In this author interview with Mic Roland, a prepper fiction writer who shares his unique experiences and perspective on writing — from hunting with something other than a gun to dealing with power outages. Mic’s experiences have enriched his writing and authenticity.
Last Saturday afternoon, I sat down in a Zoom meeting for an author interview with Mic Roland, and we talked about the books he has written as a prepper. We talked about his writing process and many of the key methods he uses in creating and recording on Audible that inspire and motivate his readers and listeners.
Key Interview Take-A-Ways
One of the key takeaways from the episode is the importance of research and hands-on experience in writing. Mic emphasizes how he prefers to do the things he’s writing about in order to truly know what it’s like and that relying solely on Internet wisdom is not sufficient.
He expresses skepticism about portraying something he has never done or experienced, leading him to hunt with a throwing stick, make and eat pine fries, and build snow shoes.
Mic discusses his prepper fiction series, explaining how it evolved from a standalone story to a multi-book series due to reader demand.
He explores how an average person would survive in a grid-down world without a bunker full of supplies. The role of outsiders is presented as potential threats in the stories. These are stories every prepper has thought about against their own situations.
Mic shares his experience of a power outage, which affected their propane furnace and water well. They were able to rely on a fireplace for warmth and melting snow in buckets to get by with water. The experience was seen as adventurous but also prompted Mic to think more deliberately about preparing for future outages.
The conversation also delves into the writing process, with Mic sharing his approach to plotting and outlining. He works with an endpoint in mind but also leaves room for details to be filled in as the story progresses.
Mic believes that the story suggests new details as it progresses, so he doesn’t bother getting too detailed in his outline. He tries to include enough atmospheric detail to give the reader a sense of the environment and avoid unnecessary details that don’t add to the story or character development.
Overall, this author interview with Mic Roland offers a unique perspective on the prepper fiction genre, emphasizing the importance of authenticity and real-life experience in writing. It showcases the creative and adventurous spirit of the writer and how they incorporate their own experiences into their writing to create a compelling story. It’s a must-watch for both readers and writers interested in the prepper fiction genre and those intrigued by the writing process. This interview should also be of interest to fellow preppers.
A Little About The Author – Mic Roland
First and foremost, Mic is a friend. Not only a friend to me but to the entire prepper community. Mic Roland is a prepper living in New Hampshire on his homestead and has a wealth of information regarding prepping, homesteading, and survival. Mic freely shares that information with the prepper community, much of it by trial and error, on his blog, podcast, and even his books. He is an inspiration, and I hope this author interview with Mic Roland hits home with you.
Mic Roland Links
- Website / Blog / Podcast
- Amazon Author Page
- Siege of New Hampshire (5-book series on Amazon)
- Escape from the City: A Future Survival Tale (Amazon)
- Mic Roland on Audible
Author Interview With Mic Roland Highlights
- “Experience Over Research: Writing Authentically by Doing”
- “Exploring the Grid Down World in Fiction”
- “From Power Outage to Adventure: Unexpected Lessons Learned”
- “Behind the Scenes of Interpretive Exhibits and Zoo Texts”
- “Preparing for the Unknown: Lessons from a Power Outage”
- “Lessons from Prepper Fiction: What Works and What Doesn’t”
- “The Science of Personality and How It Affects Reaction to Chaos”
- “The Art of Endings: The Importance of a Clear Vision”
- “Creating Immersive Environments: Show Don’t Tell”
- “Chekhov’s Gun and Other Rules for Avoiding Unnecessary Detail”
- What is the author’s approach to researching and writing about unfamiliar topics for their books?
Answer: The author prefers to experience firsthand what he’s writing about, rather than relying solely on internet knowledge. He strives for authenticity and accuracy in his writing.
- What is the main premise of the author’s book, and how does it explore a unique perspective on the topic of sex and gender?
Answer: The book Escape From The City is about people who were intentionally never taught about sex or the opposite gender. The main character, Ford, is clueless about females, and the book explores how people’s understanding of sex and gender are shaped by their surroundings and experiences.
- How did the author handle the unexpected success of their first book, and what challenges did they face in continuing the series?
Answer: The first book was meant to be a standalone, but readers asked for more, so the author had to develop a new goal for the second book. Other readers later asked about a character’s fate, leading to the creation of books three and beyond.
- What was the author’s personal experience during a power outage, and how did it inspire changes in their lifestyle?
Answer: Mic lived through a power outage that caused the loss of lights, heat, and water. He and his family were resilient enough to use heat from the fireplace and to melt snow for water. This experience sparked a desire for more deliberate preparations for future outages. It lit the flame of a future prepper.
- What was Mic’s previous experience with writing, and how did he transition into writing professionally?
Answer: The author did not have much formal training in writing but learned the necessary skills on a professional level by writing the interpretive text for exhibits in zoos, aquariums, and museums. He found this type of writing challenging but engaging.
- What are some common writing styles found in prepper fiction, and what does Mic think of them?
Answer: The author finds it common in prepper fiction to offer detailed descriptions of things like guns and survival gear, which he finds unnecessary and excessive. He also finds it pointless when an author spends a lot of time describing a character who ends up not being important to the story.
- What are Charon’s boxes, and how do they relate to the author’s approach to writing prepper fiction?
Answer: Charon’s boxes are a distillation of different analyses regarding how people react to certain situations. Mic uses this concept to understand how the book’s characters might react in different circumstances and to guide their story progression.
- How does Mic approach plotting his stories, and what techniques do they use?
Answer: The author tries to have an ending in mind before starting to write a story and works backward from there to identify the necessary steps (major increments) to reach it. He has certain endpoints in mind but leaves room for details to be filled in as the story takes on a life of its own.
- What is the principle of “show, don’t tell,” and how does it relate to an author’s writing style?
Answer: The principle of “show, don’t tell” is important in creating a more immersive and engaging reading experience by describing how something feels rather than simply stating it. The speaker strives to include enough atmospheric detail to give the reader a sense of the environment but avoids including details that don’t add to the story or character development.
