About Me

Posted on by

Wait, Who’s website is this?

hiebert_pic3

Michael Hiebert was born in New West­min­ster, British Columbia, Canada in 1967, the first and only son of Abe and Ann Hiebert. They lat­er had anoth­er child, Cather­ine Hiebert, but she fell prey to the unfor­tu­nate fate of being born a girl. Michael grew up in Sur­rey, a sub­urb of the city of Van­cou­ver. Parts of his child­hood were spent on road and camp­ing trips, often to the Okana­gan, a west coast hot spot pop­u­lar with tourists, but prob­a­bly best known for the crea­ture many peo­ple swear to have seen breach­ing the sur­face of its “bot­tom­less” lake. A crea­ture called Ogo­pogo that is not unlike Scotland’s Loch Ness Mon­ster. Despite his many attempts to site the poten­tial ice-age-sur­viv­ing ple­siosaurs, Michael nev­er did catch nary a glance at the beast on any of his family’s numer­ous trips through BC’s Fraser Canyon.

Michael attend­ed school in Sur­rey, grad­u­at­ing in 1985. He wrote his first book in the sev­en­th grade. Although the title and most of the plot (or lack there­of) is lost to time, he remem­bers it being pret­ty much a direct rip off of Lord of the Rings, com­plete with poet­ry and all else. It may not have been great, but It was good enough for his sev­en­th grade teacher to excuse him from doing any more Eng­lish projects for the rest of the year. When he announced this to the class, there were many com­plaints to which his teacher said, “He just wrote a nov­el. If you write a nov­el, you’ll get spe­cial treat­ment, too.”

A cou­ple years lat­er, Com­modore released their first com­put­er, known as the VIC-20. Com­pared to today’s stan­dards, the VIC was closer to a cal­cu­la­tor than a com­put­er, but that didn’t quash Michael’s avid inter­est in it. He spent a large por­tion of his sum­mer hol­i­days learn­ing how to pro­gram video games. Back then, there were no teach­ers, you had to learn by tri­al and error, and he did. He start­ed mak­ing games for the VIC-20 that oth­er peo­ple want­ed to play. Pret­ty soon, he was actu­al­ly sell­ing them. For a six­teen-year-old with no sense of respon­si­bil­i­ty and way too lazy to get a sum­mer job, he man­aged to make out okay. Computers—game pro­gram­ming especially—became his pas­sion.

Michael’s first paid pub­lish­ing cred­it came while in the ten­th grade. It was for a tech­nol­o­gy-relat­ed mag­a­zine which gave out a call for “any sort of writ­ing, fic­tion or non.” Michael’s first sub­mis­sion, a ter­ri­bly exe­cut­ed sci­ence fic­tion sto­ry that lacked every­thing a sto­ry pos­si­bly could, was reject­ed, but the edi­tor of the mag­a­zine called him and asked if he might write some­thing else. “Do you have any hob­bies?” he asked. ‘What do you like to do?”

The answer to that ques­tion was easy. He liked to pro­gram games. Occa­sion­al­ly, he even played them, but that was nev­er his num­ber one inter­est. Mak­ing your own stuff—being able to imag­ine some­thing and then make it real—that’s what it was all about. There was no greater thrill in the world.

Write about that, then. Write about how it feels to do that,” the edi­tor on the phone told him.

Okay, I’ll try,” he said and hung up.

It took two days to write what would become a five page arti­cle once it was pub­lished. Michael has always had an innate abil­i­ty to get his ideas down quick­ly, whether it’s through pro­gram­ming, writ­ing, or music—yet anoth­er pas­sion of his (it would be anoth­er twen­ty years before he was diag­nosed ADHD and, once he was, his child­hood made a heck­u­va lot more sense. —Michael likes to say he can car­ry on a con­ver­sa­tion with any­one about any­thing in the world for exact­ly five min­utes. After that, his knowl­edge is deplet­ed. He’s pret­ty sure his atten­tion deficit­ly (to make up a word) addled brain is respon­si­ble for this.

Two days after he sub­mit­ted his new piece for the mag­a­zine, that edi­tor called back. “Where did you learn how to do this?” he asked.

