I am a big Michael Lee fan. His last book My Frankenstein was a real treat and now he has a brand new book out called From Russia with Blood. Very catchy and James Bond-esque, I dig the title and think it’s quite clever so of course I can’t wait to read the book. I’m happy to consider Mike a friend, he’s also a member of my writing group Scriborium, he’s a busy guy and one great writer. Lucky for me, Mike agreed to take some time out of his hectic schedule to do an interview with me. Since I’m a writer myself, I am always fascinated with the process of other writers. How do they do that thing we do? How does it all come together for them? I want to know where their inspiration comes from plus a few more things, and so now I share the answers to all these things with you.
TSD: Where did the idea for From Russia with Blood come from? What was your inspiration?
MLEE: Sometimes you get the idea and struggle to find a title. Other times a title pops into your head and you think “That’s too good to waste. I’ve GOT to jump on that one.” From Russia with Blood was inspired by the title. After I got the title I knew I had to find a story to go with it. After weeks of bouncing it around in my head I had it!
TSD: I love the title for this book. What gave you the idea to name the book after a play on a James Bond movie?
MLEE: I was playing one of my “inspiration” games. When I feel I need to find a new project I look through lists, like say great adventure films, or sometimes I play the mash-up game. This time I was just randomly combining genres. I still have a whole bunch of other ideas in a notebook that didn’t stick. But when I came to combining James Bond and Twilight it was just a natural. The title immediately sprang into my head like a bolt of lightning and then I was off to the races.
TSD: Can you tell our readers what From Russia with Blood is all about?
MLEE: It’s about Ian Redd, a 400 year old vampire and former secret agent for British Intelligence who is living the quiet life in Ohio when he discovers an old enemy from the Cold War is still alive and out to get him. It’s also about Larissa Barton, a seemingly ordinary young woman who suddenly is being chased by assassins and monsters and only this mysterious stranger named Ian can protect her.
TSD: How long did it take you to write From Russia with Blood?
MLEE: The actual writing was very fast. I used a “super synopsis” to plan everything out and built it up from there. Normally a synopsis is just a guideline, I just kept adding and adding to mine until individual chapters began to take shape. It was a good way to jump start the writing process.
TSD: How long do you wait between novels before starting another one?
MLEE: It feels like a long time. That’s because as soon as you’re done with one book you’ve got rewriting and then marketing to tackle! That can make it feel like an eternity.
TSD: How did you get started writing?
MLEE: I’ve always been writing. Well, since the word processor came along and made revisions a lot easier.
TSD: Can you describe what your daily writing routine is? What time of day (or night) is your favorite time to write?
MLEE: I tend to set aside a few hours every day. My work hours are usually pretty flexible so I can craft my schedule around a project if I’m really in the zone. I find I spend more and more time on it the closer it gets to completion.
TSD: Where do your best ideas usually come from? What inspires you?
MLEE: As I mentioned I play a lot of mental games to come up with ideas. That comes from being a long time role playing and board gamer. I love making lists. I love reading history especially recent history. I’ll mash genres together. But ideas aren’t stories. A lot of these ideas just sit in notebooks. What inspires a story is character and/or plot. If the idea leads to a character then I have something. If it leads to an intriguing plot then I have something.
TSD: What genres do you enjoy reading?
MLEE: Anything imaginative. I’m always looking at IO9 for their latest recommendations!
TSD: Which authors have influenced your writing style?
MLEE: George R. R. Martin, Suzanne Collins, and Charlaine Harris are the authors I love to read. I tend to write in a very clean, straightforward style. In that regard I’m influenced by thriller writers like Jack Higgins, Alistair MacLean and of course Ian Flemming.
TSD: What are you working on now? When can we expect Book 2 in the series?
MLEE: I’ve’ already got Book 2 planned out in my head. I hope to have it done by this Spring.
TSD: How much of yourself do you reveal in your writing?
MLEE: I think a writer always reveals himself in his or her writing whether they mean to or not. No two people are going to tell the same story the same way.
TSD: Do you prefer writing novels or screenplays better? Which is more challenging?
MLEE: They’re both very satisfying when you do them right. Both are very challenging. Screenplays are shorter but you have to make every line count. Novels are longer and can be more forgiving but they have many more pages to fill.
TSD: Have you ever optioned any of your works? Do you have anything available for option now or in the future?
MLEE: I have had a screenplay optioned before. Honestly if you’ve never been to LA, you don’t realize how easy it is. The ground is crawling with people who would gladly option your screenplay or novel. You won’t get any money unless they sell the project to a studio, but you can get an option easy. Getting a cash option, now that can be a little trickier.