- How does Mic use his own experiences to inspire storylines and character development in their books?
Answer: The author admits that his own experiences may inspire the storylines in his books, but also tries to think beyond his own perspective and put himself in their characters’ shoes. He believes people react differently to the same circumstances or situations, adding depth and complexity to the characters.
Key Topics & Bullets
- Researching and practicing activities for authenticity in writing
- Hunting without a gun
- Making and eating pine fries from white pine
- Preference for experiential knowledge over internet wisdom
- Overview of book series and progression of storylines
- Personal experience with a power outage and the aftermath
- Writing interpretive text for exhibits and the challenges of succinct writing
- Location’s influence on lifestyle
- Gathering listener feedback through comments and surveys
- The role of outsiders as potential threats in the storylines
- Analyzing other writers’ styles for inspiration and learning – and mistakes to avoid
- Different reactions to the same situation
- Planning storylines with endpoints in mind but leaving room for details to evolve
- Importance of atmospheric detail in immersing the reader in the story
- Principle of “show, don’t tell” and avoiding unnecessary details.
Key Points Using Quotes & Hooks With Timestamps
The Pros and Cons of Authors Narrating Their Own Audiobooks: “They try to encourage authors to be their own narrators, and they say, I think, rightly, that the author knows what the story is about. And so it’s easier for them to put life into it.”Mic Roland 00:02:3700:03:50
Surviving a Power Outage: “After that storm, then I decided, no, there’s got to be a better way to be ready for that sort of thing because it happens maybe every other year or so. That kind of pushed me into being more purposefully prepared instead of relying on improvisation.”Mic Roland 00:06:2600:08:10
The challenge of interpretive writing: “It was interesting because it was always different, but it was challenging because you had to try to get a lot out in 50 words or less because A, there’s not a lot of room. Nobody’s going to give you a 4″x8″ sheet of graphic space to write your entire story.”Mic Roland 00:09:5500:11:10
The Evolution of Endpoints in Post-Apocalyptic Fiction: “Book one started off as its own end goal and I thought I was going to be done. Then after I got done, the readers said, okay, now what?” – Author of the Post-Apocalyptic Novel Series.Mic Roland 00:14:5400:17:39
Crafting a Story: “Once you start actually writing something, the text starts to suggest that, well, then why isn’t this happening? Or what about that over there? And I hadn’t thought about that in the outline. So to some extent, the story when you mentioned imagination, to some extent the story starts to take on a life of its own.”Mic Roland 00:19:0300:21:49
Over-describing details and characters: “The author describes how the main character is kind of ambushed by somebody when he’s rummaging salvaging in an abandoned store. The main character pulls out his classic Colt 45 – 1911 with blued metal frame and checkered walnut grips. And as I’m reading or listening to that, I’m thinking, why did I need to know all that?”Mic Roland 00:21:5500:23:56
The Importance of Detail in Writing Fiction: “Maxim Show Don’t Tell.”Mic Roland 00:24:1200:25:47
The Importance of Experiencing What You Write About: “Where it’s possible to actually do the thing, I do it. That way I really know what it is.”Mic Roland 00:29:4500:31:13
The Psychology of Emergencies: “There are people who become the deer in the headlights type that they just sort of freeze up.”Mic Roland 00:31:5200:33:09
The Importance of Learning: “If you raised little boys with no idea what girls are because you never see them and you’re never told anything to do with that, you don’t have stories where Tarzan saves Jane. You don’t have any of that. You could be forever six years old.”Mic Roland 00:38:3400:40:35
Interview Audio File:
Complete Video Transcript: Author Interview With Mic Roland
Click here to see the transcript
Brian Hawkins [00:00:08]:
Hi, this is Brian Hawkins with Next Step Survival. And I’m here today with Mic Roland from mic-roland.com, who’s an author of six books that I’m aware of, a five-book series called Siege of New Hampshire, and then a solo book entitled Escape From the City. And I really enjoyed enjoy all his books, but I really like to escape from the city. We’re just going to go back and forth on authors. I’m not an author. I’m just a blogger. So we’re going to just look at how Mic puts his thoughts into a book form and makes it interesting for us because he’s truly a professional author. So it’s nice. All right, so Mic hit it off to you right from the start there. And if you want to give anybody any background or synopsis of your books there, especially the series The Siege of New Hampshire.
Mic Roland [00:01:01]:
Okay. Well, if somebody hasn’t read it, it’s a lightly post-apocalyptic fiction story. I mean, it’s not the zombie apocalypse kind of a story. It’s a grid-down, prepper fiction told primarily through the viewpoint of the main character, Martin Simmons. And he starts off in book one right after the power outage. He’s trying to get home, adventures ensue. And then once he gets home, then you have to deal with life without the power grid. And then books three, four, and five just sort of continue the ramifications of if you’re stuck in a grid down world, there’s all kinds of stuff you have to contend with. So that’s it thus far with the book five, book six is in progress, but it’s not done yet.
Brian Hawkins [00:01:49]:
Okay. And it really is a top-notch book. I hate to say that I was surprised, and I really wasn’t, not with the books, but I was surprised at how well you came out as your own narrator. So a lot of people can’t do that, and a lot of people don’t know it, but me and you and Todd, we all sat down together and looked at that option. I don’t know how many details you want to go into, but you improvised a lot on creating a studio in your home to record your books on voice and put them up on Audible. But what I do know about your books, it sounded like a professional narrator. Can you speak to that a little bit? You’re changing your voice in the middle of it and everything, and you’re using some improvised sound effects. It’s almost like you have a professional studio where you have sound effects, but I’m pretty sure you’re improvising there.
