Today’s interview is very important to me. I reviewed Michael’s book, Lessons and Other Morbid Drabbles, back in December. His book was the reason I started playing around writing drabbles, which eventually led me to write The Vampire Drabbles. So I was extremely happy when he agreed to my request for an interview.
Michael is slightly unusual compared to most authors, because he focuses his writing on short stories. He speaks a little about why in this interview. I hope you enjoy it.
JGA: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview Michael. To start with, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started with writing?
MC: Thanks for having me. I started writing when I was very little. When I began reading on my own, I just fell in love with the art of storytelling and thought that it would be something that I really wanted to do. I read a lot and wrote a lot–wrote a lot of crap, but I think you have to write crap before you can write something good. I’m still learning as a writer, which makes the whole journey fun. You never reach a point where you’ve stopped learning new tricks.
JGA: How do you go about the actual process of writing?
MC: I do a lot of my writing on a laptop. I find that I do my best writing during my lunch breaks at work and at night. If I have an idea or a scene going on in my head, I just write and see where it takes me. When I finish the first draft, I like to let it sit for a few days. After that, I completely re-write it. If it gets to the point where I can’t even look at the first draft anymore, then I know I’ve done a good job on the rewrite or second draft.
JGA: How do you personally like to read your books these days?
MC: I love reading on the Kindle. It’s easy on my eyes. I was really hesitant to get an e-reader at first, because I assumed it’d be like reading on a computer screen, and thought there was something very unnatural about it. Then my grandparents showed me their Kindle, and I immediately fell in love with it. Any previous ideas or feelings I had about using an e-reader flew out the window that day. I can read for longer periods of time than when I was reading a paperback.
I’m a big, big fan of short stories. I have a really short attention span, and there have been times where I’ll start a novel, and never finish it–even if it’s good! With a short story, I love to see what an author does in a short amount of time.
JGA: Which authors (or books) have had the most influence on your writing style, and why?
MC: Raymond Carver has been a HUGE influence on me. When I read his short stories, that’s when I discovered slice-of-life type of writing. He wrote about characters that you know really exist. Before I read him, I thought I was going to write thrillers or action/adventure, and I would try to come up with really complicated plots. Carver showed me that you didn’t need a complex plot to tell an interesting story. Richard Yates is also somebody who wrote some fantastic stories about ordinary people facing ordinary situations, yet telling it in a way that you cared about what was happening.
JGA: You’ve focused on writing short stories so far. What is it that appeals to you about short stories, and how did you get started writing them?
MC: I think one of my biggest fears as a writer is having a story outstay its welcome. I have ideas, but nothing that can fill a novel, at least not yet. I also love the challenge of making the reader care about the characters in a short amount of time.
JGA: How do you go about planning your short story?
MC: The ideas for my stories are really random. I wished there was a more stable and reliable way to go about it, but at the same time that’s what excites me. If I’m walking around, a scene of some sort can pop into my head and I’ll see if I can go anywhere with it when I sit down at the computer. After that, it’s just a matter of transforming it into a story.
JGA: What do you see the future as when it comes to book publishing?
MC: It’s a pretty exciting time for us Indies. I remember the only way to self-publish a long time ago was to pay a company an insane amount of money to do so. With e-readers, it’s opened doors for a lot of people. I would’ve never thought that I’d be successful at self-publishing, but so far I’m really pleased with the results. People are reading my work. I’m living my dream. I think a lot of others feel the same way.
MC: I really appreciate that. They were a complete gas to write.
I’ve read a lot of flash fiction, and I’ve written some in the past. The first time that I read a 100-word story was when I read David McAfee’s excellent short story collection, THE LAKE AND 17 OTHER STORIES. I really didn’t know if it was possible to tell an entertaining story using so few words, yet he did it every time.
In October of last year, I took part in an online contest at one of the discussion boards. You had to write a short story, but it could only be 55 words, if I remember it correctly. I tried it out and thought it was a lot of fun. When I was talking to fellow author Mary McDonald about it, she asked me if I had ever attempted a drabble. She told me that a drabble was a story that was only 100 words long. So, that kinda got the ball rolling. I thought I would try one for fun. I wrote my first drabble, “Lessons,” and had a blast. It was disturbing… yet there was dark humor in it. I tried a few more out, and next thing you know I was writing a bunch of them. I thought if I could get 25 drabbles done, I could put out a mini collection just in time for Halloween. It was fun, because it’s out of my comfort zone. I’m used to writing slice-of-life stories.
I would’ve never thought that the book would take off like it has. People were already asking for another collection just weeks after it came out. I decided to see if I had any ideas left for a new collection, and thankfully, I did. I’m still amazed by how many people have enjoyed the books.
So, I owe a lot of thanks to David McAfee, and also Mary McDonald. I don’t think the LESSONS books would exist without them.
JGA: What other stories are you working on at the moment?
MC: Right now, I’m actually finishing up A GNOME PROBLEM, which is a novelette that began as a long short story. I’m excited to get it out there to potential readers. Hopefully that’s not too far away.
I’d like to again thank Michael for taking the time to do this interview with me, and urge you to check out his stories if you haven’t already. You can follow what he’s doing on his blog, or watch his Facebook page for more frequent updates.