Michael Adams has been a restaurant dishwasher, television host, ice-cream scooper, toilet scrubber, magazine journalist, ecohouse lab rat, film reviewer, social media curator, telemarketing jerk, reality TV scribe and a B-movie zombie. Once he watched one bad movie a day for an entire year and then wrote a non-fiction book about the traumatic experience, Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies. Michael lives in the Blue Mountains, NSW, with his partner, daughter, one dog, two cats and an average of three supersized spiders. His latest release is THE LAST SHOT which is the breathtaking sequel to his first novel The Last Girl.
Thanks to Michael’s fabulous publishers, Allen and Unwin, I was offered the chance to ask Michael Adams a few questions, which I accepted and presented him, and he has now graciously answered.
Michael Adams Q&A
1. Tell me a little about yourself – where were you born, where do you live, and what do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I was born in Sydney and now live in Katoomba. When I’m not writing, I like hanging out with my family and friends. Cooking, going to op shops and garage sales and collecting books and records, taking our crazy dog for a walk, catching up on movies, TV, my massive to-be-read pile of books. There’s never enough time for it all, though.
2. Speaking of writing – share a little about your writing routine: do you have a certain place you like to write and do you write to schedule or just when the mood hits you?
Like a lot of writers, I have to do other work to pay the bills. So I’m often doing casual magazine subbing in the city or writing freelance articles at home. In an ideal world, I’d work a few hours a day on a battered Underwood typewriter by the crackling fireplace in my wood-panelled study with the dramatic autumnal view and perhaps a little Tchaikovsky on the stereo. In reality, the majority of The Last Girl and The Last Shot have been written on a cranky lap-top while listening to iTunes on headphones on the two-hour – each-way – train commute to work. Glamorous! I pretty much have to work when I get the chance.
3. Are you the sort of writer that plots out meticulously or do you sit and let the words flow and see where the story takes you?
I’m a bit of both. The Last Girl was a make-it-up-as-you-go experience. That’s why it took the better part of two years to finish. I created the scenario, characters, events, complications and rules of the world as they occurred to me. It led to a lot of dead-ends. But some of those obstacles presented very enjoyable challenges. Like Danby, I had to think laterally in order for the story to move forward. How do you escape Sydney when every road is thoroughly blocked with stalled cars? You have to look at other thoroughfares in a new light. The Last Shot and The Last Place have been more plotted out. But what I like to do is leave gaps, especially in the second half, so I can retain an element of uncertainty and try to surprise myself. I think if as a writer you can go ‘Whoa, where did that come from?’ then there’s a better chance you can keep the reader in suspense
4. What do you like to read? Care to share some of your favourite authors?
Good stories, fact or fiction. Descriptions that pull you up and recast the world in a new light. I’m a bit of a magpie in my reading habits. I flit across genres and authors. The most recent novels I’ve read have all been Australian. Candice Fox’s grim Sydney-set crime thriller, Hades. Every Breath, which is Ellie Marney’s YA Melbourne-set take on Sherlock Holmes. Kirsten Krauth’s just_a_girl, a coming-of-age story set in the Blue Mountains. I’m presently reading Tim Winton’s Eyrie. As a teenager, I got hooked on Stephen King and devoured everything he wrote. Others that come to mind, in no particular order: Michael Connolly; Theodore Roszak; Bret Easton Ellis; James Ellroy; Gillian Flynn; Kurt Vonnegut; Margaret Attwood; Michael Chabon; Jennifer Egan. Thing is, I haven’t read nearly enough. I’m constantly wishing I had more time.
5. Describe THE LAST SHOT in three words
Bigger, faster, darker.
6 I loved how you avoided zombies, alien invasion, killer viruses or nuclear war to end the world. What made you think of a technological end, death by information overload if you will? (I confess that once you introduced the idea just looking around the food hall at my local shopping centre one lunch break it seemed absolutely plausible as almost everyone was attached to a mobile phone)
Thanks! I love all those apocalyptic scenarios but I also think they’ve been done so many times and often so well it’s difficult to say much new. The idea of telepathy as the trigger for the end of the world came in a flash while I was at a restaurant in New York one night in 2008. A couple at another table didn’t speak the whole evening and I just wondered what’d happen if they could suddenly hear each other’s thoughts. Then I imagined that multiplying across the rest of the restaurant, the city, the country, the world. I didn’t think it’d bode terribly well. If telepathy was something that evolved slowly, I reckon it could usher in a world where we might be truly empathetic. But if it happened in a Snap – which is where the term came from – it’d break us and society would break down very fast. If we were all going crazy, there’d be no way to co-ordinate any sort of effort to save our civilisation. Funnily enough, the connection between telepathy and technology, that we’re trying to achieve the former through the latter, didn’t actually occur until years later when I started writing. It was a case of a theme arising from the subject matter, rather than dictating it. And even in The Last Girl and The Last Shot, Danby and her friends don’t really know what caused the Snap. That’s because, realistically, with the world and all of our media having gone to shit in a matter of hours, there wouldn’t be a way to get that information. So they’re left guessing. That’s going to frustrate some readers but I can’t help that. It’d be a cheat to have a scientist wander into book 3 and say, ‘Well, you know, the Snap was caused by…’ One thing I loved about Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, book and film, was that it didn’t deal in definitive causes. I’d rather leave it to the reader to decide.
7. What led to you choosing Danby as the main character? Or did she choose you? Did you find it hard to get inside a female’s head? I have to say as a female I think you did it very well!
Thanks again! I was working on a few other fictional pieces in which the characters were blokes. The trouble I had was they sounded just like me – and that then started bending the stories in autobiographical directions that didn’t really cohere with the subjects I was trying to explore. So when I decided to try to give my “telepathic outbreak” yarn a chance, I made a conscious decision to make the character as far from me as possible – hence a 16-year-old girl. In terms of getting the voice, it was imagination and then guidance from my partner and a few very talented editors who’d pull me up whenever Danby sounded like me rather than herself.
8. Was there any scene in the story you particularly struggled with that you can share without giving too much away? How did you move past it?
Like I said, in The Last Girl there are a few times when it seems like things really are hopeless for Danby. Having written her into those corners, I had to find a way out. So in a few instances, particularly those escapes from her home and from Parramatta, I went to the locations and walked around and looked for inspiration until it came. What was as difficult was her little brother, Evan. He’s unable to fend for himself in much of the series, which limits Danby’s actions because she won’t leave him. Early on, I seriously considered removing him from the story completely. But I liked him. I liked what he made Danby have to consider. So I stuck with Evan – and he proved to be the key to the entire story. There’s a bit of writing advice that says you should always make things as tough as possible for the character. I agree with it, even if it makes your job so much harder.
9. I know that the final book in the trilogy, THE LAST PLACE, is due out in 2015 – but what’s next for you after that?
I’ve got a lot of ideas. I’m pretty drawn to the idea of writing a stand-alone novel set in Hollywood in the lead-up to WWII. But we’ll see.
10. Last supper – if the world was ending tomorrow what would be your last meal on earth?
I’m a big fan of slow-cooking. So I’d say a very slow-cooked Mexican beef dish. Slow-cooked for, oh, about 40 years. I’d rather the world didn’t end. There’s too much to do.
THE LAST SHOT is published by Allen and Unwin and is now available for sale; the recommended retail price is $19.99
NOW WIN THE BOOK!!!
Allen & Unwin is offering a copy of the book THE LAST SHOT to a lucky reader.
The competition is open to Australian residents only
How to Enter:
Leave your name, email and a comment below
The winner will be drawn Friday March14th by random.org and I will announce it here.