Monday, September 10, 2012

Michael J. Scott Interview (with Mary Nichelson)

Picture Although Michael J. Scott specializes in action thrillers and suspense, his real forte is how quickly his novels are being written and released. His first book, Jefferson’s Road was released in 2011 with three more debuting in the same year. He is actively engaged in bringing four more novels to print this year, making the last twenty-four months industrious as a writer. Scott’s readers appreciate and reciprocate the passion for his work by using such phrases as “If Michael Scott didn't write in paragraph form, I would forget to breathe” in their reviews. As busy as Scott is with his writing, he generously took time out to talk with me regarding his novels and another passion of his, freestyle Kendo.

MN-Before I could finish reading the prologue, I was intrigued and already looking forward to the way the plot would play out. How did you write The Lost Scrolls; per outline, starting at the ending and working backwards, or did it just develop as you went along?

MS-I wrote The Lost Scrolls with an outline. I had just finished my first novel, The Coppersmith, and I’d started several others, but nothing really “sparked” my interest. My family and I went on vacation, visiting my in-laws in North Carolina. We were staying in a nearby motel room, and when the inspiration hit me, it was after 10 pm. Since we were all staying in a single room, I took a chair and went and hid in the bathroom so I could write with the light on without disturbing anybody. I outlined the entire novel in one sitting.

MN-I like the way that the format of the book is reader friendly. The way it is broken up into small, readable passages actually keeps the reader moving along, as opposed to looking for the next stopping point. Was this intentional on your part-a niche of sorts for you as an author?

MS-Yes, this is entirely intentional. I’ve read numerous other thrillers and adventure books, and decided that shorter chapters would help keep the pages turning. Of course, I try to keep the action up as well.

MN-In a review by, it says "(The Lost Scrolls is a) spy vs. spy meets James Bond meets Indiana Jones quest." Do you believe this is a fair and accurate assessment?

MS-Perhaps. I can’t say  there’s any “spy” in it, though there is plenty of intrigue and mystery. It may be that they’re referring to the Catholic priest who used to be a CIA operative, or the Orthodox monk who once served in the Romanian Securitate. There is definitely a bit of the Indiana Jones in it, though.

MN-The Lost Scrolls has been described as "edgy" and "not your mother's Christian fiction". Do you think modern readers are looking for more than what traditional authors have offered? How can a Christian writer cater to readers without crossing over a line that would appear secular?

MS-Like many fiction authors today, I cut my teeth when Christian fiction was just being reborn here in the States. There was an attempt by publishers, early on, to keep Christian fiction “safe.” The result was that no Christians were ever portrayed in a negative light. They ceased to be real. At the same time, the antagonists tended to be painted in very dark colors. The books I read reminded me a bit of the old spaghetti westerns, where all the good guys wore white hats and all the bad guys wore black hats. I try to mix it up a bit more. I want to show that the Christians in my novels are still sinners saved by grace and not by any virtue they possess. I also want to show that even my bad guys are still made in the image of God. This has the effect of making the characters—and therefore the story—that much more real and relatable to the average reader.

The challenge for Christian writers today is to write what the story demands. Christian fiction should not be characterized so much by what it avoids as by what it presents. In other words, what makes a fiction book “Christian” is not the absence of sin per se, but rather the Presence of Christ in the story. Does it present Jesus? Does it present grace? And does it do so in a way that is organic to the story, rather than tacked on?

MN-Would you like to see The Lost Scrolls on the big screen and if so, who would you choose to play Dr. Jonathan Munro?

MS-I would love to see The Lost Scrolls on the big screen. As for Jonathan Munro… he’s tough to cast because he’s not your typical action star. He shouldn’t be someone too attractive or buff or anything like that. See, now having said that, how can I possibly suggest an actor without insulting his physique?

MN-You have written several books-six with several to be released in the near future. Considering the many characters you have developed, which is your favorite?

