Author Interview: Christopher Michael Blake
Christopher Michael Blake lives on the New Jersey Shore with his family. He graduated from Monmouth University in 1999 and 2003. He is the author of two published works, the horror novel PREY FOR DAWN, and the newly released mystery novella, THE CAPE MAY MURDERS.
MB: When did you start writing and what made you become a writer?
CMB: I began writing in 2017, at the time I was involved in a side business and my business partner wanted a technical manual published. I researched and outlined the specifics of the manuscript and when I finished outlining the material I asked myself is this really what I want to spend the next six months working on. Instead, I ended up putting my time and energy into writing PREY FOR DAWN.
I then spent the next four years revising the material in the PREY FOR DAWN before I felt comfortable publishing. But I didn’t know anything about publishing and wasn’t ready yet. In 2021, a found out a guy I worked with Fredrick Pangbourne, had published several books; including Reflections in the Abyss, Hellish Consequences and Dreamers of the Tombs as well as hundreds of short horror stories. I never even knew Fredrick Pangbourne was a writer. I called him up and asked him how he did this. He put me in touch with his publisher and two weeks later I had a contract. I owe all my success to God, advancing my writing career five to ten years with a single phone call. Also, a very special thank you to Frederick Pangbourne for pushing me to hit that submit button.
MB: Can you tell me a bit about inspired your novel PREY FOR DAWN?
CMB: I thought up the idea for PREY FOR DAWN almost twenty years ago when I was involved in a car accident and hit a deer. All I saw was the deer’s head as its body struck the passenger side of my car door. I kept thinking “What if I had struck something else?” The opening chapter of the book involves a car accident.
MB: In your novel, PREY FOR DAWN, you brought together an eclectic cast of characters, including a private detective, a cheating housewife, a few gang members, and a couple of civil war treasure hunters and placed them in a fight for their own survival. What made you select those types of individuals for your book?
CMB: I love history. Specifically, Civil War history. About fifteen years ago I did a Civil War tour of Antietam, Manassas, the Wilderness Campaign and Petersburg. I also paid a Civil War field guide to walk us through Pickett’s Charge in Gettysburg. So my heart has always been involved in learning about history. The two College Professors who search for the Civil War gold theorize heavily about the Confederacy’s missing gold.
The other characters are bits and pieces of me and my past, like any author, we write what we know. But no one wants to read about someone who is average, readers expect and want some titillation and excitement. I think these characters in PREY FOR DAWN bring a special skill set to the novel, especially the bad guy; Dominic Cross.
MB: As a horror writer, have you ever written anything that scares you?
CMB: I believe what scares people isn’t the boogie man, and isn’t the killer with the knife outside the baby sitter’s home or the monster from another dimension. These characters have that one purpose, to kill. True horror is knowing how cruel and evil we as people can be to one another. Horror today is seeing what’s published in the newspapers. But for me one example of horror I experienced was playing a game of tag as a child. My friend and I rounded a corner of a house and there was “IT” the person who needed to chase us. My friend shoved me into our pursuer so he could get away, sacrificing me in the process. I’ve always felt it was never “IT’s” fault I was tagged, he was just doing his job to tag me. But, my friend pushing me besides being a dick move went against everything ingrained in our relationship as friends. Now take that same situation and put the killer with the knife as “IT” and the situation becomes more horrifying, more suspenseful and raises the stakes for all parties.
MB: Your latest novella, THE CAPE MAY MURDERS, is set in the New Jersey shore town of Cape May. Do you have any special connection with the setting for the book? What made you set the book in Cape May?
CMB: I grew up in South Jersey, and vacationed in Cape May. My wife, loves haunted places so for one of our anniversaries we stayed at a haunted bed and breakfast where someone passed away. Ghosts have been seen there, it’s popular with ghost hunters and the paranormal. I did not see any ghosts during my stay, but the idea that we may see something out of the ordinary is a small thrill.
