Good morning, blog studio friends! I am hopeful that spring is soon to "spring" itself on this part of the country. It seems so long since we've had a nice long spell of warm weather and sunshine. Sunshine always makes me feel happy and alive!
Despite the rainstorms of last night, I'm still hopeful. Today I have a very special person who is going to tell you all about one of his books and allow us to "interrogate" him. **audience laughs**
**Max peeks through the curtains and feigns fear**
Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome the one and only, and very talented, Max Overton!!!
CAROL ANN: Welcome, Max. I'm delighted to have you in the studio this morning. And this is a very eye catching book cover. Is it available now, or when will it be available?
MAX: A Cry of Shadows is available from Mundania Press (http://www.mundania.com/books-acryofshadows.html). An excerpt can also be read on my website (http://www.maxoverton.com/). It is the story of two serial killers from very different backgrounds, Australia and Illinois, USA. One of them is a scientist, obsessed with the death process. Where does he get subjects to experiment on? Dr. Ian Delaney finds a way and as he delves deeper into the mystery surrounding violent death he gets more and more caught up in a world where reality is not always what it seems to be. The other killer, Wayne Richardson, has decided to kill his ex-girlfriend and discovers that he enjoys killing. He seeks out young women who resemble his dead ex-girlfriend. A policeman, John Barnes, is tracking the killers down but as the death toll rises, knows he must resort to extraordinary means to bring the killers to justice.
CAROL ANN: I'm intrigued. I love to read thrillers about serial killers. This is one I will definitely be purchasing. I like the premise of the two killers from different parts of the world. I know that you've lived in many areas of the world. In your travels, which place stands out in your memories, and why?
MAX: I have memories from all over the world and many that stand out – Belgium, where we lived in a former Gestapo house; Germany in the 1950s with parts of the cities still in ruins; my years growing up in New Zealand; my fascinating few years in Illinois and Michigan; the pleasures of tropical Queensland – but I think my favorite must be Jamaica. I was there for about two and a half years just before Independence and the effect of such a romantic tropical island on a young boy who loved butterflies was quite incredible. I have some extraordinarily vivid memories of my time there and one day I will write it up as a series of short stories. I have one written and several more in the planning stages.
CAROL ANN: Wonderful! Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?
MAX: All over, literally.
My “Lion of Scythia” trilogy on Alexander the Great stemmed from reading Mary Renault’s classic books on the subject. I decided I could not hope to write anything as good on the man himself, so I took a junior officer in his Companion Corps, threw him to the Scythian wolves and watched what happened. I must have succeeded as I won two Eppies with that trilogy.
The “Glass House” trilogy I wrote with my late wife Ariana. She was American and when she flew over to Australia to meet me, I told her all about Aboriginal Dreamtime and the fabulous semi-myths of this land Down Under. These stories inspired a paranormal adventure that spanned continents and millennia.
My serial killer thriller, “A Cry of Shadows” started from a short story about a boy and a dog and wondering what makes a man kill. Knowing two locales very well – Townsville, Australia and Collinsville, Illinois – I decided to explore these ideas more fully, making my killers walk real streets, talk to real people (disguised), and even work in the unloading bay at Wal-Mart, where I have worked myself.
A love of Egypt and a fascination with the heretic king, Akhenaten, led to my pentology (is that the word for a series of five books?) on the largely unknown kings at the end of the 18th dynasty – Akhenaten, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamen, Ay, and Horemheb. I decided to use a central character that appears only twice in history – Beketaten, sister of Akhenaten – as it would put the reader at the center of events, privy to the thoughts and actions of kings and commoners alike. The first two books have been written, and the first, “Scarab – Akhenaten: Book 1 of the Amarnan Kings” is due out from Mundania Press in September 2007.
“Rakshasa” stems from a TV program on a tribe in remote Southeast Asia. They are animists and live cut off from modern civilization. I sat there and wondered what it would feel like to be one of the gods of the tribe confronted by a Christian missionary. That led to a story about one of the Rakshasa, the demons of India. It follows his existence down through the ages and examines the impact he had on people and the effect they had on him. What becomes of a demon when he encounters the gods? Can a demon change his fate?
CAROL ANN: You are living proof that writers can get an idea from most anything, and experience, a thought, a place...the possibilities are truly endless. You might be surprised to learn that I lived in Belleville, Illinois, from 1950 until 1961. We still visit every year.
**Carol Ann faces studio audience**
Belleville is only a few miles away from Collinsville. When visiting my grandparents, we used to drive through Collinsville. So I kind of feel a kinship here with Max.
**Carol Ann turns back to Max**
Sorry, Max. Sometimes I get sidetracked. Let's get back to the interrogation...um, I mean interview. **Max laughs. **
MAX: Don't worry about it. I'd be interesting to talking more to you about Illinois sometime.