What?” Michael asked back.

Write. Your writ­ing is fan­tas­tic.”

Michael had no idea that he could write. And, given that they’d reject­ed his first sto­ry that took place on the imag­i­na­tive orange plan­et with two moons in a bina­ry star sys­tem (and very lit­tle else in the way of inter­est­ing ele­ments), wasn’t quite sure if this guy on the oth­er end of the phone had any clue what he was talk­ing about.

So you like it?” Michael asked.

Love it,” he said. “We’re going to pub­lish it in next month’s mag­a­zine.”

Oh,” Michael said with­out as much inter­est as one might expect. “That’s great.”

I’ll get your check to you right away.”

Oh?” Michael asked after a brief pause, this time with much more inter­est. “Um… how much do I get?”

Does a hun­dred and fifty sound okay?”

Sud­den­ly, Michael had noth­ing but inter­est. “Yeah,” he stam­mered,. “That … that sounds great.” (I should make a side note here and say that ever since then, he has nev­er found a mag­a­zine or oth­er short sto­ry pub­lish­er pay any­where near that sort of price for a piece of work. The­se days, it’s one or two pen­nies a word, if you get paid at all. Back then, he just fig­ured, hey, I guess there’s some­thing to this writ­ing thing. It’s pret­ty easy mon­ey. which would turn out to be one in just a big long list of opin­ions Michael would form that he’d ulti­mate­ly learn were com­plete­ly dead wrong.

It took anoth­er twen­ty-two years before he ever again saw even a dime for his writ­ing.

Michael spent most of his child­hood either mak­ing games on his com­put­ers (which slow­ly matured from the fee­ble VIC-20 to Commodore’s slight­ly less fee­ble Com­modore 64. When he wasn’t at the com­put­er, he could usu­al­ly be found rolling twen­ty- and ten- and twelve-sid­ed dice while his chaotic-good Wood Elf crept through dun­geons look­ing for secret doors and try­ing to break open locked chests. It could be said all the time he spent play­ing and cre­at­ing cam­paigns for Dun­geons and Drag­ons, and we’re talk­ing years of it, was real­ly lay­ing down the foun­da­tion for being able to tap into his reser­voir of imag­i­na­tion and pull ideas out of the ether. For many of his teenage years, it was hard to deter­mine which held his pas­sion more, pro­gram­ming games or play­ing D&D.

Michael grad­u­at­ed in 1985 and went on to Simon Fraser Uni­ver­si­ty in Burn­aby, British Columbia. Fol­low­ing that, after a brief stint work­ing in a radio shack and hav­ing every­one refer to him as “Mall-boy,” Michael man­aged to land a gig with Elec­tron­ic Arts.

He stayed with EA a good num­ber of years, but after some time, the shock and awe of work­ing for a big-time video game pro­duc­er wore off and Michael real­ized all that the job was doing was caus­ing him to burn out. It was tak­ing his teenage pas­sions and turn­ing them into “a job.” The burnout rate was insane. There was an expec­ta­tion that you would work up to eighty hours a week with­out any bonus pay. It wasn’t long before he and anoth­er employ­ee, a school­mate named Steve Vester­gaard that hap­pened to be hired short­ly after Michael came on board, decid­ed that, while there was noth­ing wrong with pro­gram­ming games, the pace you real­ly want­ed to be was behind the big oak desk call­ing the shots. They both gave their notice and, a mon­th lat­er, start­ed their own video game com­pa­ny called Des­tiny Soft­ware.

Des­tiny wrote some good games. They nev­er hit the big time, but there was a point where they had a dozen employ­ees. Prob­lem was, back then, nei­ther Michael nor Steve knew any­thing about run­ning a com­pa­ny, not to men­tion swing­ing deals with game pub­lish­ers. They tried to be com­pet­i­tive but real­ized too late that com­ing in with low bids didn’t entice pub­lish­ers as much as make them think you real­ly don’t under­stand how much work was involved.

In the late nineties, Michael left Des­tiny in Steve’s capa­ble hands and moved on to work for anoth­er soft­ware com­pa­ny writ­ing online gam­ing soft­ware.

