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Michael Talks with the Indy Star

Michael talks with the IndyStar and shares how his father’s job at Indiana University influenced parts of the plot in Rise the Dark.

Electric thrills guide Michael Koryta’s ‘Rise the Dark’

By David Lindquist,  August 16, 2016

In new novel “Rise the Dark,” Indiana author Michael Koryta pits his protagonist, private investigator Markus Novak, against a fringe group that wants to control power — electric power.

With bad guys planning to attack the power grid and turn out the lights for half of the United States, “Rise the Dark” has roots in Koryta’s childhood.

The Bloomington resident didn’t grow up thinking a sinister enemy wanted to cut the conveniences of television and air conditioning. His father, however, was responsible for keeping electricity flowing at Indiana University.

Jim Koryta retired in 2012 after working 36 years as senior electrical engineer on campus.

“My sister and I grew up with electricity and power outages being very central to our lives,” Michael Koryta said. “When the phone rang at 2 a.m., you had an idea that it was going to be a power outage.”

Koryta’s 12th novel is his second to feature Novak as the main character. Following 2015’s “Last Words” and its exploration of caves in Southern Indiana, “Rise the Dark” has action set on high-transmission lines in Montana and Wyoming.

Although Jim Koryta wasn’t part of a “high-line crew,” Michael said his father always expressed admiration for those workers.

“It added the real understanding of the human element that goes into fixing these things,” Koryta said. “You’re dealing with physically demanding work, and it’s extremely dangerous.”

Fear factory: Eli Pate, the criminal mastermind of “Rise the Dark,” wants to experiment with mob mentality and the viral nature of fear. He is not aligned with ISIS, right-wing militias or militant environmentalists, but his “Wardenclyffe” crew isn’t opposed to any of these groups. “This guy does not have a political point to make in the least,” Koryta said. “He’s just a sociopath who sees the potential of activating other groups by understanding the fears that set them off.”

Personal research: Koryta looked back to his days as a reporter for The Bloomington Herald-Times when crafting “Rise the Dark’s” Eli Pate character. In 1999, Indiana University student Benjamin Nathaniel Smith killed Won-Joon Yoon, a Korean graduate student at the school, as part of a three-day killing spree in Illinois and Indiana. Smith followed the teachings of white supremacist leader Matthew F. Hale. Koryta interviewed Hale before and after he was convicted in 2005 of soliciting an FBI informant to kill a federal judge. “He was kind of ahead of his time in the way he used the internet as a recruiting tool,” Koryta said of Hale. “Now it has grown to the point where the people who are being radicalized for any cause are generally not going to have a face-to-face recruiter.”

The threat: Regarding the possibility of an attack in which the U.S. electrical grid is taken down, Koryta said it’s not a far-fetched idea. The nation relies on a nearly 200,000-mile network of high-transmission lines, and the author mentioned hospitals and nursing homes as at-risk entities. “The potential of that kind of attack is really very sobering,” Koryta said. “It could be catastrophic in warm-weather months or in warm-weather areas if the grid stayed down for any length of time.”

What’s next: Koryta has spent most of his summer in Maine, where he is working on a third novel of Markus Novak adventures. He also revised a script for a possible film adaptation of his 2014 novel “Those Who Wish Me Dead” for 20th Century Fox. And awaiting a green light is a TV mini-series adaptation of Koryta’s 2012 novel “The Prophet.” Channing Tatum, star of two “Magic Mike” films and “Foxcatcher,” is attached to portray one of “The Prophet’s” lead characters. “It depends on whether and when Channing Tatum says it’s his priority,” Koryta said of the timetable.

AP: Rise the Dark is “Filled with Suspense”

In the Associated Press’ review of Rise the Dark, they say “Koryta has a gift for terrific suspense that immerses the reader while also delivering prose that almost reads like poetry.”

Here’s the full review by the AP from the Star Tribune :

‘Rise the Dark’ by Michael Koryta is filled with suspense

Mark Novak, seen previously in Michael Koryta’s “Last Words,” is still seeking answers regarding the murder of his wife in “Rise the Dark.”

Garland Webb, the man responsible for killing Lauren Novak, walks away a free man on a technicality. Mark knows Garland is responsible, but can he prove it? The words “Rise the Dark” were written in Lauren’s notebook prior to her death, and the cryptic message has been elusive.

In a small town in Montana, Sabrina Baldwin watches her husband, Jay, head out to repair a downed power line. She showers, and when she steps out, she’s shocked to see a man waiting for her. Garland shoots her with a tranquilizer dart and his bold plan begins.

Mark visits the site of his wife’s murder and learns that he’s a pawn in a game where his survival is doubtful. Garland knows every move Mark is going to make, and the truth behind Lauren’s cryptic message will ruin the lives of many people. Jay learns of his wife’s kidnapping and realizes he will have to betray everything he holds dear in order to win her freedom.

Koryta has a gift for terrific suspense that immerses the reader while also delivering prose that almost reads like poetry. Some of the answers that Mark finds are a bit hard to believe, but that’s a minor bump in the road that should definitely be traveled.


Rise the Dark Reviews Keep Coming

The kind words about Rise the Dark keep coming:


“Koryta’s last three novels represent the high water mark for modern thriller writing and whatever he writes next I will be reading.”

—CrimeFictionLover’s review 


Book Reporter doesn’t think you’ll be able to stop reading once you start:

“This is a thriller of the highest caliber that will dare readers to put it down before reaching the exciting climax.”

Michael’s Q&A with the Portland Press Herald

Wondering how Michael spent his summer? He sits down with the Portland Press Herald and talks about his influences, his summer in Maine, and his research for the book following Rise the Dark. Read the full Q&A below or check it out here

Best-selling author Michael Koryta dives into Maine

He talks about his influences, including Stephen King, while living near Camden and researching his next book.

As visitors flock to Maine for summer vacation, Michael Koryta is here to work. The 33-year-old Indiana native has rented a place near Camden, where he’s researching his next book. The critically acclaimed bestselling author of 11 thrillers and suspense novels, Koryta (rhymes with “margarita”) wants to experience Maine in a way that eludes most tourists. He plans to interview fishing guides, historians and other local experts for a plot line that takes place on the Maine coast. It’s part of the immersion-style research for which he’s become known.

“I found a way to be a perpetual child and come up with uses for hiking, caving, camping, fishing – and claiming that they’re research,” said the one-time journalist and private investigator. “It’s worked out really well for me.”

Koryta’s latest thriller, “Rise the Dark,” hits bookstores Tuesday. The author spoke recently from the midcoast about his literary idols, the craft of writing, his playlist and his cat, Marlowe. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Your books are very good at scaring readers and keeping them on edge. What scares you?

A: Oh, so many things. That’s a fun thing about the books: I get to take all of my own fears and transport them to other people. I love that Gothic sense that the past is always affecting the present. I’m fascinated with the idea of the day you make a left turn that redirects things, when you could just as easily have made a right turn.

Q: What is the difference between the category of suspense versus thrillers, or is that just a marketing term?

A: To me, that’s more of a marketing term. There are lots of sub-genres. I think of suspense as sort of the big house, and there are different rooms in the house. There’s the ghost story room, the detective novel room, the chase-thriller room and the family drama room. I’ve done all of them. To me, they all seem to follow within the same general working territory.

I grew up reading mysteries. My dad was a huge film noir guy. I like not knowing what’s going to happen. I love the emotion of suspense.

Q: Critics have praised your work for its inventiveness and writing style.

A: From a very early age, I was brought up on Strunk and White (“The Elements of Style”) and William Zinsser, and the idea that every word counts. You could have a great story, but if you are not paying attention to the craft and language, you’re going to under-deliver on it. I had a chance to work with some really great writing teachers. Putting together a nice sentence – that’s the thing that hopefully elevates the story. I’m a fan of writers who care about craft as much as they care about story.

Q: Safe to assume that you’re a Stephen King fan?

A: Yes, absolutely. In fact, his book, “On Writing,” came out when I was 18, and that was a defining point for me. I had always wanted to be a writer, but that was the book that really made it feel possible.

Q: It seems that King has been penalized, in a sense, for being so prolific. What is that stigma, and have you encountered it?

A: Yes, it’s definitely around, and I’ve encountered it. It’s always amused me because, in many professions, if you do consistent work, you’re praised for work ethic and effort. But if you’re in the arts, the idea of putting out consistent work is viewed almost with skepticism. “Oh, it can’t be that good.” Or: “He can’t care that much.” There’s nothing that you, as a writer, can do about that.

I write because I love it. It’s not as if being prolific is really a choice so much as I have a lot of stories that I want to tell, and time is finite. I’d rather not waste it.

Q: Given your level of productivity, writing roughly a book a year, you must have near-military discipline.

A: I think that’s the thing that comes with wanting to be better. I spend a lot of time trying to measure up to the writers I consider really great in terms of language and getting things across with clarity, originality and economy. There’s a level of insecurity, where I’m never pleased with a book when it’s first published; I need a couple of years of remove to really enjoy it. But I’m always over-the-moon excited about what I’m working on.

Q: Who are the writers you’re competing with mentally, who set the gold standard for you?

