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Max Hawthorne: The man behind the monster

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The world of marine terror and possibly the entire horror universe now has a new writer. Kronos Rising, by Max Hawthorne is a delightful edge-of-your-seater, guaranteed to leave readers wanting to keep the lights on, well after they have completed this powerful novel of a small Florida town suddenly placed under siege by a 65 million year old threat.

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Kronos Rising is actually Max's second book. His first writing foray was Memoirs of a Gym Rat, a quaint documentary that focused on the good, the bad, and the corrupt of the health and fitness industry.

When he is not hard at work writing, (Max is currently penning a sequel to Kronos Rising. Additionally, a screenplay for Kronos Rising is in the works.) Max enjoys life as an avid angler and all-around outdoorsman. In fact, he brings much of his love and knowledge of the wilderness into his novel.

In this interview, Max gives his account of how he was able to make Kronos Rising such a huge success.

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Aki: Max, first of all I'd like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to participate in this interview. This is one of my first (well actually, my very first) interviews with a prominent figure such as yourself, so if I should ask a question that you don't agree with or feel uncomfortable responding to, feel free to ignore it or reply with "no comment,".

When I first read the free excerpts of Kronos Rising, it was very easy to see that you have a knack, both for accurately depicting real-life scenarios (an illegal shark finning operation) and for writing vividly tense and riveting situations. I'll admit, some (okay many) parts had me skimming through in my attempt to keep up with all of the action. It's also obvious that you have a talent for interweaving genre elements, in this case a, a blend of suspense, horror, and adventure. Do you feel that there is any one dominant genre in Kronos Rising? And how do you pace yourself as you write your stories?

Max: Thank you, Aki. But please, no skimming – you’ll miss something important! Seriously, I’m happy you enjoyed the book, and my writing style. In terms of pacing, some of it is self-taught, and the rest is innate. I always try to keep my readers hungry. If I don’t, they’ll just ask for the check. For a writer, an unfinished book is like a bad restaurant review; it’s the kiss of death. And speaking of death: I consider myself a horror writer who specializes in maritime-based themes. If I had to categorize my work within a particular sub-genre, I write marine-terror novels.

Aki: Another thing I noticed is your uncanny ability to write in third person but in a way that lets readers see the story from within the points of view of the various characters and, at times, the monster itself. It is almost as though you are relying on personal or past experiences. Is this true for any parts of your novel?

Max: As fate would have it, Aki, I’ve lived a rather tempestuous life. Luckily, I’m able to draw upon those past experiences when I write. Although I’m not prone to violence, I’ve seen plenty of it. I’ve saved numerous lives, suffered serious injuries, walked away from car accidents, fought off a hungry alligator, and even emerged unscathed from a nightclub shooting. I’ve seen death up close, and it isn’t pretty. Most recently, I discovered how it feels to be trapped inside a burning SUV, while flames shoot out from the windshield wipers, and black smoke fills the cabin. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like that spike of terror that runs up your spine when you try to escape, only to discover all the doors are locked. So, although I don’t know anyone who can boast that they’ve escaped from the slavering jaws of a hungry pliosaur, the things I have experienced lend themselves toward crafting dramatically increased realism. I don’t have to fake anything. I know what real fear is.

Aki: Are there any past experiences of childhood memories that have helped you hone your writing ability?

Max: I was fairly reclusive as a child. I had a lot of exotic pets (hence my youthful aspiration to become a veterinarian). My room was shared with two ornery brothers and an ever-changing menagerie: scorpions, toads, caimans, monitor lizards, pythons – you name it, I had it. In retrospect, caring for and studying all my critters up close benefited me tremendously later on as a writer.

Aki: It is obvious that you have done your homework and then some in order to craft these realistic sequences involving the beast(s). How was that for you and how much of that was based on your personal experiences? What is your favorite part of Kronos Rising to construct (please, no spoilers if possible)?

Max: The closest I’ve come to being attacked by a “monster” would be the 9-foot boa constrictor that engulfed my hand when I was six years old. It was quite traumatic – like a grown man being attacked by a snake many times that size – and I still have the scars. I don’t always relish doing research for my books; it can be tedious a times. On the other hand, I do enjoy the discovery process, as I often birth new scenes based on revelations from my research. In the end, writing Kronos Rising was a labor of love. I revel in breathing life into my characters and emotionally charging them for their parts. My favorite part of the book is the climactic battle scene between the protagonists and their primeval nemesis. Once you’ve vested so much of yourself into your characters they become a part of you. You want to see them succeed, or in this case, to fight back against overpowering odds.

Aki: Were any portions or sequences particularly difficult for you to pen?

Max: Funny you should ask. During Kronos Rising’s initial development there were fewer chapters and the marina attack scene was part of (what was then) Chapter 12. For some inane reason, I elected to forgo my usual writing methodology and decided to just wing it. It was a disaster. The chapter spiraled out of control. I had to rewrite it three or four times. And one of my brothers (an aspiring novelist) enjoyed wagging his finger at me. Salvaging the chapter was such an ordeal it became part of our jargon. So now, whenever I write a climactic scene that goes awry you’ll hear, “Boy, you made a real Chapter 12 out of that, now didn’t you!” come out of his mouth.