Mic Roland [00:02:37]:
Well, there’s a lot of that. As for the narrator thing, I had some trepidations about that because you read sort of pro and con of it. Audible they try to encourage authors to be their own narrators, and they say, I think, rightly, that the author knows what the story is about. And so it’s easier for them to put life into it. On the other hand, I’ve also read where they say the author shouldn’t be the narrator because they tend to overly ham it up. I haven’t heard that. But then maybe those guys just don’t get published. I don’t know. I can see where it would be a little tempting to sort of wax Shakespearean while you’re trying to read your own stuff because you’re impressed with your own writing or something. So I can see where that would be a fail. And certainly, the other audiobooks that I’ve listened to, they’ve all got James Earl Jones style narrating voices. And I thought, well, that’s not me. I just kind of got my voice, and it’s just me. I’m a little disappointed that way that I don’t have that deep sonorous sort of voice, but not a lot I can do about it. I mean, there’s even things on the Internet where you say how to lower your voice, and I thought, that doesn’t work.
Brian Hawkins [00:03:50]:
I suspect one of those booming voices would probably struggle a little bit on the female characters like Susan, and trying…
Mic Roland [00:03:58]:
To yeah, I was listening to after I decided to try to narrate the books well, try to narrate the books that I thought, well, I’ve got female characters. What do other authors do? And so I was listening to some audiobooks, and I thought, okay, it seems to be accepted that the male narrator just raises his voice a little bit, and that becomes the female voice. And I thought, well, okay, that’s acceptable then I can do that. But then I was also trying to give the female well, all the characters, I guess, give them a little more distinctive voice. So it’s not just there’s ordinary me for the male characters and then half an octave higher me for all the female characters, and they all run together. So I’ve been trying to give them a little different intonation so that they sound a little different. I mean, there’s only so much you can do with your voice anyway. Well, that’s kind of the goal is just to in the reader’s mind to have the voices separate enough that you can kind of tell who’s talking, even if you go back and listen, say, well, Heather sounds an awful lot like Trish, but you never hear the two of them together.
Brian Hawkins [00:05:08]:
I’m going to throw you a little curveball here. So on your author bio, you speak of what sets you onto more of a prepper lifestyle, and I guess I should have brought that up. Mic is a fellow prepper, and he lives more of a self-reliant type of community in New Hampshire. We won’t tell you where. I’ll post his address in the notes, but you mentioned a storm in the got stranded front with the power outage with no power and no water for several days. Was that a widespread power outage?
Mic Roland [00:05:39]:
I don’t know how wide that one was. It was a winter ice storm. It wasn’t like the 2003 power outage where a whole chunk of the East Coast went down because of a failure in the grid, which was more of a maintenance issue. The 90s storm that I’m talking about in the bio is more of a winter ice storm that just took out power. Maybe it was more regional, but when you’re in the middle of it, you kind of don’t know or care because it basically means I’m cold and I don’t have any water.
Brian Hawkins [00:06:14]:
Right. You’re way more prepared for a power outage in water. So I’m assuming that you got backup plans and all that for another power outage, extended power outage.
Mic Roland [00:06:26]:
Oh, yeah, after that storm, because that was kind of a wake-up call. There was a lot of sort of suburban complacency that everything just worked, so why bother with it? And you just go on with your life and fret over what’s going to be on TV that night, and the important stuff right when the power went out, well, we didn’t have heat because we had a propane furnace, so you had to have power for the fan. Of course, it’s a separate well, so we didn’t have water, but we did have the fireplace, so we were able to make fire, and everybody slept in the living room, which was about all that the fireplace would heat and we were melting snow in buckets beside the fireplace to have water that was enough to get through. And we had obviously not just down to our last can of beans in the cupboard, so we were able to cook over the open fire in the fireplace, just pots that were not exactly precious cookware so they could sit in there and get black and not cause any freaking out, you know? Yeah, we got by, and it was almost adventurous. In fact, the kids, for many years later, would ask if we can have a no electricity night where we basically turn off everything and have the fireplace going, and we play board games by lamp oil light. So it was a great adventure. Well, I guess it kind of was. But after that, then I decided, no, there’s got to be a better way to be ready for that sort of thing because it happens maybe every other year or so. That kind of pushed me into being more purposefully prepared instead of relying on improvisation.
Brian Hawkins [00:08:10]:
Do any of your children live more of a self-reliant lifestyle from that?
Mic Roland [00:08:15]:
I think so. My son, I think, is kind of a closet prepper. I was at his house a while back, and he was working on a shelving project in his basement. So what wasn’t on the shelves anymore was like 52 gallon jugs of water that he was storing water. I hadn’t seen it before because it was on shelves and sort of out of sight, out of mind. But he’s got a generator and I think he even hooked up propane into his fireplace so he can make at least a gas flame for heat, which they did. I think they lost power. Oh, that’s right. They lost power a couple of years ago in the winter, and he got a cheap generator from a neighbor of his and started using that. And that was all fine, but then it seized up and died because the guy had refurbished it himself, but he hadn’t done a very good job. So it was a poorly spent $200. But because he didn’t have the generator, then they didn’t have heat, and so he had his gas fireplaces to heat. And so he was kind of going through a mini version of what we went through as a family. But yeah, I think he’s kind of of the prepper mindset, at least as much as a busy career person with two kids can devote to it.
Brian Hawkins [00:09:38]:
Anyway, I think that was a $200 well spent that helped his mindset. Did you have any writing? It’s not a trick question because I know you have a blog, and I’ve followed your blog for a lot of years, but did you have any writing background before you decided to start writing books?
Mic Roland [00:09:55]:
Kind of not like college trained, I mean, there were some courses on writing, but usually, they wanted you to write things that were sort of not very inspiring, and you just had to do it for the exam. Yeah, you still end up learning some things on a more professional level. I was doing a lot of interpretive writing for exhibits that weren’t going, like zoos and aquariums, and museums. I was one of the people who wrote when you’re looking at a panel, and it tells you all about Cleopatra’s dress or something, I was doing that kind of writing what’s on those text panels. And it was interesting because it was always different, but it was challenging because you had to try to get a lot out in 50 words or less because A, there’s not a lot of room. Nobody’s going to give you a four x eight sheet of graphic space to write your entire story. And the public are pretty unforgiving if you haven’t gotten to the point by 50 words, they’ve moved on. So it was kind of a challenging bit of writing to write interpretive text because you got to be engaging, get the point across quickly and be succinct about it. I wasn’t trained for it, but I was doing it because I worked for a small firm, and there were only three of us, so they weren’t going to write it. So I was the writer.
