Saturday, 18 August 2012

AUTHOR INTERVIEW - MICHAEL D. BRITTON







What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?

My name is Michael D. Britton. I was born in San Francisco, California; and I now live in Utah.

Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I've always had an interest in communication, and always felt that words are key to how we communicate. Of course, we communicate in lots of ways, but I consider words to be the most meaningful way to transmit ideas. So, at university, my major was communication - which led me to my first career, as a TV news producer. In the late 90s, as I became disillusioned with the news biz, I started to wonder what I really wanted to do for a living...

When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?

I first considered myself a fiction writer when I wrote my first book - a Star Trek fanfic novel back in 2004. It wasn't until a couple of years later, when I began to pursue it as a career, that I considered myself a professional fiction writer.

Do you work another job as well as your writing work?

I do currently maintain a day job as a marketing writer, to pay the bills and support my family. But I fully intend to write fiction as my full-time job as soon as it is financially possible.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?
The latest big novel release is called Canceled: The Story of America's Least Wanted. In fewer than 20 words, it is "a thriller that parodies our obsession with reality TV in the context of one the most controversial subjects: abortion." Oh, it's also a love story, if you can imagine that. :)

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
This varies from project to project, and the amount of "life stuff" that I allow to obstruct my progress. Due to my 20+ years of experience as a professional writer of one sort or another, I am pretty quick. Let's just say that when I hear about it taking someone a whole year to write a book, I wonder what on earth they are doing with all that time.

Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others?

Canceled was pretty easy - one of the benefits was that the structure was defined by the simple time line of a pregnancy. But probably my easiest novel was AssassinWare (a high-tech thriller about a killer using computers to murder U.N. diplomats) - simply because it was so much fun. I really enjoyed writing the characters and the intense action scenes in that one.

What can we expect from you in the future?

So far, I have mostly written science fiction, with some fantasy, a little mystery, and some thrillers. My current work-in-progress is a real departure for me: a historical novel. But after that one, I will be doing a series that will appeal to the same kinds of readers who enjoyed Canceled - but I am not going to give that away just yet. I can say that it will have nothing to do with reality TV or abortion, though.

Do you have a favourite character from your books? And why are they your favourite?
I do have some favorites. In Canceled, I really enjoyed Dr. Len Hamlin, the psychiatrist. I had fun casting him against type. In AssassinWare, Scott Faraday is the man - super tech-smart and well-versed in the martial arts, with a sense of humor. I also enjoyed Rufus Quince, from my space bounty hunter novel, just because his voice is so strong. I've received demand for sequels to Rufus Quince:Bounty Hunter, a request I intend to fill next year.

If you had to choose to be one of your characters in your books which would you be? and why?
I think I'd probably be Scott Faraday, who is a real geek's geek. Brains *and* some brawn. And handsome, too.

Where do you get your book plot ideas from? 
From anywhere and everywhere. I have no shortage of ideas - only time to write them. So many ideas, many of them well-cataloged in note files on my computer. This is why I am not so fond of being told by acquaintances that they have a great book idea, they just need someone to write it for them! My first instinct is to encourage them to write the book for themselves.

Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? I.e., you listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
Nope. I write wherever and whenever I have a chance. I am not deterred by what's going on around me - distractions are not a problem. With time so tight, I don't want excuses to not write...so if the opportunity presents itself, I take it, rather than waiting for conditions to meet some predetermined, ritualistic standard. Everyone's different, and I'm not trying to disrespect the habits of others, but this is what works for me. I think much of this attitude is the result of spending the 90s writing TV news every day - with unyielding deadlines, a need for mechanical accuracy (anchors hate teleprompter typos!), and volumes of material to produce - I became conditioned to a high-output, no excuses environment.

Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them? I.e., your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
Of course. Having good "first readers" (or beta readers, as some call them) is critical to the process of releasing high-quality fiction. My wife is one of my first readers, along with her sister, a good friend, and another fiction writer I know. Not everything goes to all of them, but someone reads everything at some point.Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
I've given away paperbacks and ebooks in the past, and always ask that I get a review in return - but it is just a suggestion, not a condition of the gift.

Do you read all the reviews of your books?
Since I do not have that many right now, I do. But I imagine that as my books gain popularity, I will not be able to keep up, and will have to focus less on that - which would probably be for the best. It may be useful to scan them sometimes to use a great review for promotion, but other than that...
What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?
This may sound like a cop-out, but I have actually not received any harsh reviews - they have all legitimately been quite positive. One of the best ones was from Publisher's Weekly: "Bitingly clever...darkly brilliant." I liked it so much, I put it on the cover. :)

Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your books?
Of course not. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and free to express it. I may or may not agree, but that's irrelevant. I don't write to please everybody - since that is impossible - I just write the stories that are in me.

How do you come up with the title and cover designs for your books? Who designed the cover of your books?
I create my own titles and book covers. I am not a designer, but I am enjoying learning, and getting better at it. When designing, I try to use an image that boils down a key plot point of theme into one simple visual, and make sure the title and other words are easy to read (especially as a thumbnail). All while being enticing to a prospective reader. It is not easy!

Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
Depends entirely on the project. I have done both. Sometimes writing a story based on a title is a fun exercise, and I've done a few that way. My current novel work-in-progress has a title that is not final yet - I may change it later.

