There are times in every writer’s or reader’s life when he or she comes across a concept or synopsis that produces chills. I love the excitement that comes when I’ve found a book that I just can’t wait to read, and that’s the exact feeling I got when S.T. Hoover began telling me about his recently released novel, Michael Ridding: A DenCom Thriller. If you’ve grown tired of the thriller genre, Hoover’s interview will compel you to give it another go. Those of us who enjoy a good thriller will absolutely love the concept behind Michael Ridding. I interviewed Hoover about his concept, the magic behind Michael Ridding, and the chaos that ensued while writing the novel. The novel comes out today, so make sure to pick up a copy!
You mentioned that part of your inspiration for your novel are old-school spy/espionage novels and films. What do you find appealing about that type of story telling?
I suppose the part that always enthralled me was the suspension of disbelief, since I feel like a lot of modern media is constrained by the “believability” factor. People are harsh critics these days: Your book/movie/whatever can be great–amazing, even–but there may be a single element that ruins it for modern audiences. The stories I love, those that inspired Michael Ridding, came from a different time, one where James Bond could have a submarine car or the Flintstones could celebrate Christmas if they wanted to and no one would have a problem with it. One where audiences could sit back and enjoy a good story without nitpicking it to death.
You use a mobile setting in your story. Why did you choose that format? What were some of the struggles you encountered in using varied settings?
I didn’t have many struggles keeping my characters mobile. While the majority of the novel takes place in Palm Springs, I knew from the beginning that if the story was going to stay interesting for readers as well as myself, I needed to take it on the road. After all, the world’s a big place; why should I constrain my characters to one small corner of it when there’s so much to explore?
You mentioned that this novel answered the question, “What do I, personally, as an author and avid reader, wish I could see from a thriller?” for you. What are those genre tropes or predictabilities you play with? How did those impact how you decided to develop your story?
Well, I suppose playing with the “believability factor”, as I mentioned in the first question, was one thing I wanted to do. Michael is relatively grounded compared to the rest of the series, but it paves the way, so to speak, for the more “out there” stuff to come. In Michael, you get hints that something’s not quite right, small tidbits that may make readers do a double-take. The kind of things that make a reader/viewer think, “Wouldn’t it be cool if blah blah blah? But they can’t do it–critics would eat them alive!” With this book, I clear a path for “blah blah blah.” I let readers know, “Hey, this book keeps its head close to the ground, but the next one will go a little further, and the next, further still.”
One of the things I know I wanted to see from a thriller novel/series was more variety. In Michael, I set up the characters so that they can delve into almost anything. There are many hints of paranormal and supernatural elements where they’re least expected, and as the series goes on, they may become more prevalent, but the series as a whole will still stay broad. There can be a terrorist plot to foil on Monday, then on Tuesday, a trek through Panama for a religious relic. While this series mainly sticks with three very special people under the DenCom umbrella, the “company” has its hands in a lot of cookie jars, so to speak. Our mainstay characters may be dragged into these issues, as they have in this book, but they’re more accustomed to smaller odd jobs, which makes the “investigations” more flexible.
But, that being said, I personally believe that the biggest impact my mindset had on the series won’t be felt for a while still. For now, though, I’ll say that there’s something I’ve been waiting a very long time to bring to life. At the deepest core of the series, there is a far bigger story that’s waiting to be uncovered, and Michael is just a handful of snow at the top of this enormous iceberg. Our friends in this book get just a taste of what’s brewing, and I hope it’s one of many elements that will keep readers turning the pages as they, along with our DenCom friends and I, gradually unveil this mystery over the course of this five-book arc–and even beyond.
With this first book, I invite readers to come with us on this journey, so long as they’re okay taking the scenic route.
What journey did writing this book take you on? What were the most memorable moments?
To be honest, I could probably write a whole other book about the two years that this book took to write. But here’s the (highly) abridged version:
The book started in the nearly nine-month gap between my father’s death and the loss of my job. That was all gestation, letting the story form in my head. Michael and his friends had been around for years, and when I was faced with ten hours a day of nothing to do, I sat down and wrote. And I didn’t stop. It was like a flood; over the course of first-drafting the first three books, my daily average was somewhere between 6,000 and 9,000 words. Now, after nearly two years of drafting, editing and further personal trials that constantly threatened its completion, the first book is finally out there for the world to see. And let me tell you, while I’m excited about the release, all I can think about is going back and rewriting Book 2 again, which should be in the next couple of months after I finish another project.
What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Probably talking about it publicly. After a certain age, I chose to work internally on my books, not talking about them except to a select few. No critique groups, no confiding in friends, just writing and planning. After a while, I think a lot of people forgot I even wrote. So when I said I was writing again, I doubt many people took it seriously, so I had no idea what the reception to posting the beta copies would be. I had a feeling people would think it was just a bunch of incoherent nonsense. But I still posted about it, cringing the whole time.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
In general, I start a book when it’s ready to be started. I do enough research so that I can feel comfortable starting the process, but I’ve found myself putting off books for months and months just because I can’t find an end point to my research. Some of the topics I’ve been writing about lately (both DenCom-related and not) fascinate me to no end, so I occasionally have to force myself away from the research and say, “That’s enough. Get the words down. This is bordering on procrastination.”
