I thought I’d get back into interviewing the coolest authors I know, starting with Mike Wolff, author of Twisted Tales, The Ancients, Guiding Council, and Seeking Cont
Your books read like fairy tales. I know I grew up reading Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. What kind of influence, if any, did fairy tales have on your own writing?
Having heard this multiple times from reviewers, I’d say fairy tales had a big influence on my writing. That being said, I would have never associated my writing with the typical ‘fairy tale’ style. I just write the way I like to read. As for fairy tales when I was young…didn’t read any.
The Ancients stars an aardvark as the main character. How did this story and its characters develop?
It’s actually an interesting story. My sister, an English teacher, challenged me a long time ago to write a Haiku about something strange…a wombat. That’s how the Golden Wombat came to life. Originally, he was a good guy. As I thought about him more, he morphed into the bad guy. He needed an enemy. Thus the Aardvark was born. I really wish I still had that original Haiku floating around, but that was probably 12-14 years ago.
You’ve talked about your writing style in your blog. One thing you’ve said is that you like reading stories that are written with an omniscient narrator who tells us the story. What is it about this manner of story -telling that you really like?
Again, this comes down to me writing what I like to read. Whenever I read a book and the author tells me every little detail of the scene, I feel I am being ripped off. I actually enjoy using my imagination. Paint a picture, but leave some of the details to my imagination. That, I feel, is how the narrator style of writing should be. Give the reader a story, but let them see it with their own interpretation.
It’s been said, ad nauseam, to ‘show, don’t tell.’ I know there are a lot of writers who don’t agree with this but they often get shouted down by folks who feel there’s only one way to write and it’s their way. So, for all those aspiring authors out there, what would you say about the advice to ‘show, don’t tell’?
Write what you would like to read. I personally don’t like it when an author takes up three paragraphs to ‘show’ me there is dew on a blade of grass. Some people enjoy that sort of writing. I don’t. I skip over it when I’m reading it in a book. So by way of advice, write what you like. Write in your own style. You will never make everyone happy with your writing style, so make yourself happy first. You are the one that has to live with you and your conscience. Be true to yourself.
You have a love for metal music, right? What are some of your favorite songs/bands? Do you have a soundtrack for any of your books, and if so, would you share some of the songs and how they fit with the story?
How’d you know??? Yes, I love metal music. I’ve been listening to hard rock/heavy metal for 35+ years. Some of my favorite bands include Iron Maiden, Opeth, Slayer, Megadeth and Clutch. That’s a short list, but I could probably write paragraphs about my love for metal.
I can’t say I have a soundtrack for any of my books. I listen to my music on shuffle mode, so I get a bit of all these bands, along with The Blues and Contemporary Christian (yeah, it’s a strange mix). I have dropped a few Easter eggs in my writing though, as a tribute to some favorites, and I used the cover of Katatonia’s Dead End Kings as an idea starter for my short story The Killing Fog.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
What is this spare time of which you speak? I am married with three kids, so spare time is limited. But, when I have it, I enjoy running and woodworking.
You’ve had a great many authors on your website; you’ve also done a ton of reviews, which is so amazing. Can you tell me more about your review process and what it looks like?
When I started my blog, I made myself a promise: Review everything I read. I have kept that promise, for good or bad. Sometimes I feel guilty giving a ‘bad’ review, but I’d want honest, constructive feedback, so that is what I give. I actually wrote a blog entry about my review process. I use the basic 5 star approach that is supported by Amazon. I have then established a set of ‘rules’ for myself to stay consistent. That way I am giving every author the same, fair, review.
For more detail, visit my blog and search: It’s All About The Stars
Are their aliens out there and, if so, are they hostile or friendly?
Aliens…yes, they exist. I think the universe has both kinds, hostile and friendly. I’m pretty sure the human race isn’t the only organisms out there capable of both emotions.
I don’t know if you know this, but your short story, The Killing Fog, was an inspiration to my middle boy, who came up with a great book idea based on your story. (I love seeing him excited about writing and creating, so thank you.) What would you say to Luc (who’s ten) or any kid who is toying with the idea of writing, but isn’t sure where to start?
First off, I’d like to say that I’m honored. Thank you Luc for liking what I’ve written. To Luc and any other young writer out there, my best advice would be to just write it down. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t write. Everyone has the ability to write. With time and practice, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to do. But, you won’t accomplish anything if you don’t try.
You have four books out on Amazon: Twisted Tales, Guiding Council of Myths and Urban Legends, Seeking Control of the Myths That Never Should Have Been, and the Ancients. You are also in the Winter Wishes Anthology. What are the major themes in your books? Does each one touch on a different theme, or do you have an overarching theme that really informs all your writing?
The Ancients is about animals with human characteristics. The hero, Aardvark, is a teenager that loses everything. He needs to grow up fast and without a lot of guidance. The Guiding Council and its sequel Seeking Control are stories about myths and urban legends; what if they’re all real and what if they had an entire culture hidden from the humans they live next to. Twisted Tales is a series of short stories, more horror/thriller in nature, but still accessible to the YA audience.
If I had to sum it up, I’d say the title of my first book I published says it all: Twisted Tales. My writing is laced with bad puns, dark humor and strangeness. It’s who I am. I write for the Young Adult audience, because that’s sort of how my mind works. I haven’t grown up yet, and I really don’t want too.
What are some of your favorite books? What did you read as a kid?
I didn’t really read much as a kid. My parents tried everything. It wasn’t until a friend of the family described a scene from Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny that I decided to give Fantasy/Science Fiction a go. I was 13 and I haven’t looked back since.
Naming favorite books is too hard, so I will instead name favorite authors. My favorites include Roger Zelazny, Raymond Feist, David Eddings and a handful of Indie authors I’ve discovered. They include you – Jen Ponce, Misha Burnett, AD Trosper, MA Ray and KM Herkes to name just a few. There are LOTs more, but it would take too much time/space to list them all.
