I am beyond thrilled to introduce today’s guest. Jon is actually my second cousin. His dad is my cousin, but Jon and I are close to the same age. My mother is next to the youngest of a dozen or so siblings, so myself and my siblings were closer in age to the children of our cousins rather than our cousins (if that makes any sense.)
(UPDATE: I learned from my friend, Darcy Flynn, in the comments, that he is actually my first cousin once removed, and I have been defining ‘second cousin’ incorrectly my entire life. I also read that a first cousin once removed is also a nephew or niece, so I think Jon should start calling me ‘Aunt Alicia’ – anyone else agree?)
But, moving on…I barely knew Jon growing up, although I’m not sure why since we lived in the same general vicinity. I reconnected with him a few years ago at a family reunion and learned he was writing a book and told him to let me know if I could do anything to help. (Since that time, I’ve gotten to know him and his fabulous wife better, and we have so much in common with our twisted sense of humor and taste in books and shows…it’s awesome! :)) He contacted me a little while after the reunion and asked me to read/edit it for him. I agreed, but I will say, I was a little anxous. What if it sucked? It was his FIRST book. How many people think they can sit down and write a book and it’s a disaster? Well, let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. I LOVED this novel! It’s witty and creepy and dark and funny with great, vivid characters who I felt like I knew. (much of it takes place in Wetumka, Oklahoma, an area I know well since my grandparents and much of my mom’s family lived in and around Wetumka, and I spent a lot of time in the area when I was growing up, which made it extra special). I have so enjoyed helping him polish and present his fabulous novel to the world.
Without further ado (I mean, that was more than enough ado, am I right?), meet Jon M Michaels…
Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets?
Well, I’m an Okie, born and raised. As a kid our family moved a lot, so I learned to adapt and make friends. That’s not to say it was easy, but I think it’s helped me to accept change. I’ve done a little bit of everything; private investigator, oil field pipe inspector, sales and some college sprinkled in there somewhere. I currently live in Oklahoma City with my wife and cat, with no plans to move.
Where did you get the idea for Tale of the Sharp-Dressed Man?
Good question. I guess the character, Sharp-Dressed Man, came to me before the story. It’s a character that’s a part of family lore. I sort of fleshed the story around that.
Why did you choose this genre (is it something you’ve written in before)?
I like being freaked out by stories. Scary, and bizarre. Bentley Little has some good stuff along those lines. I read Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot when I was eleven years old, and that paved my way to horror. I also used to watch Dark Shadows as a kid. My mom thought I was in my room playing, but I was peeking around the corner at the television.
What is the most difficult thing about writing a book?
Getting to the end.
What was the most difficult thing about this one in particular?
Finding an ending that I liked.
What book have you read that you wish you had written?
Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley.
What was your first job?
I worked in the kitchen at a nursing home. It was a summer job. It was interesting, and sometimes unnerving.
What’s your favorite book of all time and why?
That’s a toughie. But I’d have to say Salem’s Lot. Great characters and a truly evil villain.
What do you want readers to come away with after they read Tale of the Sharp-Dressed Man?
That they were on an adventure, and made some friends along the way.
What actors would you like in the main roles if your book were made into a movie?
Without a scant of hesitation, I’d have to say Willie Nelson would be great as Grandpa Theo. As for the rest, I don’t have any idea.
Would you rather have a bad review or no review?
Hmm…, I guess I’d rather have a bad review, but that doesn’t mean I’d like it. At least someone was reading it.
What is your favorite quote?
Mark Twain’s quote, “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.”
If you could be a character in any of your books, who would you be?
If you could spend time with a character from your book, who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Again, Ruckus. We’d drive around listening to the Allman Brothers, while he indulged me with advice on women, sex and high-dollar whiskey. But, I’d have to throw Grandpa Theo in there as well. The three of us would have a high time.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
A little of both.
What do your friends and family think of your writing?
They are extremely supportive.
What character in your book are you least likely to get along with?
Buddy Wynn. He’s such a bastard.
Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
I drank bourbon with Barry Switzer once, and he signed his book “Bootlegger’s Boy.” He happens to be a very down to earth person.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
How did your interest in writing originate?
Not sure, but it’s tied to my love of reading. I caught on to reading from the first time I learned of Dick, Jane and Spot. In the fifth grade, I wrote a short story about a woman who changed into a giant, black widow spider. The story was supposed to be punishment for something I did in science class (I don’t recall what the infraction was). I was to write a one-thousand-page essay on something related to science. I chose spiders. My teacher accepted my spin (pun intended) on the subject, but he scolded me and said it was not what he was wanting. He was wanting a scientific essay, but since I put the effort into it he’d accept it. However, I saw him passing the story around to the other teachers during lunch that day. They all seemed to enjoy it.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Stephen King. His characters are vivid and believable.
