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Posted February 20, 2013 by Amy in Books
 
 

Hunting Hybrids: An Interview With Marcus MacGregor

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Marcus MacGregor’s new book, Wade Boss: Hybrid Hunter, puts the style back into doing it cowboy style. The main character, Wade Boss, counts wrangling tigers and chasing deadly hybrids as all in a day’s work. Today, we’ll chat with MacGregor about his work as a teacher, what inspires him, and what the future holds for Wade Boss.

Tell us a bit about your book, Wade Boss: Hybrid Hunter.

Well, the tag line on the back cover is “Dangerous New World. Old-Fashioned Hero.” That’s really the controlling image. Wade Boss is the kind of action hero that I loved reading about when I was a young man: brave and capable, but also good-hearted, with a sense of humor. He’s an animal trainer who works in Hollywood, but he comes from Texas, and he’s cut from the cloth of the American cowboy.

When the story opens, Wade gets a call from the LAPD to help capture an escaped tiger that has made its way into an old lady’s garage. Except that when Wade finally corners the animal, it turns out not to be a normal tiger, but a half-tiger, hybrid monster. By the skin of his teeth Wade captures the creature alive, and this puts him on the radar of a covert, government hybrid-hunting agency.

Wade learns that this hybrid phenomenon is a growing problem, unbeknownst to the general public. Each hybrid is unique, and no one knows who is creating them – or setting them loose. Wade soon realizes that he has a special talent for catching the creatures, but his moonlighting as a hybrid hunter quickly throws his comfortable life into disarray. He keeps trying to back out of the whole crazy business, but his highly-tuned conscience won’t let him rest as long as innocent lives are in danger.

So it’s principally an action-adventure story, but with a lot of subtlety and humor layered in – and even some romance.

You taught English at the middle and high school level; how has your extensive experience with teens influenced your writing style?

More than anything, my experience has taught me that young adults today want and need the same things they always have. The world may constantly be changing, but people are still people. Everybody needs hope and reasons to hang on when life is tough. Heroes help us find the courage to do that. They give us something to shoot for, an example to strive for.

Nobody really wants to hear that you should just take the easy way out. People want to see that it’s possible to hang in there through tough times – that it’s worth it in the end to do the right thing, even if it means some temporary frustration. A lot of books and movies these days tend to glorify darkness and depression because it’s “relatable.” But there’s a difference between acknowledging the crap in life and choosing to wallow in it.

Despair is easy. It’s choosing to remain hopeful that takes guts. Wade Boss certainly has his fair share of trouble, but he doesn’t let that turn him into a cynic.

 

What was the inspiration for Wade Boss, as a character?

There’s no single inspiration – Wade is sort of an amalgam of traits embodied by my many heroes. I’m a huge fan of the book Shane, by Jack Schaefer. There’s a bit of Shane in Wade, and also a little John Wayne. But of course Wade is also a man of today, with contemporary sensibilities. He’s a traditional kind of guy, but he’s not out of touch with the modern world. He’s very savvy, and certainly nobody’s fool.

In order to plausibly make Wade the “indispensable man” with regards to capturing hybrids, he had to be uniquely qualified. I thought that making him the son of a circus tiger-trainer would be a cool angle, so I did some research to make sure that there was a real-world precedent. It turns out that there indeed are families who have made tiger-training a generational, family profession. There are even some fifth-generation trainers out there. So Wade’s personal history is not only plausible, it’s actual.

The hybrids themselves are not such a farfetched idea. As you mention in the book, the science to create the creatures mentioned in the book is being developed. How did this knowledge affect the path of your story?

Well, I like my science fiction to revolve around science that’s on the verge of becoming non-fiction. When a certain technology is imminent, I think it makes a story that much more engaging. And when there are potential dangers that could very well impact your own life, the sense of jeopardy is super-charged. For better or worse, that’s where we’re at when it comes to engineering hybrid animals: the technology is science-fiction only in the sense that it’s in its infancy.

