MA: Please help me welcome my guest-blogger today, Mike Markel. Mike has published a number of short stories and nonfiction books. His collection of stories, Miserable Bastards, is on Scribd at http://www.scribd.com/my_document_collections/2509786. Big Sick Heart is his first novel. During the day, he is a writing professor at Boise State University.
Welcome, Mark. Please tell us more about your background.
MM: I’m a writing professor at Boise State, specializing in technical writing. I’ve published seven other books, mostly textbooks and scholarly books about writing and ethics. I’ve also published a bunch of short stories, some action-based, some more literary.
MA: With that background, and those non-fiction credits to your name, why did you decide to write fiction?
MM: I wanted to try my hand at another kind of writing. I’d like to be able to make the transition from mostly non-fiction to fiction. Fiction writing is simply more fun for me as a writer. The challenge, of course, is the familiar one: figuring out how to get my novel noticed and read, so that I can keep writing more. My blog, Fears of a First-Time Novelist (http://mikemarkel.blogspot.com), chronicles my thinking about this challenge.
MA: I think all writers experience those fears as they approach the business end of writing – getting published! Tell us about your debut novel.
MM: Big Sick Heart is a police procedural set in the small town of Rawlings, Montana. Karen Seagate, the Chief’s least favorite detective, is currently imploding. Her marriage has fallen apart, and she is drinking way too much. Her new, young Mormon partner, Ryan Miner, has just arrived from another century and another planet. Their latest crappy assignment is to provide security to a couple of guys debating stem cell research at the local college. But when one of the debaters, Arlen Hagerty, is murdered that night, what had been a boring job becomes a high-profile case.
There are plenty of reasons why someone would want to kill Hagerty. His wife and his mistress each had motive, means, and opportunity, as did his debate opponent. So did the man whom Hagerty pushed from his job as he clawed his way to the top, as well as the local politician whom Hagerty had been blackmailing.
Seagate and Miner are closing in on the murderer. The question is whether they can get him before Seagate destroys herself.
MA: That’s intriguing, especially the science fiction and fantasy elements of time and space travel. Tell us more about Karen Seagate.
MM: I didn’t think of her the way most writers would: as the best detective in the department, the best at this or that. I conceived of her as a character who might appear in a non-detective fiction book, a 42-year old woman with the normal set of family and identify and personal problems, who just happens to have a considerably more dangerous and stressful job than most people have.
Her strength is that she an intelligent, sensitive person with a strong moral compass and a willingness to risk everything for what she believes is right. Her most obvious flaw is that the stresses in her life, including a failed marriage, a kid in trouble, and an alienation on the job, have led her to a serious drinking problem.
MA: I understand you plan to use Karen in future stories, but what about an antagonist? Will you have a familiar nemesis in later novels in which Karen appears?
MM: No, there will be different nemeses in each book. Her real recurring nemesis is herself.
MA: Oftentimes when I have crime/detective fiction writers on my blog, they have backgrounds in law enforcement from which they draw to inspire their stories. How about you? Have you had any personal experiences with your storyline that influenced the plot?
MM: The murder at the center of the plot relates to ethical, political, and economic issues about stem-cell research, a subject on which I have strong views that derive from some personal factors.
MA: Interesting. Let me get back to Karen for a moment since you indicated there are more stories in the works featuring her. Tell us about your plans.
MM: I’m at work on the sequel to Big Sick Heart, which is tentatively called Unacceptable Deviations. Because Big Sick Heart is a series novel, the follow-up will feature Karen and her partner, Ryan. This time, the case relates to a murder of a state legislator by a lone wolf who has broken away from the patriot movement.
MA: Very good. I’m sure your readers will be looking forward to your sequels and new adventures for Karen and Ryan. Thanks for guesting today. Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know?
MM: I want to thank you, Mike, for giving me an opportunity to talk with your readers. I’d like to invite everyone to visit my blog (http://mikemarkel.blogspot.com) and sample Big Sick Heart online, at BooksForABuck.com (http://www.booksforabuck.com/mystery/mys_10/big-sick-heart.html). (While you’re there, you can read about the special offers and the “$100 for 100 Readers” contest.) The book is also available at Smashwords (at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/15261). For paperback, please visit Amazon (at http://www.amazon.com/Big-Sick-Heart-Detectives-Seagate/dp/1602151229/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1279568281&sr=1-1) or Barnes & Noble (at http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Big-Sick-Heart/Mike-Markel/e/9781602151222/?itm=1&USRI=big+sick+heart).