After a good four years or so there, the itch to be once again in com­mand took over and Michael and anoth­er employ­ee did the same thing he had done with EA. The two of them left and start­ed Gob­lin Stu­dios, a cor­po­ra­tion that would one day grow to around forty employ­ees. Not too bad for the kid from Sur­rey.

But it was hard work, and being in charge meant not always know­ing if you were going to get paid each mon­th. Mon­ey was tight and employ­ees came first because with­out them, you got noth­ing. It wasn’t too long before Michael once again left a com­pa­ny he start­ed in the hands of his co-founder.

In 2002, he start­ed his own con­sult­ing com­pa­ny, vow­ing he would be the one and only employ­ee it ever had. He man­aged to stick to that vow. Dan­ger­Boy & Dog­Man Con­sult­ing, Inc., orig­i­nal­ly formed with a man­date to man­age off-shore devel­op­ment teams that had fal­l­en behind sched­ule. Pub­lish­ers in North Amer­i­ca paid Michael to move to sec­ond- and third-world coun­tries like Buenos Aires, Argenti­na and the Ukraine for months at a time so that he could help the devel­op­ers get back on track with their mile­stones and time­li­nes.

Work­ing by him­self like this, offered him a lot of extra time, time that he spent going back to a pas­sion he’d all but for­got­ten, and that was writ­ing.

Michael prob­a­bly owes his return to writ­ing to the thir­ty-six days he spent liv­ing on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean. It was a very lib­er­at­ing expe­ri­ence full of strange and unbe­liev­able events. He kept a dai­ly blog that start­ed out with prob­a­bly a dozen fol­low­ers that, by the time he went home, had grown into a few hun­dred. Appar­ent­ly, peo­ple liked his writ­ing. Found it fun­ny and quirky the way he spun events. Michael arrived back in Canada and spent the next two weeks writ­ing his first nov­el, Devil’s Bridge, a cur­rent­ly unpub­lished book that is semi-auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal. Much of the sec­ond half comes straight from the blog he kept while in St. Maarten.

From there, Michael just kept writ­ing. Soon, he decid­ed writ­ing was more impor­tant than con­sult­ing as a pro­gram­mer and his entire focus went into craft­ing his prose. Through all of this, he had two mar­riages and three kids. Life did exist out­side of the box, but a lot of it took place inside, too. Michael’s always been a pro­lific writer, but nev­er like he was dur­ing those three or four years fol­low­ing that first nov­el. He wrote four books a year. He kept track of word counts. For two years run­ning, he wrote over a mil­lion of them.

It soon occurred to him that may­be he should think about try­ing to make some mon­ey with it all. So he start­ed to look for an agent. It was a long jour­ney. Much longer than peo­ple like his men­tor, Kristine Kathryn Rusch or her hus­band, pro­lific author Dean Wes­ley Smith, told him it would take. It did, in fact, take a com­plete decade.

But there were some sales dur­ing that time. And some major mile­stones. Michael won the pres­ti­gious Sur­rey Inter­na­tion­al Writ­ers’ Con­fer­ence Sto­ry Teller award two years in a row. This award is host­ed by New York Times best­selling author, Diana Gabal­don, and Jack Whyte, best­selling author of the Uther series of books. In fact, the night of his sec­ond win, he had din­ner seat­ed at the same table as Diana. Right beside her, in fact. This might sound like a good thing, but it was a gong show. Star struck and stu­pid, Michael opened con­ver­sa­tion with some­thing as apro­pos as, “I’ve got all your books. But I’ve nev­er read them.” Yep, that’s the way to win anoth­er writer’s heart.

Michael also sold a bunch of short sto­ries dur­ing this time, many to edi­tor Denise Lit­tle from DAW Books. At one point, she turned down one of his sub­mis­sions, stat­ing that the sto­ry was just too graph­ic and hor­ri­fy­ing for her read­er­ship (the sto­ry, Fal­l­en is in his col­lec­tion Some­times the Angels Weep. Appar­ent­ly, the night she’d read it, she’d wok­en up scream­ing, an image from the tale’s end imprint­ed in her mind. “You do real­ize,” she said to him once, “that you’re a hor­ror writer, right?”

