Saturday, November 10, 2007

Michael Hoeye

by Steven Williams

The children's book industry is primarily driven by young readers' almost insatiable appetite for books. At the same time, for writers, it is a highly competitive genre where publishers are Michael Hoeye color photographswamped with author queries which results in only a small fraction of aspiring authors being published. This limited access to the marketplace can be overcome by authors willing to take on the risk of self-publishing. At one time, self published books had a reputation for poor quality binding and design. Lower-cost, short-run printing techniques and the encreasingly easy accessibility to typsetting and desktop publishing page design software has contributed to a situation where contemporary emerging and aspiring authors, with enough attention to design quality can produce books professional enough to be able to compete for shelf space with more traditionally published books. On this equal footing, it is story and character that makes or breaks a new book's commercial success. Michael Hoeye's series starring Hermux Tantamoq began in just such a way.

Of course, there are the creative and serendipitous aspects to the development Hoeye's story and character. For instance, the name of Hoeye's main character, Hermux Tantamoq, actually came from a chance, casual game of Anagrams. Hoeye and his wife played a word game while waiting at a cafe while waiting for their breakfast. They had challenged each other to use a Scrabble-like board game, a garage sale acquisition from that morning, to make up a name for an imaginary character and then provide the character with as believable and complete a background as they could. Hoeye almost immediately saw his character, whose name was driven by his need to use the unlikely letters 'X' and 'Q', as a likeable city mouse who worked as watchmaker. The spontaneousness and rightness of the name and character intrigued Hoeye so much that at that moment he decided that he would like to write about Hermux one day. Within a week, he started writing fragments about Hermux that helped him to better established the mouse's character and what the world he lived in was like. At the same time Hoeye became more aware of the effort that would be required to create a complete story and this lead Hoeye put the story on hold for a while.

Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye self-published proof front coverAbout two years later Hoeye was handed the inspiration and opportunity to further develop his story about Hermux. It started out as a way to spice up his rather mundane email correspondence with his wife while she was off on a two-month business trip to Southeast Asia. Before he knew it, the story began to emerge as a serial. By the time he had completed ten chapter installments, it was nearing Valentine's day and so he decided bind the chapters together and send the booklet to his wife in Bali as a Valentine's Day gift. He designed, published and put together by hand and via Kinko's twenty-five copies. The extras he passed on to friends. One of these friends happened to run a bookstore in Portland and it was her question about when Hoeye was going to finish the book that set Hoeye to the serious work of writing. Hoeye first decided to focus figure out where to he wanted to go with the story. He found himself falling back on his experience developing a MBA graduate seminar on developing creativity in corporate managers. In the seminar, he had presented the modern mystery story as an example of the usefulness and attractiveness of recognizing patterns within complexity. Hoeye sees the popularity of mysteries as based on the pleasure they provide the reader by enticing them into reading in a highly alert state of mind. Since a mystery requires the reader pay attention to all details, readers are are lead into and then explore whatever world the writer has created. Once Hoeye realized that his story should continue to develop as a mystery he settled down to the planning that mystery plots require.

Michael Hoeye went on to self-publish two Hermux Tantamoq novels, "Time Stops for No Mouse" and "The Sands of Time." two sequels. This includes a reissue of Hoeye's second book in the series, "The Sands of Time." The critical and sales success of these books eventually lead to a deal with Penguin Putnam Publishers to re-issue the first two books in addition to publishing one more title in the series. So far, this has resulted in two additional Hermux Tantamoq adventures "No Time Like Show Time" and "Time to Smell the Roses." Apparently, both critics and readers are attracted to whodunits starring a likeable mouse watchmaker who continues to find himself caught up in international intrigue.

Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye Australian and British editions front coverTime Stops for No Mouse (2001)
The first Hermux Tantamoq adventure introduces the main character, a mouse watchmaker who leads a simple but full life. His life turns upsidedown when he an adventuress comes to his shop to have a watch repaired. He is immediately infatuated with her and this leads to his involvement in uncovering the reasons for her unexplained and mysterious disappearance. His sleuthing soon gets him in way over his head with encounters involving spies, thieves, killers, betrayal, the Fountain of Youth, snakes, calliopes, and dramatic rescue attempts. In the end, he uncovers a plot involving a mad scientist's designs on the entire world.

The Sands of Time by Michael Hoeye Australian edition front cover
The Sands of Time (2002)
Michael Hoeye's enticing twining of suspenseand fantasy continue in Hermux Tantamoq's second adventure. Hermux's home town is in an uproar over his artist friends new paintings -- monumental portraits of cats. Everyone in town knows that cats never really existed and, anyway, the subject is taboo, especially for mouse supremacists. A mysterious old chipmnunk visits the watchmaker's shop claiming to own a map to the royal library of a prehistoric (i.e., before the time of mice) Cat Kingdom. Hermux soon finds himself on a trail of clues and misdirections leading to an ancient tomb.

No Time Like Show Time by Michael Hoeye Australian edition front cover
No Time Like Show Time (2004)
Hermux's third adventure begins when a famous stage director hires the watchmaker detective to track down a mysterious blackmailer who has been sending threatening letters to the director. His detecting in addition to a new job as set designer for the Varmint Variety Theater thrust him into the chaotic world of the theater. He finds himself having to cope with reality theater, a sexy film director's interest in his girlfriend (aviatrix Linka Perflinger), a cosmetic queen's takeover schemes, and the eccentricities of theater people. When Hermux begins receiving threatening letters himself, he must take on the role of saving the theater, protecting his new friends and winning his girl's affections.

Time to Smell the Roses by Michael Hoeye British edition front cover
Time to Smell the Roses (2007)
The latest Hermux Tantamoq adventure finds Hermux asked by a rose magnate to take on a missing squirrel case. Hermux is soon caught up in a mystery involving mutant bees, a rose fragrance rivalry involving the recurring villian cosmetics tycoon Tucka Mertslin, and strange incidents on an uninhabited island with a dark past. His fiancée aviatrix Linka Perflinger, his talented pet ladybug, and a rebellious teenage squirrel named help Hermux uncover the reality of what has been happening on the island and, in doing so, save the day.

Newer Article: James Lee Burke, a mystery novel craftsman with New Orleans connections


Older Article: Downfall aka Der Untergang, a major film about the Second World War

Creative Commons License
Michael Hoeye's Hermux Tantamoq adventures by Steven Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by contacting Steven Williams through Bookmarc's BookmarcsOnline.

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