The Rest of the Interview

A lot’s happened this week. Ray Vs the Meaning of Life was named to Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2018. AND I won the Publishers Weekly Booklife Prize. *flails*

I was asked to do an interview about the win, and so I freaked out and started thinking about how I would answer questions.

The interviewer didn’t go the route I expected though, so pretty much everything I’d prepared wasn’t relevant. I think that’s a good thing as the interview was much more free flowing and we ended up talking about things I’m passionate about.

But what it means is that I’ve got answers folks, answers to questions no one is asking! And here they are! Yes, I’m actually interviewing myself … what a loser!

Mike’s Advice for Writers

I’ve got a few pieces of advice. The first one got mentioned so I’ll skip it. Here are two and three:

Two: If you’re self publishing, use a penname. I don’t know why it’s not said more often, but debuts have a huge advantage. Keep your debut by using a penname. This is an industry that loves to discover authors. Reviewers, bloggers, etc. Self publishing is an excellent training ground, for some a business that truly works, but for many it’s an apprenticeship. But publishing isn’t an apprenticeship.

Three: I was at a conference once where the workshop leader asked the audience if any of them could do anything really weird. A few people put up their hands and gave answers like make their eyelids turn inside out or were double jointed. Then he asked if anyone else could also do these things and about a dozen people put up their hands. The message was that whatever your subject or interest, the story of your heart is likely more universal than you think. My most successful projects have been the ones I didn’t set out to write for commerciality. Write the story of your heart and it will find an audience. Write for an audience and you will miss out on connecting with readers at the most intimate level. As Dalen Anders says in my book, Be your own pond.

What’s next for Mike?

My next book is about a teen who is on a quest to put his sister back together again (in spirit) by creating a VR movie about all the people who received her transplanted organs. It’s not easy material, but it’s important to me because my brother received a new heart a couple of years ago and I want to give back to the ecosystem of the people who helped him. My YA books aim for the happy cry. I work with difficult subjects and try to find the fun in them.

I’m also really excited to be writing the second volume in the Weirdwood Manor app, which is a book, an animated feature film, and interactive game, all wrapped into one. The creators are brilliant and deliver on stratospheric production values.

On the TV and film side I’m working with producers to bring a number of projects to the screen.

Why Self publish?

Honestly, in this case, I ran out of options. My agent at the time couldn’t sell it, and I still believed in the project. I still feel the best way to bring Contemporary YA to market is through traditional publishing, but self publishing has been really good to me and represents a viable path.

There are some good reasons to self publish. Speed to market (some books really do have shelf-lives and we write books at a point in time, within a zeitgeist—velocity can be important) and control of pricing and advertising. Those are likely the biggest reasons. But it has significant drawbacks especially the younger the audience you write for.

Self publishing is really important because it acts as a litmus test. Writers need readers. Readers are half of the equation. It’s allowed me to shift genres all over the map and I wonder if I’d found a traditional publisher early on I wouldn’t be here today.

I remember an author describing publishing as an endless swim experiment. This award is like an island in it. A place to regroup and plunge back in. Every review, every sale, every connection we make with a reader is another island.

Categories:   Writing Tips