Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Conversation with Laurence MacNaughton

Omnimystery News: Author Interview
with Laurence MacNaughton

We are delighted to welcome novelist Laurence MacNaughton to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of AuthorsOnTheWeb.

Laurence is the author of the supernatural thriller Conspiracy of Angels (NLA Digital Liaison Platform, June 2012 ebook).

We recently had a chance to talk to the author about his new book. And Laurence is giving one of our readers a chance to win a copy of Conspiracy of Angels; details below.

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Omnimystery News: In our introduction above, we called Conspiracy of Angels a "supernatural thriller". Is that an accurate description?

Laurence MacNaughton
Photo provided courtesy of
Laurence MacNaughton

Laurence MacNaughton: The truth is, Conspiracy of Angels has gotten five stars from reviewers who came right out and said they didn't know what genre to call it. Seems like everyone I talk to says, "I don't normally read books like this." ("This" meaning thrillers, or science fiction, or noir, or whatever.) Then they read Conspiracy of Angels and gush about it.

So here's what I tell people: if you like spooky action, if you like weird science and ancient mysteries, if you like complex characters caught up in heart-wrenching trouble, then you'll love Conspiracy of Angels.

OMN: One of the first rules of any writing class seems to be, "Write what you know". How much of you is in your book?

LM: "Write what you know" is good advice. But better advice would be "Write what you feel." If there's one thing that hooks me on a story, it's the moment I start rooting for a character to win. So when I write, I work hard to create characters you can root for, and give them trouble you're not sure they can handle. Then I turn up the heat.

If you don't care about Mitch and Geneva by the end of Chapter 1, then I've failed you with this story, and I don't mind if you stop reading. But judging from the reviews, people care. And they care deeply.

Recently, a reader talked about how Geneva lost her parents to the Archangel, and now she's on a mission to destroy it by any means necessary. Action-packed? Definitely. But then the reader went on to say that Geneva "also showed a soft side that I appreciated and felt was natural and realistic to the situation. Her bond with Mitch was my favorite part of the book. It wasn't romantic. It was something more."

OMN: How did you go about developing the characters and the storyline? Do you like to plot everything out in advance, or let it evolve as you write? How much research to you do before putting ideas to paper?

LM: I have two raging opposite writers trapped inside me: the one who meticulously plans out everything, and the one who takes an idea and runs with it into the blind unknown. Over the years, I've found that I can't give in too much to one side or the other. I have to find a balance between the extremes.

That's the art of writing. A constant negotiation, back and forth, left-brain and right-brain, until the book achieves a natural equilibrium. When a story feels right, structurally, and yet it still surprises you and moves you, then I know it's done.

I like to do a lot of hands-on research. Probably the freakiest part of my research was when one of my trucks exploded.

I don't mean a weird noise and a puff of smoke. I mean a grenade-like BOOM, followed a few seconds later by a raging ball of fire. Luckily, no one was injured. It was a prototype vehicle, and my job at the time was to test the whole fleet. Sometimes to the point of destruction.

The driving scenes in Conspiracy of Angels? Inspired by real-life experience behind the wheel. The shooting? Went to a gunnery range. Obviously, there are some things I can't experience first-hand, so I turn to the experts. I did a lot of studying up on near-death experiences (wasn't too keen on getting any first-hand experience there, thank you). I studied up on particle physics, history, even Biblical prophecies. My brain is now so full, I don't think I can read another book.

Kidding. Obviously, I can read the next James Rollins novel.

OMN: Were you always attracted to action/adventure-type books? Are these the kinds of books you read as a child?

LM: As a kid, probably my biggest literary influences were Heinlein, H.P. Lovecraft and the old Tom Swift books. (Anybody remember those?) Then, when I was 12 years old, I discovered the Orbit series of anthologies edited by Damon Knight. Those stories took science fiction in mind-expanding new directions, often setting them in the real here-and-now world.

I loved that idea, that there could be stories set in our world about forces just beyond what we know as "real."

Then in college, I met an African storyteller who helped me realize that the best stories are truly universal. That they address moments in life we all experience. First love. Struggles with our identity. Death of a loved one. Redemption.

When I write, I put as much "real life" in there as I can. I once had a neighbor who barbecued in his bathrobe. It cracked me up. So I put that moment in the book, right on page one.

OMN: What about today? What kinds of books to you read for enjoyment?

LM: I'm a big fan of the old pulps. Whenever I find a collection of old dime-novel stories, I can't resist picking it up. Maybe that's where I get all of my tough-talking characters.