To which Michael kind­ly smiled and said, “Okay,” even though he knew he wasn’t a hor­ror writer.

I’m seri­ous,” she said. “You set things up in your sto­ries exact­ly like good hor­ror writ­ers do. You remind me quite a bit of Dean Koontz.”

Michael’s smile widened. He still didn’t real­ly believe what she said to be true, but who wouldn’t smile after being com­pared to Koontz?

When Michael final­ly acquired his agent it still took three years for her to sell one of the now six­teen nov­els he had com­plet­ed and were sit­ting on his hard dri­ve. John Scog­namiglio from Kens­ing­ton Books bought one of Michael’s lat­er nov­els called Dream with Lit­tle Angels. That book was writ­ten over a peri­od of two years, six months of which Michael spent liv­ing in Alaba­ma.

John wrote a real­ly nice intro­duc­tion for the ARC (Advanced Read­er Copy) of Dream with Lit­tle Angels that, unfor­tu­nate­ly, wasn’t includ­ed in the pub­lished ver­sion. This is what it said:

 

Dear Read­er,

For most of us in the book indus­try, read­ing is usu­al­ly a rushed expe­ri­ence, and the plea­sure of savor­ing a nov­el is usu­al­ly lost. There’s just too much to do and too lit­tle time. But I could not rush through Dream with Lit­tle Angels. It required—no, it demanded&msdash;that I savor every word. After I fin­ished it, I sat in my office in stunned silence. I couldn’t believe the pow­er of this lit­er­ary debut.

Dream with Lit­tle Angels is a lyri­cal, heart­break­ing, and lit­er­ary sus­pense nov­el in the tra­di­tion of Harper Lee’s clas­sic To Kill a Mock­ing­bird. Told from the point of view of a sen­si­tive young boy who comes of age in a small South­ern town haunt­ed by tragedy, it’s the kind of sto­ry one doesn’t often expe­ri­ence.

Take the time to read Dream with Lit­tle Angels. I know you’ll agree that it’s one of the finest South­ern lit­er­ary sus­pense nov­els you’ll ever read!

 

Kens­ing­ton would go on to pub­lish three more books in this same series over the com­ing years, dur­ing which time Michael con­tin­ued writ­ing oth­er works and pub­lish­ing oth­er things like his short sto­ry col­lec­tion, and a quirky and humor­ous dark lit­tle sto­ry called Dolls that he’s espe­cial­ly proud of, and numer­ous oth­ers bits and pieces, a lot of which man­aged to wan­der off on their own and find homes. Yet still those nov­els he’d craft­ed over the past decade and a half sat wait­ing patient­ly on his hard dri­ve.

The­se days, Michael is focused on releas­ing some of that ear­lier work. Oth­er than need­ing a good rewrite (he’s a bet­ter writer now than he used to be), the books are great. And Michael’s legion of fans (who are prob­a­bly the most ded­i­cat­ed fans in fan­dom if one judges sole­ly by the del­uge of emails he receives almost dai­ly) are going to love see­ing the­se new books come to mar­ket.

But real­ly, that’s what it boils down to: the fans. With­out you guys, Michael would prob­a­bly still write because writ­ing is nev­er about the read­er­ship or the mon­ey or the fame. You write because you have to write. No sane per­son would do it out of choice. It’s not the great­est career path in the world (although, when it’s good? It’s real­ly good). As Charles Bukowski once put it, “If you have to read it to your wife or your girl­friend or your boyfriend or your par­ents or to any­body at all, you’re not ready . . . Unless it comes out of your soul like a rock­et, unless being still would dri­ve you to mad­ness or sui­cide or mur­der, don’t do it. Unless the sun inside you is burn­ing your gut, don’t do it. When it is time, and if you have been cho­sen, it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you. There is no oth­er way, and there nev­er was.”

As Michael says in the intro­duc­tion to the Kindle book Nashville Beau­mont, “Writ­ing is hard. A lot of things are hard. In fact, any­thing worth doing is hard. And that’s why I write, because it’s worth doing.”

 

Wel­come to Michael’s web­site.

 

moshpit-1