TSD: Being a script judge and a movie blogger as well as an author, do you know a lot about the process of adapting a literary work into a screenplay?
MLEE: You have to overcome a pretty big paradox when you’re adapting a literary work. You have to make it your own but still stay true to the original material. If you can’t inject a new way of viewing this story then why should they hire you? If you deviate too far from the source material, what’s the point of adapting it in the first place?
TSD: Are the horror/supernatural genres your favorite genres to write? Have you written in other genres? What is your favorite genre to read?
MLEE: I have written other genres and that’s why I can say with confidence that the horror/supernatural/paranormal genre is my favorite. It just fits. I have a series of history books. For years I was pounding my brain trying to turn my love of history into a fantasy or a sci fi or even an historical adventure. I recently applied a paranormal twist to the material and it was like the sky opened.
TSD: So here’s one of my favorite questions. Could you share an excerpt of From Russia with Blood please?
MLEE doesn’t disappoint. Check out the hot excerpt below!
An Excerpt of From Russia with Blood by Michael Lee
Instantly he was right next to her. One hand gripped her shoulder and yanked her backward. His other hand held something that flashed brightly. There was a loud echoing sound.
Pop! Pop! Pop!
Gunfire. He’s got a gun!
Larissa stumbled away from Ian. She saw the speeding auto tear down the center of the road. It swerved toward her as she ran.
There was a dark alley immediately behind her. She sprinted into it. It looked narrow. She didn’t think a car could follow. She hoped it couldn’t.
She was ten steps down the alley when she heard a huge crash behind her. She felt it too and half stumbled for a few steps. Larissa whipped her head around and saw the car with its hood crumpled around the corner of the alley. The headlights were flickering and the horn blared.
She slowed a little bit. The car horn stopped blaring. The driver’s side door opened with a crunch and a large man in a dark suit kicked his way out. He staggered into the mouth of the alley clutching his forehead. Larissa saw blood oozing from a cut on his scalp. Then she saw the gun in his other hand. The man raised it at her.
She stood frozen. Was this it? The moment her dreams had warned her about?
Pop! Pop! Pop!
It was the same sound as before. Sharp and loud like fireworks on the Fourth of July. The man hadn’t fired. He stumbled and then fell awkwardly to the ground. She’d never seen a dead body before but she knew that man was dead. He lay in such a twisted manner there could be no doubt.
A shadow approached the alley.
Larissa tore herself from the spot and ran.
She looked back once and saw a tall figure enter the alley. She was on the verge of recognizing him when she smacked into something large and heavy.
Two burly men had jumped out of the shadows and she had run right into their arms. She screamed with all her might as they lifted her off the ground. She kicked and flailed around.
“Is this her?” asked one man in a rough voice.
“Who cares. Shut her up!” came the answer.
A hand like sandpaper clamped down over her mouth and smothered her screams. She saw the black metal of a gun barrel. It hovered above her forehead. She bit down hard on the hand but it wouldn’t let go, even as her teeth tore through the skin.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw the tall figure streaking down the alley toward them. It was Ian. He was moving faster than any man she’d ever seen. It didn’t seem real. She’d been to the Central Park Zoo once. There she’d seen a snow leopard dash across its enclosure. It moved so fast and so fluid, like lightning. That was what it was like watching Ian move. There was nothing human about it.
Her attackers dropped her. She fell on her butt as Ian collided with the two of them like a train. There was a flurry of blows. One dropped to the ground. He crumpled like the man at the mouth of the alley and Larissa knew he was dead.
She backed away from the fight. Broken glass and other bits of debris scraped and cut her hands and rear end but she barely noticed. She was too busy watching the fight. What little fight there was.
Ian seized the other man. The brute was nearly twice his size but Ian held him tight and forced him to his knees. They were standing over a sodium lamp and by its pale light she saw the fangs gleaming inside Ian’s mouth.
Thank you very much, Michael!
From Russia with Blood is available now at Amazon. Visit the Facebook page and become a fan! And be sure to visit Michael Lee at Dark Age of Geek to find more places you can sink your fangs into From Russia with Blood!
Michael Lee is a script judge, reader, creative executive, and consultant. He also blogs about stuff on the Wrap.com and has 2 ebooks out, My Frankenstein and From Russia with Blood. Michael got the writing bug early and it never left him. He’s been studying storytelling and writing ever since. “I keep studying because this is a craft you never master, there’s always something else to learn.”
Images Courtesy of Michael Lee