M.H. Mead is the name of Michigan-based writing team Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion. Margaret is a full-time writer and parent, and Harry writes in addition to teaching. Taking the Highway is their third collaborative novel, all of which are set in the same alternate future Detroit. Margaret also keeps up a blog about the writing process and books about writing called Writing Slices.
Android Dreamer: For those who haven’t read your novels yet, what’s the general idea behind the Detroit Next universe?
M.H. Mead: The Caline Conspiracy, Fate’s Mirror, and Taking the Highway are crime novels set in near-future Detroit. Our imagined Detroit is finally prosperous, but some strange political and economic compromises have been made to get there. The heroes are a PI, a hacker and cop. The books are fast-paced and don’t rely on high-tech jargon or far-out worlds to make the plot. Our fans tell us we write “science fiction for people who like thrillers.”
AD: How do you divide the writing duties between the two of you? How does the process differ from writing fiction alone?
MH: We live about an hour apart, so we have to plan our writing time or it won’t happen. We start by brainstorming together in marathon sessions where we throw ideas at each other—nothing is too crazy to think about. These sessions lead to a rough outline we would never show to another living soul. We get together again and make a more detailed outline. We each write part of the first draft, then come together again for editing. We do a ton of re-writing, both individually and together, so the whole thing sounds like one story told with one voice.
AD: Who are your biggest literary influences? Were there any in particular that affected choices you made in writing any of your novels?
MH: Well, of course, the sun rises and sets on Larry Niven. We’re inspired by Niven’s attention to social change. It’s fun to write about technology and new toys, but the real fun is marking the ways people react to the technology. It isn’t always in ways you’d expect. We also learned a lot from the novels of Bruce Sterling and George Alec Effinger. We love how their future worlds shine a spotlight on the world we live in today.
AD: Which character in your novels are you the most proud of?
MH: Morris Payne, the super-hacker from Fate’s Mirror. He’s a triumph of contradictions: a criminal you root for, a hermit who must interact with people, a nerd in the role of hero.
AD: How much does your personal experience influence the way your characters progress and the way the stories unfold?
MH: Every single one of our heroes is caught between two worlds–whether it’s work/family, job-for-pay/job-you-love, or in the case of Morris Payne, hiding/living. As parents with careers in addition to writing, we are constantly pulled in two (or three) directions. So that’s one way our characters are like us. Their circumstances might be different, but the emotions are the same. Maybe that’s why our readers like our heroes. Everyone can relate to that feeling.
AD: Are you happy with the results of self-publishing? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently based on what you’ve learned in publishing your three novels?
MH: We like it a lot. It’s fun to have the final say over content, jacket copy, cover, and price. The community of other indie authors is extremely supportive and helpful. For example, Lindsay Buroker was one of our first twitter friends and she introduced us to our cover artist. We learned so much from those who came before us that we were able to avoid most of the pitfalls of DIY publishing–so far, at least. After all, there are always new mistakes to make.
AD: Do you have any plans for another entry in the series, or will Taking the Highway be it?
MH: There are things in our world still pestering us. If something clamors for enough attention, we’ll listen to it. If the idea is good enough to sustain the standards we’ve set for ourselves, we’ll write it.
AD: Is there anything in particular you’d like readers to take away from your novels?
MH: The general tone is cautious optimism. Although a lot of people have given up on Detroit, we think it still holds promise. We believe that Detroit and the people of Michigan will make some tough choices and adapt to the world. There will be some choices that make life even more difficult. Our books deal with those, too. But overall, our books are meant to be good reads. We’re here to entertain the readers for a few hours with some murder and mayhem in near-future Detroit. If we can do that, we consider our books a success.
Taking the Highway, the latest entry in the Detroit Next series, is available on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. You can follow Margaret on Twitter at @Margaret_Yang, read about M.H. Mead’s literary exploits at their website, and like them on Facebook.