Michael Haley is the author of “Lost on the Edge of Forever,” a spiritual romance of the Fantastique published by Curiosity Quills, released on February 2, 2014. But possibly more importantly, the little dude-to-be mentioned on the book’s author page is now officially a little dude-been-born, and baby & family are healthy and wonderful.
I connected with Michael through Goodreads, after he sent me a kind message about my 5 ways new writers chase away potential readers post. I was intrigued by his language use (which goes to show that we should all polish our language even when commenting on a post) and headed over to his site where I read his novel’s amazing excerpt. My next move was to invite him for a WIP Q&A and asked for the excerpt to be posted on my MM Jaye’s friends write blog. Michael gracefully accepted, so you can read the exciting opening of “Lost on the Edge of Forever” here.
Michael, first of all congratulations on the triumphant arrival of the new member of the family! How are you adjusting so far?
Thank you! Life feels like near-constant fatigue, yet it’s fatigue that makes me feel amazing and ecstatic! Adjusting ourselves back into our normal routines has been a little bit of challenge, but every day it gets a little bit easier. Between a wonderful baby, two working parents, a book that won’t market itself, and new material that is screaming to be written, it’s a lot of work!
Before we talk about your work process, why don’t you tell us a few things about yourself?
I studied both Psychology and English at Iowa State University, although my studies often got pushed aside to study film art and narrative style regardless of what actual classes I was taking. That meant I watched a lot of movies when I should have been studying, but how important is Psychiatric Assessment techniques when there are decades of Jean-Luc Godard films to watch? Although I’ve always been interested in telling stories, it’s through film that I discovered the important of authorial voice in storytelling, and after college I began to hover around expressing that voice through literary rather than cinematic means. As my mind thinks in cinematic terms, my task is to translate what I see as a fully shot, edited, and scored film into a book. And most importantly, have the book read like a literary text as opposed to a junior novelization of 21 Jump Street.
Exercise in lean writing: give us a synopsis of “Lost on the Edge of Forever” in under 200 words.
Leila, an ambitious and brilliant student, is murdered during her final semester at college, yet discovers she’s been reborn as a spirit resigned to haunt the school of her death. Alejandro, a listless and depressed freshman, arrives on campus eager to reinvent himself after eighteen years of awkwardness, as well as a devastating family tragedy, shake his sense of worth and faith to their cores.
These lonely souls meet under the auspice of moonlit rain, and soon find themselves irrevocably, passionately attracted to each other. Leila begins to feel her spiritual body physically reawaken, and Alejandro discovers a kindred spirit who understands him like no one else. Intoxicated with each other, the impossible lovers dream of holding onto their own private miracle forever.
Yet how can Alejandro explain to skeptical friends and family his soul-mate is dead? Why does Leila get the nagging suspicion their romance might contain the secret of her existence? An unexpected act of evil ignites these unavoidable questions, revealing in its afterglow the true purpose of their star-crossed romance. Will love allow them to accept a profound destiny that surpasses time and perhaps even God, or is their love destined to die loud and young? (199 words)
Are you happy with the pace of your work? Do you aim at a specific word count each day?
I aim for the Stephan King quota of 2,000 words a day, but life almost always gets in the way of accomplishing that. I would kill for the ability to consistently put out a first draft every three months – only once was I able to achieve the feet by sheer fluke. I tend to overthink nearly everything, which often prevents me from just writing the text and trusting it to be good enough to make it to the next draft.
Plotter, pantser or both?
Plotter. I’m obsessed with narrative structure and cannot read or view anything without thinking about the skeletal structure underneath the work, which means I’m obsessed beyond all reason with the framework of my own. This might seem paradoxical considering I write almost exclusively character based fiction, but in my experience, most of the character’s growth/voice will naturally emerge from the book if everything else is done right—conflict, pacing, setting, etc. I don’t entirely exclude giving voice specific attention, but it’s never my first concern as I’m much more interested in getting the “gears” of the book right. If you were to criticize the personalities of my characters, I’d probably just shrug and say, “That’s who they are.” But if you were to criticize scenes for being boring, having pacing issues, or other stylistic stuff, then you’d probably see all of your suggestions taken into account on the next revision.
What’s your worst enemy in getting that first draft finished?
Generating new material is always much more difficult for me than editing/rewriting previous material, and lack of progress is often an emotional determent for me. So the trick to getting the first draft done is to write something new every day, if only to keep a momentum going as losing momentum has prevented some dear-to-my-heart plots from ever turning into fully realized stories.
Have you ever experienced lack of inspiration or drive to write? If so, how do you motivate yourself?