A lot of famous authors started out writing pulp fiction: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Raymond Chandler, Zane Grey, Dashiell Hammett, Jack London, H.P. Lovecraft, Erle Stanley Gardner and so many more.

Personally, I think ebooks are the modern iteration of the dime novel. Cheap, portable, popular, often quick to read. I suspect we're seeing a whole new generation of tomorrow's biggest writers getting their start in ebooks today.

OMN: What are your hobbies or interests outside of writing?

LM: My wife and I live in Colorado, and we love to hike in the Rocky Mountains. Sometimes, we'll explore the remains of ghost towns and abandoned gold and silver mines. They have a silent beauty in their own way, but also a haunting quality that really informed parts of Conspiracy of Angels.

OMN: You mentioned that a reader really connected with one of your characters. What else have readers told you?

LM: It's funny, you'd be amazed how many people ask me if I believe in angels. And I feel like saying, "Did you read the whole book?"

I always love hearing from readers. I like it when they ask me what "really" happened at the end. And I tell them it's all right there on the page, if you read it carefully.

OMN: Give us a Top 5 list on any topic.

LM: How about this: Top 5 Weird Facts that inspired Conspiracy of Angels.

Fact #1: Scientific studies are now showing us that someone might be "dead" as we know it, without any brain activity at all, and yet still be conscious. And further, if they're resuscitated, they can sometimes retain memories of events that happened after they technically died.

Fact #2: Recently, scientists have discovered new life forms living in areas we thought were completely dead, such as bacteria living in pores in Antarctic rock, or thriving in volcanic vents at temperatures hot enough to sterilize lab equipment.

Fact #3: A team of scientists has created a high-tech coating made of carbon nanotubes that can absorb light in a certain wavelength, potentially making an object invisible.

Fact #4: The Tunguska Event was an explosion in 1908 that leveled nearly a thousand square miles of Siberian forest, and we still don't know for sure what caused it — or if it could happen again.

Fact #5: In the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel describes a sweeping wind and light coming down from the heavens, and strange creatures coming out of the light to invade the world and try to extinguish the human race.

How do these weird facts all fit together in my book? I'll give you a hint. As I was writing, I asked myself three questions: What kind of life forms could exist at the far end of the spectrum of death? How could we study them — or protect ourselves against them? What if the Book of Ezekiel wasn't just a religious text, but a warning from an ancient witness to a Tunguska-like event?

And the answers became Conspiracy of Angels.

OMN: What's next for you? A sequel? A completely different book genre?

LM: Although it's true that Conspiracy of Angels is a self-contained story, I'd love to turn it into a series, if I can find enough fans to support it. (So if you like this book, please tell your friends!) There are so many more secrets I want to reveal about the characters, the Conspiracy, and above all, the Archangel. More ancient mysteries, more prophecies, more weird science — I wish I could talk about it, but it's top secret for now.

In the meantime, I'm finishing my next (stand-alone) novel, and I'll be releasing some short stories soon on my website.

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Laurence MacNaughton's articles and stories have appeared in Writers' Journal, The Rocky Mountain Writer, Pyramid Magazine, Cabal Asylum, The Inkwell, Noir Journal and SF Signal. He teaches fiction writing at For more information about the author and his book, please visit his website at

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Conspiracy of Angels by Laurence MacNaughton

Conspiracy of Angels
Laurence MacNaughton

Just out of prison, ex-convict Mitch Turner is determined to put his life back on track and find out the truth about his daughter's mysterious death. But when his daughter's best friend, Geneva, discovers a cryptic piece of top-secret technology, the two of them are thrust into the cross-hairs of a deadly living weapon.

It's known only by a code name: Archangel. It's fast, invulnerable, inhuman. And its next target is Mitch.

But the Archangel is more than just a relentless killer. It's a gatekeeper of the dangerous boundary that divides this world from the next. And it's Mitch's only chance of learning the dark truth about his daughter's fate.

Outnumbered, outgunned and on the run, Mitch and Geneva race to outsmart an elite force determined to silence them. Can they uncover the conspiracy before the Archangel unleashes its deadly secret on all of humanity? Print and/or Kindle Edition  Barnes&Noble Print Edition and/or Nook Book  Apple iTunes iBookstore  Kobo eBooks

For a chance to win a copy of Conspiracy of Angels, courtesy of AuthorsOnTheWeb, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Laurence MacNaughton: Conspiracy of Angels" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code — 9239 — for a chance to win! (One entry per person. Contest ends October 24th, 2012.)


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