I am delighted to welcome B Michael Radburn to chatting with authors, his latest book Subterranean was released on July 1st.
Here is an extract.
‘The past is my shadow, forever behind me.’ Cassie Belrose was used to looking over her shoulder. Running away was what she did best – away from a possessive husband who wants her back, running from city to city, from job to job, to stay one step ahead of him. Daniel Woodsman is at home in the dark; in the abandoned railway tunnels below the city where the homeless veteran has built his life since his injuries had taken away more than just his confidence. Fleeing the Suits dispatched by her husband to bring her home, Cassie enters Daniel’s domain in the subway where their two worlds collide. Together, can they stop running long enough to begin living again.’
It’s on my to-read list and I think it should be on yours too.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Aside from the usual childhood desires of becoming either a cowboy or an astronaut, I knew from adolescence that I wanted to be a writer. The path wasn’t a direct one, but I finally got there.
What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood.
Playing my guitar or riding my motorcycle will always lift me out of a slump (or writer’s block), but my family is a constant when it comes to the joy of life.
Also, for the motorcycle fans, tell us a little about your Harley?
Ah, my bike … She’s a beautiful Road King Classic that has been with me for more than ten years now. A tribute to that Americana road culture of chrome and leather that I love so much. Harley ownership is as much a culture as it is an interest. I can’t imagine life without it.
What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating?
A simple BBQ grill of steak, jacket potatoes, string beans in butter, and corn on the cob with a nice Cabernet Merlot. As it’s Saturday, I’ll be doing the cooking. Can’t say I’d prefer anything else right now.
What are your musical tastes?
Old school country and blues. I’m a product of the 60s and 70s, so am also partial to rock and roll from that era. When I jam with my friends though, it’s usually a bit of all those genres, depending on where the mood (and alcohol) takes us.
This is tough. Heroes come and go in our lives, depending where we are and what we’re doing. There are so many people I have admired over the years. A constant is Neil Armstrong. Not so much for what he did, but for how he did it with such focus, heroism, and unassuming humility.
Right now, however, I’d have to say New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. She is such a strong and shining light amidst the current World leadership. A true inspiration.
If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?
It wouldn’t be a dinner party, but rather an open campfire to share a billy of tea. I would have Elon Musk and Bill Gates to discuss the possible future of humanity. My third guest would be Ricky Gervais to keep the conversation grounded. I think that would be neat.
Writing and other topics.
As a woman, I am intrigued by the fact that you wrote successfully for women’s magazines earlier in your career. What allowed you to tap into that market?
It was a calculated decision at first. There was a decade’s gap where I hadn’t written a word while I focused on my young family. When the itch to write again grew too much to ignore, I looked for an accessible paying market which at the time was the significant stable of women’s’ magazines in Australia. When I read a few samples, I recognised a pattern that I felt I could follow but decided to add a unique twist in the tale and stamp my own literary voice. The method worked well, and soon opened overseas opportunities. I think living in a household of women (my wife and 2 girls) also helped me successfully tap into the female psyche.
You couldn’t get much further apart than writing from this perspective and your love for Harley Davidsons and motorcycles.
Not really. The motorcycle community a diverse one these days, with many riders of all genders. The gap isn’t as wide as you may think. Conversations at rallies and motorcycle pubs and haunts can often turn to books and the arts. Don’t be fooled by the leather, tattoos and facial hair.
Equally, I am interested in your comment ‘no matter the story, it’s always better when told with strong female influences.’
Can you elaborate further, especially as many male writers only have token female characters?
I think it’s a matter of balance. My stories are character-driven, so I write most of my books from multiple perspectives. Therefore, it’s imperative that I understand the place where their influences and drives come from; bring their backstories to the surface to better understand their reasoning and actions. I am a fan of so many female writers, top of my list being Harper Lee and Margaret Atwood. Men and woman often process things differently. I think it helps a book to see both the conflict and common ground this can sometimes produce in a story. In Subterranean, however, I chose to write it entirely from my female protagonist’s point of view to dig deep on the domestic abuse angle. That way I could also keep Daniel’s story mysterious and at arm’s length until he was ready to share it with Cassie.
Do you get much feedback from women on your writing?
All the time. The greater percentage of my readership appears to be female, not an uncommon statistic in the crime genre as I understand it. One of the nicest comments I ever received was from a reader who told me; “You write like a woman.”
The book touches on both homelessness and veterans. What do you think is the main issue contributing to homelessness for veterans?
Homelessness is such a complex issue. It’s difficult for many of us to understand how living rough on the streets feels safer than where they have come from, but that’s the crux of it. Add the trauma of PTSD to the mix and that rabbit hole some of our veterans find themselves down just gets deeper. Despite the efforts of government bodies to assist our vets, the culture learnt in the military is hard to shake when it comes to talking about these things. There is a line in Subterranean where Daniel tries to explain it to Cassie. He says, “We don’t talk to civilians because they can never understand what we went through; what we are going through; and we don’t need to talk to another veteran, because they do know.”