The thing about genetic experiments is that you don’t need lots of huge expensive equipment – like a nuclear reactor, or a Hadron collider – to conduct them. New forms of hybrid animals are being created very quietly every year behind closed doors in laboratories right here in the U.S. As far as we know, none of those hybrids is as terrifying or dangerous as the ones Wade Boss has to tackle. But in theory, those kind of animals are possible to create.

So rogue genetic engineering really lent itself to my story, because it meant that the bad guys could operate in the shadows and stay one step ahead of Wade and his fellow hybrid hunters.

Wade Boss: Hybrid Hunter is a curious mix of science fiction and old school western, with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure. How difficult was it to blend such different genres into one cohesive story?

Crafting a story is like any other labor of love: it takes a lot of elbow-grease to turn out something decent. But blending different genres for Wade Boss wasn’t especially difficult per se, because they are already swirling around together in my imagination anyway. It’s a challenge to do anything artfully, but to my mind, the genre mashup in Wade Boss seemed very natural.

With its fast paced action and larger than life characters, Wade Boss: Hybrid Hunter reads a bit like an action movie. Do you have any aspirations of taking Wade Boss to the big screen, or is he a character best suited to the pages of a book?

Seeing the Wade Boss saga come to life on the big screen would be fantastic, and it’s always something I’m thinking about. It’s an inherently cinematic story. At this precise moment, however, I’m devoting my energies to making the books the best they can be. But sure, potential movies are always in my thinking.

Wade Boss: Hybrid Hunter is the first book in a series of four. Can you give us a taste of what the future holds in store for Wade Boss?

Well, I’m up to my eyeballs writing the second book, Wade Boss: Agent of Mercy. There’s a year that transpires between the end of Book 1 and the beginning of Book 2. When we pick up with Wade again, the new Genetic Anomalies Task Center is nearing completion, and a lot of new agents have been hired on. Wade has a lot of new responsibilities, as well. In addition to being a hybrid hunter, he’s also the principal voice for these voiceless creatures. His mission in life is to see that they are apprehended unharmed, and then treated with respect.

The relationships that began in Book 1 become much more fully developed, and that’s just as exciting to me as the action sequences. And of course the heat is on to figure out who is creating and unleashing the hybrids in the first place.

Do you have any words of advice to offer to aspiring writers?

To aspiring writers I’d say that there’s never been a better time to consider becoming an author. Since the Gutenberg press, paradigm shifts in publishing have happened only once in a great while, usually on the heels of some technological breakthrough. But over the last ten years or so, we’ve experienced a “perfect storm” that almost defies belief. There has been not one, not two, but a dozen or so seismic shifts in mass media. Any one of them could qualify as a revolution, but taken together, they constitute something of a cataclysm – but in a good sense.

The Internet, email, YouTube, smart phones, tablet computers, eBooks, MP3 audio books, on-demand publishing,  social media… the list goes on. All of these phenomena have converged to create a playing field that is without precedent. Not only have the means of production been democratized, but now it is possible for Joe and Jane citizen to reach a worldwide audience without the need for a major publishing house.

You simply do not need anyone’s permission anymore to write a novel and reach your target readership. That’s not to say that it’s easy to go it alone. It’s just that for the first time in history, it’s actually possible. And that’s extremely good news, for authors and readers alike.

And finally, what was your favorite book as a teen? What about it appealed to you the most, as a young reader?

Boy, that’s a tough one! But if by “favorite” you mean the one I spent the most hours carrying around and re-reading, I’d have to say Robin Hood. There are two versions I love equally, one by Howard Pyle and the other by Roger Lancelyn Green.

I used to climb up into this huge maple tree in my front yard and just read those books over and over. Robin was the archetypal hero I wanted to be like. Even when he was on the ropes, he always maintained a hopeful, optimistic outlook. He taught me that it’s possible to fight evil without letting it make you miserable – that even when you’re outgunned and being pressed on all sides, you can still choose to be merry.

 

You can check out Marcus MacGregor’s website here to find out more about his latest projects. See our full review of Wade Boss: Hybrid Hunter here.


Amy

 
U.S. Senior Editor & Deputy EIC, @averyzoe on Twitter, mother of 5, gamer, reader, wife to @macanthony, and all-around bad-ass (no, not really)