My guest today is author Michael Bray, please help me make him feel welcome.
Welcome Michael, let’s start with you telling us a little about yourself including where you are from?
I live in Leeds and have been writing now for around four years. I was recently able to transition to doing it full time after working various day jobs over the years, so this is a really exiting time in my career.
Can you tell us about your latest book, Fan Fears and how you got started?
This latest book, FAN FEARS is a little different in concept. A good friend of mine, extreme horror author Matt Shaw, had been offering personalised stories to his readers based on the things that scared them. He and I talk often and he suggested I do the same thing. In truth, I was reluctant at first as I didn’t want to steal his thunder, but he gave his blessings to go ahead, so I thought I would look at a way of doing my own spin on it.
I thought rather than individual stories, why not produce a book of them collected together? I have always loved writing short fiction (this will be my fourth collection of stories) and so the idea seemed sound. Eight stories in the collection are based on the fears of the fans and feature them as characters, and four stories have been included as bonus stories which have never been available separately in print before.
I’m really happy with the end result though. Because the stories were built around the fears of other individuals, I really had to think outside the box in creating them. A couple in the collection are up there with my favourite things I’ve ever written. Crawl and Vertigo are two which immediately spring to mind as being some of my favourites. I really hope the readers enjoy this collection. For me, as I really enjoyed writing it.
What made you decide to write books?
It had always been something I wanted to do over the years, but never really committed to trying it for various reasons. Before this I played guitar in a reasonably successful rock band. We did okay, and recorded a few singles and an album before we eventually disbanded. Left without any creative output, I finally decided to give writing a serious go and started work on the stories that would go on to form part of Dark Corners.
As soon as I started, I knew this is the thing I had been searching for and as the saying goes, I’ve never looked back since. Everything about it felt right, like the thing I had been searching for. I only wish I had done it years earlier.
What was your inspiration for your books?
Various things. I do like to take an ordinary situation and flip it into something completely insane. I do have a very visual style of writing though, and tend to see things play out in my head as if it were a movie. It really helps the creative process as I’m just writing down what I see in my mind. Inspiration can be anything, but usually starts as a what if.
What if this supermarket I’m in was run by vampires and sold pre packaged human body parts? (MEAT)
What if this couple bought a house in the woods where everything was inherently evil, including the very real living residents of the area? (Whisper)
It goes on like that. Inspiration could strike at any time. just before starting to fill in these questions I was working on a story about a simple taxi ride which becomes something horrific. It never ends!
How do you create your characters?
I don’t really create them other than an initial vague idea at the start. Readers of my work will know that I don’t tend to over elaborate on specific visual details of my characters. This isn’t through laziness, but because I want the reader to fill in the rest for themselves. I like to think I give you just enough of a skeleton to know the traits of that character, but it’s up to you to flesh them out as you read.
I also like to work with the idea that there is no good or bad. Everyone has an inherent ability to do things that would be deemed as wrong. A dark place. I like to explore those areas in my characters. I never have a totally good or bad character. There is no black and white line. flawed heroes and justified villains to me make for great reading.
If you have a publisher, what has it been like working with them?
I’ve been lucky to work with a few great publishers alongside self publishing a few shorter titles. I consider myself a hybrid author. After doing this for a while now I can put together a good quality product myself if I need to. It’s always good to work with a publisher who knows how to work in the right way. I’m talking about companies like Horrific Tales Publishing, who distributed the Whisper Trilogy and Severed Press who I have released five books with to date. There are also several up and coming publishers who are also looking to do things the right way. Crystal Lake Publishing and Dark Chapter Press are two who are definitely worth checking out.
Do you have an agent?
I did until recently, but with me recently turning to full time writer we decided to part ways, simply because I had no titles ready for agenting. for the time being, I’m happy to continue to guide my own career as I work on my next full length novel. Once that is finished, i’ll approach the agent situation again and see what options are out there.
What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?
The biggest challenge was thinking outside the box. Some of the subjects I wrote about were things I wouldn’t have ordinarily approached, and so I had to really consider the best way to do them and make them work. Hopefully I’ve managed to do that, but I’m sure the reviews will tell me otherwise if I haven’t!
What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
I do this full time now, but that doesn’t mean I can slack off. I treat this like a regular job. i work Monday to Friday 8am until 5pm. That time is spent writing, promoting, doing admin tasks related to the business side of things, it really does take up a lot of time. Although I would probably work weekends too, I think it’s important to have a couple of days to recharge the batteries. I’ve worked to this schedule for the last six months, so it’s become a natural part of the daily routine now.
How do you cope with writer’s block?
I don’t have an issue with it as I usually have a few projects in progress at any one time. If at any point I’m struggling, I just jump to something new and let my brain get a break from the original block. So far that’s worked out for me, so I don’t think i’ll change it!
How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
The characters are usually developed naturally by the story. I’ll usually outline and have a decent idea where the plot is going to go, but usually as I work, things change and the characters adapt to go with it. A good example is the Donovan character from the original Whisper novel. Initially he was supposed to be a secondary character who only appeared in a few scenes at the start of the book. He had such a personality though and a really oozing quality, that he transformed into a pivotal character to the series.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks)?
I can write anywhere as long as there is coffee and it’s quiet. I don’t have an office yet, but I’m hoping that when we move house there will be a room I can claim as my own. For now it’s laptop on the knee/ table. I’m easy to maintain though, I’ll work anywhere I can.
What plans have you got for future books?
I’m always planning ahead, so have works planned to take me well into 2017. It’s going to be a really busy year, but i’m looking forward to it.
What is the hardest part of being an author?
Having the self belief and the discipline to do it I think. A lot of people seem to think it’s an easy way to make a living, but it’s not. There are so many things you have to do. Essentially, you’re a one person business, so you have to keep control of everything and make sure it’s all driving forward the way it should be.
Lastly, can you describe the feeling when you saw your published book for the first time?
Excitement, pride, relief, joy. Not just the first time either, it still happens now every time I get a proof copy through the post!
Thank you for joining me today Michael and I wish you every success for the future. Check back later today to see my review of Fan Fears.