Today’s special guest is mystery author MJ Preston to chat with me about his thriller series, The Highwayman.
M.J. Preston’s debut novel: The Equinox, published in 2012, was a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Awards and rated a solid straight horror novel by a reviewer at Publisher’s Weekly.
His second novel: Acadia Event, published in 2015, was inspired by his time running the world longest ice road, as an ice road trucker, in the Canada’s Northwest Territories. It was also met with praise, including an endorsement by Gregory L. Norris, a screenwriter for Star Trek Voyager and writer for the Sci-Fi Channel. Norris called Acadia Event, ‘an Epic read and personal favorite. It has since been re-released by his publisher, WildBlue Press.
His third novel: Highwayman, a thriller, was published July 02, 2019 with WildBlue Press. The sequel to Highwayman, titled: Four, is now available for purchase on all platforms in digital, print, and video.
He has also published scores of short stories in anthologies around the world. In addition to writing, MJ is an artist and an amateur photographer.
He resides in Alberta, Canada with his wife, Stormy and beagles, Jake, and Milo.
Welcome, MJ. Please tell us about this exciting new series called Highwayman.
This is a crossing of genres for me. My previous works had supernatural or science fiction elements. The Highwayman series is a succession different stories that relate to a group of law enforcement characters and the monsters they hunt.
In the kickoff to the series, we delve into the titular Highwayman, where a young college student named, Lance Belanger, indoctrinates himself into the world of serial murder. He has only one ambition. He wants to be the best. We follow this young man as he evolves with each killing and ends up on the radar of the FBI after bodies start turning up in multi-state dumping grounds. They call the killer, “Highwayman” because all his victims have been found near major American highways. But investigators have little else to go on, no DNA, no witnesses, and very little forensic evidence connecting any suspects to the stranger killings.
This Highwayman story encompasses two books and it’s a harrowing ride that leads to serial and spree murder. All the while, FBI investigators narrow their search. Highwayman finds himself in the number one spot on the FBI’s Most Wanted List after he kills a retired agent and ups his game by drawing in the likes of some of the worlds worst creatures in a macabre club of serial murder. This story is not for the faint of heart, but if you want a pulse pounding game of cat and mouse where the predator and the prey switch places, then these books are for you.
The first two books in the series are about the hunt for the Highwayman, but future books will incorporate different stories that include recurring characters from the first two books. I’m extremely excited about this series and already have several places I can take the characters.
What inspired you to write this series?
The age-old question. Truth be known, I have always been drawn to the dark side. As a voyeur, I process everything I see, and that is what inspires me to tell the stories that I do. Careful, public at large, you are inspiring writers all over the world with your antics. Someone like me is always watching and taking notes.
Excerpt from Highwayman: Book One in the Highwayman Series
Chapter One – Infamous
She hadn’t known what woke her. Dream or premonition, but she had come up out of the sleep into a sitting position even before her senses were roused. Her mind pricked, pins and needles, her eyesight still unfocused. She had heard her name. Not urgent, but calling in a whisper.
“Wendy, wake up. Wendy, wake up.”
Slowly, she pulled focus adjusting to the dark of the room. She saw a naked silhouette standing in the bedroom doorway. It was him. Devon.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Are you awake now?”
“Come back to bed.”
He said nothing, stepping through the doorway, moving closer. He was holding something in his right hand. She couldn’t quite see.
He took another step.
It didn’t register at first. Or wouldn’t register.
Something in his hand, something in his right hand. What was it?
He took yet another step.
“What are you holding?”
He took another step.
Then it began to register.
No. Oh dear God, no. No! Oh my…
“It’s okay. He never felt a thing.”
Never felt a thing? No!
She felt the scream building, expanding inside her, a hard, jagged ball in her throat, cutting her oxygen. It wanted to escape, but she couldn’t find her voice.
To do so was to acknowledge the unthinkable.
He took another step.
The small, round object hung from his right hand. Like the head of a doll.
No, not a doll: bigger.
She knew then.
Oh my god!
“Patrick,” she moaned and then the scream began to rise like a whistling tea kettle.
He closed in then, his pace quick and deliberate. His other hand rising—moonlight gleaming off steel—before she could scream, he severed her windpipe. She felt an initial sting, and then there was a pop, but no actual pain. He hovered, watching intently as the darkness turned the black to blue, light to gray. Her life was spilling out, like a river running into the sea, swallowed by the abyss.
Her eyes closed.
It was better this way. At least she would be with him.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I am now working on a third Highwayman book.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
There as no moment of epiphany. It’s just something I’ve always done and I believe, was intended to do. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a writer. As to when others considered me a writer, that is another question altogether.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your workday like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I still subsidize my income with a day job. I go to work Monday to Friday, working between 8-10 hours each day, and then find time to write and read. When I was working a deadline on the last Highwayman novel, I get up two hours earlier each weekday morning before work and at least hours after work. On weekends I dedicate as much time as I can, between 14 and 16 hours each weekend. It can be an overwhelming grind, but the end game is to sell enough books and find a readership large enough to jettison the day job. So, step right up and buy a book, and please leave me a review and tell all your friends.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
If you asked me, most of my written work has a soundtrack. I listen to music when I write, from the Tales of Mystery and Imagination by the Alan Parsons Project to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and even The Dead Weather and All Them Witches. For me, music is essential when it comes to the creation process.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Aside from a writer, the same stuff as other boys. Stuntman, fireman, astronaut…
Anything else you would like to tell readers?
Yes, I do this for you. So, if you like my work, please tell others so I can continue in my life as a storyteller. For those who have and continue to support my work, thank you.
That is all.
Thanks for being here today, MJ.