Michael Pang - The Author Who Wrote The Ending To His Own Nightmare
Author Michael Pang juggles a demanding career, loving family and volunteer work while still somehow managing to cram in time for writing. In this interview we talk to him about his love for paranormal fiction and how his dreams influence his gripping stories.
Give us a short summary of In the Eyes of Madness
In the Eyes of Madness is an origins story of a young exorcist. When Declan Peters was seven years old, his mother tried to drown him in a swimming pool. Now as a recent high school graduate, he takes a job at the asylum that his mother resides. Throughout his life, very strange and supernatural things happen all around him. He’s always been in denial, because he was afraid that he had inherited his mother’s psychosis. Through a series of encounters of unexplainable events, he discovers the secret behind his birth that launches him into the world of Demons and Exorcists.
In the Eyes of Madness is your debut novel. How does it feel?
It feels surreal. I’ve always been a good storyteller. With English as a second language, I’ve been hesitant on putting the stories down on paper. When I finally released the book last year, it was exciting, but scary at the same time. I didn’t know what reader’s reactions would be. After about a year, I’ve been pretty satisfied with a majority of the reviews.
How did the idea for the book originate?
I guess I would say that the idea of my novel came to me in a somewhat mystical way. About four years ago, my wife and I had our first baby. Months of sleepless nights went by and we both looked like zombies. Then, one night a very strange dream (more like a nightmare) came to me about a teenager working in a mental asylum. The patients there were all gaunt and ghastly with very abrupt demeanor changes. Some of the things the patients were doing were fairly odd and supernatural (like levitating, retrieving objects via telekinesis, and speaking with multi-vocal projections). And I remember wondering to myself, are these people all just insane or demon possessed. Then the teenager went into a room and called the patient residing in the room, “mom.” She turned around abruptly, and the expression on her face was terrifying as she pounced on him. I woke up immediately. As shaken from the dream as I was, I couldn’t help wanting to find out what happened to the teenager. I tried to go back to sleep in hopes of getting the dream to continue. But it didn’t work. The next morning, I told my wife about the strange dream and how I had hoped that it had continued when I went back to sleep. So my wife told me that it sounded like it would make an excellent novel and that I should write my own ending. And I did.
For a YA novel, the book might seem a little too dark. However, I wanted the book to carry that dark feeling that I had when I had that nightmare. At the same time, I’m just a huge fan of YA novels. So, this was my way of incorporating the two.
While working as a mechanical engineer, project manager, being a dad and being involved in your local church - how on earth did you make time to write?
It is definitely not easy. Every chance I get to squeeze in a quality five to ten minutes here and there, I take full advantage of it. I was pretty lucky that when I was writing my first book. I was traveling a lot for work. As someone, who usually cannot sleep unless I’m in my own bed, I spent many insomniac nights in hotel rooms writing. Unfortunately, I had changed jobs since the end of 2014 and the luxury of sleepless hotel nights eludes me.
How much do your personal background and worldview influence your writing?
Well, as a devout Christian, the book is bound to have a Christian undertone. Especially, when dealing with the supernatural. As a Christian, I write in the book the only way I know how to deal with Demons. Although, throughout most of my years as a teenager, I had been an atheist, and therefore, I decided that my teenage protagonist would be one as well.
Your main character, Declan, struggles with finding his true identity. Do you think that is something that is prevalent in our world today?
I think that in a way, this is a phase that everyone must go through in life. Throughout my college years, I had spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I was the way that I am. Why do I feel a certain way about certain issues? The answers usually lie in the way I was brought up, my cultural background, or some incident that had occurred in my life. All of these things give us our identity. It is through the understanding of these things that we can truly define ourselves and live our lives to the fullest.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I get to pursue my passion and share it with the world! And I love to read. It’s definitely one of my favorite pastimes. The thought that my writing could also bring joy and entertainment to others brings me great fulfillment.
In the Eyes of Madness contains many twists that readers don't see coming. Did you plan them all out before writing the book?
