Michael J. Hultquist – Off Track

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

I’ve had 2 books recently published – “Huffer” by Graveside Books and “Off Track” by Belfire Press. “Off Track” is the latest. Here is the info on each:

Huffer: After huffing paint for too many years, Gus Gerring’s life is thrown into turmoil when a Hawaiian-shirt clad entity he dubs “Satan” appears and imbues him with the power to see “evil” in other people, along with the choice to do something about it. But will knowing the evil deeds of his loved ones prove too much to take, even for Gus’s chemical-ravaged mind? Especially when it comes to learning what his mother and her boyfriend had to do with his father’s suicide, why his Uncle Ham is killing hookers down in Texas, or why the cops are beating a path to his door to get next week’s lotto numbers. To Gus, it all seems like one horrible, huffing-induced nightmare. But is it?

Off Track: At twelve, Gary Sanderson found himself in Radcliffe – the oppressive juvenile detention facility for boys. At sixteen, he has a chance for a new, normal life in a new, normal town with foster parents Don and Gail Morgan. He attempts to build this new life, even as his past catches up to him and the problems of a small town erupt all around him. These problems spin out of control when the girl he loves asks him one question: Will he kill her father? Off Track is the character study of a boy, shaped by abuse and burdened with the death of his father, trying to survive in a world he hadn’t expected to find.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’ve been writing since grade school and haven’t stopped since. I live in Lake in the Hills, Illinois, an outer NW suburb of Chicago. I have a Master’s in English from NIU and studied screenwriting at UCLA. Aside from novels, I’ve had two screenplays produced – “Victim” and “The Killing Game.” When I’m not writing fiction or screenplays, I indulge my spicy food and chili pepper addiction by working on new cookbooks and my Madness web sites at ChiliPepperMadness.com and JalapenoMadness.com. I can’t stop eating chili peppers!

How did you choose the title?

“Off Track” came naturally from the subject matter and the overall symbolism of the book. Trains are a metaphor for the obstacles in the main character’s life, and throughout the book he feels derailed, or off track. His journey brings him back.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

“Off Track” was originally accepted by a different publisher, but that publisher went under just after publication, so “Off Track” was back to me. It was a huge disappointment after all the work put in, including editing and cover design. Luckily for me, Belfire Press heard about this and contacted me right away with interest in the book. I sent it along and they liked it enough to take it for their own. I’m very happy they contacted me. Belfire Press has been great to work with.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I started in grade school when I entered a Young Authors contest. When my “Mystery Stories” placed at the top, I was instantly hooked and have been writing ever since. I’ve studied a lot and written a lot, and I’m happy where I’ve landed. I’m certainly hoping to achieve even more and get lots of stories out there.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I have no rituals other than to write as often as I can. For me, it’s not just the writing but the thinking time needed to construct your stories and characters. I need to outline, so I start there, turning ideas into larger and larger chunks, adding details and exploring themes. Once I have a solid outline and roadmap, then I feel I can write. Once I have the solid outline, I’ll write every day until I have a completed first draft. Then, the editing begins.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

I don’t dwell on character names too much. I left them pop in naturally to fit the story. My fiction tends to fall around small towns with realistic people, so I shoot for realism.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

Edit, edit, edit. Also, get used to working with an editor. I enjoy the collaborative process, and a great editor can make your work that much stronger. I feel if you want to be a successful author or screenwriter, prepare for editing and collaboration.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I probably would have taken my earlier work more seriously and would have taken my time. I believe I was in a rush with my earlier work, but that just cuts quality. Take your time and make the work the best it can be. Don’t be afraid to chop what isn’t working.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

I love horror and thriller fiction, but I also love quirkier work. Some of favorite authors include Joe Hill, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Ray Bradbury, and John Irving.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I am working on a new novel but it is going slowly because I’ve been concentrating on several screenplays. With the successes of “Victim” and “The Killing Game,” I’ve really been trying to complete more work in that area. I have some completed scripts that I’m very excited about and hope to see them turn into movies.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

This goes back to an earlier question, but I feel a good writer should be prepared for editing and collaboration. A publisher, agent or manager wants your work to be the best it can be. They know the business and what sells. Oftentimes, they’ll see a spark in your work but may ask for changes. It’s a great opportunity to work with them and to grow. Once you gain representation or work with a publisher, you’re entering a team environment. Embrace this and you will become a much better writer for it.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

“Huffer” is aimed at the audience who likes a bit of fun horror that doesn’t take itself too seriously. “Off Track” features a young adult character, but contains darker themes and is more serious in tone. It’s not meant for someone looking for a lighter read. Prepare yourself for a tragic character and story.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Huffer: http://gravesidebooks.com/novels/huffer-by-michael-j-hultquist/prod_12.html

Off Track: http://belfirepress.com/main/our-titles/off-track/

Web Site: http://www.michaelhultquist.com