As expected, this often leads to an overflow of information in my early drafts that’s taken care of in later edits. I try not to care when it’s happening; what’s important is getting the words down and feeling like something got done at the end of the day.
But when it came to this book in particular, I’m a SoCal native, so many of the finer details came easily. A lot of where the book takes place is where I’ve lived at one point or another. Admittedly, I didn’t get to go to Greenland to research–too far out for me–so I was restricted to what I could read about or watch in documentaries. And Denver was so long ago for me; all I really had were the memories from mid-childhood of a brief visit, and a more recent layover while on my way to Palm Springs last winter for Christmas.
But as far as Palm Springs goes, my family used to own a condo in the area where we would stay on occasion. This left me with many fond memories of Palm Springs, which I have no doubt is the reason the majority of this book takes place there. There’s a positivity and life to Palm Springs that always made me want to write about it, even from a young age. And over the course of writing the book, I was able to take several trips there, which always left me with an insatiable drive to see this book through, even when it felt like the world was crashing down around me.
Have you read any authors that made you think differently about fiction?
While not all of these authors relate to the book at hand, most of them have inspired my writing in one way or another:
Jeremy Robinson: His Nemesis Saga was probably the biggest eye-opener I could name, simply because he did something I thought was impossible: He made kaiju (giant monsters, such as Godzilla, Gamera, and the creatures from Pacific Rim) work in literature. He’s now attributed to founding the “Kaiju Thriller” genre, which I hope to soon join the ranks of, now that I know that writing original kaiju fiction is not only possible but accepted.
Michael Crichton: I never tire of reading his books. He opened my eyes to the idea that science can, indeed, be interesting and–dare I say–fun to read about. I couldn’t possibly leave him out of this list.
Dean Koontz: A somewhat new favorite for me. I’d read some of his books before, but only recently did I really get into his work. I love his style and description; when I read a book of his, I can picture the setting clearly. The images I get in my head while reading his books are simply immaculate. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s another SoCal writer. You could argue that there’s some homesickness at play here, but all I know is I can’t wait to read more of his books.
Matthew Reilly: Reiterating what I said in the first question, I love to play with a story’s believability. And in Reilly’s work (I say this in the best way possible), he often throws logic out the window, and I absolutely love it. I couldn’t stop reading books like Contest and Seven Deadly Wonders, where, while believability as we know it is in short supply, you don’t want to tell the story, “You can’t do that! There’s no way that’s possible!” You’re still completely invested in what’s happening to Jack West Jr. and his teammates, despite the implausibility of Jack having a cyborg arm. And that’s what I hope Michael and the rest of the DenCom series does.
Clive Cussler: I simply couldn’t leave him out. His Dirk Pitt series was my original introduction to the thriller/espionage genre. When my father and grandfather played the Iceberg audiobook during a pair of six-hour car rides, I was hooked even at a young age.
I’ll stop there, but as you can probably tell, I’m restraining myself from saying, like, ten other names.
What do you see in your writing future, DenCom or otherwise?
While I don’t want to give too much away, here’s the basic plan so you can prepare yourselves:
Michael Ridding is the first in an intended five-book series arc. The series is mostly consecutive, with a gap of a few months between each book, except for Book 4, which is mostly a prequel about a character who’s become a favorite of early readers. As far as when each one will be out, I’m crossing my fingers for one book a year, but I’ll give each book the time it needs.
And since I can’t bring myself to focus on just the DenCom series, I have a few other projects in the works. There’s a standalone book caught in the pipeline, my revisions of which were put on hold while I wrapped up Michael. If I’m lucky, it’ll see a professional edit this summer and maybe a release later this year. Beyond that, as I said before, I want to work with kaiju, and I hope to take a couple months this summer to inch closer to that goal.
Beyond that, well, some things are always kept from the best of us…
You can purchase a copy of Michael Ridding: A DenCom Thriller here: http://a.co/jiEenqR
S.T. Hoover was born and raised in Southern California. He enjoys writing books packed with variety and genre-bending plots. His first book, Michael Ridding, is the start of an intended five-book series arc. He currently lives in Canton, Ohio with fellow author, Faryl.
You can purchase a copy of Michael Ridding: A DenCom Thriller here: http://a.co/jiEenqR
In Southern California, three terrorists of unknown allegiances slaughter dozens of men at a shopping mall.
In Denver, the eccentric CEO of Denver Communications, or DenCom, has a target on his head.
In the wilds of Greenland, a long forgotten enemy is reaching out for recognition and revenge.
At the center of it all, a special investigator for the “communications” company is dragged into a diabolical plot he can’t begin to understand.