Author Michael Hebler stops by TeamNerd to chat about what makes him such a big nerd, divulges what he was like in his school years, what inspired the idea behind his debut novel, Night of the Chupacabra and who would win a fight in a battle between Big Foot and the Chupacabra.
Annabell: At TeamNerd Reviews we are very proud of being nerds and love to let our Nerd Flag fly! Tell us about what makes you a nerd.
Michael Hebler: I think the day I became a bona fide nerd was Friday, May 27th, 1977, when my dad took me to see “Star Wars” for my birthday. Episode IV definitely directed my life regarding my interests in stories. I feel lucky to have experienced the original extravaganza that was “Star Wars” and had been old enough to remember it as well as I do.
Annabell: Do you like to collect anything?
Michael Hebler: Well, yes. Speaking of “Star Wars”, I was an avid collector when I was a child of all the toys and anything that had a “Star Wars” logo on it, and even picked up the hobby again in the 1990’s when the Power of the Force series was released. Unfortunately, I have now long given up on that hobby and have even sold a few items. It just became too expensive and time consuming.
Annabell: What were you like through your school years? Were you the awkward nerd or the cool nerd or the adorable nerd?
Michael Hebler: I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve always been what I call, “a closet nerd”. I don’t think anybody ever saw me as a “nerd” per se. I was definitely awkward being massively overweight all through my teenage years. I did my best to blend in as to not get picked on any more than I already did. I always thought I had a good sense of humor and usually used that to my advantage. People normally didn’t want to pick on somebody who made them laugh. Then I found theatre; where you’re pretty much accepted no matter who you are or what you look like. I guess you could say I became a “theatre geek”. I even have a college degree in the art that is proof.
Annabell: You’re a big fan of Westerns. What appeals to you so about the genre and what are your top favorite Westerns films and/or books?
Michael Hebler: I wasn’t always a fan of Westerns. Actually, I used to hate them until Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” was released. The moral dilemmas and focus on the darker side of humanity in a Western setting just intrigued me… not to mention that it is a damn fine film. I think in my older age I’ve learned to appreciate history more than I did as a student. The research I did on this era compelled my fascination and further comprehending its importance to our nation’s progression is just so much more enriching to me now. I’m still not a fan of the spaghetti Westerns but I have grown to appreciate a few of the better ones. As for other modern Westerns, I really liked “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”, the newer “3:10 to Yuma”, and I’m really excited for “Django Unchained”.
Annabell: You started writing screenplays. How do you approach writing a screenplay versus writing a full-length novel? Do you find writing one medium harder over the other? Do you prefer one over the other?
Michael Hebler: First, the two mediums are like night and day. I’ve always perceived writing scripts to be closer to poetry than prose because you have to find a condensed way of telling your story. Screenplays are typically 90 – 120 pages - unless you’re Quentin Tarantino or James Cameron - and that’s all you get, not to mention that Hollywood typically hates to read, so the more white you have on the page . . . the better. There are very few limitations when writing a full-length novel. And not saying that I enjoy one over the other, I do appreciate being able to give my reader every detail from my imagination with prose, which is forbidden in screenwriting. Things like backgrounds and inner-most thoughts are a big no-no; however I’ve written a screenplay in three days, which I could never do with a novel. My screenplays are still very useful as they are my comprehensive outlines for my novels. The plot, characters, arcs, themes, and most of the dialogue have already been worked out. Even if I write a novel that isn’t based on a script I’ve written, I still (and have) written the screenplay first to adapt from.
Annabell: Moving onto your book, Night of the Chupacabra. Give us a glimpse into the novel that isn’t found in the synopsis.
Michael Hebler: Hmm . . . well, I think those who read it will be shocked to discover that it really isn’t what it seems. Yes, it’s a horror/Western but it’s so much more than that. It is really about family and revenge and deception and making impossible choices. I think (and hope) readers will be pleasantly surprised to discover how character-driven the book is, which probably stems from all the character development I did while earning my theatre degree. The chupacabra is definitely not the only villain and the story really begs an answer to the age-old question, “Who is the monster and who is the man?” Plus I’ve planted a lot of fun little seeds for what is to come in the future of the series.
