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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Write Like it's Your Job: An Interview with Mike Martin

What made you decide to write your first novel?
I have always wanted to be a writer, a real writer. In my mind, that meant writing and publishing fiction. But I never felt I was good enough and quite frankly I did not know where to begin. But when I was ready, the inspiration for the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series came, and six books later, I am still going. 

Who are your favorite authors?
So many writers inspire me, but my favorites are Charles Dickens and JRR Tolkien. I will never match their talent, but I work to create an imaginary world that can be as real as the ones they have left for us to enjoy.

How long did it take you to write your first book? Who encouraged you along the way?
It took me almost a lifetime to begin my first book. When I finally got started, it took about six more years to get it out of my head and into print. Many, many rewrites. I discovered the value and importance of beta readers. They have been my lifeline. They pushed, pulled, and prodded to get the best out of me. I will forever be grateful to them. I am also grateful to the Ottawa Independent Writers group. They offered ideas, suggestions, and encouragement.

What made you decide to go with Booklocker for your publishing? What has that experience been like?
Booklocker is a family-run enterprise. They are hands-on and helpful. They guide you through the process, step-by-step. Angela and Richard Hoy have created a professional and affordable service for hundreds of writers.

What came as a surprise to you in the publishing process?
What surprised me is that no matter how careful you are, there’s always one more mistake to correct. This was also the greatest frustration. But I have also learned that you need professional help in editing and proofreading, even if you decide to self-publish.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Someone once said that the hardest parts of writing a book are the beginning, the middle, and the end. For me, it is knowing where to stop, where to end. That made getting the first book in the series finished a real challenge. Now that I know it’s a series, I can let the story go and pick it up again in the next book.

What does your editor remind you to do most often?
There are so many things that it’s hard to pick one. It’s probably to remind me to slow down and add more detail and context to the storyline. She reminds me that readers need to sometimes have more information so that they can understand what my addled brain is trying to say.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
I think that my partner has been the most solid and consistent supporter and encourager-in-chief. She has picked me up many times and reminded me why I write and why it’s important to continue. I have also received many notes and e-mails from readers who thank me for brightening up their day. That is enough to get me through the rough patches.

We have all experienced rejection. How have you learned to write past it?
I have been a freelance writer for a long time, so I know rejection well. I have learned that not everybody will like what I do. It may just not be their ‘cup of tea’ as one one-star reviewer once said. I try not to take rejection personally. That helps.

What has frustrated you the most in writing or publishing?
Writing is easy. All the rest is hard. By that, I mean the relentless self-promotion that is required of writers. It is also frustrating to see the same handful of popular writers get all of the media’s attention and adulation. There are hundreds of great writers, both independent and with the big publishers who do not get a whiff of that public spotlight.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?
That it is not about the product, but the process. That the joy is in the writing and not what gets published. If I do not get joy from my writing, there is no point in continuing, because that is my reward. Everything else is up to the readers. They decide whether it’s a good story. 

What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?
I had no idea of where to even begin writing a novel, so I followed others suggestions. I offer that same advice to all aspiring writers: Read about how other writers did it. One book that really helped was Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.” In this book and others, I learned the way to write a novel was to start and keep at it until it was finished. It didn’t matter about the weather, or money, or the economy, or relationships, or even family or sickness or anything. If you want to write a book, you just get up every day and you do it. Good luck with your writing.

Are there any other points about writing that you would like to add?
I sometimes wonder whether what I am doing as a writer makes any difference in the world. Then I get word from a reader who tells me that reading A Tangled Web is helping her get through the recent loss of her husband. Or someone else writes to say that having a friend read chapters from my book eases the stress of chemotherapy treatments. 

We never know when one of our small actions can have a positive impact that we never dreamed of. So keep doing what you are doing even when you have doubts. You may already be helping somebody else.

What is the next book that will be coming out?
I am just writing the next Windflower book. It will be out in the fall. I can’t give you a synopsis because I don’t know what’s going to happen yet.

That’s all for today’s interview. If you’d like to purchase Mike’s books, here are some links to get you started.

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1 comment:

  1. Many thanks to Christine for hosting me today. It was fun.
    Mike Martin