Wait, Who’s website is this?
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:
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.