K.S. Hello and welcome to the blog. I am very excited to have you here. Why don’t we start off with a small introduction? Tell us a little about yourself.
P.M. Identity—telling you about myself—is the best place to start, but it is the most dangerous of all points of departure, too, because these words decide our interest in the speaker or writer. In the end, what I have done and what I say mean less to people, in my experience, than what I believe. If I tell you I write about dogs, you may be interested or you may move on to the next article. But if I say “I think George W. Bush was the greatest president this country ever had,” I immediately break readers into two camps: those who share my belief, and those who don’t. Now, as writers, we don’t want potential readers to fall away simply because the subject matter bores them. And we certainly don’t want readers to hate us because of our beliefs!
The tricky thing for me is that I write about beliefs. I do it out of the conviction that all of us, through necessity and basic humanity, share beliefs, regardless of any low-level political ideologies or other systems to which we might subscribe. Can we really share beliefs across the board regardless of religious or political affiliation? I think so. This is what I use as the personal introduction at my blog site:
“I enjoy a challenge whose solution requires physical action and conceptual understanding. I believe the problems most worthy of our time are those that require collaboration. I find some issues can be addressed by people of good will, while other problems are inherent to our condition. My faith is not always strong, my hopes are sometimes unsure. Some of my dreams have come to be, others wait. I am not sure everything ends at death. Do faith, hope, and love expire when I no longer draw breath? I believe, then, but some days more than others. I doubt, too. And I question all of it.” These are my beliefs, but I would guess most of your readers hold similar or even identical thoughts at some level in their hierarchy of identity.
I write. I write about ideas. I write about beliefs. I hope I write in such a way that I stir the hearts of women and men.
K.S. Any interesting writing quirks or stories you would like to share with my readers?
P.M. I suppose we’re all learning our craft. My learning curve in the art of writing has been steeper than that of most of my colleagues; I’ve just had more to learn. For instance, I didn’t begin writing fiction until 2005. In July of that year I pounded out my first novel—328,000 words over the course of three weeks. When I say I pounded, I’m not speaking figuratively. You don’t type like a madman—over 15,000 words a day—without doing some damage to fingers and keyboard. It was insane. And the product I produced was... well, it was unreadable. You prepare to bake a cake, assemble the ingredients, mix them in just the right order, and bake at just the right temperature. What I did was assembled a few interesting ingredients (but left out a few essential ones), threw them all together without any thought to mixing, and then pushed it into the oven at seven hundred degrees for ten minutes. The cake was burnt on the outside, raw in the middle, and indigestible through and through.
I spent the next three years learning our craft: scene building, character development, plot development and resolution. I wrote 1200 critiques at Critique Circle and learned from those more experienced than me. I’d been a writer for decades, but I knew nothing of fiction. It’s been a crash course.
K.S. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? What sparked the desire to pen your first novel?
P.M. The writing came early, the novels came late. I’ve been writing technical scientific material for 35 years. Even when you write for technical audiences you’re doing more than simple recording of facts; you’re actually trying to convince your readers. Regardless of subject material or genre, our objective is to coerce, cajole, or convince the reader that what we have to say is important and worth her time. “Read this article on matrix solid phase dispersion because it will change the way you think about separations science.” Or, “Read my new novel, ‘Cartier’s Ring,’ on the founding of Canada, because it will change the way you think about the history of North America.” Writers are salespeople: We sell ideas.
I wrote “Trinity” in response to a dream and five years of thinking about that dream. In trying to work out the parameters in my head, I realized I had a story brimming with conflict that would, at the same time, cause readers to wonder about their own system of values. In fact, the essential question of “Trinity” goes to the core of who we are: What does it mean, in biological and spiritual terms, to say that someone is a human being? Could a space alien be called human? The NBC series “The Event” is asking this question right now. The title is rendered as “The EVƎNT” probably because a new, non-human EVE (thus “EVƎ”) will arise, most likely the major character, Leila. It’s an interesting question. I tackle it as science fiction in my novel, but in a very different way from The EVƎNT’s approach. In “Trinity,” the question arises internally: What will we do when humanity evolves into a different, higher form of life? Will we embrace this new species, or try to stomp it out of existence? If we decide to kill this radical mutation, are we ensuring our survival, or our demise? Are we killing something vile, or are we destroying the essential core of our own humanity?
K.S. What genre do you write?
P.M. I write in a number of genres and I’ve read just about every genre and sub-genre. You don’t get to critique nearly 1200 stories at a major critique website without becoming exposed to just about every kind of writing there is. I have a pretty good idea now of what I like and what I don’t like, and I was surprised by some of the things I’ve come to enjoy. I don’t read vampire stories anymore. I just can’t do it.
But I’ve found I can enjoy a well-composed romance novel, for instance, which I never would have believed before. Romance novels are for women, right? What I found is no, not at all. A good story is a good story, regardless of genre. Barbara Elsborg writes excellent romance novels. If any of your readers are into romance they need to check out her writing. It’s amazing.
Another genre I learned to enjoy is fantasy. I was a vocal and not very kind critic of the entire genre before I joined CC. But the same criteria apply. I’ve read excellent fantasy now, too, beyond Tolkien-type stuff. As long as good thought and structure backs the plot and character development, the story ought to be worth reading.
