1. Hi Michael, Thanks for taking time out of your day to answer a few questions for us. Can you tell me a little about yourself? Any hobbies aside from writing or things you most enjoy doing?
Hi, April! Thanks for having me here. I’m fully identify as a geek, so as for hobbies, you can guess what some of mine might be. Some of the things I try to cram into my life beyond writing involve PC gaming (I’m finally getting to The Witcher 3), keeping up with the geekier side of movies and TV, and, lately, kickboxing. Okay, so I realize that’s not so geeky, but hey, I’m complex, okay?
Also, now that I’ve shaved my head, I enjoy going into barber shops to ask for a trim and watch their reaction.
2. Having read all of your books to date (including Zeus Is Dead) and seeing some of your tweets like the viral Pooh & Piglet meets Star Trek, I find that you have quite the sense of humor. Do you find interjecting humor into your work to be an easy task?
That’s kind of you to say! (Some people just say I’m a joke...) ;) Interjecting humor into my writing is an easy task, yes. Interjecting GOOD humor that’s actually funny is another thing altogether. Let me explain: The character of Felix in my New Aeneid Cycle trilogy tends to use humor as a coping mechanism, always looking for a joke, sometimes when it’s inappropriate. Though exaggerated, that’s a trait he gets from me. So when I write, my brain is always coming up with little asides or quips that want to jump onto the page. One reason I especially enjoyed writing both Felix’s character and the entirety of Zeus Is Dead is that I could let those things flow freely into my writing. On the other hand, sometimes the humor that pops out of my brain isn’t as funny as I think it is. Sometimes it’s just an inside joke that only works for me, or sometimes it’s a good idea but needs some tweaking to actually be funny. So yes, and no. I have noticed, however, that caffeine increases the frequency of such things...
3. You mentioned to me a while back that you once had the opportunity to share your work with The Shannara Chronicles author, Terry Brooks. What was that experience like?
It was great, and valuable. I often attend the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference here in Seattle, and one year, Brooks was offering a half-day workshop where ten authors could attend and work on their manuscripts with his input. We all sent him a long synopsis and the first five chapters of our book, which he read ahead of time. He then came to the workshop with feedback to each of us, and we all (Brooks and the attending authors) worked together to improve each manuscript.
Brooks was extremely friendly, but also unafraid to give criticism in the places our manuscripts needed it. A Shadow in the Flames, my first novel, was the one included in the workshop. His comments gave me the kick in the pants I needed to change some things that I knew in my heart needed fixing—but that I’d been reluctant to tackle—and pointed out some other flaws that I hadn’t even considered. The workshop did more than just help ASITF; it helped me with my writing in general, and I still carry that with me today.
4. I noticed when reading through A Dragon at the Gate, your latest release, that you played around with the idea of existence and what that might really mean. That's a pretty deep subject to try to wrangle into any book, let alone a sci-fi series. Was there a personal significance for you in choosing to tackle that or is there something about the idea of existing that intrigues you?
I would argue that it's less about existence and more about identity and self-actualization, or even sentience. The concept of how much we may or may not be the products of our own memories and experiences has always fascinated me. (If you take my memories and put them into another person, will they become a hybrid personality of me and who they were?) I explored that a bit in book two of the series. I suppose in A Dragon at the Gate I wanted to take that a little further, and also bring in the concept of artificial* intelligence. Does an AI have the right to dictate how its mind has been programmed? What if it's been programmed to be okay with that so it doesn't rebel and, say, go all Skynet on us? What if you could reprogram a human mind in the same way?
*with apologies to the A.I. character of Suuthrien, who objects to the term "artificial" :)
5. Is there any one thing in life that you'd want to do over or make different choices about? If so, why?
Ooh, now there’s a personal question! :D A few things come to mind, though I’m not going to share them here. (Are they exceedingly private? Am I just trying to cultivate a “mysterious author” persona? No one knows!) That said, to pick something lower on that list, let’s see...
I'd really like to have not named the primary protagonist in The New Aeneid Cycle "Michael Flynn." I picked the name because it's the name of an ancestor of mine who was on the U.S.S. Maine when it exploded, and I liked the sound of "Flynn." But the "Michael" part probably makes some people think he's based on me, which he isn't.
Or if you wanted something NOT related to my writing, I do wish I'd started saving up for international travel a little earlier than I did. I haven't gotten the chance to travel nearly as much as I'd like.
6. Most authors read just as much as they write, would you say this is true for you? Can you share with us an absolute favorite novel that you've read and continue to re-read on occasion?
Are we talking word count, or time? :D Word count, I definitely read as much (well, more) than I write. Time-wise, I probably spend more time on writing. Or trying to write. Or planning to write. Honestly, I wish I had more time to read, because there's so much out there I know I need to devour.
I do try to avoid reading things directly related to what I'm writing, at least when I'm writing it. I absorb things easily, and if I'm not careful I'll find myself too influenced by another story that I've just read when I'm trying to create one of my own. For example, I heard about the Percy Jackson series midway through writing Zeus Is Dead. While Zeus Is Dead is for a more adult audience, and is more humor-focused, but I nonetheless avoided Percy Jackson until well after I'd finished (and published) Zeus. Now I'm making my way through the series and blogging about it as I go.
Can I give three absolute favorite novels? :D 1) The Hobbit. Loved it since I was in elementary school. It's like a hot cup of cocoa on a snow day, and I read it once a year. Comfort brain-food. 2) Hyperion, by Dan Simmons, which is a masterpiece of sci-fi and plotting. 3) The List of 7, by Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost. If a supernatural adventure with Arthur Conan Doyle as a main character, read it.
7. When you look at the world today, what is the one thing you wish was different and why?
Just one thing? Hah! Well, okay. I'd love for the world to be able to come together more cohesively on solving the problem of climate change. I'd especially like to see more focus on not just reducing carbon emissions, but in actively removing some of what's out there and repairing damage already done. I occasionally here stories about technological efforts to do the latter, and there really is some progress being made in research, but I worry that it's not enough.
Q7 Corner: Author Interviews
A.L.Deleon loves to find and interview authors, Indie or Traditional. This is where you'll find all the details of those interview spotlights. Typically you'll find her asking seven questions of each author featured.