Being a New Jersey resident, if you are looking for the ultimate day trip experience you cannot go wrong in choosing Cape May. On the flip side, I realize the other side of the equation for a law enforcement officer in Cape May, once the summer ends and the tourists leave, the place is a relative ghost town except for some of the weekend draws. I’ve always enjoyed the contrast of the exciting tourist destination reverting to a calm and quiet out of the way place out of season. Many of our beach area destinations in New Jersey do precisely this.
MB: Where did you get your idea for THE CAPE MAY MURDERS?
CMB: This is no joke, I am serious. In 2018, I was in the passenger seat while my wife was driving her car and suddenly I just looked over at her and say “Why would that woman claim, that person is not her daughter?” I said it out of the blue with no context to anything relative to what we were discussing. At that moment, THE CAPE MAY MURDERS was born. My wife replied I should go back to sleep because she didn’t understand what I was talking about.
In preparing to write THE CAPE MAY MURDERS, I read two books in regards to the history of Cape May in doing my research for preparing for this novella and visited each of the locations to get a feel before actually sitting down and writing. But at the end of the story I was upset. I felt the story, location and dialogue all went well. I spent months thinking about and detailing the story and came away with under 40,000 words. I shelfed the project, thinking it would never be published because of its word length. Then, in 2022, I heard of a new platform called Amazon Kindle, where readers could purchase episodes of a story with tokens. I thought what type of story would play well on a per episode format. A murder mystery would, and I already had one written. I resurrected THE CAPE MAY MURDERS because of that platform.
MB: Let’s chat about writing for a moment. Every writer has their own specific nuances when it comes to writing. Some have a special place set aside for writing. Some outline their plot, while others “fly by the seat of their pants.” Tell us about your writing process.
CMB: My writing starts with a premise, an idea. Then I try to put some characters into a situation revolving around that idea. I complete an outline to the best of my ability using the “Save the Cat Writes a Novel” beat sheet. Then when I start writing, I adapt, I find there are always several instances where I’ll deviate from my original outline expanding the story or creating obstacles, situations or problems which weren’t in the original outline and I have don’t have an immediate rationale on how to solve. But, I adapt these story change ideas into my manuscript. As the author, if I didn’t see this problem happening or occurring how could my audience. Not a bad problem to have.
MB: What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?
CMB: The story that got me into reading, I was in the eighth grade and the assignment was reading Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. I fell in love right away. That is the story which made me want to read more.
MB: Finally, what can we expect from you in the future? Are you working on any new projects?
CMB: I think I’m fortunate, I began writing in 2017, but didn’t publish anything until 2021. So I have a backlog of material I’ve written, no less than nine short stories, three completed books needing some serious editing, and a possible children’s book. But this is a major announcement and it’s the first time I’ve provided this information publicly but I also started writing a series.
I am toying with idea of doing a rapid release in 2024, I have three “books/ novella’s” in a series in addition to what I have already mentioned in above. The problem I have is, it all feels rushed. This last year has been a whirlwind, while I continue to write, I am also working 40 plus hours a week in a day job, while trying to balance family time with household tasks. Editing seems to the BANE of my existence.
Oh, did I mention the science fiction/ thriller with my beta readers set for release next year. I haven’t decided on a book cover or a name for the book yet (so look for that reveal on www. ChristopherMichaelBlake.com coming up)…but I think it’s the best I’ve ever written. I have one final edit to go through once I receive my beta reader’s feedback and am hoping for a July/ September 2023 release.
Thank you for taking time to talk with me. Good luck with PREY FOR DAWN and THE CAPE MAY MURDERS.
To learn more about Christopher and his books, you can visit his website at christophermichaelblake.com. You can also follow Christopher on Facebook at facebook.com/Christopher.Michael.Blake.9862, on Instagram at instagram.com/Christopher.Michael.Blake.9862, and on Twitter at twitter.com/ChrisMblake77.
To purchase his books, check out Christopher's Amazon Author page.