It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Mac Altgelt, author of In The Beast’s Cage.
About Mac Altgelt:
Mac Altgelt is a risk management executive and investor in Texas. He is also a writer, short-film maker, musician, composer, and world traveler. In music, he’s released two full-length albums and two Eps. He is the author of one humour book entitled,101 Tips and Revelations from a Modern Day Cynic(Black Rose Writing, 2017). This is his debut novel. Altgelt is married to his wife (and muse), Alejandra, and has two children, Sophia (3) and Otto (1).
About In The Beast’s Cage:
Harbouring a dark secret from his past, immortal Lord Blake from medieval England arrives mysteriously in a sleepy coastal town in Georgia, USA. There he meets Hugo Wegener, an ex-doctor who is burdened with his own dark secret, and life-long resident Ginny Harrison, who is involved in her aging father’s absurd dream of refurbishing and reopening the town’s long-defunct zoo.
As Blake’s relationship with Ginny blooms, he finds himself involved in the insane zoo project and, when Bruce Kelly, an exotic game smuggler from South Africa, arrives in town on the eve of the grand reopening with a plan to rid the zoo of its valuable animal species, it is up to Blake, Hugo, and the old man to stop him, without revealing the terrible secrets of their pasts.
Author Interview with Mac Altgelt:
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- What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
I can name far more over-appreciated novels than under. That being said, I believe the greatest modern novels of our century are sitting unread in file cabinets, publishers and agents alike unwilling to give them any due consideration because of their previously uncredited, or simply inexperienced, authors. It breaks my heart to think so, and I think we have a real duty to right this wrong. I have always maintained that great writers of the past like Marcel Proust would have no hope of being published in today’s market, and what a loss to the world that would be. It is a terrible sin to deprive humanity of something so profound and beautiful.
- As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
The Raven, and for two reasons: 1) Edgar Allen Poe was one of my favorite poets growing up. His work is perhaps my very earliest inspiration and I recite his poems to my children still today while putting them to sleep. 2) It is an enormously intelligent animal, and I think that humanizes it to a certain degree, allowing it to be in some ways part of the civilization and culture from which all literature is naturally derived.
- What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
I could not even name them if they do exist. I know my characters are patchwork creations encompassing traits from various people in my real life, however, I cannot place them with any degree of specificity. They are each in themselves a study of humanity at large, and none are based squarely upon any individual from my life. She may have your smile, or laugh, but she is also imbued with another’s will, determination, or talent, and still another’s hair color or mannerisms. She is all of you.
- How do you select the names of your characters?
I base them on common names as they relate to certain regions, cultures, or time periods which my characters occupy. In some works, I use anagrams, amalgamations, or homonyms that can be interpreted by the clever reader to reveal secrets about the characters themselves that are not explicitly stated in the text.
- Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
There are thematic elements and symbolism throughout the text, hidden meanings in character names, etc. I do wonder whether or not readers will be able to discern these things when they are reading. I guess only time will tell. More importantly, I wonder what they might discover that I did NOT intend. This is perhaps more of interest to me than that which I consciously constructed and laid out before them.
- What was your hardest scene to write?
There is a seen in the zoo between the old man and Blake. I have always described this scene to my wife as the “most important in the whole book”. I don’t want to give it away, but we learn more secrets about the characters’ pasts, and are then introduced to what might be their future. All the elements of the narrative come together here, and motives are revealed, steeped in symbolism. I still worry today that I did not do adequate justice to this scene, important as it was. I suppose the readers will judge for themselves.
- Describe your writing space.
It is my home study. It is full of book shelves, musical instruments, recording equipment, and art. It is half study, and half recording studio. I was a musician more than a writer for many years, and I still write and record a great deal of music today. My space is conducive to all of my creative endeavors. The walls are filled with paintings by my artist friends, the book shelves are full of classic fiction, and the musical equipment fills in all the rest, ready at any moment to be called into action should the inspiration strike!
- Is there lots to do before you dive in and start writing the story?
Not really. As a writer, I am what is often referred to as a “planter”. As a result, very little is planned out beforehand. I typically do a short 1–2-page outline consisting of bullet points that serves as a general overview and direction for the story, as well as laying out where I ultimately want it to end up. Each bullet point typically lends itself to a full chapter in the text itself. How it gets from A to B, however, is ultimately as surprising to me as it would be to the reader.
- What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?
That I could do it at all. I truly never thought I had a novel in me. Now, I understand that I have several! That was very surprising to me, as I had never had ambition as a novelist, mainly because I thought I couldn’t do it.
- What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?
The process of writing a full-length novel is incredibly drawn-out and demanding. One of the initial challenges for any new writer is very simply to not allow the scope of the project to intimidate you. When viewed in its totality, it seems a nearly impossible feat. To overcome this, I broke it down in pieces and just started writing. This way, I was not working on something impossible and never-ending. The goal was always in sight, and attainable. Then, piece by piece, suddenly you have a whole novel.