Wednesday, 20 June 2018

The Man On The Roof - Blog Tour

 Welcome to a stop on Michael's Stephenson's Blog Tour for his new release The Man On The Roof.
Below the synopsis are some questions that Michael has taken the time to answer for us, the readers. So be sure to scroll through the entire post. Enjoy! I hope you are as excited to grab a copy of this book as I am! Happy reading!
Someone has been creeping in the dark while the others sleep, and they've done terrible, terrible things.
“There was a man on your roof,” claims curmudgeonly lane-hermit Herbert McKinney. Then, he initiates an unprovoked fight with a local punk. Drama escalates when that punk's dead body is found hanging at mid-street one August morning—a boastful killer messaging their next prey. All fingers point to Herbert as the culprit. Soon, the five couples he calls neighbors come under suspicion, too. When detectives divine blackmail as the motive, eyes cross to find who hides the most shameful secret. Husband versus wife, friend versus friend, the shiny suburban veneer of innocence has been forever tarnished. As hidden deviousness boils from their pores, there lurks a thief, a pill addict and a sadist—secrets worth killing for.
Now, as the man on the roof helps guide justice and watches devious neighbors slip in and out of sleepy houses, confusion and questions persist. Who dies next? What have they learned? Who is becoming a monster? Who already is one? And just how many secrets can a small group of multi-ethnic Ohioans have? Only one cemented truth exists: the killer will kill again.
A taut domestic mystery-suspense thriller, The Man On The Roof propels the reader through a tangled, volatile and suspenseful thicket of deception, murder and friends, inviting the reader to discover the murderer and who hides which lie. First there was Gone Girl. Then there was The Girl on the Train. Now, there's The Man On The Roof.

Q & A with Michael Stephenson
How did you come up with the idea for this book?
A few years ago when I wrote this novel, I was in a bit of a pissy funk with my writing. I saw the influx of reboots, remakes and sequels in film and TV now starting to flood into books as well and thought, “So, no one is going to try to do something original anymore?” I actually got quite depressed about it and then I decided if you can’t beat them... you know the rest. So this idea came from me readying to bite someone else’s work. The original The Man On The Roof was a short story that was going to be a riff off of that famous William Shatner-led Twilight Zone episode in which he sees a monster on the wing of his airplane. Thank god my brain dug itself out of that funk and said, “No, you’re going to keep trying to do something wholly original or at least 90% original.”

What most influenced the writing process?
This probably sounds crazy, but reviews. So, even though I wanted it to be an original idea, I also knew I wanted to incorporate ideas from other, more popular books that had quickly become part of our social conscious. Books like The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all took an interesting look at gender dynamics, murders and women, allowing the latter to be the complex people they are. And when you want to be among a crowd, you have to study that crowd and know why people enjoy them so much. So I visited almost every blog that had reviewed these books, read nearly every Amazon and Goodreads review I could find (both bad and good) and cherry-picked a few elements from those reviews that seemed to stick out to me and would, surprisingly, fit well into my story. For instance, there’s a reason why my characters are mostly tea drinkers and not coffee guzzlers. So many book bloggers and Amazon reviewers mentioned not only how they disliked the amount of coffee guzzled down in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but also how much they love tea. Also, a cat made it into the book because I had an idea for an animal, and then read through a ton of blogs and saw that more readers seemed to prefer cats. Strangely, both Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl also briefly feature a cat. As you read that, I’m sure you thought, “That is the stupidest, most asinine reason to include something in a book I’ve ever heard.” Maybe. But it’s also a very interesting little anecdote about the book, isn’t it?

What was the writing process like?
Chaotic, yet calm. I don’t like to spend too much time on one singular project because I feel that if you spend too much time trying to perfect it, the more imperfect it becomes. It’s similar to the holding-sand-in-your-fist adage. I think if you want to be a working writer where you can make a legit wage off this craft, this art, then you have to focus both on quality and quantity. It’s so rare that you’ll write the next great American novel, but you can get away with writing really good, entertaining books for a long time, so long as you write a slew of them. So I tried to write this as quickly as possible. I started with the short story which only had a few paragraphs, then decided to break for a while and write the character profiles instead. I then wrote all the first-person passages, except for the confession. All the while I would take notes of what I had mentioned in previous passages, what this character did or said and why. By the time I finished those, I had already written about a third of the novel. I then wrote the very beginning, followed by the very end. From there it was just a game of fill-in the blanks, and me asking myself what evidence I really wanted the reader to know, what was important to the mysteries and what would go un-found. In other words, no outline, which is usual for most of my projects except for my serials Extraordinary and The Writer, which both have super-detailed outlines.

