-mail and told me how much he enjoyed learning about the Faraday suit that high-voltage workers wear. That note meant a lot. That’s just the sort of detail I fall in love with, but I want it to serve the plot. If I’m giving you details about this suit that allows contact with massive amounts of live current, I damn well better make it critical to a scene later in the book. In this way, it is like the ‘Shotgun Rule’ – if you mention the shotgun on the mantle in the first act, you better actually use the gun in the third. That’s my approach to including technical detail. I am glad to hear you did not think it was too much.”

And through his research, Michael became more than a little troubled at what he discovered. “The most alarming discovery was one I didn’t use in the book, which was an assessment of what an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack could do to the grid. That is some really scary stuff: makes my fiction look like a warm-hearted children’s story.”

Not only does Michael Koryta create well rounded protagonists, though. His antagonists are extremely well crafted, too, with their names ones guaranteed to resonate. Eli Pate is no exception to this, with his sinisterly laid back nature resonating from page-to-page. Was it difficult to maintain his aloofness? “He was a tougher point-of-view character in some ways, yes. I spent a lot more time in his head in earlier drafts, but I felt that it was draining too much energy from Mark and Sabrina and Jay, so in the final book, Eli’s version of events is minimal. I felt like he was working better when I showed him from another character’s point of view, because that disinterest and indifference to humanity was felt a little deeper, more showing, less telling.”

And the names, where do they come from? “That’s a really good question, and it’s a pity I can’t answer it,” Michael laughed. “Sometimes I go through a long process to reach a name. Combing old phone books, studying name meanings, things like that. But for the most part it just pops. I knew I was going to use the last name Pate because I have friends in Montana with that name and I was venturing into their home territory and thought it would give them a laugh. It was going to be a minor character, though. Then I wanted a first name for Eli’s character that had a sense of history and the right quality for a self-appointed prophet. I went Biblical with that, and came up with Eli. I didn’t have a last name to pair with it, and Pate seemed to fit.”

Rise of the DarkAnd fans of Markus Novak will be delighted to learn his story is not quite over yet, with Rise The Dark. “He’s got unfinished business. He’s halfway home. I know where he’s bound and what he’s got to learn about himself, and I wish him well. It’s going to be a difficult journey! We will see if he makes it.”

Michael Koryta’s Rise The Dark is available now. For more information: http://www.michaelkoryta.com



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If you would like to comment on this interview with Michael Koryta in 2016, please feel free to contact me - GUESTBOOK

“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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