Please welcome Michael F. Haspil to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Graveyard Shift was published on July 18th by Tor Books.
The Qwillery: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Michael F. Haspil: Thank you for your welcome. I enter of my own free will. I started writing in earnest probably in the 5th or 6th grade when I was at New York Military Academy. I may have written stories before but my English teacher there at NYMA, Mrs. Marion Thomas, ran a small literary magazine students would publish stories in. She ran it off on a ditto machine, so it wasn’t the most sophisticated of affairs. But I remember a story I wrote which she published (which happened to be about werewolves) was the first one I received any acclaim for. My classmates loved it and we even made a quick one-shot role-playing campaign out of it.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
MH: I’m a hybrid, though lately I’m more of a plotter than a pantser. Before I even start a story, I tend to have a scene, usually the climax or the ending, firmly in my mind. Then I break out a plotting grid and start working out the story from there. But the plotting grid is a guide, not fixed in stone. So, as I write, if something better comes up or a plot point becomes too problematic, I jettison the plot grid and revise it.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
MH: The most challenging thing for me, and I suspect for others, is simply finding the time to write. I’ve gotten rid of my television and cut incredibly back on computer games, but it still seems that I can’t find the time. One thing that has helped me recently is to come to terms that I will never find the ideal block of free time to let me summon the muse. So, I just have to make do without her and write despite having no time to do it. I find that usually if I get going without her, she gets annoyed and shows up anyway.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
MH: I would like to say all kinds of lofty references to literary great works, but that wouldn’t be true. The truth would be a lot of genre fiction in film, in books, and comics; a lot of which are considered schlocky by today’s standards.
TQ: Describe Graveyard Shift in 140 characters or less.
MH: An immortal pharaoh battles an ancient vampire conspiracy, using drastic measures and questionable allies, to prevent something much worse.
TQ: Tell us something about Graveyard Shift that is not found in the book description.
MH: One of the vampires is a Catholic priest who used to be a Spanish conquistador.
TQ: What inspired you to write Graveyard Shift? What appeals to you about writing Urban Fantasy?
MH: I had a dream about the world where it takes place. When I woke, all I could remember was the sentence, “I used to kill vampires for the NSA, now I work vice.”
What I like about writing Urban Fantasy is that it isn’t that far removed from our own world. It’s that thing you catch a glimpse of out of the corner of your eye. It’s the rumpled jacket on the chair in the dim light that might just be some demonic imp crouching and observing you through the darkness, waiting for you to look away so it can pounce. I love the idea that we think we know what is real, but we’re most probably wrong.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Graveyard Shift?
MH: I did a lot of research on the Miami-Dade police department and on urban police operations in general. I really wanted to try and get that as right as I could so the story would be grounded. At the same time, I had to loosen up and acknowledge that strictly realistic police work might not be possible in a Miami populated by all manner of preternatural beings.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for Graveyard Shift.
MH: Stephen Youll is the cover artist behind the magnificent cover for Graveyard Shift. It doesn’t portray any single moment from the novel and yet he managed to capture the spirit of the novel perfectly. When I saw the cover, I thought, “Wow. That’s is exactly what the book is about.” And yet it is silhouettes, splashes of color, and ghostly figures from out of time. I love it.
TQ: In Graveyard Shift who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
MH: Marcus was the easiest character to right because his motivations are very straightforward. In many ways, he’s the “Boy Scout” of the characters. He’s a former Roman who was beholden to some serious secret societies (and he might still be loyal to them) but he knows what he should do and is generally focused on exactly how to do it.
The hardest character to write was Rhuna, who is a shapeshifter. She is vicious and deadly and takes pleasure in being so. But she’s not a bad person. She’s not entirely human and so her emotions and motivations are also not entirely human. She can be laughing one instant and at another’s throat in the next. But she’s very loyal in her own way. The surrounding characters very much need to walk on eggshells when around her.
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Graveyard Shift?
MH: There are some social issues present throughout Graveyard Shift, though I don’t present solutions to any of them. The book certainly touches on issues of drug abuse and human trafficking very prominently. But our heroes often deal with issues where situational ethics come into play and they are forced to make awful decisions to avoid something worse in the future.
TQ: Which question about Graveyard Shift do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
MH: How did the Pharaoh Menkaure become an immortal mummy? Well, I won’t answer much of that but it had something to do with him sacrificing his immortal soul to protect humanity from an unspeakable evil. That’s much of the plot of an upcoming novel and if I answered the entire question truthfully, then it would be rife with spoilers.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Graveyard Shift.
Quote 1: “I rewarded them with the finest of Hathor’s yrp wine and from that day forth, they called themselves Menkaure’s Drunkards.”
Quote 2: “I remember the story that Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf…but that’s just a myth, right?”
TQ: What's next?
MH: Right now, I’m working on a fun pop-culture geek novel in the tradition of Geekomancy and Scott Pilgrim. Sort of Ready Player-One meets Through the Looking Glass (complete with a live Jabberwock and a vorpal blade!) It’s not connected to the world of Graveyard Shift in any way.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
MH: Thank you for hosting me! I really hope people will enjoy the book.
Tor Books, July 18, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
Police procedurals go supernatural in this gritty urban fantasy debut by Michael F. Haspil in Graveyard Shift
Alex Menkaure, former pharaoh and mummy, and his vampire partner, Marcus, born in ancient Rome, are vice cops in a special Miami police unit. They fight to keep the streets safe from criminal vampires, shape-shifters, bootleg blood-dealers, and anti-vampire vigilantes.
When poisoned artificial blood drives vampires to murder, the city threatens to tear itself apart. Only an unlikely alliance with former opponents can give Alex and Marcus a fighting chance against an ancient vampire conspiracy.
If they succeed, they'll be pariahs, hunted by everyone. If they fail, the result will be a race-war bloodier than any the world has ever seen.
“Gritty urban fantasy and hard-boiled noir packed into a hand grenade of awesome!” —Mario Acevedo, author of Werewolf Smackdown
MICHAEL F. HASPIL is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he distinguished himself as an ICBM crew commander. After retiring from the military, he served as a launch director at Cape Canaveral. He has been writing original stories for as long as he can remember and has dabbled in many genres. Graveyard Shift is his first novel.