What would you want readers to know about the book before reading it?
That my idea and definition of a psychological thriller may differ from their own. In my mind, a psychological mystery-thriller is not a book that focuses on the mental state of the characters inside. Yes, we see a great deal of their psychology and mental makeup, however, I have always viewed this genre as a way of the reader, the consumer to evaluate their own psychological makeup. For instance, with AJ Finn’s novel The Woman in the Window, it’s not really about how Anna has become an alcoholic and agoraphobe to deal with her loss, but more about why you, as the reader, either judge her so harshly or identify with her. Are you empathetic, sympathetic or indifferent, and why? When reading through reviews for a lot of these novels in this genre, you come across the recurring theme of, “... gosh, these are just such unlikable characters.” Yet, no one asks why they’re such unlikable characters. Is it because they have such human problems? Because they, like us, make too many real-life mistakes, or are unable to cast out their own demons? Or are they truly flawed enough as to fall into one of the disgusting -ist categories: racist, sexist, chauvinist, etc.? I, as the author, can only write the character in as real and as raw of an expression as that character begs of me to be written. It is ultimately you who mentally labels them wholly bad or wholly good, or empathizes or sympathizes with them. The question is not why they do what they do but why do you judge them as you do? 

Did you ever feel any hesitation about writing female characters the way that they are portrayed in this novel?
Not really. I know that in our current media climate, there is a big microscope on male writers, specifically focusing on how they write female characters in all mediums, whether that be in novels, comic books or for film and television. We’re being scrutinized more than ever about whether our frame of fiction passes certain tests: Does it pass the Bechdel test? Does it show strong women? Is there real complexity to the female characters? Are the female characters described in a way that would fit the way a woman would describe herself and not fantasized or overly sexualized? Concerning The Man On The Roof, I think the answer to most of those questions are negative. It doesn’t pass the Bechdel test because it is a book about a boy who was murdered and even if they’re not talking about their husbands, if you’re talking about the murder you’re technically talking about a male character. And most of the characters, including the men and children are described in the way they’re described for a reason, usually because it plays into their character on a deeper level. With that said, I tried to give equal weight to men and women in this. It’s very much an ensemble piece. I think one of the things I hated in the whole Gone Girl criticism is that when some female fans were calling it misogynistic and calling Flynn out for writing such a terrible female character, it came off as women being the epitome of perfection. Same went for Paula Hawkins’ characters in The Girl on the Train. The idea of “who really wants to be a mistress” still lingers in the bad reviews for that novel. It’s almost an indignation, a, “How dare these imperfect women sully the idea of a modern woman.” I never ascribed to the idea of writing strong women, but writing complex, real characters and making sure they’re not always damsels in distress. But everyone feels distress sometimes, right? In my novel, I wasn’t going to shy away from that, even if I was accused of being sexist. If you choose to see only the women as having flaws when the men are just as murderous, conniving and deceptive, then go ahead. But we can’t continually try to act like these women don’t exist. Plus, in the end it’s a man who... well, maybe I shouldn’t spoil the book.

As a self-published author, what advice would you give other self-pub or indie authors?
Don’t baby one project. It’s very easy to get caught up in trying to write that one breakout novel, so you focus solely on it for all of your writing time. Next thing you know months or even years have gone by and you’re still focused on this one book. So many soon-to-be self-published authors focus on one book and say, “Okay, I’m gonna put this out and have instant success.” Then when it’s not a success, they fall into a superfunk where they don’t even attempt to write the next book because why try. No. Always have at least three ideas lined up and work on them incrementally as you finish one project. You never want to just have one thing for people to read because deep down people want to be repeat buyers. So even before you release your first book, already be working on the second and feature a passage from it in the back of the first book. Entice them and don’t lose their attention once you get it. Then remember to cultivate relationships with potential readers/buyers and what I like to call secondary sellers, or people who are going to bark about your book when it does release. If they really like your book, they will want to talk about your book. Talk to them.

Be sure to check out the other spots on the blog tour!

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