I wish I could say the act of writing is a transcendent experience I couldn’t live without, but that’d be a lie. Nearly every day, I have grand aspirations to write amazing work, only to lose these aspirations the moment I sit to write. The only way to combat this is to either procrastinate until I can’t stand it anymore, or write with my teeth clenched until the anxiety to write goes away, which will happen eventually but never quick enough. As Roger Ebert never tired of saying, “The muse visits during the act of creation, not before.” The finished product is what makes the process worth it, but the process of writing a first draft I could do without.
Could we take a look at your workspace? Is there a particular place you find inspiring?
My workspace freely oscillates among a messy desk, an unmade bed, and the fourth floor of the Illinois State University library. None of these are particularly inspiring or remotely interesting to look at, but there is a place I often take mental trips to. The month my father passed away was an extraordinarily stressful time in my life, yet a trip to Chicago afterwards provided me with a chance to gaze deeply into the horizon of Lake Michigan; seemingly vast and yet with the land of Michigan relatively and comfortingly close. The view was calming in that meditative way one can’t put words to, and when writing, I find that thinking about the lake & the horizon is enough to clear the garbage cluttering my mind and get things moving again.
That’s a very tranquil vista indeed. Now your photo is “pinned” on my Featured Writers’ Workspace Board on Pinterest. Apart from Word and Google, do you use any other writing or research tools and apps?
A thesaurus to avoid redundant words, but that’s really my only other writing tool. My research often involves reading either fictional novels in the genre appropriate to the scene in question (for stylistic choices) or memoirs written from people with comparable points of view to the fictional characters, and the rest is…well, made up. If a technical detail pops up I will fact check it, but it’s often more pleasing just to avoid the detail and write something more interesting than reality anyway!
How do you intend to celebrate writing “The End” on your draft?
Usually by going out to eat somewhere, or treating myself to buying a book or some other enticing piece of media. I don’t often write “The End” on my books; not because I’m opposed to the concept that stories must be concluded, but because the two words look aesthetically unappealing to me. Aesthetics and presentation matter just as much as content, and I distrust any writer who says that only their words matter. Words of course matter a great deal, but in the world we live in, everything else does too and I think it’s detrimental to success to pretend otherwise.
Which book publishing processes are you going to outsource and which are you confident enough to undertake yourself?
As the novel is not self-published, most of the production was covered by my publisher Curiosity Quills, including editing, cover design, etc. However, the house allowed me a terrific amount of creative input on the cover as well as editing, and despite the text having gone through numerous revisions big and small since signing the contract, I can proudly say every word of the text is my vision, a luxury that other authors unfortunately can’t claim with other publishing houses. However that also means if the novel stinks, I have no one to blame but me!
Your blog is Michael Haley (writer). Do you follow a specific branding pattern with your posts or is it a free writing platform?
At the moment it is a free writing platform in the process of becoming; i.e. I need to update it more. The vision for the blog is for readers to find literary, cinematic, and/or other artistic observations, critiques, tips and suggestions, or whatever else is currently obsessing me. My brain is a random place, so who knows what one will find?
Do you have any marketing tips or favorite promotional sites you’d like to share?
Read nearly everything you can about marketing and promotion—especially this blog, which has a wealth of nuggets, insights, and other wonderful tips and tricks via guest posts such as Nat Russo as well as your own writings on the topic. I don’t feel I can add anything new to the topic that either you or a guest writer haven’t covered, and I’m still attempting not to make most of the mistakes that are so easily made by beginners and dreamers alike.
Thanks a bunch for the positive vote! Is spiritual/paranormal romance the genre you will brand yourself with or do you see yourself branching out in the future?
Although I will brand genres on my books for marketing purposes, I never approach any story as a work of a specific genre or another. The pipeline of work I want to produce includes a political/sci-fi epic, a road novel that combines fairy tales with Jack Kerouac, a literary horror experiment in the vein of Pale Fire, and who knows, maybe even a teenage sex comedy if I can get an original angle on it. The only thing I’m interested in is telling a compelling story, to which genre is an afterthought.
That’s a really diverse scope you’re looking into! Would you like to share with us links where we can find you and your work?
Amazon USA: http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Edge-Forever-Michael-Haley-ebook/dp/B00I7HE2T8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400558131&sr=8-1&keywords=lost+on+the+edge+of+forever
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Edge-Forever-Michael-Haley/dp/1620074192/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400558169&sr=8-1&keywords=lost+on+the+edge+of+forever
Pinterest (Visual Playlist of Music that Inspired the Novel):http://www.pinterest.com/mhyclone83/lost-on-the-edge-of-forever-visual-playlist/
Twitter: @Michael__Haley (two underscores)
Thank you, Michael, best of luck with your new release and, again, congratulations on becoming a father!