Hartford Books Examiner and HarperCollins will be offering a giveaway copy of Killer Move to one lucky reader. For your chance to win, simply email HBEat [email protected] by Sunday, July 31st at 11:59 PM EST. Please include “giveaway” in the subject line.
Today, Hartford Books Examiner presents a Q&A with author Michael Marshall.
Marshall, who has also written sci-fi & horror titles under the name Michael Marshall Smith, is the New York Times bestselling author of The Straw Men trilogy. He has won numerous awards, both for his novels and short stories. He has also worked extensively as a screenwriter for Los Angeles-based clients, and is currently involved with several film and television projects. He makes his home in North London.
Marshall’s latest, Killer Move (William Morrow, $24.99), was released in June, and has already thrilled readers and reviewers alike. Publishers Weekly noted that the author “offers a subtle and unnerving story of the little things that can tip the balance of one’s life and send it spiraling into chaos” while Cascadia Weekly praised, “It’s juicy reading, and the gasp-inducing ending will leave you wishing for more.”
Read HBE’s review of Killer Move here.
From the publisher:
Bill Moore already has a lot, but he wants more . . . much more.
He’s got a lucrative job selling condos in the Florida Keys, a successful wife, a good marriage, a beautiful house. He also has a five-year plan for supersuccess, but that plan has begun to drag into its sixth year without reaping its intended rewards. So now Bill’s starting to mix it up—just a little—to accelerate his way into the future that he knows he deserves.
Then one morning Bill arrives at work to find a card waiting for him, with no indication who it’s from or why it was sent. Its message is just one word: modified.
From that moment on, Bill’s life begins to change.
At first, nothing seems very different. But when things begin to unwind rapidly, and one after another, people around Bill start to die, it becomes increasingly clear that someone somewhere has a very different plan for Bill’s future. Confused and angry, Bill begins to fight against this unseen force until he comes to a terrifying, inescapable realization: Once modified, there’s no going back.
Now, Michael Marshall reveals a few of his killer moves…
Stephen King has been a fan since your debut novel, The Straw Men, calling it “a masterpiece . . . brilliantly written and scary as hell.”The Romantic Times book club calls your recent novel, Killer Move, “A mind-blowing combination of crime and horror.” It takes a certain type of person to explore the depths of evil that you cover in your novels. What is the writing process like for you and where do you get your inspiration, for lack of a better word?
Inspiration, as always, comes from asking ‘what if?’ What if such-and-such a thing were to happen, or sometimes, what if something didn’t happen? What if apparently unimportant little modifications started to be made in your life by forces occluded to you? What if they minutely skewed people’s perceptions of you and your life—despite all your work in trying to present yourself—and the effects started to snowball? All fiction starts with that question, and the only choice after that is to keep asking it…
As for dealing with evil… evil starts in the detail, where the Devil lives: in small things, tiny choices, half-seconds where you take your eye off the ball. The distance between normal life and ‘evil’ is terrifyingly short, a quantum step.
All you have to do is observe these moments and imagine what might happen if they continued, and went unchecked…
The word “modified” plays a huge part in Killer Move. It sounds harmless, but as the story progresses, the word takes on a much scarier meaning. Tell us about your choice to use this word, and its role in the story.
‘Modified’ was actually my working title for the book. It’s such a bland, technical-sounding word, and yet its implications are huge—and the novel tries to evoke how baby-steps of interference and neglect and bad intent can snowball into chaotic changes. Our lives are so complex, and based around many little assumptions and relationships that we may not even be consciously aware of. The domino effect of change can be catastrophic in such an interlinked system. That’s not only true for our personal lives, of course, but for society in general… as the recent rollercoastering of the economy demonstrates.
The more complex the system, the greater the potential for a butterfly effect, too, for tiny ‘modifications’ to overthrow it all… and open the ground beneath your feet.
Bill Moore is a pretty average guy, but he’s really focused on self-improvement. What made you decide to include this almost obsessive aspect to his character?