Tell us your favorite…
Movie – Apocalypse Now
Music – Kings of Leon
Place you’ve visited – San Diego
Place you’d like to visit – Tokyo
TV show from childhood – The Six Million Dollar Man
TV show from adulthood – Breaking Bad
Food – My wife’s spaghetti
Sports team – Sooners, Thunder
Which do you prefer: Board games/card games or television? Television
Thank you, Jon. Fun interview! Now, about your book…
Thirteen-year-old Luke Morgan was living a charmed life on his Grandpa Theo’s farm. sheltered from the noise of the world by endless, rural beauty. But, his country innocence is quickly shattered one late afternoon as he watches an approaching thunderstorm with his grandfather at his side. Something other than churning clouds were in the sky that day. A twisting, black, mass of evil that his grandfather is not unfamiliar with. Upon seeing the strange spectacle, Theo tells Luke that the two of them must travel to their neighbor’s home—and kill the entire family.
Luke quickly learns there is much he doesn’t know about his kindly grandfather, as he is plunged into a nightmarish world built of demons and human suffering.
A sound nudged me back into awareness. My eyes opened to the same room, except it was darker. The antiseptic smells of the hospital swam with a lingering staleness, seeming sharper as I lay alone in the darkness. I noticed a pain in my left arm, a tube taped into place, dripping numbing concoctions into my body. A dim slash of light wandered in through the blinds in my room, probably from a street light. My head felt as if it was stuffed with cotton, and my sadness was still suffocating. I wanted to find sleep again. There was nothing in the world of reality that I wanted.
The shuffle of a shoe whispered from the darkened room, the rustle of clothes. “Who’s there?”
Footsteps, slow and easy, grew closer. A figure emerged from the shadows and stood at the foot of my bed. He was tall, dressed in a shining suit and wearing a top hat. He had long, black hair that glistened like a snake’s skin, and a face made for Hollywood. “Do you know who I am?”
“Yes.” My voice was a whisper. “You’re the devil.”
“Well, give the hillbilly a chicken dinner. You must be the genius in the family.”
The devil had a black cane topped with a small human skull, approximately the size of an infant’s. He leaned forward on the cane and smiled at me. His teeth were glazed pieces of coal. “I go by many names, but you can call me Nick. I’ve been called that for some time in these parts.”
Dreadfulness emanated from the devil, pushing against me with a smothering force. I scooted into my pillow and drew my legs tight.
Nick sighed and spun his cane with spider-like dexterity, walking in and out of the shadows, grinning. “Luke, Luke. You might have been an agent of spectacular ability. But, alas, you were protected by Him, which placed you beyond my influence. Your loss as much as it was mine.”
I was scared. More scared than I had ever been in my young life—which is a rather significant statement, considering the horrors I’d recently endured. Things slithered and bumped in the room. I heard raspy whispers speaking in a strange tongue. And the devil himself stood in front of me.
Scared shitless, I was.
Nick stopped the twirling and sat on the left side of the bed. “I don’t have much time to waste on you, so this will be brief. I just wanted to pop in for a chat. Is that fine?”
I nodded my head. I figured I didn’t have much choice in the matter.
“You’ve got pluck, boy. Not unlike good ole’ Theo.” The devil tapped his chin, thinking. “Yes, the dearly departed Theo.”
A jolt of anger filled my head with blood.
The devil laughed and stood up. He walked into the streaming light and tilted his head in a way that allowed me a brief look at his eyes. They were like black glass. “It seems all of your loved ones depart.”
The words were hurled razor blades, angering and wounding. Tears formed in my eyes, which angered me even more.
“Yes, your father and your mother. They too have departed.” He pointed the end of his cane at me. “I watched as they died. It was not a pleasant experience for either of them, I assure you.”
I didn’t know much of their death, only that they were murdered. I didn’t want to know anything else about it, and I didn’t want to hear it from the devil. “Why are you here? What do you want from me?”
“Just like ole gramps, you get straight to the point.” Nick reached inside his jacket and withdrew a pocket-watch. He hooked the chain with a claw from his pinky and suspended it in front of his face. “And that is a good thing, as I do tend to get rather long-winded, and I have plans to meet with someone in this very hospital. Yes, an old woman who happens to be a patient, or in your case, a hospital neighbor. This woman has earned my company, and I do not wish to disappoint.”
I closed my eyes, wishing he would reach the end of his say, or turn to smoke and disappear. He surely did enjoy the sound of his own voice.
“At any rate, it is a wonderful stroke of fate that this woman and you are in the same residence. I may now tell you, face to face, that your life from this moment on is going to be noteworthy. You’ve been marked, boy. Your grandfather was stolen from me. A debt is still owed.”
Words dipped in hate.
“But, the hayseed—your grand pappy—possessed a faith so strong it garnered him worthy of His protection, which was passed down to you.” Black spittle sprayed from his mouth. “So, I may not harm you.”
If I trusted him, those would have been relieving words. But, he was the devil.
About the Author:
Jon M Michaels was born and raised in Oklahoma, and has lived in various rural towns all of his life. His years spent as a private investigator, coupled with the local stories he grew up hearing, heavily influenced his writing this book. He currently lives with his wife in Oklahoma City, and their black cat, Lucy.
Find Jon here: