When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I first became interested in writing when I was in my early twenties. I had just left my first job and found myself with a large amount of free time on my hands. I was reading a lot and so I started writing. I quickly found that I really enjoyed it.
How long does it take you to write a book?
The first draft of the book took around two months, but I took a lot of time going over it again, tweaking large parts of the narrative. Another couple of months, at least—probably far too long.
What is your schedule like when you’re writing?
I don’t have a particular schedule, as I don’t like too much structure. I write around when my son is at school mostly, but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t find the time to write each day.
Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Mostly from real-life events, things that have left an impression on me, however small. The idea for the Camel and the Butterfly, for example, came from a near accident in my car, and many of the events and characters are based upon events from my childhood. I find it much easier to write about things I can picture from experience.
What do you think makes a good story?
I think that a good story can be many things, but for me, it has to be something I can relate to, perhaps about the kind of things I have experience myself. If it is not that, then it would have to be a story that transports me into a world I could never experience. I admire the imagination of fantasy novelists, for example, people who can create something completely new, yet at the same time uniquely believable.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett is the closest a book has come to making me cry. I so wanted the ending to be different, even though I knew that would make it unrealistic. It was depressing more than sad. I recommended it to my now wife who felt the same and refused to talk to me afterwards as a result. It is not a mistake I have made a second time.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
At present, I prefer to write stand alone books. I tend to have a single story in my head and the enjoyment for me is bringing that story to life. Although I don’t think about sequels and prequels, that does not mean I would rule such a thing out. It very much depends for me on whether I can see any ‘unfinished business’ in a story.
If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be?
I would say, “Just do it!”. One of the hardest things to do when considering writing a full novel is getting started. Like many people, I often wondered if I had a book in me. The hardest part for me was starting, but once I did, it was a fantastic experience and one that I am very proud of.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I don’t think the publication of my first book has really changed my writing process. I am by nature not a very structured person. I write when I can, but don’t beat myself up if I don’t get anything down for a few days. What has change is that I now know I am good enough to get published, and that is an important mentality change. When I started out writing, I always wondered if my work was good in other people’s eyes.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Without a doubt, the best money I spent as a writer was the purchase of a good laptop. Previously, I used a desktop PC which meant that I was always in the same location. I now write all over the house, though mainly in the kitchen, but the ability to just open the laptop whenever and wherever the urge takes me has been great from a creative perspective.
What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
Without doubt, one of the most under-appreciated novels I have read is The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien. The humour in it is right up my street, and it is one of the few books to have made me laugh out loud. I have read his other works, but this one really stands out—fantastic!
What does literary success look like to you?
Success to me is having people read my book and say that they enjoyed it. It’s really that simple. Writing a book is a real labour of love, something that takes a long time to create and nurture, and it is a wonderful thought that something I wrote at my kitchen table can now be read all over the world.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
All the time! I use road names from my childhood, I reference things around my house, and I often base locations on places I have been or am familiar with. Not only does this make it easier for me when describing people and places, but it also makes writing so much fun. And, for me, having fun is what writing is all about.
Michael’s debut novel, The Camel and the Butterfly, is available in ebook and paperback now. Find the link to your preferred retailer here.
You can find out more about Michael and connect with him over on Twitter.