Please welcome the fascinating Michael Martineck, you can find him on his blog, he has written two books:The Milkman and Cinco de Mayo. Michael has recently had huge success, so a big congratulations to him as he begins the interview. The Milkman was a finalist in Eric Hoffer book awards and a gold medal from the IPPYs. The Independent Publisher Book Awards competition: Best science fiction novel in North America, from an independent publisher. Congrats Michael.
What are you currently writing/working on?
I love the slash between writing and working. The concepts are floating Venn circles, sometimes intersecting, sometime not. I’m writing the third book of my Misspellers trilogy, and it’s not work. This one is nothing but fun. I fit that in while editing my sequel to The Milkman. Editing is work. Not as dirty as mining coal. Not was rewarding, either.
When and how do your characters come to you? Is it in a moment of inspiration, an epiphany? Or do they grow in some murky recess of your mind?
My characters grow like Sea Monkeys. Dry little specs that sprout and wriggle around the more medium I provide. They are all conceived in conflict. Unlike real people, all conceived in love.
There’s an acceptance that authors often write in traits or characteristics of themselves into their work, is there any part of you in any of your characters?
Oh my God, no. I want people to read my work. Read about me? You’re better off with the back of a cereal box. You’ll learn something from that.
How do you develop your characters? Do you let them brew in your subconscious, use character interview sheets, or something completely different?
After 27 years of writing I can say, absolutely, that I’m still working on it. I’ve tried different techniques, but every project seems to call for a variation on the method.
Are you a planner, or free writer?
I’m more of a free-range writer. I build myself a pen and roam around inside it. Ray Bradbury wrote in his wonderful book Zen in the Art of Writing not to write what you know, but write what you want to know. Too much planning is stifling. BUT too much freedom leaves the reader with no guidelines, no ground. Boundaries are as crucial as liberty. Funny how important a pen remains to writing, just, you know, the other kind of pen.
When you are developing a book, what tools or techniques do you use, e.g. timelines, mood boards, character interviews, scraps of notes?
A list of points I need to hit – whether they be plot points or exposition I need to hide – is all I need to start. A time line usually develops as I write, so that I know where the characters are in time and space.
Has your technique changed over time?
My organizational technique changes per project. I like to think it continues to improve. I like to think a lot of things. I’ve incorporated more tools as they’ve become available. Evernote, for instance, lets me gather scraps of ideas, quotes, terms I come across – all kinds of bit from all kinds of places – into one place. One giant bit that’s never farther than my right front pocket.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you actively look for it?
Writing is trouble and I don’t go looking for trouble. Trouble finds me just the same. Honest – story ideas are bugs, they appear with no regard to proper timing. Some are good, some are bad, some are gross, poisonous, pretty – they are part of life.
What kind of an environment do you write in? Day/night/silence/music/desk/sofa etc
Opportunity is my environment. Having a big desk jutting out from an A-frame in the woods would be cool. So would a jet-pack, speaking with dolphins and the chance to address the national Republican conference. Fitting writing in whenever and wherever I can is the only way my writing gets done. Bus, train, back patio, kitchen table – I’m not picky. Actually, I’m very picky, I just can’t act on my pickiness.
Half way into writing my first novel, it’s taking over my brain! What advice can you give me on completing it? Or maybe an easier question. What do you wish you had known about writing a book before you started?
Impermanence. There you go. That’s the whole trick. Everyone who wants to write a novel should first, open a jar a Play-Doh. Second, make an elephant. See how you work on one part, then the next, then you go back. You take some doh away, then you put it back somewhere else? Yeah. Now do that with words. I’m not being cute, here. All art is the same. Constructive and reductive. Non-linear development. Fluid. Impermanent . . . until printed.
The publishing industry is in decline across the board. Do you think things like the Kindle are bridging the gap, is there still the same love for the written word, or is it being diluted by the modern obsession with tech and gadgets?
The love of reading is alive and thriving. It’s more accessible than ever. It’s also easier to find the type of writing you find appealing. It’s tough to be a writer and rise above the noise. There is simply so much and so many outlets that I feel, most of the time, like I’m shouting at a One Direction concert. Great time to be a reader, though.
50 Shades of Grey author EL James was reported to make around £100k a day at the book’s height, and the upcoming film will make her millions. Do you find it a shame that the most lucrative and famous book franchise of the moment is one so widely derided for its lack of literary value? Or is it just good to have a book going mainstream?
I’m not convinced James being popular is much different than Margaret Mitchell getting a great deal or Colleen McCullough. Maybe Gone With the Wind or The Thorn Birds are better, from a literary standing. I’m not sure.
If a fascist regime was burning the worlds libraries, what books would you save?
Which publishing route have you taken? Did you always know you were going to go down this route, and if so why?
I have had a big publisher and a little one, self-published and let crap sit on my hard-drive. Each route has its charms. As for plans – I don’t need to make God laugh anymore. He’s gotten plenty of chuckles out of me.
What do you wish you knew about the publishing process before you started?
No body cares. Landing a publishing deal is such a major accomplishment that I really thought people would care. Most don’t. Publishing is, in the end, about celebrity and money. If good craft leads to either, great. If crap writing and bombast bring in the eyes and cents, well that’s fine too.
What is the best advice you could give to aspiring novelists like me? Or what was the best advice you were ever given?
I met the playwright Manny Fried when I was young. 12, maybe. He said, “A writer writes everyday. Even when he’s sick.” Man, did that stick with me.
Is fanfic to be welcomed as it broadens interaction and the readers experience or a scourge that devalues the ability of an author?
Any author should celebrate fanfic with Champagne and fireworks. People enthusiastic about your world? Your characters? There is no higher form of compliment, and no better way to perpetuate your work.
I am finding more and more, that writers often have several creative outlets. Do you? Or is writing your one source?
Like I said before, all art is the same. I’m better at writing than most other things, though if you heard me play the piano, you’d say that ain’t much of a boast. I do like playing the piano.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I created my first comic book at around seven-years-old. Wrote my first novel at 11. The novel was like 25 pages, but it felt like a lot at the time. I no more decided to be writer than to be right handed or near-sighted.
What authors do you admire, and why?
My favorite author is Fyodor Dostoyevsky. That sounds a little pretentious, I know. Read Crime and Punishment now, though. Seriously. Published in 1866 and it feels more current than best sellers from 2006. My favorite living author is Jonathan Carroll. He makes it all look so easy.
To find out more about Michael read his author bio below:
Michael’s latest novel is The Milkman (EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy), a murder mystery set in a world with no governments-just corporations. His last novel, Cinco de Mayo, was a finalist for the 2010 Alberta Reader’s Choice Award. He has written for DC Comics, several magazines (fiction and non-fiction) the Urban Green Man anthology and two urban fantasy novels for young readers. Michael has a degree in English and Economics, but has worked in advertising for several years. He lives with his wife and two children on Grand Island, NY.