Brian Hawkins [00:11:10]:
That’s pretty interesting. No one ever thinks about who writes that or as who’s tasked to write that type of what you call interpretive writing.
Mic Roland [00:11:17]:
Brian Hawkins [00:11:18]:
Yeah, interpretive text.
Mic Roland [00:11:19]:
It’s a different sort of market. I mean, if you’re in a museum and you’re reading this stuff, you can kind of tell when it was written by somebody who is trying to be nice to you and make it engaging and informative. Or it was written by the guy who did his PhD thesis on the topic and he loves it. And so you get 500 words in four-point type and it makes your head hurt. So you just know.
Brian Hawkins [00:11:43]:
So was that a roadblock for you, the interpretive text when it comes to long form novel writing where now you have to come up with a lot of extra detail and a lot of descriptive type of writing?
Mic Roland [00:11:56]:
Yeah, I don’t think it was a hindrance. I mean, I obviously wrote more than 50 words but I think it helped for kind of getting to the point of being more judicious in words. But on the other hand, I prefer to have the writing be of a style that flows. One of the things I do after I’ve written a section, like a chapter or whatever is I’ll read it out loud. And usually when you’re reading it out loud is where you’ll stumble over something that was awkward or badly phrased. I mean, it might have looked good and who doesn’t like to throw in a forsooth now and then? But when you’re reading it out loud you trip over that sort of thing that you really ought to fix. So I do that to try and streamline it, and make the writing easier to go through without thinking about it.
Brian Hawkins [00:12:41]:
I do that, too myself. I’ll have my wife read it out loud while I follow along because she’s good at reading what it says and not what her mind tells her. I’ll proofread my own, and I’ll skip right over where I put the instead of there. We do catch a lot of that and it takes that outside that reading out-loud aspect of it. So that’s helpful for anybody that doesn’t know this. You can listen to Mic’s books on Audible, but reading them for us chapter at a time on this podcast. So when you have a long chapter you break it up and I wonder if that’s not from that interpretive text experience.
Mic Roland [00:13:17]:
It could be. And even other podcasts that I listened to which were not fiction necessarily, I’ve noticed that something that’s in that half hour to 40 minutes range, that’s a good brain full of information. If you go on for 4 hours, you’re going to lose. People could have come somewhat from that.
Brian Hawkins [00:13:34]:
A lot of podcasters have gone the other direction.
Mic Roland [00:13:37]:
Brian Hawkins [00:13:39]:
They’ve gone to the three-hour format. It’s just like you download it, and it’s like, are you kidding me? 3 hours? I don’t have 3 hours for this. The Joe Rogan style. And I think he goes on forever, and I think a lot of people like oh, it worked for Joe Rogan, I’m going to try it myself.
Mic Roland [00:13:54]:
Well, I don’t know that I designed it that much because the chapters and the books existed before the podcast and the chapters because they tend to be like 4 to 6,000 words each in the spoken form, they tend to be a half hour, 45 minutes. I’ve had a couple of chapters that were longer and they were an hour, and I thought that’s too long. And so those I would break up into a part one and part two.
Brian Hawkins [00:14:17]:
A lot of people can probably get through a chapter on their way to work if they get stuck in traffic or have a longer drive.
Mic Roland [00:14:23]:
Yeah, I guess I could kind of see that that for a podcast it’s a lot easier to have half an hour, 45 minutes during your day that you’ve got to do something else, like commute.
Brian Hawkins [00:14:35]:
You’re on chapter five. I mean, you have five books in The Siege of New Hampshire and right now on your podcast you’re reading Susan’s Bridge.
Mic Roland [00:14:43]:
Right, book four.
Brian Hawkins [00:14:45]:
And you have one more for the podcast. Is there a book six coming?
Mic Roland [00:14:49]:
Yes. I’m currently writing that one.
Brian Hawkins [00:14:51]:
Do you have a set ending point for that?
Mic Roland [00:14:54]:
Well, I had one reader listener who was suggesting I should go to book ten, so I guess it depends on your audience. But as for an endpoint, I was thinking about that. It’s kind of interesting that book one started out, it had an endpoint in mind or I had an endpoint. The book didn’t have an endpoint. I had an endpoint in mind. Get Martin home after the power outage. And that was kind of my TADA, I’m done ending. And I started with the obvious ending. He was always going to get home, he wasn’t going to die halfway through, so he was going to get there, and then the rest of the story was figuring out, well, what would happen to him on the way and then kind of mental experiment through that. Book one started off as its own end goal, and I thought I was going to be done. Then after I got done, the readers said, okay, now what? And I thought, well, I don’t know, I hadn’t thought about now what. So book two had to have its own goal, which I hadn’t thought about when I started book one. And so it had an endpoint, which wasn’t entirely of an end, but it was more an exploration of the ramifications. Now that the power is out and the world has changed, what do you do? Unlike a lot of prepper fiction that I had read where the main character just happens to he’s able to answer that because he’s got a radiation-proof bunker full of ten years worth of MREs and he’s got surveillance cameras and drones and everything he’s basically set up for the end of the world. So what do we do now is, well, we go in the bunker, and we just hang out there for a year. I thought, well, yeah, but if you were an average person and that happened, what would you do. Book two had that kind of as its goal was to explore how do you live in the grid-down world. Then book three was supposed to have been kind of the ending of that where basically they were assured of getting through the winter. They solved the problem of starving to death in the winter by Susan’s heroic sacrifice. They end up with a truck full of food. And that was I kind of had that as the ending. And then, you work out the structure and the outline to get you there. Again. Like I’ve said before, I thought I was done. And then people said, okay, that’s great, but what happened to Susan? So then I had to go back and figure out what happened to Susan. I had a rough outline of what that was even in the description in book three. Again, come up with sort of an ending and then work my way toward that ending. And then with book six, well, no, book five. I didn’t mean to skip that one. Book Five sort of explored, again, the ramifications of a grid-down world, and it explored a little bit more of the Susan character’s situation in Vermont, where she’s stuck.
