MJ Preston – The Equinox

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

My newest book is actually my debut novel and it is called: The Equinox. The story is about a young half blood Chocktee man named Daniel Blackbird who has been chasing a shape-changer across North America for over 14 years. Blackbird is a loner, who has been banished from his native home after getting his grandfather killed. The shape changer is actually a hybrid of the Skin-walker and Windigo and in order to survive it must eat the internal organs of its victims.

The Equinox is a tale about monsters, both seen and unseen. The unseen is of course the skin-walker, but there is a dual story set in a prairie town where the Police of Chief David Logan has discovered that a local farmer has been burying the bodies of young boys in his cornfield. Without going into great detail I will just say that all is interwoven and not everything is as it appears.

Tell us something about yourself.

I live in Canada, I was a soldier for 12 years and I have been writing since I was kid. I used to write film reviews, then did military reportage throughout my career and after leaving the military I started a newsgroup that championed the rights of wounded soldiers. I have always been a writer, penning short stories, opinion pieces and a favourite pastime is debating on web forums.

What inspired you to write this book?

I have always been fascinated with Native Lore, in particular the tales about Windigo and Skinwalker of Cree and Navaho. Couple that with my fascination about crime and voila.

How did you choose the title?

Well the title was actually going to be called Grandfather’s Magic, but I opted for THE EQUINOX as it is a spiritual time for the Chocktee people. For those that might not know what the equinox is, it comes twice a year in spring and fall when there is equal amount of darkness and daylight.

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

Time was my biggest obstacle. I started this novel in the late 1980’s and ended up shelving it until late in 2009. I am 46 years old, I figure I have a couple more books in me before I lose all my faculties, so I decided to publish my novel as an independent. The publishing industry is undergoing drastic changes, what with the surge of digital books and the ability of artist to take control of their own work is on the rise. No longer are you saddled by a vanity press that sticks you with a bunch of books, a huge bill and there isn’t a stigma attached to being indie.

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

As a young man I use to stumble a lot in spoken word, but when I wrote people didn’t see the awkward young man trying think of a word or phrase. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was in grade six and I got an A on a story I wrote about a werewolf.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I do have two rituals I use regularly when I write. The first is using music to inspire me. Whether I am listening to a soundtrack or instrumental I find that helps quite a lot. I also have a tendency to draw my characters and their environment. When I wrote Equinox I generated almost 400 digital images, all of the artwork for my covers is done by me, but it was really just a by-product of my creation process.

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

Most of the names come from my head, but a few were suggested through research conducted with native friends. I spent a great deal of time consulting about lore, names and rituals.

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

Yes, I learned that the editor is always right. My novel was damn near 175,000 words when I finished the first draft. By the time it saw publication it had been cut down to 120,000 words. We writers have an obsession with our words. As a matter of fact, I still have those 55,000 words on my hard drive and I just can’t quite bring myself to delete them, but removing them from my novel made it a better book.

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

I would have catalogued my artwork so that it could be included in my novel. Most of the pieces I did were generated for my website and not high enough quality or size to be included in a book. Although it would have increased the book size it would have added to the reader experience.

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

I like all sorts of literature. I like fiction, historical, biographical. My favorite authors? Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Robert R McCammon, Just recently I finished THREE DAY ROAD by Joseph Boyden and I have to say it is one of the most compelling stories I read in quite some time.

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

Yes I am working on a new novel. I can’t tell you much, other than it is also a horror novel and that it is coming together. It may also end up being an illustrated book.

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

When you have momentum keep going until you get the first draft done. Worry about all the mechanics later. Once you think you have that book polished, pass it off to other writers or beta readers, then listen to their feedback.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

I would say that male and female readers ranging from 14 to 70 who like horror and aren’t squeamish. Equinox is a filled with suspense and there is no shortage of gore, but along with that the characters in this book find things out about themselves they might not have otherwise known.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Readers can visit either of my websites: MJ Preston – The Equinox and The Black Galleries The novel is also available through Amazon.com and Lulu.