Hello, everyone! Today’s guest is the talented mystery and science fiction writer, Michael W. Smart! Please take a moment to get to know our guest, his interests and thoughts about writing, as well as discover his work.
Welcome, Mr. Smart! Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I’m of Jamaican and British ancestry, born in New York City but lived until age 16 in various parts of Europe and the West Indies. Probably where I acquired the traveling bug, but I think I actually inherited it from my adventurous mother. My passions include flying, blue water sailing, reading, and of course writing. I retired from the work-a-day world for the first time in my late twenties to travel around the world, and I spent years sailing around the Caribbean. Returned to the work-a-day world to raise two extraordinary kids, and retired again as soon as they were off on their own. Now I write full-time, mostly mysteries and science fiction.
Wow! What a fascinating life! You must have great stories of your own to share!
Are you interested in other forms of artistic expression besides writing? Where does writing fit in, and why are you drawn to it? What keeps you motivated/inspired?
I love and appreciate all forms of artistic expression, but writing is my medium, though in my twenties it was photography. I’ve been writing since I was thirteen, but as a hobby. I enjoy creating characters, and scenes, and stories, allowing my imagination free rein. My inspiration comes from everywhere, books, television, movies, people watching, memories and experiences, and my imagination.
What forms of writing and genres do you prefer and why? What can you never see yourself writing?
I enjoy reading everything, poetry especially. In novels I prefer the mystery, thriller, espionage and science fiction genres. And those are the genres I write. I cut my teeth reading the old hard-boiled authors and novels, Dashiel Hammett, Spillane, Ross Macdonald and John D. MacDonald, Robert B. Parker. And in science fiction, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, H.G Wells. All those guys created fantastic characters and stories. I refrain from using the word ‘never’ but I’m not interested in writing magical fantasy or stories involving werewolves and zombies.
I’ve read books which annoyed me to the point where I wanted to throw them across the room. As a reader, what do you think makes a good story? What’s one thing a ‘bad’ book taught you to not do in your own writing?
For me it’s all about the writing. I can appreciate and enjoy a variety of writing styles and genres, as long as the writing attracts and captivates me, and the characters are compelling, then I’m along for the ride. And I’m the type of reader who can’t put a book down once it’s taken hold of me, and I do that when the writing really grips me. If the writing is poor, then it’s all I see. The author is constantly visible on the page and gets in the way of the story, and I’m unable to get into the story or the characters, no matter how good a concept it might be. That’s when I’ll put a book down and move on.
‘The author is constantly visible on the page…’ what an interesting way of putting it.
As a writer, what elements do you find are the most crucial to include in your stories? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Again I’ll say it’s all about the writing for me. You can have all the elements of a really good story, the characters, plot, etc., but if the craft is missing in the writing, then even the best ingredients won’t matter. So I make it a crucial part of my writing to pay attention to the craft; how I use language and choose my words; how I string the words together, and how I construct sentences to blend all the ingredients. To me that is the most crucial element in my writing. I think of words as the raw material, and how authors string them together to create a character, or a scene, or a plot, that is our art.
I totally agree with that last point. It’s also what makes our work unique.
Who/what are the biggest influences in your writing? How do they influence what you write?
I’ve mentioned them before. The pioneers of the mystery and science fiction genres. And great contemporary storytellers like Clive Cussler, Sarah Paretsky, Nora Roberts, P.D. James, Patrick O’Brian, Steig Larsson, how they use words and language to mold a character, or set a scene, or evoke an emotional response, those are the elements I attempt to emulate in my writing.
What draws you to your preferred genre? What do you think makes your genre unique? And why is it so popular?
Personally I’m drawn to the writing, how stories and characters are shaped and molded. How it touches me in some way, emotionally, viscerally. It can be any genre, though I tend to bypass the dystopian, zombie, and vampire titles. I enjoy themes in a story, how the story and characters illuminate a particular aspect of society, or culture, or the state of our lives. I have these kinds of themes running through all my novels, and it’s ironic, because you’d think dystopian zombie vampire type stories would be fertile ground for exploring these themes, but I tend to find them more in the mystery, espionage and classical type science fiction genres.
Can you tell us about your books? What other projects are you working on?
I’m currently working on a mystery series set in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Eastern Caribbean, spiced with a bit of romance. I’ve completed the first three titles in the series and working on a fourth. Dead Reckoning is the first published title in the series, and the second title Deadeye, is now available for pre-order and will be released for sale August 5th. I’m offering a free copy of Dead Reckoning with every pre-order of Deadeye. The third title Deadlight, will be released close to Christmas. I also have a science fiction novel close to being published, but its release is going to require a shift in marketing and promotion geared to a different audience, and I haven’t begun focusing on that yet.
Do you promote other writers on a blog or website? Why is that important to you?
I do believe it’s important for authors to encourage and promote each other. In my own writing and publishing journey I was amazed at the amount and quality of the resources available online. I deeply appreciate the informative, useful tips and advice provided by others which helped me immensely, and I believe we must continue to pay it forward.
That’s great. It’s important to have writers supportive of other writers out there.
What do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing and how do you cope with it?
More a frustration than a difficulty. When I’m stuck at a particular point in a story. The first few times it happened were especially frustrating. But after five novels I’m now familiar and comfortable with the process. I take a step back and leave the work alone for a while, because I now know even if nothing is happening on the page, it’s happening in my head. My characters are constantly speaking and interacting with me. They’re wrangling the problem and trying to figure out what to do next. It also helps when writing a series, because I’m dealing with the same characters, and I’m more familiar with them as the different stories unfold. Usually after taking this break I’ll wake up one morning to discover the solution fully formed in my head.
What advice would you give to new writers, especially those looking to break into your genre?
If you’re a writer you awake every day wanting to write. And it’s also the best advice I can offer. To write, write and write, anything, doesn’t matter what, just write. Practice, practice and keep practicing. And the other piece of advice, perhaps as important, is to learn the craft. How to manipulate words and language. Often what’s going on in one’s imagination doesn’t get translated to the page. And it doesn’t happen by itself or by accident. Doesn’t mean you need to take writing courses or get a degree in creative writing, although those will teach you the craft. But I think one of the best ways to learn the craft is to read, read and read, especially in the genre you enjoy and want to create in. And while you’re reading pay attention to the language, how words are strung together to create a scene, or produce an emotion, or make you visualize what the author is imagining.
All great advice. Thank you.
How can readers get into contact with you?
Readers can contact me from the Bequia Mysteries website and also connect with and follow me on my social sites:
The Bequia Mysteries website: http://www.bequiamysteries.com/
About Me: http://about.me/michaelwsmart/
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Mr. Smart. It was a pleasure to get to know you and your work. Readers, I know you enjoyed meeting Mr. Smart as well, so please leave him a message below and check out his contact links and his books.
Have a great week, everyone!