Today I am interviewing Michael F. Haspil, author of the new urban-fantasy novel, Graveyard Shift.
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DJ: Hey Michael! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Michael F. Haspil: Sure. I’ll stick to the big things. I’m a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and used to do a lot of operational stuff (“stuff” is a technical term) with Air Force Space Command. I worked as an ICBM crew commander and as a launch commander and launch director for the Air Force at Cape Canaveral. I’ve been trying to be a professional writer for most of my life, and certainly all of my adult life. I’m also a dedicated gamer. Tabletop, board games, role-playing, miniature, computer…any type of game. I’m there.
DJ: What is Graveyard Shift about?
Michael: The super short version is that it is about an immortal pharaoh, who has been blackmailed into law enforcement. He must make some unsavory alliances to stop an ancient vampire conspiracy that is trying to destroy humanity. He often has to make some pretty awful decisions to stop worse things from happening.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Graveyard Shift?
Michael: I would say most of my influences come more from film and television than literary sources, although Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series probably rubbed off a bit. Among Movie and TV influences I’m drawn to stories where the good guys and bad guys might be a little hard to tell apart unless you look really hard. So, there’s a bit of Noir creeping in throughout the book. That sort of murky morality kind of thing where there might not be a clean-cut line between right and wrong. L.A. Confidential, Justified, Chinatown. The largest influence might actually be the original Lethal Weapon. People tend to remember the Lethal Weapon series as action comedies, but I think that’s due to the latter films certainly. I would argue that the first film is a dark affair, with Martin Riggs genuinely suffering from some serious mental problems throughout and only finding some solace at the end of the film. For Graveyard Shift I wanted to graze the surface of the buddy-cop dynamic except that my characters have been forced into it for more than seventy years, have their own agendas, and might have a genuine dislike for one another.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers will sympathize with them?
Michael: Alex Romer (Menkaure the Pharaoh) is my main character. He is an immortal mummy and is atoning for past sins. That’s kind of a theme that runs through many of the characters: atonement. Alex gave up his immortal soul so he could stand guard for humanity against a very powerful evil. He hasn’t been too good at that job. Because he is immortal and is being blackmailed by shadowy figures within the government to behave in a law enforcement capacity, his heart isn’t really into what he does. He can be pretty apathetic. After all, where is the motivation to solve a problem if no one is going to care about it in five or ten years? He does tend to take things very personally, however. Which the bad guys tend to find out, much to their chagrin. Alex magically gets great power from Re, the Sun. Too bad for Alex he works the graveyard shift.
Marcus, Alex’s vampire partner, has been around for more than two-thousand years. He used to run with the elite. But he’s got secrets of his own and might be beholden to forces beyond the confines of the current story. He’s probably the closest we come to a traditional good guy. He was a Roman legatus and then a governor, and a sense of duty drives him.
Rhuna is one of my favorite characters. She threatened to take over the whole book when I was writing it. She’s a deadly shapeshifter that works with a vigilante gang. She has exceptional control over her body and can change most of her appearance if she wanted to. Naturally, with that kind of control, she is extremely attractive. The gang she works with uses that to their advantage. To outsiders it might look like they’re using her as bait, but in actuality, she is more of a Trojan Horse. They use her to get into areas they normally wouldn’t be able to, and then once inside, she’s the worst thing that could have happened to the place. I can’t wait to write more about her.
DJ: What is the world and setting of Graveyard Shift like?
Michael: The world of Graveyard Shift, is near-future Miami, where vampires have exposed their existence to the world in an event known as The Reveal. During the day, it is very much like Miami of today. It’s too bad that our heroes work for the Nocturn Affairs Section, a branch of law enforcement meant to deal with crimes committed by and against vampires. (Nocturn is the P.C. term for vampire.) They don’t get to see the nice side of Miami. The story takes place in the horribly violent underbelly, where blood dealers peddle their wares to the desperate and the corrupt and human trafficking is just a way of life. It isn’t a nice place, even to visit.
DJ: What are your vampires like? Anything particular unique that you’ve done to them to make them you own?
Michael: My vampires are apex predators. They’ve evolved that way. Some of the old tropes are still there, most of them don’t like sunlight (although it is not generally lethal, but still damaging), they drink blood (obviously). They can’t fly or shapeshift, but they are extremely fast and strong. Religious icons hold no special meaning for them as far as keeping them at bay. In fact, one of the major characters is a Catholic priest! My vampires regard the tropes of being unable to cross running water or not seeing their reflections in the mirror as old wives’ tales.
