Questions for Mike Robinson:
Devon Ellington: What was the genesis of this book?
Mike Robinson: Subconsciously, The Prince of Earth has been long in coming. I first read of the lore — or phenomenon — that inspired it when I was 13, and for years thereafter produced stillborn stories about this ‘Big Gray Man’ of the supposedly haunted peak Ben MacDui, located in the Scottish Highlands. The idea, whatever it might be, lay dormant throughout my early writing career, as I busied myself with other manuscripts. Then, not long after reading Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, I had an urge to create a very atmospheric story, with a downright creepy antagonist, something I’d never really had in any prior book. Like eddying mist, the legends of the Big Gray Man came wafting back into my head, and so thematically and location-wise I was set. I still had to figure out where I was going, however — and I’d do that by diving in and writing the book.
DE: How did you choose which places to include?
MR: Given the origin of the Big Gray Man legend, that portion of the book naturally had to be set in Scotland, whose lonely, misty highlands provide a fantastically eerie backdrop for surreal horror. Having been to similar areas in England and Wales, and having stood atop those wind-whipped peaks, I felt I could make it quite authentic, and visceral. The other featured locations, rural New York and Los Angeles, are also drawn from real-life familiarity. I’m actually from Los Angeles.
DE: Where there any episodes you decided to delete? How did you make those decisions?
MR: In editing a manuscript, necessary deletions for me have always made themselves starkly visible, especially after some time has passed. Anything that makes you shake your head at yourself has obviously gotta go. “This runs on way too long”, or “Wow, I can say this in one sentence in lieu of four”, or, sometimes even, “What the hell was I talking about?” In The Prince of Earth, I didn’t cut any specific episode as much as I cut extraneous passages. In all, I probably slashed a good chapter’s worth of material from the whole manuscript. It’s very cathartic to highlight that textual lard and strike “Delete”. Ah…so much cleaner.
DE: Do you enjoy moving between short fiction and long fiction? Do you prefer one or the other?
MR: I enjoy both, though I like the emotional investment of novels, and the high sense of accomplishment on completing a tangible draft: suddenly, this massive world of yours exists. My short stories tend to be high concept, or idea-based, while my novels are more psychological, more character-oriented. I’m grateful I don’t have Stephen King’s problem of wanting to turn every short story into a novel — with a single exception, when an idea hits me, I know whether it wants to be short or long.
DE: What are you working on now?
MR: I just finished the first draft of Book One of an admittedly ambitious science-fantasy called Knights Immortal, whose two books altogether span humanity’s prehistoric past and technological future. I’m also just beginning the early stages of collaboration with bestselling author Aiden James, on the third installment of his Talisman Chronicles.
I have another novel, Negative Space, due out August 17th, also from Curiosity Quills Press. It’s probably one of the less-classifiable novels I’ve done. It’s a thriller, it’s philosophical, and it’s about modern art, among other things. But I love the interstitial stuff.
The wilderness began only feet beyond Ballater. As soon as she reached the other side of the bridge, Quincy felt as though she’d entered some kind of portal. Something thrived out here, something she hadn’t felt before even during recent travels: an unseen, extra dimension to everything, time itself having become snared and congealed in this tight wood-web. She could feel it everywhere far and immediate, felt it beneath her soles, could taste its ancient flavor on the wind that chilled her skin.
For several hundred yards, she followed the gray flow of the Dee until the flanking broadleaf and pine trees grew in numbers and gradually led her away from all sights and sounds of the river and Ballater. Soon, there were only the dark Caledonian branches scrawled against the wet sheet of clouds.
There doesn’t seem to be anyone else out here.
It’s reserved for you and for you only.
The mist was bunched-up, a ghostly-gray impression of the foliage. Quincy increased her pace but made an effort to notice all this around her, this ancient eerie beauty she, for a long time, might not see again in person. Somewhere in her memory the Child knocked elbow and fist to be released, to play Hobbit, to play Knight, to engage The Quest.
Almost an hour into the forest, the trail lost distinction though there was steady enough clearing to press on. To both sides the woods drew long and dense, cutting into slivers the pale light from the murky glaucoma sky.
She wanted to leave the forest well behind her in time for her first night out in the Cairngorms. This wouldn’t be difficult, though it did extend farther than she expected.
Quincy alighted on a large boulder, rested and took two gulps of water. Hunger squirmed deep within but she was still too keyed up, still too apprehensive, to eat.
In the silence of these woods, the motion of anything else was downright loud, and she turned instantly at the hasty crackling approach of a large creature that had taken off at full speed. She watched the graceful cursive of this thing as it bounded through the trees, its blurred shadow-form a connective ribbon across the trunks. She thought there might be more but there was only one, and the lone deer stopped on the other edge of the haggard trail not fifty yards from her, trying to compose itself though fear persisted in its sad jeweled eyes and jittering muscles.
What spooked it?
Quincy turned again in the direction from which it’d come but there was nothing. Or the appearance of nothing—the trees were apt conspirators. She understood the phenomenon of panicking in the woods—the arresting terror of an unknown source—because it twitched in her now, as it had in the deer.
And, of course, it wasn’t just the woods. Mountaineers, in open expanse, had known such a soul-deep paralysis. They were bad memories evolution had buried far but never thrown away, perhaps.
Quincy slipped from the rock and the deer took off again, its sight lost long before its sounds. After the sounds died, Quincy’s loneliness grew, as did the stirrings of panic, but she kept focused as she pressed on. In time, the trees became fewer and fewer, giving way to larger quantities of mountain willow scrub and long whispering grass, the earth itself on marked ascent towards the further vast tundra of the naked highlands.
Uphill for a stretch, the terrain eventually flattened some, and the valley extended before her in a great yawning bowl. The pass was a cold vast swath stretching into blue mists beyond which lay things ancient even to prehistory, and it was flanked by massive peaks sweeping up like a stone tide, an earthen wave parted to biblical proportions. Rocks dotted the ground between the yellow wind-slanted grass.
The solitude was thrilling and terrifying.
She walked until dusk.
Mike Robinson has been writing since age 7, when his story Aliens In My Backyard! became a runaway bestseller, topping international charts (or maybe that was also just a product of his imagination).
He has since published fiction in a dozen magazines, literary anthologies and podcasts. His debut novel, Skunk Ape Semester, released by Solstice Publishing, was a Finalist in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
Currently he’s the managing editor of Literary Landscapes, the official magazine of the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (glaws.org). His supernatural mystery novel The Green-Eyed Monster was published in 2012 by Curiosity Quills Press, followed up by the newly-released horror novel, The Prince of Earth.
Mike Robinson’s Amazon Author Page:
The Prince of Earth
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Skunk Ape Semester
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The Green-Eyed Monster
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