Some of the plot was planned before I started writing, but as most of my inspiration comes from dreams, I found that the story tended to unfold itself to me as I continued to write.
Winter Garden, one of the settings of the book.
Your book is fast-paced, keeping readers at the edge of their seats all of the time. What is your secret to pulling that off?
YA Paranormal novels need to have action. And in addition to the action, it needs to slowly reveal hidden secrets to the reader. And moreover, cliffhangers at the end of each chapter. At least, that’s what usually keeps me reading. I would read an interesting novel, and I’d look at the clock. “Dang it! It’s already 11:30 pm! Oh all right, I’ll just finish this chapter and go to bed. WHAT? A Cliff hanger??! But I have to know what happens! Maybe just one more chapter… WHAT??? Another cliffhanger!!??”
Your book has a strong Christian theme, but even non-Christian readers have enjoyed it. How did you manage to keep it from being "too preachy"?
As I had mentioned before, the protagonist is an atheist. But, I won’t lie, the book does favor Christian views. I mean, how can it not? I’m Christian. At the end of the day, I feel that Christian novels can be too preachy if the end goal of the book is to try to convert the reader. And there is a place and time for that … non-fiction books. As a novelist, my goal is to present an intriguing story.
Your book also explores the theme of a mother abusing her son. What inspired you to do so?
Well, it was just something that occurred in the nightmare I had. My relationship with my mother is great and has always been great. I think one of the greatest fears I’ve ever had as a child was the thought of losing my mother or if my mother no longer loved me. I’ve always thought that my Dad had favored my brother growing up, so the thought of losing my mother’s love felt like the worst thing that could happen. I would then have no one else in my life who loved me. Of course, that was just some silly thoughts going through the mind of a child. How could I have thought that my dad and brother didn’t love me? But nonetheless, it must have contributed to why I wrote the book the way I did.
Which novelists do you admire? Why?
I’m a big paranormal fiction fan. A few of my favorite writers are Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Cassandra Clare, and Rick Riordan. Jim Butcher has definitely influenced some of the ways I write my fight scenes in the book as his books are always so packed with supernatural action. And Simon R. Green always has such witty characters that are very unique. And Cassandra Clare and Rick Riordan simply have a way of creating a world that draws you in. These are all amazing writers and I really hope that one day I can attain their level of excellence.
What do you hope that readers will take away from In the Eyes of Madness? Do you have an underlying message?
Declan goes through a transformation in the book that frees him from the baggage that he had been carrying around for 10 years. I’m sure that there is always something about yourself that you are self-conscious about or you don’t like (whether it is something that has happened in your past or something about yourself physically). And sometimes, you can get obsessed about it so much that it consumes you. But learning to like yourself for who you are and how you got there is probably one of the most freeing experiences of your life. Are you working on a new book right now? I’m currently working on three different book series… I’m still working on book 2 of the Declan Peters Chronicles. Working title is In the Heart of Truth. This book will reveal many secrets as to who Declan really is and why he seem to have such abilities. But didn’t I already reveal that he’s P-born in book one??? Yes! But he’s so much more…
A second book series that I’m currently working on is about the Hunters. Yes, I know. I mentioned the hunters briefly in my debut novel, and at the end you found out that there might be something linking Declan’s mother and the Hunters, well … you might not find that link in the first book of this new series (you just might in book 2 of the Declan Peters Chronicles), but Declan will make an appearance! Throughout this series, Declan, and the main character of this Hunters series, Adam, will cross paths many times.
And as for my last book series, it will be an origins series. This series explores the origin of the demons starting with the first Nephilim. How does the world get from one Nephilim, to a point where they become a civilization so corrupt that God is willing to wipe out most of the world to eliminate? Yes, all three series are tightly wound together. Characters will invade one another’s stories. CRAZY right?!
Where can readers interact with you or find more of your work?
Readers can visit my book’s website http://intheeyesofmadness.com to drop me a message or catch the latest news on the book series. Alternately, readers can also catch me on twitter, http://www.twitter.com/michaelkcpang.