MS-Wow. That’s a tough one. There’s a little bit of me in each of them (even more frightening when you consider that some of my characters are psychotic killers. Yikes!). I think I like the characters best who surprise me, who take on a life of their own and sometimes take over the plot. Certainly Izzy did that. I had a completely different ending written for The Lost Scrolls, but when I came to it, she wouldn’t play the part I’d laid out for her. She was determined to do something so unexpected, it threw me off for a week and left me wondering how I’d ever finish the book. So in that sense, I like Izzy quite a bit, which is why we’ll see her again. Special Agent David Wisenhauer inThe Coppersmith also surprised me – mostly with some of the things he says. But I can honestly say that Peter Baird from the Jefferson’s Road series is the character I know the best – if only because I’ve written the most about him. He’s like Jon in the sense that he tries hard to do the right thing, but unlike Jon, he compromises a lot more, and it gets him into serious trouble.

MN-I noticed in your author's biography that you are active in Freestyle Kendo. Can you explain what that is?

MS-Freestyle Kendo isn’t really Kendo at all, though it’s loosely based on it. Essentially, it is fencing with a double-handed bamboo shinai (a Kendo practice sword), and very little body armor. Unlike typical fencing, which relies on thrusting techniques, Freestyle Kendo relies on cutting and blocking techniques. It’s similar in style to what you would see in most sword movies—Highlander, Braveheart, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, the Star Wars saga, and other films.

My sparring partner is a six foot six inch tall, 580 lb gorilla of a man who usually beats me six out of ten times. It’s a lot of fun, and sometimes we get a little bruised, but it’s also an amazing stress reliever.

MN-The Christian worldview and how it influences daily interactions is one of your passions. Is it possible to maintain a faith-based, stable worldview as it relates to morals and ethics when society is constantly changing her standards?

MS-Dean William R. Inge once said, “Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.” And Simone Weil said, “To be always relevant, you have to say things which are eternal.”

Society is an ocean. She’s always shifting about this way and that—utterly unstable and prone to make you seasick if you try to stand firmly on her surface. I find great comfort in the solidity of God’s Word—the Bible. It doesn’t change. I know right and wrong are whatever God says they are, and since He is eternal, I know that right and wrong won’t change just because someone comes along with a clever argument.

That being said, I very much consider myself a truth-seeker, and not a dogmatist. My opinions have changed as I’ve grown, but they remain anchored in God’s Word. I don’t always interpret it as I used to, but my aim is always to interpret it correctly—to understand what was meant when it was written within the context in which it was written. There are essentials of the faith that are so crystal clear in Scripture that I have no doubt of them whatsoever. There are non-essentials and mysteries of the faith that aren’t as clear, and I learn and grow as I study and press deeper into God for greater understanding—which is why I think God left the mysteries there, so that we would seek Him rather than simply pat ourselves on the back for having all the answers clearly spelled out.

I know this: God is, and Jesus is the God-man who died for my sins, rose again bodily from the dead, and is coming back to take home those who trust Him for salvation. I am not perfect and I don’t have it all figured out, but I do know that Jesus loves me, and that His mercy is the only reason any are saved. So yeah, it’s entirely possible to maintain a stable, faith-based worldview in the face of this world’s changing standards. In fact, not only is it possible, it’s essential.

Author Bio-Michael J. Scott specializes in action/adventure thrillers and suspense. He released four novels between 2010 and 2011, and is expecting to release as many in 2012. He 
lives outside of Rochester, NY with his wife and three children. 

Michael is currently working on a sequel to The Coppersmith entitled Topheth, about a serial arsonist torching churches, the next installment of the Jefferson's Road series: The Tree of Liberty, and a dystopian teen novel calledIn The Widening Gyre. He has a sequel to The Lost Scrolls entitled The Elixir of Life coming from Ellechor Publishing House in 2013.

You can visit Michael J. Scott at his website-as well as following him on Twitter-@AuthorMichaelJS

Other interviews featured in The Wordsmith Journal Magazine: Murray Pura, Delia Latham, and Charles Drew.

About Mary Nichelson:

This interview is courtesy of The Wordsmith Journal Magazine.

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