Tuesday, November 3, 2020

MJ Preston Interview - FOUR

Photo Content from MJ Preston

MJ Preston’s debut novel: THE EQUINOX, published in 2012, was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Awards and rated a solid straight horror novel by a reviewer at Publisher’s Weekly.

His second novel: ACADIA EVENT, published in 2015, was inspired by his time running the world longest ice road, as an ice road trucker, in the Canada’s Northwest Territories. It is set to be re-released with his publisher, WildBlue Press.

His third novel: HIGHWAYMAN, a thriller, was published July 02, 2019 with WildBlue Press. He has also published scores of short stories in anthologies around the world. In addition to writing, MJ is an artist and an amateur photographer.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
The inspiration came from whatever I was reading at the time. I just finished a book by John Farris, called, The Fury. The Fury plot involves a rogue agent chasing the shadowy government organization that abducted his telekinetic son. I liked this premise and decided that I wanted to do a variation. I took out the telekinesis or shadowy government organization. I traded a rogue agent for an indigenous man chasing a murderous skinwalker that killed his grandfather and is now killing its way across North America. The skinwalker can take any form, a friend, a family member, using a chameleon cloak to hide the real horror. It craves what's inside you.

Tell us your latest news.
I have a couple of things. First, the availability of The Highwayman series, books one and two are on all platforms and available in print, digital, and audiobook. Very soon, my second, novel Acadia Event, will be available as an audiobook.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
Pretty much everything I see or do influences my writing, including and not excluding personal perspectives and experiences. Music is a huge inspiration. So much so, I could put together a soundtrack of all the different music I listened to while writing.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The most rewarding thing is to have a reader come back and tell me they like my stuff. I've gotten some pretty great reviews on my work from places like the San Francisco Review of Books and Top Shelf Magazine, but reader reviews always remain vital. They are the destination for all of my work. Without them, I am just some guy behind a keyboard.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
If my stories offer an escape from everyday life for just a few hours a day in the pleasure of a story, I have accomplished my aim. I love interacting with readers, and I am especially tickled when they contact me to talk about a book. I guess that's my long-winded way of saying, I hope they are thinking, "Man, is this story ever cool."

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Social media has got to be the biggest single distraction. When I wrote Four, I was on a deadline, and because of that, I shut down all of my social media accounts and interaction for about four months. It's real easy to go down that rabbit hole. When I write, I try not to wander. If there's something I need to research along the way, I keep a single browser open for that purpose, but beyond listening to music, my focus is entirely on the writing.

What part of Lance did you enjoy writing the most?
There's a couple of things. First, I got to explore a little bit of Lance's dark humor. At one point, he muses that perhaps he should write a book called: Serial Murder for Dummies. In the first book, Highwayman, Lance is a controlled individual. He is pragmatic and meticulous. In the back of his mind, Lance keeps a monster tethered. He knows that if he unleashes the monster and embraces his dark side, it will all come crashing down. In four, all bets are off as Lance unravels before our eyes. He's jonesing to kill someone, but he doesn't know if the FBI is still watching him.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
That's an interesting question. I don't think I could marry up the characters in The Highwayman series with my previous two books because both were in the vein of horror and science fiction. There has been cross-pollination between my books and stories. In Highwayman, I introduce a reporter named Horace Montillo and reference his reporting on a massacre in a part of the Chicago sewer system called Runoff 31. The lead Detective in that story, Sean Woodman, was an investigator in my debut novel The Equinox. So there is some crossover, but off the top of my head, I'm not sure how these characters would react to each other. Some might share a beer or get into a knife fight.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your characters?

I suppose it would be the fact that I don't know where the characters are going. If they will live or die, succeed, or fail. Partway through Highwayman, I was surprised at the outcome for one particular character, but I'll let readers find that out for themselves.

What's the most ridiculous fact you know?
I suppose that it would be that I have written four books, and I have never learned how to type correctly. I started writing early in my life using a pencil and paper. My parents bought me a manual typewriter, but I would not take a typing class for roughly seven years after the fact. By that time, the damage was done, and I never learned how to type.

At least not correctly.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else's home?

Once I went over to visit a neighbor and discuss something. Upon entering the residence, I was surprised to find a tree growing inside the house. The tree was literally in the main foyer sprouting upward toward the skylight. The neighbor told me that she had to trim the tree regularly to keep it from taking over the entire house. That was pretty weird and also sort of cool.