Annabell: Night of the Chupacabra didn’t start off as a full-length book. Originally, it was a screenplay entitled “Dark Sunrise” that dealt with a serial killer. You stated your first encounter was inspired by an article your roommate posed to the fridge then watched an episode on the X-Files. What was it about that article and episode that suddenly made you want to switch gears? Do you still have the article? (I would have framed it *wink*)
Michael Hebler: Wow! You’ve done your homework. Yes, it was originally going to be about one of the first (fictional) serial killers. Jack the Ripper was a serial killer in 1888 and I basically wanted to do the same but in an isolated Old West town. The story was coming along okay but it kept wanting to pull towards a creature feature as I was writing. I finally caved in creating a monster entirely made from my imagination. Then, as you stated, a roommate posted an article from the Orange County Register about a Mexican man blaming the death of his infant child on a “chupacabra”. This was the first I ever heard of the creature and the article probably stayed on our fridge for about a year. At the time, I thought nothing of it until I watched that now famous “X-Files” episode a couple years later, and based on the characteristics described in the show, I was amazed to find how many were identical to what I had already created, so I simply transitioned el Chupacabra into the starring role. As for the article, I do not have it. It was never mine to begin with.
Annabell: You entered “Dark Sunrise (which was then renamed to “El Chupacabra”) into various competitions and now that the book is finally ready (having been renamed again to Night of the Chupacabra), does publication the book and putting it out into the world feel as nerve-wracking as placing it a competition? Or does publishing a book have a bigger scope of pressure or maybe anxiety?
Michael Hebler: (laughing) You forgot one other renaming between “el Chupacabra” and “Night of the Chupacabra”, it was just called “Chupacabra”. I took the “el” out because I didn’t want readers to pass it up, thinking it was written in Spanish. As nerve-wracking as the competition circuit was, publishing has been a much heavier weight on my shoulders. It’s the difference between what a couple of judges think to what the entire world thinks, not to mention judges get paid to critique your work where book buyers are paying their hard-earned money to be entertained, and it is my job to provide that entertainment in the best way I possibly know how. That being said, the screenplay did make it to the producers’ desks at Atlas Media (The Dark Knight Series, Get Smart), that was a real nail-biting experience. But a first-time screenwriter would have a better chance of winning the national lottery than getting a film made in Hollywood. Plus, it didn’t help that it was a period piece, which always inflates a budget.
Annabell: You tend to get a variety of songs stuck in your head from time to time which ends up distracting from writing ;) Do you have any particular song stuck in your head now? What type of music or which songs help inspire you to write?
Michael Hebler: Okay, my answer to part one of this question is going to be very out of place, but I’ll have the perfect explanation as to why after I answer: the song currently stuck in my head is “Mr. Fezziwig’s Annual Christmas Ball” from the theatrical musical version of “A Christmas Carol”, and my perfect explanation is because I just finished doing a theatrical run of the show (yes, I still perform every once in a blue moon) playing Mr. Fezziwig. As for which songs/music help me write, it all depends on what I’m writing. When I was writing the screenplay “Dark Sunrise”, the one song that inspired me most was “Rattlesnake” by Live but just this last summer, when I was writing the first draft of the third chupacabra novel “Legend of the Chupacabra”, I played the Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds’ End score over and over because of the nautical elements in my story. I’ve also used the score from “Last of the Mohicans”.
Annabell: If there was a battle between the Chupacabra and Big Foot, who do you think would win?
Michael Hebler: The chupacabra would drain that b**** dry!
Annabell: Thank you to Author Michael Hebler for stopping by and the fun interview!
About the Author: As of October 17, 2012, Michael's debut novel, "Night of the Chupacabra" has become available and he is seeking reviews. Please contact if interested in receiving a free copy in exchange.
In addition to writing fiction, Michael also runs a blog, "My Little Obsessions" where he likes to muse about what distractions life has to offer. Michael, a life-long Southern California resident, is also an international publicist for feature films.
Where to Find the Author