CAROL ANN: Great. So, getting back to the interview, what is your writing process? Do you outline, research, or just write?
MAX: Outline comes first and then research. Deep and accurate research is essential for Historicals. When I know where I am, when I have the facts at my fingertips and my characters are rarin’ to go, then I sit down and write. I set myself a target of 1,000 words a day but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t reach it. My weekly target is 7,000 and I usually reach that; my monthly is 30,000 and I always reach that. Every day when I sit down to write, I go over what I wrote the day before and edit it before continuing the story. My daily goal pushes the story forward so I never have writer’s block. My books are about 150,000 + words now, but shorter when I first started. I write the whole book, then I take a break before I start editing – I want to see it with fresher eyes.
CAROL ANN: Which come first--characters or plot?
MAX: I think a situation comes first. I have to find that ‘what if?’ before there can be a story. I like to write a prologue or a short chapter (it doesn’t have to be chapter one) and then put it away to ferment for a few months or a year. When I start thinking about it again, I rough out the plot, which may be no more than a start and finish point and a couple of highlights, before I pick characters. Then I point them in the right direction and see where they lead me.
CAROL ANN: It's always fun to see what happens, isn't it? And so many surprises crop up along the way for me. I'll never forget when one of my characters set off a bomb. I was sitting at a campground feverishly pounding the keyboard while the character took me on a path I hadn't expected. I knew what was going to happen, but when it actually exploded...I was blown away (pun intended). I had to stop right there for the day. To get that scene out of my mind, I had to pick up a book and read. As an author, I assume you also like to read. What is the last book you read?
MAX: Man-eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett. An incredible account of man-eating tigers and leopards in the Himalayan foothills at the beginning of the last century. Highly recommended.
CAROL ANN: I'll bet the descriptions are breathtaking. **Carol Ann leans forward** I like to learn a little more about my guests than just what they write. I promise not to embarrass you though. For the first personal question, if you could be any age at all, what age would you choose and why?
MAX: My present age – with good health. Seriously, I could wish to have the body of a twenty-five year old again, but I’d hate to have such an immature mind. I’ll accept the limitations of a nearly 60 year old providing I can have good health. I have a vast range of experience, as much maturity as a man ever has, and a weird sense of humour. Now I can write about things I know, drawing on my experiences from all over the world.
CAROL ANN: Great answer! Here's another one. Your life is about to become a movie. What will the title be?
MAX: **Max crosses his legs and leans back in the chair. A big grin lights his face.**
“It Ain’t Over Yet!”
I have never had a career, always willing to try something new. I have been a high school teacher, university lecturer, government research scientist, manager, sales adviser, door-to-door encyclopaedia salesman, commercial cleaner, scrubcutter, insurance clerk, gas station attendant, bumble-bee catcher and writer. I have lived in nine countries and been to twenty-five. I’ve been married three times; have two boys of my own and a boy and girl as step-children. I’ve known success and failure, joy and intense grief; and I love to laugh.
My life is not over yet – I want to be here to see Halley’s comet come round again in 2069. I intend to pack a lot more into the rest of my life.
CAROL ANN: Good for you! There's a question I ask all my authors. What is your definition of the word "romance"?
MAX: I’m the last person you should ask. My wife says I don’t have a romantic bone in my body. I think to me, romance and love is the willingness to put your partner’s feelings and well-being before your own. To do the little things that bring pleasure. Remembering anniversaries and other occasions is all well and good, but I think the unlooked-for gift of a flower or breakfast in bed, or just a cuddle, is just as important.
CAROL ANN: That answer tells me you are a romantic man. **laugh** And now for the last question. Another one I ask every author who comes to the studio. Do you believe the pen is mightier than the sword? Why?
MAX: Yes. The sword makes short-term changes but the pen (computer, typewriter, ball-point, pencil, quill, reed, copper chisel) effects changes down the ages. The great empires of the earth have come and gone, armies marched back and forth to destruction, but the written word is all that remains of these civilizations.
I don’t pretend that my words will last as long, but for me; it is more satisfying to create than to destroy.
CAROL ANN: Thank you so much, Max, for joining me today. It's been a real pleasure.
Blog Studio audience, here is where you can find more information about Max and his published works.
Novels by Max and/or Ariana Overton:
Writers of Historicals, Horror, Paranormal Thrillers & Murder Mysteries. (www.maxoverton.com)
The Lion of Scythia Trilogy - EPPIE winners 2005 and 2006
The Glass House Trilogy, A Cry of Shadows, The Devil is in the Details
Coming Soon: Scarab - Akhenaten (Book 1 of the Amarnan Kings), Scarab - Smenkhkare (Book 2 of the Amarnan Kings), Trapdoor, Tapestry
Works in Progress: Scarab - Tutankhamen, Scarab - Ay, and Scarab - Horemheb (Books 3, 4 & 5 of the Amarnan Kings), Rakshasa