This week we’re going to find out a little about author Michael D. Smith. October’s theme is ‘Pets in Writing’ so Michael will be talking about pets. He’ll also tell us a little about himself and his writing, and answer some fun questions.
Michael D. Smith was raised in the Northeast and the Chicago area, before moving to Texas to attend Rice University, where he began developing as a writer and visual artist. In addition to exhibiting and selling paintings and drawings, he’s completed fifteen novels.Smith’s writing in both mainstream and science fiction genres uses humor to investigate psychological themes. On his blog, he explores art and writing processes, and his web site contains further examples of his writing and art. He is currently Technology Librarian for McKinney Public Library in McKinney, Texas.
CommWealth is his first novel published by Class Act Books.
Beverley: Are you a pet person?Michael: Yes. My wife and I have seven cats.
Beverley: Do you think pets (dogs/cats/birds/ horses/ etc.) belong in books? Why?
Michael: Of course! They’re part of life and their function as spirit guides can definitely be a major force in a novel.
Beverley: Should they be the main characters? Why?
Michael: If that’s the focus of the novel, yes. For myself, animals or pets work best as secondary characters interacting with and amplifying the main human characters. You can tell a lot about a human character by how he or she deals with animals.
Beverley: Should animals in books talk?
Michael:: Probably not! Maybe if they’re talking to each other in an allegory like Animal Farm, but not to people in a semi-realistic novel. Then again, science fiction could certainly produce actual talking animals! Two of my characters in different novels are cats who communicate telepathically, although scientists help one of them make superspace phone calls with a Telepathic Translator that produces speech.
Beverley: Do you include pets in your books?
Michael: I have several novels in which animals are characters, though not in CommWealth, which didn’t demand pets or animals. I would prefer not to include an actual pet of mine, though; I’d feel more comfortable making up a new one.
Beverley: Any other thoughts on pets, and pets in books?
Michael: There’s a danger of getting cute, especially if you try to put your own pet in the novel.
Beverley: Which genre or genres do you write or prefer to write?
Michael: I write both literary novels and literary science fiction, which I hope is a step up from space opera, although space opera is a fun term for some great experiments out there. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between my literary and science fiction novels; the dystopian aspect of CommWealth is an amalgamation of the two.
Beverley: What prompted you to write in the genre/s you do?
Michael: Science fiction films and print science fiction, absorbed since childhood, prompted my science fiction writing, but also influenced the bizarre aspects that are part of almost all my work, including CommWealth, which after all has no spaceships or teleportation systems, just an outrageously crazed social order and hysterical, over-the-top characters. Probably the Twilight Zone TV show, which produced many terrified, sleepless childhood nights, was a major factor here as well. Asking the question “What if…?” could prompt a science faction or a literary fiction plot depending on what follows the “if.”
Beverley: What genres do you enjoy reading?
Michael: Mainstream fiction, science fiction, literary fiction, and occasional classics to remind myself how well human beings can write. I read nonfiction and biographies and I’m in awe of excellent nonfiction writers who’ve truly mastered their subject. I'm not sure I’d be capable of that depth of research myself. But writing nonfiction doesn’t seem to be my function, though I enjoy reading it and making use of it.
Beverley: I’d love to hear what you think of the present genres, how they’ve been affected by self-publishing and where you think they might be headed.
Michael: Obviously more writers now have access to seeing their novels published as eBook or via print on demand. Without the pressure of being certified by the literati or by attempting to pass the narrow aperture of traditional publishing houses, writers are probably feeling freer to experiment with existing genres or to mash them into new ones. We also now have more time to crank out new novels, and long series of novels, as opposed to spending years sending out futile query letters for the first novel or two we wrote. Of course, at the same time we also may lament the glut of indie novels and self-published works posing obstacles to discovery of our own books, perhaps not understanding that we too are contributing to that glut! But if indie writers are functioning like players on baseball farm teams, true talent may eventually rise to starting positions in the majors. While we have some tools at our disposal for marketing our work, our only real control over our writing fate comes from the quality of our writing; we have to constantly work to make it our best, and to keep pushing to new discoveries, new awareness.
Beverley: How long have you been writing?
Michael: Since I was seven. I began taking it seriously when I was fifteen.
Beverley: Who influenced you the most in deciding to become a writer?
Michael: The earliest writing from the seven-year-old was heavily influenced by Grade B 1950’s science fiction movies. Later inspiration came from Franz Kafka, Robert Heinlein, Stanley Kubrick, my best friend Sabin whom I’ve known since I was five, and three high school writing teachers.