Brian Hawkins [00:17:39]:
You took her character as probably one of the most unliked characters in the series to one of the favorite because.
Mic Roland [00:17:47]:
That wasn’t really a goal to start off with, certainly not in book one. I hadn’t really imagined her as becoming the sort of impromptu survivalist, to be honest. She was kind of there as a travel companion for Martin so that he wouldn’t be talking to himself. But then, that’s not enough reason to exist. So she got a little more depth. But, yeah, her character arc became more important to the series where she went from helpless city girl to capable survivalist. But you can see that it wasn’t an overnight transformation. She didn’t read a book become to that way. It was a lot of hard knocks, and a lot of it was just being stubborn and a lot of it.
Brian Hawkins [00:18:27]:
Out of necessity, because she found herself in a situation to where she had to she was the only one to make the calls because she was the only one there. And now she without trying to give any of the book away, but now she has other people depending on her. You just mentioned structure and outline. You want to go in a little bit more depth on how you develop your structure and outline? First, let me step back a little bit because, as a blogger, everybody does it different. And I always take and start doing an outline by headers, right? So I’ll write some headings. Do you give a lot of thought for the story before you start outlining the actual content?
Mic Roland [00:19:03]:
It’s kind of a combination because I will try to have an ending in mind so it’s not just kind of a rambling story that never ends. Even with that ending, once you’ve picked an ending, I try to work back and say, well, if that’s where I want the story to go, what are some necessary steps that are going to get me there? And those become sort of major increments. But even within that, trying to think of an example in one of the books that’s already been there well, even with the Susan’s Bridge story fairly recent, I knew that she was in book three. I had already outlined that she went to Massachusetts, she helped with the food smuggling program, but then it got discovered at the last minute, and that’s why she couldn’t return. And so when I went to book four, I already had that laid out. I knew that, all right, then everything goes fine up to a point, and then soldiers show up and ruin her plan to return with the trucks. And because I had imagined then that while she was going to not get to New Hampshire, that was already my chosen ending. But she would keep trying and get close. That meant that she was going to have to go from where she was in Northfield to up into Vermont. Brattleborough seemed like a good spot, and so I kind of had a couple of endpoints, but I needed some increments along the way. And I sort of liked the idea of she would have to go it alone as opposed to always being somebody’s sidekick. I had that as sort of a major story inflection point, was she gets abandoned, and then she’s on her own, she’s struggling. And then as a sort of parallel to book one, where you have the determined survivalist trying to get home, being saddled with a bunch of clueless people was kind of like an inverse of her and Martin, where this time she was the survivalist and Heather and her family were the clueless companions. I fill in the details. Now. One of the things I’d noticed is that it’s tempting to want to over outline something and then almost have it down to this. Every sentence is going to be about something. But what I’ve noticed when I’ve been writing, once the story gets going, it starts to not exactly write itself. Once you start actually writing something, the text starts to suggest that, well, then why isn’t this happening? Or what about that over there? And I hadn’t thought about that in the outline. So to some extent, the story when you mentioned imagination, to some extent the story starts to take on a life of its own. The details, they kind of get filled as I go, so I haven’t got it all. Like some writers say, they had it all completely formed in their head and all they had to do was write it down. That’s not how it’s working for me. Instead, I’ve got sort of stepping stones that I want to get to from A to B to C to D, but I don’t bother getting more detailed than that because as I’m writing, it’s going to fill itself in.
Brian Hawkins [00:21:50]:
So it sounds like it’s more like trial and error on your part. Do you study styles?
Mic Roland [00:21:55]:
Well, I do go my own way. I guess you can’t help but study when you’re writing or reading somebody else’s writing, if something’s working for you, you think, well, that worked out pretty well. And usually, it’s the other side. When something isn’t working out really well, it sort of stands out. And I make mental note, okay, don’t do that. One of those, don’t do that. That is pretty common, actually, when I read other prepper fiction, is the writer is really, really into guns. And so he’ll fill his writing with lots of detail about the guns. And as a reader, I don’t need to know that. It’s kind of superfluous detail. The people who are really into guns, they must just keep eating it up because authors keep doing that. But there was one that I was this one was an audiobook, but I was listening to it over the Christmas break. And the author describes how the main character is kind of ambushed by somebody when he’s rummaging salvaging in an abandoned store. The main character pull out his classic Colt 45, 1911, with blued metal frame and checkered walnut grips. And as I’m reading or listening to that, I’m thinking, why did I need to know all that? Now, he liked it, obviously. He put it in and there’s obviously people who like their classic cults who would go, oh, that’s a great gun. I really like. When I was reading it or listening to it, I thought that was useless information. Just saying, he pulled his pistol, I got it, so we can move on. Actually, I don’t know if it was that same author. No, it was a different author. And it kind of stumped me that he was describing there was some traffic crash that the main character was a witness to, and he was trying to do first aid. And the author went on and on describing this state trooper. He described him as broad shoulders and he had big biceps as big as your thigh, and he had a tattoo like this or that. And he was so much detail about this state trooper that I thought, well, this must be important. After the crash, the trooper’s gone. He never reappears. It was entirely useless information. But he spent a couple of pages talking about the details of this trooper with his sunglasses and short haircut. I don’t know why I was hearing all about that.