Aki: You mentioned "scars" in an earlier response and ironically, nearly all of your characters (human and otherwise) are scarred somehow. Outside of being awesome literary references to Moby Dick, does this motif serve a specific purpose? Do you have a preference for creating and using "Everyman" characters with past demons versus the more glamorized "movie star" types?

Max: Not everyone is beautiful, and none of us are perfect. There’s nothing wrong with showing some battle damage. Scars (internal or external) are part of life. They don’t just give character; they show the world we’re a survivor – someone worth rooting for. Beauty without substance comes across as shallow, or worse, boring. Amara Takagi is beautiful, but she’s also wounded inside and out. She’s a bit of a mess, and yet we love her for it. I always remember that scene in “Man of a Thousand Faces” where Lon Chaney (played by the immortal James Cagney) gets an early film break because the director likes his makeup. Lon turns to a nearby naysayer and quips, “He likes the scar!”

Aki: Kronos Rising makes quite a bit of use of juxtaposition (setting concurrent scenes/sequences on a collision course; seamlessly weaving between past and present events). Is there a method to this "madness"?

Max: When it comes to the beats of a story I usually have mine planned out in advance. Of course, inspiration often comes at odd times and in unusual places. That’s why I keep my phone with me at all times. I’m constantly emailing myself little scene ideas, plot twists . . . even dialogue. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, grab the phone, send myself something, and then crash. The next morning I’ll be like, “What’s this? Oh yeah . . . wow, great idea!”

Aki: Are there any character(s) in particular that you resonate with? Why?

Max: Like most authors, I relate to my characters. They may not be me, but if I was them, that’s undoubtedly how I’d act. I’m nowhere near that extreme, but the character I relate to most is Karl Von Freiling. I have a bit of his malicious sense of humor, and I don’t take crap from anyone. That incident with the cab driver attempting to shake VF down actually happened to me in NYC. That includes the partition part. In fact, that line “I really don’t think you appreciate the gravity of your situation . . .” is what I told my driver, word for word. Oh, and yes, he gave me my change back . . .

Aki: What should potential readers of this novel know going into it? (Again, please try to omit any spoilers. Thanks.)

Max: The fan response thus far has been wonderful. Let’s face it, when a reader sends you an e-card that says, “My first thought after finishing an amazing book: ‘Well this sucks. What the hell am I supposed to do now?’” you must be doing something right. Kronos Rising is a big book. Yet readers are going through it in record time. Many people have told me they’re sad they’ve finished it and everyone is clamoring for the sequel. A fan said the most flattering thing to me on Facebook the other day. He posted a comment, asking me when book two (KRAKEN) would be out. When I wrote back, “next summer,” he replied, “Damn, no Walking Dead, and no book two. This sucks.” I looked at my computer screen and thought, “Wow.” Having my book’s appeal being compared to that of one of the most popular and successful shows in television really blew my mind. That being said, I’ll let Kronos Rising speak for itself.

Aki: As unique as this tale is, it's far from being the first or only one of its kind. What sets Kronos Rising apart from similarly themed novels (i.e. JAWS, Jurassic Park, Meg, etc.) and why should readers choose this specific novel over some or all of the others?

Max: You said it yourself, Aki. Kronos Rising’s realism and pacing are what enthralls readers. It keeps them eager for more, and I’m very happy to hear that. Not just because it means I’ve done my job, but because with many novels that doesn’t necessarily happen. I work hard to continuously improve the quality of my writing. As novelists, I feel we owe it to our readers to give them our absolute best. No shortcuts. After all, they’re entrusting us with one of their most precious gifts: their imagination.

Aki: I can tell you have a preference for the action scenes. Was it difficult to input the softer, more intimate sequences?

Max: LOL, if you’d read Memoirs of a Gym Rat you wouldn’t be asking that question. But no, it was not. I’m passionate and romantic by nature. And unlike the monster in Kronos Rising, I have a soft underbelly.

Aki: What primarily motivates you to write?

Max: The thrill of creating primordial terror for my readers. If I had Von Freiling’s money (and balls) I’d hire a vessel and a crew and go on my own personal hunt for sea monsters. I don’t, so I write about them instead.

Aki: As I mentioned in my introduction, you are a very busy man, what with working on a movie deal and a sequel for Kronos Rising. What are some of your more immediate next steps in the meantime?

Max: A little bit of everything. I’m doing written interviews now, followed by scheduled radio appearances. I’ll also be traveling for some regional book signings, while designing promotional artwork, while polishing the screenplay for Kronos Rising, while finishing up KRAKEN (book two in the series) . . . In other words, no rest for the weary. I’m like a shark: if I stop swimming I’ll die. And I hope to be around, scaring the heck out of my readers, and stirring their imaginations, for a long, long time.

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Kronos Rising is also available for order through Amazon, Books-A-Million, Alibris, Barnes & Noble and has been distributed to local booksellers nationwide. Max's second book in the Kronos Rising series, Kraken, is due out in summer of 2015. In the meantime, readers, fans, and the curious can keep up with Max Hawthorne and the Kronos Rising saga by visiting the official webpage or by liking the official Kronos Rising Facebook page.

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