How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
For sci-fi/fantasy, I just make it up, and try to make the names "fit" the places or characters. For thrillers, I use real-world names (preferably memorable but not too hard to pronounce) and real-world places. I make use of places I have been, or research places I have not been. I do not spend too much time on research - just enough to provide details that pull the reader in, and avoid silly mistakes that might throw the reader out of the story. An exception to this has been my work-in-progress, the historical novel (that has required much more research).

Do you decide on character traits (i.e., shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
I usually have a general idea of a character's traits at the outset, but they always develop "on their own" as the story progresses.

Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?

I have done both, but my natural inclination is to be an "exploratory drafter" (let the story unfold as I write it - with little or no planning). Usually what ends up happening is I write into the void, letting the tale lead me, until about two-thirds of the way through, I suddenly see where it is going to go, and have to hold myself back from racing to the conclusion too hastily. It's a fun process, because I never know what is going to happen - as if I am the reader, not the writer.

How do you market/promote your books?
I have generally not done much in this regard - I have done some (a Facebook post, a Tweet), but not focused too much time and effort on it. My professional mentors always say the best promotion is to write and release the next book - so that's what I do.

What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller?

A great story, well told. Sounds obvious, but the key is in what I *didn't* say: perfect prose, grandiose themes, praise from elitists, a huge marketing budget, years and years of painstaking labor. Not every bestseller meets my criteria, but most will include a good story, well told. The rest is negotiable.

Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
Nope. I can always write. There have been moments where I just didn't feel like working on a certain project, so at those times I would switch to one of my others (I can juggle multiple works). But I've never felt "blocked" and I'm not sure I can relate.
What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby?

I enjoy writing! (That's why I am working on making it my full-time career.) Of course, when I am not doing that, I just like spending time with my wife and son. I like to play with my boy (who turns seven next week) - we like to build Lego together. I enjoy watching sci-fi. I love to read. I am an information junkie and could surf the web endlessly. I have recently taken up cycling.

Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?

Absolutely.

Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")

Nothing is really hidden. The messages (if there are any) are there to plainly see. Mostly, though, I just write to entertain, and any thematic content is incidental.

Which format of book do you prefer, ebook, hardback, or paperback?
Depends on the type of book. I love ebooks, but if it's a non-fiction book that I will want to mark-up (highlights, written notes), I prefer the hardback. I also enjoy audiobooks (since I can "read" them while I am doing other things like mowing the lawn or working out).

Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst book to movie transfer?

Some books lend themselves to adaptation better than others. For example, I have had many people tell me that Canceled would make a great movie - and I tend to agree. Some books would just be impossible to do well as a movie, because the book may rely too heavily on internal dialogue or may not be paced well for the screen. I think the worst movie adaptation I have ever seen was for Percy Jackson: the Lightning Thief. The movie bore very little resemblance to the book. A fairly faithful adaptation, as far ascharacterization goes, was the Harry Potter series. However, as those books progressed and became more complex, the movies became more and more like "Cliff Notes" - summaries that left out a ton of content. So that one is a bit of a mixed review for me.

What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it?(ebook, hardback or paperback)
I am currently reading eight books. Four are non-fiction (for research or personal fulfillment), and four are fiction. They are paperback, hardback, and audio. Current audiobook (while I cycle) is The War of the Worlds unabridged recording of H.G. Wells' classic sci-fi tale. So far, it is a little slow-paced (plot-wise) for my liking, but I am sure it will all pay off.

Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?

Not totally. But I think books printed on dead-tree will eventually become a specialty product solely purchased by collectors. Books not well-adaptable to ereaders will also survive (many childrens books). But this is a *long-term* forecast - nothing that is going to happen in the next few years. But ebooks will continue to grow and will outpace all dead-tree books within the next decade.

Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? and/or do imaginative writing?
From what I hear, no; but I cannot speak to the condition of schools whose methods I am not privy to. My son's school seems to do an adequate job encouraging reading. My son has always read well above his age level. But then, I believe that education should be centered in the home, only supplemented by the state - not the other way around.

Did you read a lot at school and write lots of stories or is being a writer something newer in your life?I've always liked to read and write, though my focused effort on fiction as a career is relatively new. That is, I was in my mid-thirties before I realized what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Did you have a favourite author as a child?

C.S. Lewis & Roald Dahl seems to stand out.

Do you have a favourite genre of book?

I really enjoy sci-fi and classics. But I also like a good genre mash-up.

What do you think about book trailers?
They're great. I even have one!

What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?

If you want to be a writer, you must write! The more you write, the better you get. Find a good mentor who is successful. Write what you want, not what you think readers want. Enjoy the process. Read a lot (including genres you don't love). And don't buy into the publishing business myths. Here are a few: fast writing means bad writing, you must rewrite everything to death, you need an agent, you do not need to learn about the business, you should take every suggestion given by your first readers, you can't make a living as a writer, your English teacher or creative writing professor was right.

Do you or would you ever use a pen name?

I would use a pen name if I had a business reason to do so (such as wanting to break out a separate genre brand or reboot a tanked career). For now, I am content to build a single brand: Michael D. Britton. (I always use the middle initial, because there are others who share my name and I want minimize confusion.)

Where can readers follow you?
My blog at my website
My website main
My Amazon author page
My Smashwords author page
My Goodreads author page

Follow me on Twitter
 
Again, thanks so much!
Michael D. Britton
www.michaeldbritton.com

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