Michael Boatman spends his days and nights pretending to be other people. For a living.
He’s acted in television shows – China Beach, Spin City, ARLI$$, Anger Management, Instant Mom,The Good Wife – films – Hamburger Hill, The Glass Shield, Bad Parents – and Broadway plays.
After many years in his chosen profession he’s decided to chuck it all and seek his fortune as a writer. (Just kidding. He secretly dreams of changing the world as a talkative mime.)
I asked Michael a few questions about his new book, Who Wants to Be the Prince of Darkness!
Kristin Centorcelli: Will you tell us about your new book, Who Wants to Be the Prince of Darkness?
Michael Boatman: Who Wants to Be the Prince of Darkness? is the story of Manray Mothershed, the world’s hottest self-help guru, who finds himself embroiled in a battle between humanity and the unleashed forces of Hell. When Manray discovers that he’s been unfairly damned to spend eternity in Hell, he must find a way to triumph over the evil archangel Gabriel. Gabriel, now Hell’s ruler, has launched a diabolical ploy to steal thousands of mortal souls and replace them with demons. Using television as his weapon of choice, Gabriel unifies all the different regions of Hell and brings them under the leadership of his Vast Society, creating a rising superpower comprised of upwardly mobile demons, patriotic fallen gods and socially ambitious monsters. To save his own immortal soul, Manray must find a way to defeat Gabriel’s Great Ascension.
However, Manray is only a mortal man with a price on his head. He needs someone who knows the ins and outs of demonic combat. Enter Lucifer: the former ruler of Hell, now retired, living in the body of a mortal and slowly losing his mind.
KC: Was it easier to write a second book, after Last God Standing, since you’ve already built your “world” or was it a challenge?
MB: Who Wants to Be the Prince of Darkness? was the most difficult story I’ve ever attempted, because I was limited by the rules and conventions I’d begun in Last God Standing. Yuri Kalashnikov (Lucifer) has a very specific history, and certain unavoidable limitations. For example, in Last God Standing, I repeatedly stated that Lucifer was, essentially powerless. He might have kept a few dirty tricks up his sleeve but I couldn’t suddenly make him all-powerful in Prince of Darkness, so that limited the amount of magic he could deploy to get them out of a tricky situation. And what powers he did possess had to be strictly accounted for. But a story about demons without magic is no fun at all, so the magic had to come from other sources, some new and a few that were established in the first book.
Another challenge was deciding whose story this was going to be. I struggled for months with perspectives and identity.
In Who Wants to be the Prince of Darkness, Lucifer’s time of power has come and gone, but Gabriel has found crafty new ways to create havoc on Earth, so a fresh protagonist was necessary. The strange damnation of Manray Mothershed provided the perfect vehicle for creating an alternate Lucifer, someone close enough to the original but with a fresh perspective on the struggle at the heart of the story.
KC: What kind of research did you do for this book?
MB: I’ve always been a mythology lover, and so I took a great deal of inspiration from the tales of various dark gods and popular versions of Hell from the Greeks and the Norse stories. I read up on dark gods from Voudou and Native American pantheons and reread Dante’s Inferno. I loved the idea of recasting the Nine Circles as a kind of stand-in for a unified Hell, one comprised of all the other versions of Hell we know from mythology, the Old Testament and popular movies.
KC: For you, what makes a good story? Is there anything that will make you put a book down, unfinished?
MB: For me, a great story is one in which the protagonist faces unimaginable odds; where the stakes are high that failure constitutes a disaster. I also love a story that balances pace with detail. As an actor I’m always interested in dialogue, the way the characters speak to each other. I also enjoy a bit of humor, especially when it’s unexpected. The only thing that makes me put down a book is if the characters are boring, or the situations aren’t fraught with the potential for some great change or. I don’t mind if an author torments his protagonist, but I do expect a decent payoff in the end.
KC: What’s next for you?
MB: I just published a short story collection, 13: A Collection of Horror and Weird Fiction, over at Crossroad Press. Currently, I’m kicking around some ideas about what stories I want to focus on next. But honestly, after the strain of Prince of Darkness, I’m waiting to see what pops out of the machinery. I love stories about artificial intelligence, and post-humanity, so I’m thinking along those lines.