Michael Bigham was raised in the Central Oregon mill town of Prineville beneath deep blue skies and rim rock, The town was off the main highway routes, so most of the folks in our county with either cowboys or loggers. Not fitting either category, Michael attended the University of Oregon and during his collegiate summers worked in a lumber mill and fought range fires on the Oregon High Desert for the Bureau of Land Management. After graduating from college, he swung from being a budding hippy to cop work. After leaving police work, he obtained an MFA degree in Creative Writing from Vermont College. Michael lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, daughter and a spunky bichon frise named Pumpkin.
Welcome Michael. We are excited to have you here. Can you please tell our readers a bit about yourself?
Sure. I grew up in a small logging and ranching community in Central Oregon. It’s a land of scenic vistas and a stark but beautiful landscape. After graduating from the University of Oregon, I drifted into police work and ended making it my career. During that time, I earned a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Portland. One of the nice things about being a cop was that I could retire early. I’d always been a writer, so after retiring, I attended the Vermont College of Fine Arts and obtained degree in Fiction.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing in the early 80s. Long before the Internet, computer geeks communicated through bulletin board systems accessed through dialup modems. One of the first in Oregon was the Backwater Message Service, a freeform message board where writers hung out. I started there and haven’t stopped since.
Are you a morning or an evening writer?
More of a morning or afternoon writer. I usually head off to a coffee shop around 11ish and pound away on the keyboard for a couple of hours. My evenings are reserved for time with my family.
Tell us about your latest book. What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
Harkness is the tale of Sheriff Matt Harkness. Harkness isn't your typical Western lawman. Cowboy boots make his arches ache, he's got a serious case of horse-phobia, and his faithful companion, Addison, is a wiener dog. It's 1952 in the Oregon High Desert, and until now, the worst crime Harkness has had to contend with is two cowboys playing quickdraw in an alley behind a bar. His easygoing life explodes when a star-crossed teenage couple disappears, sparking an investigation that threatens to expose the slimy underbelly that lurks beneath his small town, Barnesville.
Harkness has always been the keeper of secrets in the town. Now, to solve the crime, he must decide which secrets to expose. One secret involves Judge Barnes, the county's most powerful man. Unfortunately, Harkness has a secret of his own: he's in love with the judge's wife. The question is what is Harkness willing to risk to catch the murderer?
Mostly, I was inspired by the Central Oregon landscape. It ranges from high desert to pine forests to green river valleys. If you haven’t visited there, it’s a special place, and to this point mostly unspoiled by the modern world.
Have you always written in this genre?
No. Actually, I started out writing fantasies and speculative fiction since those were my favorite genres growing up. Finally, I realized that mysteries were a better fit. Not only because of my experience as a cop, but because, my interest as a reader had drifted in that direction.
How long did it take you to bring this book from first draft to printed copy?
Oh God, probably six or seven years. I started Harkness, then stopped while I worked on other projects. When I went back to work on it, the process still took a couple of years.
Was the road to publication challenging?
To some degree. After pursuing the traditional publishing model for a year, I realized that self-publishing was a better route for me. Once I made that decision, my challenges changed. Instead of looking for an agent, I had to find an editor and cover designer. It’s a whole different game when you’re doing in on your own, but I’m happy with where I’m headed.
What is different about your book compared to other books out on the market?
The setting. I haven’t found any books that feature the Oregon high desert as the setting. Also, the era, the book is set in 1952. America is still recovering from World War II and faces the challenges of a changing world. Many rural communities still had one foot in the frontier days, but all that was about to change.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
You can purchase a copy of my book, either in paperbook or in e-book format from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
What is up next for you?
I’m hard at work on the sequel to Harkness, Thunderhead: A High Desert Mystery. It’s a cross genre affair. The FBI comes to Barnesville hunting communist agents and flying saucers are spotted over Grizzly Mountain.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for taking the time to interview me. I really appreciate it.