I believe neurosis is the mental heat caused by the over-clocking of our brains. We’re biologically the same creature as the one who led a relatively simple life hunter-gathering fifteen thousand years ago—and yet we’ve conjured this incredibly complicated and stressful society around us. We cope with it, but only just, and only by running our consciousnesses at a far higher rate than they’d evolved to deal with. The result is a constant background hum of low-level anxiety, which we sublimate into neuroses and habit and going to the gym and working too hard and drinking and tweeting… Obsession lies close to all of us, stalking us like a warm shadow.
The Internet is playing into this facet of human nature, levering open those cracks in our psyche. We’re constantly bombarded with fact, half-fact, blogs, status updates… and we feel we have to keep up, because to fall off the pace is to undergo a virtual death, to be revealed as the aging bull elephant at the back of the pack, ripe to be picked off by the wolves of obsolescence and old age and the terrible fate of being seen as not-cool, off-message, non-zeitgeist. We have to be out there, be seen, build our brands… in front of all these distant strangers, these ‘followers’, these ‘friends’. Bill Moore is merely the logical extension of all this. It could be you, just as easily.
We often blame malfunctions with our email, cell phones, etc. on a technological glitch. In Killer Move, it turns out to be much more than that. What prompted you to use this as the basis for you latest thriller?
It’s astonishing the degree to which we hand up our lives to technologies we simply don’t understand, especially given that the guys in the black hats—the thieves, criminals and hackers—are always one step ahead of the good guys. Though I don’t believe in many conspiracy theories, I share the modern obsession with the idea that someone, somewhere, Knows What’s Going On, and may even be in control of it. What if these things that seem like momentary glitches are not? What if there’s something going on? Why are they doing it? What do they want? Will they ever stop? When so many of the things that define our lives are ‘unreal’—in the sense of virtual and non-concrete—it becomes increasingly easy for the same kind of intangible fictions to destroy us, too.
The tagline for this story is spot on, “Your password is protected. Your life is not.” Is Killer Move a sort of cautionary tale? What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
It’s easy to waltz around the Internet as if it’s some big, cozy playground combined with shopping mall and singles club, assuming it’s safe. It may be, it may not—but be advised that virtually everything you do is logged, and could be used against you, should someone have a mind to. I’m actually not paranoid about security or people knowing what I do—my life is too mundane to be of interest to most—but it’s still an odd environment to live in.
But then… we’re always in an odd environment. We’re an animal designed to live in tribes of sixty to eighty people, and yet we live in groups of thousands, tens of thousands, millions. We don’t know these people, before we even start factoring in all our online ‘friends’. How much of all this is real? How much of it can be trusted? Very little. So work out who you are, what you stand for, and who you really care about, and make sure you’re looking after that first.
What is the perfect song/playlist that captures the “feel” of the story?
Ooh, that’s a good question. Off the top of my head…
— LOLLIPOP, by the Chordettes, which to me has a slightly crazed kind of cheerfulness, like someone chanting ‘Everything’s great! Everything’s great!’ to themselves while shredding a piece of paper in their hands…
— THE PLACES YOU HAVE COME TO FEAR THE MOST by Dashboard Confessional, because the tone andrhythm feel right…
— YOU’RE STILL THE ONE by Shania Twain, as it features in the book…
— BROKE DOWN ON THE BRAZOS, by Gov’t Mule, for its hard-driving Southern-fried intensity…
— I HAVE FOUND ME A HOME by Jimmy Buffett, because the book’s set in Florida, and you’ve got to have a Buffett tune. It’s the law.
With thanks to Kimberly Chocolaad of HarperCollins for providing both this Q&A and a giveaway copy of Killer Move.
Don’t forget to email HBE at [email protected] by Sunday, July 31st at 11:59 PM EST for your chance to win a copy of Killer Move. Please include “giveaway” in the subject line. A winner will be randomly selected and notified on Monday, August 1st.
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