Beverley: What obstacles did you have to overcome to begin creating your work?
Michael: No initial obstacles. The earliest stories started flowing out on their own. A later obstacle as a pre-teen was the thought that some of my writing was dull or imitative, but I always had enough successes to not take that negative thought too seriously. At one point as a teen I wrote horribly dire stories that required constant delving into Roget’s Thesaurus in order to get the most strained wording possible, and it took me several years to accept that my natural sense of humor has a place in my writing.
Beverley: What gets your creative juices flowing?
Michael: A good “what if?” question, for instance, “What if all private property were abolished? How would people live?” Or a detailed dream with a plot that also lends itself to that “What if?” question. Or looking at a flawed older manuscript and realizing I know exactly how to fix it and bring it up to date. Or coming up with an imagined character or plot line that seems to intuitively sum up the past x months or years of my life.
Beverley: What will stop your creative muse the quickest?
Michael: Actually, amid the demands of my day job I’ve more or less trained myself to seize whatever free time is available for writing, and my muse knows this and won’t clam up just because my schedule is odd or hurried that day. If some daily day crisis develops which needs my attention, my muse can accept the postponement, sometimes with a little grumbling, but basically she knows a new writing session will shortly unfold. So she’s never really stymied.
Beverley: What do you have for breakfast?
Michael: Yogurt, protein powder, grapes.
Beverley: What do you wear when you are writing?
Michael: Whatever happens to be on me at the time. No special uniform is required!
Beverley: Where do you do most of your writing?
Michael: At my desk in my study on my laptop. However, when necessary I can write almost anywhere.
Beverley: Do you have a favorite cartoon character? Why?
Michael: Hmm. This requires some thought. The Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp?
Beverley: Who would you love most to meet 'in person' and why?
Michael: I never really feel a desire to talk with famous people, or famous dead people. The idea of sitting down to dinner with Gandhi, Lincoln, and
Michelangelo has never particularly appealed to me; I think I’d be shy and just let the other three chat while I ate in silence. Having said that, as I ponder the question in the course of this interview, what leaps to mind is that of course I’d like to spend a few days chatting with science fiction author Robert Heinlein. Not just a dinner; he would have had to invite me to his house for several days of inspiring writer talk! (Sometime before 1987, of course.)Beverley: If you had an unexpected free day what would you do with it?
Michael: Get some extra sleep. Talk at length to my wife. Have an extended writing session without a mandated end time.
Beverley: What are you working on now?
Michael: In order to clear my writing karma of older energies so that I can get some entirely new stuff going, I'm working on finishing three older novels that have been clamoring for rewrites and decisions about eventual publication:
1) Jump Grenade is about a psychopathic but supernaturally gifted fourteen-year-old basketball player who casually wreaks immense terroristic destruction. I did a fast and enjoyable second draft of this novel in May, and while I really love it, I haven’t made a final determination on whether it’s publishable.
2) Akard Drearstone chronicles the rise and fall of a rock group living in a commune north of Austin in the seventies. In the current Draft 12 (I’ve been at work on this for a long time) I’ve left this “historical novel” in the 1975 past so I don’t have to worry about things like smartphones with GPS, which can definitely play havoc with a murder/kidnapping plot.
3) Sortmind is the story of a start-up company’s invention of an app providing all known information telepathically, and the urban riots which ensue in response. Somehow the book also manages to include two sets of aliens with opposing ideas about dealing with this malfunctioning human race, and it also serves as a Bildungsroman for the teen characters who echo my overly-serious teen writer self. Long ago I named my website for this novel. I’m glad that its current Draft 8 has finally ironed out its problems and I can feel confident about seeking its publication.
Blurb for The CommWealth:
The CommWealth system, has created a society in which there is no legal claim to any kind of private property. Any object from your house to the clothes you’re wearing can be demanded by anyone, to be enjoyed for thirty days before someone else can request it. As actors in the Forensic Squad theatrical troupe attempt to adapt to this chaos, their breaking of the Four Rules sustaining the system, as several members navigate betrayals, double agents, and murder to find themselves leading a suicidal revolution.
Buy Links:Publisher’s website: http://www.classactbooks.com/index.php/component/virtuemart/dystopian/commwealth-6022015-08-14-23-29-50-detail?Itemid=0
You can find Michael at:Website: www.sortmind.com,
Blog: www. http://blog.sortmind.com/wordpress/
Don’t forget to check back next week for another author interview and discussion of pets in books.