Best date you've ever had?
Movie night with Stormy, my wife. Any other answer on the public record could be detrimental to my health.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I want to go back to the mid-70s when I was about ten years old. Back then, I used to carry a three-ring binder filled with loose-leaf paper. In those pages were the musings, stories, and art of a 10-year-old boy. Those stories, although in their infancy, were magical and imaginative. If I could harness the mind of that 10-year-old boy, oh the stories I could tell.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Like everybody else, I confess that it would be my phone. Writing and self-promotion is a full-time job. I don't leave home without a belt

Last Halloween Costume you wore and when?

I think the last time I put a Halloween costume on was around 2012. I dressed up as the Grim Reaper and spent the night reassuring kids that I wasn't there to kill them or take their souls. Kids can be so gullible.

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
I think that would have to be the death of my mother. It was a tough time in my life, and I mourned for about a year before I came to terms with her passing. What it gave me, the positive was that I no longer took life for granted and have tried to do the best I could to seize every moment as if it were my last and treat people how I would want to be treated.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
That would have to be outlining. I write by the seat of my pants. No planning, no outline, I follow the story and see where it takes me. If I outlined my work, I would probably lose my focus, and the story would suffer as a result.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?

I think it was getting that first book in my hand, holding it, and leafing through the pages. Taking in the reward of so much hard work, love, and dedication.


  • "I want you to listen to me right now. You saw what happened in there. This bastard is chopping his victims into six pieces. He's crying for attention. If he gets it, he might just double down." —FBI Special Agent Lewis Ash
  • Montana: state of rolling hills, winding rivers, and dense forest. Not only a haven for campers and anglers, but providing many secluded sites in which to carry out heinous acts.
  • "I am the Highwayman," he said and chopped off her leg.
  • Murder & Dismemberment for Dummies. –Highwayman musings
  • "Welcome to the shit show." –Homicide Detective, Lonnie Perkins
  • "Were you listening for the crazy again, Max?" –Lt. Cole Abraham
  • "They killed everyone, Shawna," he whispered, almost as if he believed the vehicle they rode in might be bugged. "Everyone in that house was murdered." His voice hitched. "Everyone, Shawna, even the kids."
  • "All four houses, Detective. All of them are crime scenes."  —Uniform officer to Detective Bob Halsey
  • "This just became a smoking aircraft" –Homicide Detective, Lonnie Perkins
  • "Not so different at all. Except my church is black and hollow, like my soul." —Lance Belanger to FBI Agent Dave Maxwell
When I started down this road to publication, I honestly had no idea what I was doing. Prior to finishing my debut novel The Equinox, I spent a lot of time perusing writing forums to pick up tips and learn more about the craft that couldn't be found in books like The Element of Style.

No journey is without its speed bumps. On one forum I frequented, a couple of posters told me that I should hang up my skates immediately and call it quits. Website forms can be nasty places, filled with trolls and unsavory characters.

Thankfully, I did not take the advice of these individuals and vacated that forum. I found another writing forum in the U.K. with a much friendlier community focused on helping writers advance their craft. If I had listened to these people, I would have never finished that first novel, and I wouldn't be talking to you right now. I am indebted to the people on that forum for giving me the inspiration to keep going and keep learning and not giving up. I believe writing and telling stories is in my DNA, and even when I'm too old and blind to stare into a computer monitor, I will retire myself to telling stories around the campfire.
My name is MJ Preston; I write horror, science fiction, and crime thriller novels.

Come and find me!

"The highwayman brought his hand up and ran his fingers through the beard. 'Where do we go from here?' he asked the Bundy-ish reflection. Sooner or later, the monster would have to be fed."

Having abstained from killing for almost a year, the Highwayman is coming unglued.

Unsure if the FBI is watching, Lance Belanger spends his days and nights in a paranoid malaise, longing to kill again. Meanwhile, in Bucharest, Romania, an Interpol raid leads to clues and a witness who can identify the Highwayman. Armed with new evidence, newly promoted SAC FBI Agent, Dave Maxwell heads for Bucharest, as his team of investigators redeploys their investigation on their original suspect, Lance Belanger. It would appear, the net is closing.

But the Highwayman has other ideas.

Just after dusk, outside of Pittsburgh, four strangers exit a service van and perpetrate the mass murder of four families in their suburban homes. It doesn’t take long for the FBI to connect the killings to Highwayman, and when they raid Belanger’s properties, they are left a parting gift.

Another murder and a message for Maxwell from the Highwayman himself.

Come and find me!

The killing ramps up, Maxwell leads a posse of investigators across two states, north to Canada to try and thwart the Highwayman in his endgame, that involves kidnapping, mass murder, and betrayal.

The predator is now the prey.

But can they stop him before he disappears for good?

You can purchase FOUR at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you MJ PRESTON for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of FOUR (The Highwayman Series #2) by M.J. Preston.

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