K.S. What would you say has inspired you most in your writing career? Or, who is your favorite author and why?
P.M. Favorite author? That’s a tough question. The writers I’ve read most are not even in fiction. I’m talking Asimov, Thomas Merton, and Pierre Berton—a scientist, a monk, and a historian. I suppose what they have in common is the ability to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Reading these bestselling authors is to be swept up into their agile and always-excited minds. They’re fascinated by the world and its significance and its possibilities. Good authors excite, stimulate, and introduce us to new ideas.
K.S. What does your family think of your writing?
P.M. It’s an interesting hobby, I suppose they would say. Dad’s “famous” because his name appears at 26,000 websites. I’d get more excited about it if “fame” did more than buy a few groceries now and then!
K.S. What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your book/s?
P.M. There are always surprises, to my delight, and to my chagrin. You know, you can spit out a novel in 30 days. NaNoWriMo has proven that. I participated this year, just to tell myself it can be done. But the surprise is that writing the thing is just the beginning. Punching and bludgeoning the thing into something other people will read is the work of long months or years. My first novel, TRINITY, required three drafts and three years of work. My second novel, CARTIER’S RING, required two solid years of writing and twelve years of research in Canadian history. Writing is about communicating effectively, and you’re not likely to achieve that in a first draft. Writing is all about rewriting and editing and finessing a scene or redirecting a character. It’s a lot of work, and that’s not something you appreciate until you get your hands into it.
K.S. What inspires you?
P.M. People. My wife, my kids, my friends, my co-workers, my readers. Our relationship to the world, to each other, to creation. You inspire me, Katie.
K.S. Can you tell us a little about any of your novels?
P.M. How much time do you have? The characters and the stories live and breathe, of course. They’re exciting because they reveal my understanding of this world, its importance to us, and the way I feel we might come to better appreciate the good things we have. I’ve posted the first chapter of all three of my completed novels. Perhaps I could provide the links here?
TRINITY is social science fiction set in the near future (2044 to 2046). It centres around the emergence of a new genetic entity.
The first chapter:
This is my second novel, but it will be the first published, sometime in May of this year. CARTIER’S RING tells the story of the founding of Canada through the eyes of a very unusual young woman, Myeerah of Hawk Clan of the Wendat Confederation (Huron Nation). All my protagonists are women. You may have noticed I use the feminine gender rather than male. It doesn’t have anything to do with being “progressive” or feminist or anything like that. I think if you read my novels you will understand my preferences on this point. Well, CARTIER’S RING was a lot of work. Twelve years of research, but I think it was time well spent. This book is similar in some respects to “Black Robe,” the excellent novel by Brian Moore (No relation! Pearson Moore is a nom de plume), except that I approach the interactions almost entirely from the Aboriginal (in the States you say “Native American”; in Canada we say Aboriginal or First Nations) point of view. The French are the strange ones. In fact, I don’t introduce the French until Chapter Five so that readers can appreciate the truly radical nature of the clash of cultures that came about at First Contact.
The first chapter:
This is my newest novel, in second draft right now. I hope to have it published by the end of the year. Set in late 1775 to mid-1776, INTOLERABLE LOYALTY tells the story of the invasion of Canada as seen through Canadian eyes. The invasion of Canada was the first military action directed by the Continental Congress, and it was an absolute failure. Historians and military strategists are still learning lessons from this dismal early beginning of American history. Though they probably haven’t learned nearly enough, since the United States tried again in 1812, and failed again, though perhaps not quite as badly. In this novel I again show historical figures close-up. You’ll get to know more about Benedict Arnold than you might have thought possible! This was a fun one to write.
The first chapter:
For the next few weeks this book will remain the only one of my works to have been published. “LOST Humanity” is my analysis of the mythology and themes of the hit television series “LOST.” It is because of my 63 essays on LOST and my presence at the major LOST websites that my name garners nearly 27,000 hits on Google. All but 1,500 of those hits are me. I wrote 315,000 words on LOST last year. Can you sell an ebook for $3.99? Yes. But the cost of doing this, for me anyway, was 315,000 words given away for free. When I finally posted my book of LOST analysis, it rose to the #1 Bestseller position at Amazon only two days after going on sale.
The first chapter:
The Amazon page: http://amzn.to/dEA5yv
My second book on LOST centres around the characters. It is in final editing and artwork bidding. This book will be published sometime before August of this year.
K.S. Where can we buy your books?
P.M. For the next few months, my books will be available exclusively at Amazon.
K.S. Do you have a website, fan site, or Blog that we can visit?
P.M. You’re kidding, right?
K.S. Do you have any closing advice to aspiring writers?
Read. About sixty percent of everyone who wants to write does not have the basic abilities required to compose literate English. You can acquire the skill, and the foundational discipline is frequent, regular, and immersive reading in the classics and in fine authors. Some of you may not have a grasp of basic skills. In that case, remedial courses in grammar or composition could be useful. You’re not going to publish a novel the first time you try. You can, nowadays, but it will not sell. Build up your abilities, work at your craft, but above all else, read and come to know the rich diversity of our language. It’s your toolbox—you need to know what’s in it! If you work hard, you can publish, and people will read you. The key is hard work, over many long years. Du courage!