A: Daniel Woodrell of “Winter’s Bone,” Dennis Lehane, Stephen King. There’s a fearlessness to Pat Conroy. He did not shy away from melodrama or big moments of emotion. I don’t distinguish in the least between writers in the genre and writers outside. The most dangerous thing a writer can do is read only in his or her genre. Rule No. 1 is read widely.

Q: Tell me about your writing routine.

A: When I’m working on a new book, I try to do a minimum of 1,500 words a day. I never outline a book. I feel like the first draft is where I’m sort of interviewing the characters and getting a rough sense of the story. In the rewriting, I have the chance to actually tell that story well; the rewriting is where I discover the book. It’s a messy process, but I honestly think I have more joy in that process than if I had an outline where I was just writing to get from A to B to C.

Q: In your Maine office, what are the essential ingredients?

A: I have to have music. I have a playlist that feeds the story. So I try to build soundtracks around the characters’ different moods – that’s a critical ingredient. I always want a nice view, but then, when the writing is going well, I realize that I never really look up, anyhow. Also, I drink an enormous amount of iced tea – that’s my go-to fuel during the day.

But the key ingredient is a stray cat that I took in the year that my first book was published. He has lived in my office in Indiana, Florida, Maine. His name is Marlowe, as in Detective Philip Marlowe. He’ll jump up on the desk and howl in my ear. He lets me know that I’m not working hard enough.

Q: How does Maine factor in to your next book?

A: I have characters in the next book who are lifelong Mainers. To write about a place, you really need to spend some time in the place and talk to people who are experts at what they do. I’ve been coming up here for seven or eight years. But I’ve only been here for a few weeks at a time, so I really only have a tourist’s sense of the state.

Again, all of this is sort of an excuse for me to have fun. What I loved most about being a journalist was talking to people, hearing stories that might be overlooked otherwise. That’s really where I draw a lot of inspiration. I always go back to that reporter’s instinct.

Q: No doubt, you’ve learned the difference between real Mainers and people “from away.”

A: I have to continually point to my wife: “No, no, she’s a fifth-generation Mainer!” Now that we’ve leased this place for the year, I’m really hoping to be here all summer. There’s something about Maine that seems to feed readers and writers. And I’m actually eager to spend as much of the winter as possible up here.

Q: Have you been warned about winter in Maine?

A: That’s why I think I need to spend time here!

Joan Silverman writes op-eds, essays and book reviews. Her work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News.

Early Reviews Are Coming In

Rise the Dark releases in less than a week, and the reviews already are starting to come in. Here are a few of the early thoughts about the book:

The Washington Post:

This book arrived with high praise from several stars of the genre — “A master,” says Stephen King; “Outstanding,” adds Lee Child — and they’re right. “Rise the Dark” is both first-rate entertainment and an unusually interesting thriller in terms of its characters, its plot and the ideas it explores, which include the electrical grid, Tesla’s history, spiritualism and the nation’s possible vulnerability to a right-wing takeover.

The Chicago Tribune:

Among his many gifts, Michael Koryta is a virtuoso in his use of outdoor settings…his thrillers present the great outdoors in their most frightening aspects. The book’s atmospheric power and strong cast of supporting characters make “Rise the Dark” compelling from the get go.

Library Journal — starred review:

A compelling narrative, relatable characters, and action scenes that play out like a blockbuster film, Koryta has written his best book to date. Highly recommended for fans of the author and readers of Dan Brown and Dennis Lehane.

Publishers Weekly:

“Pulse-pounding…the dramatic conclusion does justice to the suspenseful setup.”


Michael Makes History with E-Book Giveaway

Article from  Shelf Awareness June 28, 2016:


In an unusual book-and-baseball promotion, the first 10,000 fans 18 years and older at tonight’s game between the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers (go, Yanks!) at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y., will receive a free e-book edition of The Prophet by Michael Koryta, who will also throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The giveaway is part

of the Yankees’ New York Times First Pitch Series and is sponsored by Little, Brown and Hachette Book Group, which calls this “the first e-book giveaway ever at a major sporting event.”


Fans will receive cards with a promotion code. On Bookshout, the publisher’s redemption partner, fans can enter the promotion code and receive the e-book, which can be read on a desktop, mobile phone or tablet.


“Reading today takes place in so many places–at home before bed but also in line at the grocery store. Why not during the seventh inning stretch?” said Heather Fain, senior v-p, marketing strategy, Hachette Book Group. “Hachette is always looking for new ways to engage readers, introduce them to writers they haven’t tried, and make it easy to always have a great book on hand. Working with the Yankees allows us to challenge the notion of what is and isn’t the ‘right’ time to read.”