FQ: Did current isolation/quarantine play a role in what must have been your intense concentration in constructing this complex story?
MICHAEL: Absolutely. My career keeps me on the road most weeks, and my company made the correct decision in March to ground my team and have everyone work from home until the pandemic subsided. With my workload shifted to my home office, and travel restricted, I was able to allocate significant time to the crafting and writing of Apex.
FQ: Can you cite one major work that influenced your plot?
MICHAEL: I don’t think you can attempt a story like Apex without acknowledging Richard Connell’s classic short, The Most Dangerous Game. This was certainly a piece of work that I kept in the trunk of my mind as I worked through the Apex storyboarding process. However, as I dug deeper into the characters and events of my book, it became clear that this was a story I wanted to tell and a story that could stand on its own.
FQ: You would seem to have some specialized knowledge of wilderness survival; from where does that spring?
MICHAEL: I have family and friends who are avid outdoor enthusiasts and I’ve have been fortunate enough to join them on various outings over the years; I owe 100% of my limited knowledge of survival skills to them. That being said, Apex absolutely draws from the experiences I’ve had on the trails over the years, especially the sequences involving the river and hills.
FQ: The suspense in Apex gets pretty intense in parts - how did you keep your focus while writing these parts? Did you have to walk away for a bit or ?
MICHAEL: Keeping focus wasn’t a challenge. I storyboarded every chapter and event in Apex before writing a single word. Once I had the characters and events where I wanted, I commenced with the writing process. This is true with all of my works; I strongly believe in having a blueprint. Ironically, my main concern was that I didn’t create enough suspense throughout the book; it can be tough to evaluate when you know every twist and turn.
FQ: How has your obvious interest in computer games, etc., come about – is it profession-related or solely personal?
MICHAEL: Computer Games, Movies, and Thriller Books have always been my escape. I own (literally) hundreds of movies and books. I’m always amazed by the worlds and complex scenarios that the creators come up with. I love being taken for a ride or given the opportunity to navigate within a world on my own. These interests are major influences in my writing.
FQ: Do you see Ranger as a sort of central, behind-the-scenes mover/shaker who might appear in future works?
MICHAEL: Ranger is certainly in a difficult position. He’s accepted his role within Apex, but his disdain for certain expeditions is obvious. As to whether we’ll see him again, you’ll have to wait and see.
FQ: Given that the hunters in this story seem to have mixed motivations, perhaps including power being wielded over them, do you have a sequel in mind?
MICHAEL: Yes. The storyboard is complete, and writing is underway. Without giving too much away, the next chapter embraces the pacing and unpredictability of the first but has zero interest in kidnapping another group of unsuspecting young adults and throwing them into a hunt for survival. I’ve written that book, and it’s time to take the story somewhere else.
FQ: Related to the last question, do you think a sequel might work with a different setting? Say in a city?
MICHAEL: Different settings could certainly work, but I don’t think a city is one of them. Part of what made Apex chilling, in my opinion, is the isolation and sense of helplessness experienced by the protagonists. Cities introduce complex social structures, access to technology and resources, and other components that would likely require an exponentially more complex and far-fetched story.
FQ: Do you believe that the kind of “game” depicted in Apex might actually be playing out somewhere in reality?
MICHAEL: I certainly hope not.