I applaud all-male champions for change concerning domestic abuse. What can men do to help other men and women?
Lead by example for a start. If you see a person in trouble, step up and bear witness. I find this passive action can often stem a potential abusive event in a public place without force. Sit with the victim, stand with them, walk with them, make them feel safe.
What time of the day do you usually write?
I find the mornings accommodate my creative writing more productively, and evenings better suited for the more mundane tasks of correspondence and research, although I’m disciplined enough these days to be able to write at any time of the day. It depends on the weight of any deadlines I may have.
What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
Editing … I hate it. Not because I begrudge my editor’s work at making my books the best they can be, but because my headspace is usually in the next project by the time we are at the editing stage. I call it a necessary evil (first world problem, I know).
What is your work schedule like when you are writing?
Not too strict. I have a conservative target of no less than 500 manuscript words a day (any more is a bonus). This means I can comfortably have a first draft in 10 months or so. I like it best when I have several projects on the go at any one time, dipping in and out of each as the mood takes me.
How long do you research for a book?
It varies, depending on the complexities of the plot. I am a less is more kind of writer anyway. I’m very fortunate to have a couple of sources within the police force that help me with procedural and cultural aspects in my novels. Research never really stops throughout the process. There are always details surfacing that need to be checked and explored.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I like to place an early model canary yellow VW Beetle car in all my novels. Sometimes it provides a minor insignificant prop, and at other times a major one that’s key to the story. I couldn’t tell you why I do that. It’s just a fun little foible that gives me joy.
I love that!
Do you have a favourite character that you have written?
If so, who? And what makes them so special? Firstly, The Librarian (Thomas Leon) from my debut novel, The Crossing. He’s an eccentric retired old-school newspaperman living in a rundown mansion on the cusp of a devastated landscape of past logging in the Tasmanian Highlands. He was one of those characters that wrote themselves; I just had to sit back and take notes. More recently I could say the same about Daniel Woodsman in Subterranean. I found a real affinity with his character as it developed on the page, possible because of the link to my army days.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?
I think they could write a great technical manual. But fiction needs to find a pathway into the reader’s emotions. I find it better to set a seed rather than advise what the reader should be feeling. If I do it right, this allows them to discover the level of emotions based on their own benchmarks in life.
Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received?
Best: Stephen King suggested never to underestimate your reader when we were both speaking at the 84 World Fantasy Convention in Canada.
I am in awe, you met and spoke to Stephen King.
Worst: “Writing is easy”, by my best friend in high school.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
$90 dollars for a portable Remington typewriter back in 1978. It was the moment I decided that I could really do this.
Do you have a favourite author and why?
This is tough. There are so many. But the most influential of my favourites is Ray Bradbury. He was always able to write adult speculative fiction with the heart and curiosity of a child. I love that.
What are you reading now?
While the rest of the world appears to be devouring new literature during the C-19 crisis (which is wonderful), I’m revisiting the classics. Currently, I’m reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I recently purchased a beautiful leather-bound hardcover version. The way Stoker has told the tale from a collection of diaries, journals and official documents is so masterful.
What books or authors have most influenced your writing?
Many writers imitate their most influential authors to kick off their career. My early influences were Americans like Bradbury, Bloch and Lovecraft to name a few, but I’d like to think that I have since found my own voice and style.
Favourite quote (does not matter the source) Can be from music if you like!
My favourite quote is from British author Clive Baker. You’ll find it in his Books of Blood collection. “People are like books. Wherever we’re opened, we’re red.” Creepy, huh?
Favourite book/story you have read as an adult?
Again, too many to consider as an ultimate favourite, but the one book I can go back to time and time again is Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I seem to find something new that touches my heart every time I read it.
Favourite book when you were a kid.
Maurice Sendak’s, Where the Wild Things Are. It was the first book that really sparked my imagination as a child, a spark that has since turned into a raging fire of creativity for me today.
Thank you so much for a fun and fascinating interview.
About the author.
B. Michael Radburn has been writing successfully for
decades with over a hundred short stories, articles and reviews published in
Australia, the UK and the United States.
He was an award-winning short storyteller before his move to novels and screenplays, a move that freed him to further explore his characters, as well as the natural and supernatural environs in his work.
Amidst road trips on his Harley Davidson, and jamming with the local musicians, B. Michael Radburn is a family man and enjoys farming his small Southern Highlands property where the hauntingly beautiful surrounds inspire his stories.
Connect with B. Michael Radburn on his Facebook, Instagram or webpage.
Subterranean: ISBN: Paperback ISBN 978-0-6487093-9-8, RRP $27.00
E-book ISBN 978-0-6487093-8-1, RRP $4.99
Pages: 238pp Category: Fiction, contemporary.
Available: From Booktopia and Amazon.
Website: Publisher: http://www.atlasproductions.com.au/
Also by B. Michael Radburn: The Crossing; Blackwater Moon; and The Falls and more