"Podiobooks!" came the kind voice. That had been Mike, who came up to the panel afterwards to introduce himself. I realised then, that I had seen him before, this quiet presence at earlier cons, usually engaged in conversation somewhere in the dealers' room. It turned out that Mike knew much more about podcasting than I did, and probably should have been on the panel himself. He is the 'caster and author behind the Irreverent Muse website and the Get Published podcast, wherein he looks "at writing from an amateur's perspective". In my view, Mike seems to be anything but irreverent. When asked what sort of mythical creature or hero he'd be, I found his answers to accurately reflect how he came across in real life: either a griffin or Wesley from the Princess Bride. A computer technologist and self-described perfectionist, he regularly interviews published authors about their craft and serves it up bi-weekly. In his spare time he writes and releases episodes of the comedic Galaxybillies. Like many of us before (and still to come!) he would also like to see his fiction in print.
I decided to ask Mike a few questions, to give him a chance to distil his own perspective on the writing world, and be the interviewee for a change. As can be seen below, his views are sage, well-balanced, and in my opinion, very useful for a beginning writer trying to establish a foothold in the publishing world.
JR: What is at the core of your inspiration/reasons to write?
MP: Writing is my escape and my hope. I love creating and telling stories. Writing lets me do both.
JR: What hobby/volunteer activities are you engaged in with the Calgary writing community? How did you get into those?
MP: NanoWriMo every year (since 2006), writing my blog, writing [and producing] my podcast. All of these activities started with the group blogging site "StartingWriteNow" which I was invited to join in 2005. I’ve also been involved as a volunteer at the Calgary Young Writer’s Conference for the past five years. I got into that through my daughter. I volunteered the first year she attended and I’ve gone every year since.
JR: Agent or no agent? What are your views?
MP: I think an agent is essential if you really want to make a career (or a well-paying hobby) out of writing. The first book or two probably doesn't need to be agented just so you, the writer, can get exposure to the entire process.
JR: Favourite book/comic as a kid? What made it special?
MP: Favorite books - too many to list, but everything by Anne McCaffery (especially the Dragon Riders of Pern). Comic books: Green Lantern, Legion of Super Heros, Iron Man, Teen Titans (I could go on like this for a while).
JR: Critiques: how do you perceive them? What advice do you have for people writing them or receiving them?
MP: Critiques are necessary both from a writing and a receiving perspective. I would suggest that people writing critiques not focus on the nitty gritty rules of writing so much as the story itself and always try to be positive. When receiving them, remember that the person who wrote the critique is giving you his/her time to provide the feedback. And feedback is GOLDEN! You can never get too much. You don't have to follow the critique, but it helps to understand how others see your work. Treat it as a positive thing.
JR: What sorts of things do you like to see/not see in a novel?
MP: Good characterization and dialogue are more important to me than extensive description of setting although I am working to buff that up too.
JR: What is your philosophy in approaching a publisher?
MP: Treat a publisher as a professional, learn what they are looking for and try to create a friendly relationship with him or her. Help the publisher if you can.
JR: How long does it take you to write a novel? Do you have a particular process that you go through?
MP: Tough question. My first novel (90K words) took 7 years. My second (50K) took three weeks . The biggest difference between the two (other than the amount of time) was I had the confidence I could do it with the second one. I like to come up with a story idea, decide who the characters need to be and work out how they would do particular things. Once I have that, I have my outline and I can write it. The characters usually deviate from the outline (they take me places I didn't expect) but come back to the approximate ending I expected. I try to write a little every day.
JR: Is there anyone in the Canadian writing community that you admire or would like to emulate for a particular reason?
MP: Robert J Sawyer because he has absolute confidence in his own abilities and is a HUGE promoter of new writers.
JR: Is your creativity inherited or are you a "first gener"?
MP: Inherited, I think although my ancestors expressed their creativity in different ways.
JR: How many of your works are currently sitting with publishers? Any good leads yet?
MP: I have a couple books out there right now. I just received a rejection but the best rejection one can get. It came complete with a page and a half of comments and suggestions with the added bonus that the publisher wants to see the revised manuscript.
JR: How is your podcast doing? Have you noticed any particular demographic picking it up?
MP: I've gone from 20 downloads in the first month (probably half were me) to where I've got well over 150 regular listeners (month 12). It's a slow process but it is coming. The demographic is aspiring authors for the most part. The GalaxyBillies story already has more than 50 listeners after the first month and I haven’t even started promoting it yet.
Good Luck to you, Mike, and I'm looking forward to seeing you in print!!