One aspect which may be unique to my vampires is the concept that although they are immune to the effects of drugs and alcohol if taken directly, they can feel the effects if they feed on a person who has consumed drugs, alcohols, or many other substances. When my vampires feed, they inject their victims with an enzyme which is extremely pleasurable and prevents their victims from fighting back. This has given rise to the S&B lifestyle. It stands for Sangers, a derogatory term for vampires, and Bleeders, a term describing humans who voluntarily allow vampires to feed on them because they’ve become addicted to the enzyme. Though not strictly illegal, the practice is frowned upon and it has given rise to Prohibition-era speakeasy-style blood clubs where vampires can meet with willing volunteers to trade experiences. Needless to say, some seriously shady affairs go down in the direct vicinity of the clubs.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Graveyard Shift?
Michael: The action scenes. I love writing action scenes. They are almost like playing a one-sided role-playing game for me as I will often use dice to determine who might get the upper hand in a fight. I think that keeps my heroes on their toes and from becoming too complacent.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Michael: Hopefully, the ending at Haley House. I can’t say more without really getting into serious spoiler territory.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing the Graveyard Shift? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Michael: I didn’t have a particular message or goal. I just wanted to tell a story about a mummy that was a good guy. I’ve grown tired of the mummies all being villains. For many of the mummy movies, if you view it from the mummy’s point of view, it’s actually sort of a love story. It just didn’t make sense to me that just because the mummy returns he or she is automatically a villain. I like Edgar Allen Poe’s take on it much better where the mummy is just a person, just a little bit older and maybe a bit worse for wear.
However, the theme of the story is presented right at the beginning with Nietzsche’s famous quote from Beyond Good and Evil, “He who fights monsters should see to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Graveyard Shift that you can share with us?
Michael: I do. But they are all pretty spoilery except for this one, which happened to be one of my favorites. This comes up when two characters are speculating on the origin of some werewolves.
“I remember the story that Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf…but that’s just a myth, right?”
DJ: Now that Graveyard Shift is released, what is next for you?
Michael: I’m working on a fun romp through gamer and geek pop culture. It is tentatively titled, The Scrying Stone of the Nightmare King. The easiest way I could describe it in a very high concept manner is that it is Through the Looking Glass meets Ready Player One. So far, it has been incredibly fun to write and I hope readers will enjoy it, especially if they are long time sci-fi/fantasy fans. This story is brimming with obscure references and Easter Eggs. I’m having a great time with it and when it is done, I hope that others will have the same experience.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/michaelhaspil
Twitter: @Michael Haspil
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Graveyard Shift that we haven’t talked about yet?
Michael: Graveyard Shift is the first book in an intended series of 6 books, but all do not take place in chronological order. Some occur prior to the events in Graveyard Shift (one of them takes place 4500 years before!) and others take place simultaneously or after. But they all have characters in common.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Graveyard Shift is published by Tor Books and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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Police procedurals go supernatural in this gritty urban fantasy debut
Alex Menkaure, former pharaoh and mummy, and his vampire partner, Marcus, who was born in ancient Rome, once hunted evil vampires for UMBRA, a super-secret unit of the NSA. That was before the discovery of a blood substitute and a Supreme Court ruling allowed thousands of vampires to integrate into society.
Now, Alex and Marcus are vice cops in a special police unit. They fight to keep the streets safe from criminal vampires, shape-shifters, blood-dealers, and anti-vampire vigilantes.
When someone starts poisoning the artificial blood, race relations between vampires and humans deteriorate to the brink of anarchy. While the city threatens to tear itself apart, Alex and Marcus must form an unnatural alliance with a vigilante gang and a shape-shifter woman in a desperate battle against an ancient vampire conspiracy.
If they succeed, they’ll be pariahs, hunted by everyone. If they fail, the result will be a race-war bloodierthan any the world has ever seen.
Gritty urban fantasy and hard-boiled noir packed into a hand grenade of awesome! Mario Acevedo, author of Werewolf Smackdown
Michael F. Haspil is a geeky engineer and nerdy artist. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he had the opportunities to serve as an ICBM crew commander and as a launch director at Cape Canaveral. The art of storytelling called to him from a young age and he has plied his craft over many years and through diverse media. He has written original stories for as long as he can remember and has dabbled in many genres. However, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror have whispered directly to his soul.
When he isn’t writing, you can find him sharing stories with his role-playing group, cosplaying, computer gaming, or collecting and creating replica movie props. Lately, he devotes the bulk of his hobby time to assembling and painting miniatures for his tabletop wargaming addiction.
Michael is represented by Sara Megibow of the KT Literary Agency and Adrian Garcia of the Paradigm Talent Agency.
He has collected and made replica props for over fifteen years and enjoys the way a particular collectible lets an individual connect with a meaningful story. He spends entirely too much time gaming or thinking (some might say ‘scheming’) about strategies and tactics in all kinds of gaming be it board games, computer games, or his passion, tabletop wargaming.