Brian Hawkins [00:23:56]:
A little misleading because you had it as a reader thinking you were just being introduced to a new main character in the book, and suddenly he’s gone, yeah. Otherwise, why give all that detail? He must be a main character into the story, right?
Mic Roland [00:24:12]:
So that’s when I’m reading or listening to other writers as fiction, that’s one of the things that I’ve kind of come away with is a don’t do this is too much detail where I don’t need it or where the reader doesn’t need it. You don’t want to have sort of no detail. I mean, I try to include a fair amount of atmospheric detail, like, is it warm? Is it cold? How do you know it’s warm? How do you know it’s cold? Maxim show, don’t tell was one of those things from interpretive text that if it’s a hot day, can you describe parts of it being a hot day without just saying it was a hot day that conveys the idea of it so that you get more of a feel rather than just the flat words of it. So those details, I’ll put those in whether or not his homemade AR-15 with a 17-inch barrel and a 1:7 Molybdenum twist. I don’t need to know that. The reader didn’t need to know that. Have you heard of the device or I don’t know what you call that, the rule called Chekhov’s Gun. [No.] The playwright Anton Chekhov, he had a rule that if you’re writing a play and you’ve described that there’s a rifle hung over the mantle place that had better be used in the next act. So it’s kind of like if you’re going to put it there, you need to use it. Don’t have wasted detail that doesn’t get the reader anything. Like, that State Trooper didn’t get me anything. So I try to avoid that, but still have enough detail that the readers can get into the feel of where they are. Like in book three, where it was wintertime, try and project some of what that cold was like, which, ironically, I was writing that in the summer, so I really had to remember what cold felt like because I didn’t feel cold at the time.
Brian Hawkins [00:25:47]:
And it seems pretty obvious that where you live influenced, obviously, for New Hampshire, but I mean, it influenced. So it sounds like you did do some study. [Yeah.] And that’s another thing I think is cool. You ask for feedback. You just did a survey type of thing. You make it real easy for us to interact rather than hiding in behind editors, or you didn’t post your phone number down there, but you make yourself available to the reader and the listener. So that’s really cool. [I try to.] When you’re getting into try not to give any of the story, but each chapter seems to or each book seems to have a little bit chaos coming from outside of community, where I feel that your lifestyle, you live on your own homestead with a community of people that are probably more self-reliant than, say Detroit. And then the outsiders come in your storyline. And so it sounds like a lot of this is off your own experience. Is that where that’s coming from, or is it just more of an interest? Do you think that something really goes bad, things get turned sideways? Do you think one of the short of the government or the police or whatever, the authorities outside community, or strangers coming into the community are one of our biggest threats?
Mic Roland [00:27:02]:
I tend to because if you’ve got your neighbors and you’ve developed any kind of a relationship with them, you’ve kind of got the fabric of a community. When strangers come in, they don’t have any vested interest in the community. They just see people as resources for their use. So there tends to be that kind of predator detachment is a whole lot easier. So that’s fairly easy. I think I had in book two, some gang members from Manchester come riding in. Now, theirs was kind of like more of a revenge match kind of a thing. But yeah, that’s people for you. Yeah. Trouble from the outside, I think comes in a lot less humane and compassionate because they don’t know anybody. They’re going to come in and see people as strangers to be dealt with rather than fellow humans to get along with.
Brian Hawkins [00:27:50]:
Like when Martin was out hunting for squirrel, but he seemed to be upfront, he was quick to try to explain, you cross this road, and you’re on my property. And that seems a little harsh, but considering the circumstances, kind of necessary at that point. Yeah.
Mic Roland [00:28:04]:
I had imagined that if it got down to survival-ly type scenario, that then whatever’s your land, you’re going to forage for your own wild edibles and beach nuts in that case, and squirrels and whatever, that you don’t want somebody coming and eating your stuff. So you start creating boundaries and say you stay on your side of the road, and I’ll stay on my side.
Brian Hawkins [00:28:24]:
How much research goes into some of the details when you’re writing? So I’ll give you an example. Susan has a throwing stick where she literally hunts with, and up until I read your book, I’ve never heard of that. So is that something that you just came across and thought, I’m going to add that to the book? Or is there where were you researching alternative methods of hunting or how does that type of thing come about?
Mic Roland [00:28:46]:
Yeah, I was looking for alternative methods of hunting with the idea that if you were in a sort of grid down Brave New World, bullets and gunpowder are going to be very limited. So you’re not just going to go around firing your 30-30 all the time, as well as the fact that gunshots attract lots of attention. I was looking for alternative methods of hunting, not a bow and arrow, because that’s a little too fussy to be improvising found about the throwing stick, which is not exactly like the Australian Aborigines with their boomerang, but it’s kind of on that same notion that you’re basically throwing something to knock out the animal. A little more research, and even from my own hunting experience, when you don’t exactly finish off the animal with your shot, like when you’re using a pellet gun, you don’t always terminate them immediately. Sometimes you do have to run over and step on their head, otherwise, they get away.
Brian Hawkins [00:29:36]:
Plus even the little details you seem to. So it’s obvious that you’ve been out in the woods and hunted. I can’t imagine hitting one. Have you tried it?
Mic Roland [00:29:45]:
You can look up YouTube videos on it and see it in action. I’ve practiced with it a little bit, but I don’t have really enough targets. I haven’t put a whole lot of time into it. Yeah, that’s something that I researched because the story needed her to be a hunter, but not with a gun. If it’s something that I could do, then I want to do it. So that when I’m writing about it, I’m writing from experience. An example being the pine fries that I had read about people eating tree bark made no sense to me. Even the Adirondack Indians that’s what their name was, was basically bark eaters. That’s what they did. And I thought, well, okay, so you can say you could eat bark, but what is that, really? So I had to look it up. That’s back to the research thing again. And then after I researched it, I thought, well, I’ve got some white pine, so I really ought to make pine fries just to see what that’s actually like. So that when I’m writing about the characters going through the process, it’s real because that’s what you do. Even to the point of how you have to cut them across the grain, and then you want to fry them so that they get crispy. Otherwise, really fibery. I mean, it’s like gum that’ll never end. Where it’s possible to actually do the thing, I do it. That way I really know what it is. Other things, like the make your own snowshoes out of the hemlock branches, I thought, Well, I’ve read that you can do that, but I should go and do that just to make sure. Because you know how sometimes the Internet is full of passed on wisdom that nobody has actually done, but they keep passing it on as though it’s just an accepted fact.