Can you tell us more about you, where you live, what inspires you?
Me? I’m pretty boring, but if you insist…I live in Indiana, but I wasn’t born/raised here…thank goodness. I was born and raised in Michigan and miss the state daily. I graduated a lot of years ago with a BS in Biology. I’ve worked as a meat cutter, Chemist, Metrologist, truck driver and Pet Store Manager. I currently work in the medical device industry (18+ years now) and write on my lunch hours to kill the boredom. I have a wife of 21 years, and three kids that keep me busy. I’d say everything inspires me; from my kids to the sunsets, from my music to my faith. Everything has a place within my inspiration reservoir.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That I can actually start, write and finish an entire book. Before I started writing, if you’d have asked me if I was capable of writing a 120K word book, I’d have laughed at you. But, as I’ve said, anyone can do it if you try.
What about bigfoot? Have you seen one? Do you think there are bigfoots…bigfeet? Out there waiting to be discovered? (I kind of hope so, and then I think of the way humans are and kind of hope they aren’t ever found.)
Bigfoot…I’m a huge fan. I totally believe in Bigfoot. I’m a Biologist by education, and any biologist that says it’s impossible for a Bigfoot to exist should turn in their Science Badge. I actually found a mysterious footprint while hiking with my son this past summer; I blogged about it. I actually think it’s a distorted bear track, but my heart wants it to be Bigfoot. He’s out there…waiting.
Would you rather know how to fly or have super speed?
Fly; unless it’s really slow, then I’d go for super speed.
Batman or Superman?
Neither. Marvel all the way. But, if I had to pick, I’d go with Batman. Superman is too goody-goody.
What is your creative process like? From the time you get the germ of an idea to the finished product, what does that look like? (Writing or other creative pursuits.)
I think the term I’ve heard used for what I do is ‘Pantser’. No idea where that came from, but whatever. I get an idea, usually from a dream. When it happens, I write what I remember down (I’ve started out a lot of stories on the backs of receipts I find in the middle of the night). Once I have the idea I add it to my writing journal. That journal is where I keep all my ideas.
When the mood strikes me, I take one of those ideas and start writing. I really don’t use any sort of outline or plan. I sit at my desk during my lunch hour (pretty much the only time I write) and write. Whatever comes out is what I write.
In general, I usually don’t know how the story is going to unfold until it is written. I may have a general idea of how I want it to end, but no idea how I’m going to get there.
What’s your favorite movie? Favorite horror movie? Favorite sci-fi? Favorite fantasy? (I’m nosy.)
Star Wars (all-time favorite and favorite Sci-Fi); very proud to say I’ve seen every Star Wars movie during its original run, in the theater.
Having been a teen in the 80s, I love the ‘old school’ horror movies. Friday the 13th is probably my favorite franchise of horror films.
Favorite fantasy…that is a tough one. I could name some really bad movies from my youth, but they were just that…bad. I don’t think fantasy movies have been given enough justice until recent years. I’d have to go with the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies.
What advice would you give someone who wants to write?
Just write. You need to start. Just do it. There is someone out there that is really interested in reading what you have to write, and the only way for them to read it is if you write it. So get going.
Tell us about your books. Show off your covers, your links. (Please?)
The Ancients is the first story I wrote. The characters are all animals that have evolved into humanoids. The details are in the story. The main character is Aardvark, a youth that survives the destruction of him home and family. As the lone survivor, he seeks out assistance and training from creatures of legend…The Ancients. With their help and training he hopes to rid the world of the creature that seeks to control everything and everyone: The Golden Wombat.
Guiding Council of Myths and Urban Legends is a fun story. It’s based on the premise that all mythical creatures and urban legends are real and live in the same world as humans. There is a council that rules the Mythical Nation and one of them is trying to take a bit more control than he should…oh, and there is an evil, crazy bad guy that is trying to expose the Mythical Nation to the humans. Throw in some ultra-trained killers called the Guardin’ Gnomes and their evil arch rivals the Minja, and you got yourself an exciting YA story.
Seeking Control of the Myths That Never Should Have Been is the sequel to Guiding Council. It takes place a little over a year after the first book and includes all the same fun characters. It’s full of bad puns (I love bad puns) and lots of mythical action.
Twisted Tales is the first book I ever published. It contains a handful of short stories. There is Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in this book, but I feel it is still assessable to readers as young as 11-12 years old. I really don’t write much that is too scary or gruesome. This book contains probably my favorite story I’ve written. Phosphenes is a horror/thriller that takes place in a small town that just might resemble a small Michigan town I used to live in. Phospheses, if you don’t know, are those patterns and squigglies that you see when you rub your eyes. What if an evil force was controlling those patterns, causing you to see twisted visions, even when you are still awake? What if the visions were so bad that people were killing themselves to escape those visions? I love this story.
Finally, I really appreciate having you here, having you take the time to answer my questions. I urge anyone reading this to head over to Mike’s blog. Read his latest reviews on books, music, movies, and more. Anything else you wanted to add that I didn’t ask, Mike?
I just want to say Thanks! This was fun. I hope your readers enjoyed this as much as I did. Please, feel free to stop on by my blog or Twitter account. I’d love the company!
Wonderful interview Mike and Jen! I’m just finishing off Guiding Council and really enjoyed it. Lots of fun 🙂
I got done reading Seeking Control. It was good, too. I’ll be onto P.A.W.S. soon. Then I’ll get a review up.
I’m a fan. Mike has great style, and quirky ideas and characters.
Not to mention the punnishment he subjects us to. ;o)
Mike has some great stories, I agree! Plus, he’s a cool dude.