Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Writing Experience

 Romance has long been one of my favorite genres and when you throw in a good suspense element, I have to admit I am always hooked!  That was what immediately grabbed by attention when I discovered the work of author Mike Owens.  He is my guest today in My Writing Corner

Welcome, Mike, please tell us about your road to publication.

Ah, yes, the bumpy road to publication. Years ago I was swapping notes at a writers’ conference with another attendee. I mentioned that I had just finished my first novel. “Congratulations,” he said. “You’ve finished the easy part.” I had no idea what he meant because, as a novice writer, I knew nothing about the process of submissions, queries, rejections, etc. No problem, I thought since for certain the world was waiting eagerly for my masterpiece. Yeah, right. Needless to say, the learning curve from there on was almost vertical. One lesson I acquired from this process was the value of a good critique group. I was very fortunate in joining a great group that never held back on “friendly fire.” We stayed together for years, and without that group, and others that I’ve joined since, the road to publication would probably have been a dead end.

What  do you like best about being a writer?

The thing that keeps me coming back to my desk is the joy of finding out what happens next. I don’t outline my stories ahead of time (sometimes I wish I did) for the simple reason that, aside from the opening gambit, I don’t know where the story will go. In other words, what happens next? How will the characters develop? After a bit they take on a life of their own, make some of their decisions without any help from me.

What are some of the challenges of being a writer?

 I’d guess that most writers, if given a wish-list, would put time and a quiet space somewhere near the top of the list, but this is probably a luxury most don’t have. I can’t imagine how a single mom with small kids can squeeze in time for writing, but many do. The need for a quiet space is one of personal preference. I think the anecdote I’m searching for was one about Flaubert who was asked by a friend to let her sit in the room while he was writing, no noise, no questions, no moving about, just quietly sitting. After a short time he asked her to leave. Even the presence of another person, quiet as she was, disturbed him. That said, writers abound in Starbucks and other coffee shops, preferring to write in the presence of others. Take your choice.

How do you come up with your characters?

 I think most of my characters come from my life experience, people I’ve known or wish I had. That said, most of mine are composites of different characteristics drawn from different sources (people).

How do you come up with your plots?

Someone said that, by the time you’ve reached the age of six, you’ve accumulated enough experiences to write about forever. Unfortunately, my own early years were not quite that exciting, but still, plot ideas are all around. Just look for them. For me, plots start with a single idea, a “What if?” question. From there on, it’s a matter of sitting at the desk every day and typing out whatever the little gremlin from the basement sends up to me. I’ll avoid the debate between outlining and flying by the seat of one’s pants, being a diehard pantser myself…personal preference.

Tell us about your latest book. What made you write it?

Bernie & Bertie (Serial Killers Need Love Too)
is a rather dark, slightly twisted romantic comedy and just received a 4-Star review from InD’tale mag., Nov 2020. Bernie, the central character appeared in a short work that I submitted for a class assignment some years ago. For several years his story, along with many others, stayed in a box in my closet until I decided to spend some time with him. I wanted to see if I could pull off a story that was full of cliches, and Bernie seemed the perfect place to start. In fact, the opening line from the story begins, “It was a dark and stormy night…” I knew early on that Bernie had a homicidal trigger that would be any of the cliches from the 60s, but I didn’t know he would be so successful at it. The story really comes to life (for me, at least) when Bernie meets his doppleganger, Bertie, his mirror image in all but gender. She wasn’t present in the original story and appeared without any particular planning on my part. I love it when characters do that.

Let's get a blurb:

They looked alike, dressed alike, shared the same food preferences, finished one another's sentences. What were the chances that in a world where opposites attract and likes repel, two people so similar in every way, including their successful careers as serial killers would meet, fall in love and form one of the deadliest duos ever? Bernie and Bertie did just that, and this is their story.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Conventional wisdom has the writer sitting at his/her desk each day at the same time, same place. That way, your muse knows exactly where and when to find you. Perhaps your muse doesn’t have much material for you on any given day, but you won’t find that out unless you’re there to receive it. On the other hand, maybe muse has brought you a treasure trove of new insights, new information, stuff to kick your story into a higher gear, and you really want to be there for it, fingers poised above the keyboard, etc..I will pass along what I consider to be the most valuable bit of advice I’ve ever received, and that is to work on your project every day. Whether it’s pages, paragraphs or just a few words, the important thing is to keep the project alive in your own mind, and that requires daily attention.

 What is your next project?

My current project is a story set in two time periods fifty years apart. The characters are interrelated. Part of it is set in a textile mill town in North Carolina. I grew up in NC but had no idea of the number of textile mills in the state, over 200 in the 1800s and 1900s. Part of it is about a family that works in the mill and the other about the family that owns the mill. There are twin brothers, both mill workers and both in love with the mill owner’s daughter. Obviously, an unworkable situation. All my other stories have been linear, so this format switching back and forth in time is proving to be a challenge. I can only hope that the end product will be less confusing for the reader than it has been for this writer.

Thank you for telling us about your writing process and introducing us to your work, Mike. If anyone would like to read more about Mike's books or order them, here are the links:

And here is his contact information if you would like to get in touch with him:

Thank you, Mike, for being my guest today.  Any questions or comments for Mike?

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