Brian Hawkins [00:31:13]:
Earlier in the series, a character named Charon was talking two Susan, I believe, about putting people into boxes. You want to expand on that a little bit, because that’s actually something that I looked at and thought, man, I wonder if I could develop something like that into a blog post, because that struck me as one of the most profound things that I’ve heard in a book in a long time. I know it sounds simple. It’s just like, guy puts people in the boxes. He’s a grouchy old man. But it’s very important being able to put people into boxes, whether or not they’re a thread or a friend or whatever box, we decide. Do you want to expand on that a little bit where that came from, and how it made its way into your book.
Mic Roland [00:31:52]:
Yeah, I was exposed to the idea, and I think most people are, that you’re exposed to the idea that not everybody’s going to react the right way when something happens. There are people who become the deer in the headlights type that they just sort of freeze up. I mean, you hear about that too. There’s fight or flight or freeze. So there’s three boxes right there that there are people who just don’t do anything. Also as part of security team training, they talk about that when something happens, there’s going to be a whole lot of people standing around having no idea what to do. They’re not hindering, but they’re not helping. The 80/20 rule that you hear about that 20% of the people do 80% of the work. There’s the sort of person that jumps into action and does something. And while a whole lot of other people are standing around, of course nowadays they stand around with their phone recording whatever it was. So everybody becomes a journalist. So 20% are doing something, 80% are journalists. Charon’s boxes were kind of a distillation of a lot of those different analyses that people react differently to the same circumstance or the same situation. Well, what’s that other phrase? Some people are sheepdogs and some people are sheep. When it comes down to something, people start to categorize or they fall into categories. So I had the Charon character pick out his categories. Of course, it didn’t fit Susan terribly well, but that’s okay. That’s how the story goes.
Brian Hawkins [00:33:09]:
Speaking of Charon, that’s a male with the name Charon [Karen] and it’s C-H-A-R-O-N. Do you want to tell everybody where that character comes from?
Mic Roland [00:33:17]:
Yeah, actually, his name is the guy, I guess you’d say, who in Greek mythology. He’s the guy who’s got the boat that crosses the river, sticks, takes the dead to the underworld. So he was the guide to the underworld in Greek mythology. So that’s where the name comes from. And that was just because he was being the guide to Susan. So I thought, well, let’s go with something kind of ominous.
Brian Hawkins [00:33:39]:
When you choose a name that sounds like a good name for that person, or do you have somebody in the back of your mind, are most of your main characters are loosely based on somebody in your life?
Mic Roland [00:33:49]:
It’s easier to do that way, to take a character and sort of think of somebody, you know. Now it doesn’t have to be a slavish copy of that character, but like the Candace character in the earlier stories, there’s a woman in town that goes to the town meetings and she’s all about champion of the underdog and the little guys, and we all need to be compassionate. Now, she doesn’t look anything like the Candace character that I described. I started off with her and thought, yeah, there’s somebody who’s kind of socially active and has an agenda, and she would make a good quizzling. Yeah, she’s adapted. The Candace character was adapted off of Somebody. Quite a few of the earlier characters were adapted off of Somebody.
Brian Hawkins [00:34:29]:
Is there a chance that Martin is based on you?
Mic Roland [00:34:31]:
I wouldn’t say that. He’s heroic.
Brian Hawkins [00:34:35]:
Well, if we have to write about ourselves. Martin is based on a character, though, right?
Mic Roland [00:34:39]:
To some extent. He was kind of created as not anti-hero, but how in a lot of prepper fiction, the hero is ex-military, super buff, born supremacy kind of guy who’s got all the ninja skills and can shoot the fly’s eye out at 100 yards. And I thought, well, how about if we make him not that? So he’s much more of an everyday person who makes bad choices and gets beat up a little now and then. I mean, it’s almost like I don’t like the Martin character because I have him get beat up at least once a book, I think.
Brian Hawkins [00:35:12]:
Well, it’s more true to the average person. The characters, they have a bowsaw in their pocket. They know right from the start on how to do a Dakota Fire to keep the smoke out and everything. And they have all the solar skills. As far as one in particular, which did have ten books in that series, if that means if you needed to know one series that had ten books. He had Solar set up, and he was a prepper, and he had all the knowledge that was one of the amazing things in that whole series was but it’s a little unrealistic. He would come up with these off-the-wall things that would literally send me to Google to see, is that true? There’s an author that did a whole lot of research. So I guess my last question is when you’re going throughout your day, and you see or hear something, not necessarily from listening to somebody else’s podcast, can you see something or hear something or think something? How often do you think or stop and write that down and say, this is going to go in later on in a book?
Mic Roland [00:36:08]:
I do keep a couple of sort of running Word files. Not Microsoft Word, but just text files in the research folder where I keep little nuggets of ideas as I think of something. There’s a whole lot of them in there that I haven’t used yet. I never really know if it’s going to be useful in a book or not.
Mic Roland [00:36:23]:
Mic Roland [00:36:24]:
If I’m coming across something, then I’ll try to make a note of it because otherwise, I’m going to forget.
Brian Hawkins [00:36:28]:
Escape From The City was probably one of my favorite books. And I don’t mean my favorite books from Mic Rowland. I mean my favorite books, period, on that type of [Really?] yeah, I think it was probably one that deserves a series. Is that a possibility?
Mic Roland [00:36:44]:
Yeah, I have an outline started for the sequel to the City book.
Brian Hawkins [00:36:48]:
Okay, good. That’s good.
Mic Roland [00:36:50]:
There were seeds of and even when I was writing the first book, I was leaving little seeds that could become material for the second book. Yeah, there’s going to be a second book.
Brian Hawkins [00:37:00]:
Good. I really like the entire series, the Siege of New Hampshire, but Escape From The City was more like almost like current events. Kind of like 1984 in 2023. And you bring them together, and you can see what’s coming. And now we’re talking about, and this is probably before you wrote the book, the 15-minute cities, and all this stuff. So we see in the alternative type of news, we see a lot of forecasts of this type of that type of world in the distant future there. And you seem to have a lot of insight. That might be what we’re looking forward to if we’re not careful. So it just seemed like a lot of insight on that.
Mic Roland [00:37:34]:
That one was kind of fun and different because I was setting it in the future, not massively like hundreds of years in the future. A few generations basically took the idea of our current cultural climate with political correctness and all the ramifications that go with that and the whole Me-Too movement and everything. And I thought, well, what if you just let that run full throttle for several more years and basically rewrite everything? Then what kind of world would you have to live in?
Brian Hawkins [00:38:01]:
Did that predate the beginning of Covid?
Mic Roland [00:38:03]:
Yeah, that was before COVID That’s what I’m saying.
Brian Hawkins [00:38:05]:
The insight. So we actually got to experience some of that. So much of the masses willing to accept [state control?] Yeah, it was amazing how many people are willing to just go with the flow just so that they could get the little bit of lifestyle that they could rather than what they deserve or could make for themselves. So it just seems like a lot of insight. Kind of like reading I’m not going to compare it to 1984, but I just read that again this year. The insight on that book was good. So is there any plans on doing an audible version of that?
Mic Roland [00:38:34]:
There could. I mean, I have plenty else to be audible-ing on because doing a chapter a week is kind of about the pace I could handle given everything else that I’ve got to do. I was going to add that one of the things that I thought important in The City book, but I know it’s rubbed some readers wrong, is that the main character, Ford, has no idea what sex is. He’s completely clueless. And I know there’s plenty of guy readers out there who think, oh, you always know what to do. And I thought, do you really? Or how much do you learn as you’re growing up? And what happens if you are in a completely authoritarian climate where men and women were being kept separate because you can’t happen together or bad things happen. And if you were intentionally never taught that, how would you know? And even then well, because a lot of what we think we know instinctively, we’ve actually learned as kids. If you raised little boys with no idea what girls are because you never see them and you’re never told anything to do with that, you don’t have stories where the Tarzan saves Jane. You don’t have any of that. You could be forever six years old. That was the environment that I was creating an escape from the city is people have been raised in that sort of you’re only six years old. That’s all you need to know environment. And if they’ve got no other input, what are they going to do? And of course, the occasional malcontent. He just gets shipped off to a work farm someplace so you can keep society pure. That features usually bugged people because they think or they feel like they’re more instinctive that way. But my premise is that now you learned it now instinct can certainly kick in, but we learn by example a lot of times seeing now where history gets rewritten, where things just sort of disappear the way certain political correctness movements erase the fact that slavery ever happened. Just imagine if they were more successful, and you just got rid of men and women ever having anything to do with each other. It was just removed from anything that you could read or have access to. Then how would you know?
Brian Hawkins [00:40:35]:
Right, book banning, and then we’re doing some editing now. I mean, if it seems offensive, certain things are taken off the shelves, right? Statues are taken down, and what was national heroes are turned into villains now. So that is a version of that just extending it out further down the road there the potential what could happen or what it seems like we’re on track for.
Mic Roland [00:40:59]:
Oh yeah. Or like the recent examples of editors going back and rewriting children’s books to take out what was a potentially offensive word. Well, right now they’re taking out the word fat and doing something else. It seems harmless. But imagine once you’ve already started doing that, that you go back and you just rewrite history. And if you are of a heavy separation of the sexes so they don’t have anything to do with each other, you just rewrite it. So there are no mothers, there are no fathers, there are no men and women doing anything. Little boys read stories about boys, little girls read stories about girls, and never the two shall meet. You can see it’s not that far away.
Brian Hawkins [00:41:34]:
And Orwell knew about it in 1984.
Mic Roland [00:41:36]:
Oh, yeah, with his memory hole metaphor, he saw it happening. Well, anyway, I didn’t mean to take up your whole day.
Brian Hawkins [00:41:43]:
Oh, you’re fine. I’ll just close this out. I did have a suggestion for you for a fake ending to your series I think you should make all the lights come on. Boom. They just all turn out like, Whoa, there’s light. But then we realize that we’re no longer American. We’ve been taken over by the people that we would assume that would take us over, and that starts a whole new series.
Mic Roland [00:42:03]:
You have a dark twist to you.
Brian Hawkins [00:42:05]:
Mic Roland [00:42:05]:
Well, add that to my text file.
Brian Hawkins [00:42:07]:
Yeah, add that to your potentials.
Mic Roland [00:42:09]:
I appreciate you taking the time out to do a little question and answer.
Brian Hawkins [00:42:13]:
It’s my pleasure. I had the questions, and you were willing to answer them. So we’ll close this out and appreciate everybody that’s watching and listening. I’m Brian Hawkins. Nextstepsurvival.com. And that’s Mic Roland — author, podcaster, blogger, survivalist (kind of), and prepper, so he’s all part of our community, and he’s very active in our community, and I really want to say thank you, Mic. Appreciate all of that. All right, we’ll see you guys.
Mic Roland [00:42:38]:
Brian Hawkins [00:42:38]:
Thank you. All right, bye, now.
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What? Still here after over 10,500 words? If you read the author interview with Mic Roland transcript, that’s about 20% the length of a full novel when you should actually be reading The Siege of New Hampshire or Escape from the City, so let’s call this a wrap.
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Stay safe. Stay prepared.
God Bless. Hawkins out.