Michael is offering a copy of his book to one lucky commenter this week, so make sure to leave a comment and your email address so that we can contact you if you are chosen. You will have 5 days to claim your prize, if we do not hear from you we will have to do a redraw, so make sure to check your email at the end of the week!
Author Pen Name: Michael G. Munz
CA: What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?
MGM: I've never been terribly comfortable with labels, so I like the broad one of "speculative fiction." While A Shadow in the Flames is closest to cyberpunk/sci-fi, a lot of my short stories are more akin to contemporary fantasy or supernatural fiction. (How would you classify a story about a modern man meeting the god Apollo in a café?)
I write what I write, well, because I find something interesting about the topic. I suppose you could say I write to escape, as most of my stories have some trace of the fantastic, extraordinary, or futuristic. (We're stuck in the real world every day, so why not read/write about things we can't quite experience in reality?) I do try to ground my stories in the truth of human experience, of course, but I like to give the reader a sense of wonder—or at least a sense of something they wouldn't normally encounter on their way to work. I suppose that goes back to my trouble categorizing my work in a clear-cut genre; I write what sounds interesting to me and worry about labeling it later (if at all) rather than sit down and say, "Okay, now I'm going to write some science fiction."
CA: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
MGM: The actual point of conscious decision was during the summer after my freshman year of college. While having a lousy summer otherwise, I was reading a book for the sheer pleasure of reading, and decided that I'd love to be able make a career of creating something that could bring such enjoyment to others. I'd always had the writing bug, but that was when I decided to focus on writing as more than just a hobby.
CA: Who or what was your inspiration for writing?
MGM: Three of my biggest influences would have to be (in reverse alphabetical order for no apparent reason) Dan Simmons, Terry Brooks, and Douglas Adams. Simmons for the masterful way he weaves a plot, Brooks for the sheer enjoyment some of his books have given me, and Adams for showing me that writing itself is a blast. As for influences on WHAT I write, I suppose a great deal of it goes back to reading all the mythology and astronomy books I could get my hands on when I was little, not to mention Tolkien, which was really my first introduction to that sort of a fantasy world. (I've not written much along those lines yet, but it certainly kindled my imagination way back when and started me thinking about other worlds. …Ah, ignore for the fact that Middle Earth is supposed to be a pre-history of our world, of course.)
CA: What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Currently my fiction-writing schedule requires working around time devoted to another job, so I tend to write on weekends when I can and maybe an hour or so in the evenings during the week. Sometimes I'll steal a little time at lunch, too, or even pull over and jot a few things down if something hits me (metaphorically speaking, knock on wood) while I'm driving. I need to work on spending a little more time writing; lately the desire to get in more than my recommended daily allowance of goofing off is quite high.
CA: Your book is about to be sent into the reader world, what is one word that describes how you feel?
MGM: Is there a single word that encompasses "excited," "proud," "nervous," "happy," "eager," and "slightly hungry?" I don't know that there is, and so I shall invent one: "Snoudtasticapphricous." ...or perhaps "Bahb."
CA: What was your biggest challenge in writing your book(s)?
MGM: Caffeine addiction. I do a lot of my writing in cafés, and I've downed a LOT of mochas. It's also a challenge to get inside the headspace of certain characters. I keep the point of view of a chapter generally constant with a particular character so chapters that are written from the POV of the darker ones tend to move my own headspace in that direction to the point where I have to shake myself out of it after a writing session. (I'm encountering this more in the second book than the first, though there IS one character from A Shadow in the Flames who, though he survives, won't be coming back because I'm frankly just sick of having him wandering around my brain.) Okay, so I guess that's two biggest challenges. Oh, and here's a third: avoiding the vengeful hands of a particular manuscript reader who wanted to throttle me when a chapter ended. (She hated having to wait for me to write the next one to find out what happened next!) That was a fun challenge, and yeah, I'm a sadistic bastard.
CA: What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I really like to win large quantities of money, but I seldom actually DO that. (Hey, you asked what I LIKE to do, right?) Obviously I read when I can, though I also like to get outside when the Seattle weather allows, even if it's just for a walk. I couldn't call myself a geek without keeping up with the latest movies, of course, though as I say this I realize I haven't seen as many lately as I used to. I also like to maintain a healthy addiction to computer games now and again. (I've likely spent way too much time playing Civilization 4.)
CA: How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
MGM: I've written nearly two: A Shadow in the Flames is the completed book, and I'm about ninety percent done with the one that follows. Of the two, I'd say the one I'm working on now is my favorite. ASITF introduced the characters, but the one to follow is really letting me sink my teeth into them now that they've been established. Some characters have also changed a bit due to the events of the first book, and it's a fun challenge for me to explore that.
CA: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
MGM: I don't think there's any writer who can say their characters are TOTALLY from their imagination, though how much of it is conscious and unconscious would vary. As for me, I've purposely appropriated a few traits or mannerisms from certain people, just to flesh out a character more. I'd say it's impossible for a writer not to put SOME aspect of themselves (however small) into the majority of their characters. A while back I noticed certain things I have in common with various characters—post-creation—that I then used to better write them. (E.g. Diomedes' issues with change reflect my own, though his are certainly taken to more extremes.) There is one character I began writing with the idea that he'd think and react exactly the way I would, though now he's actually grown into his own and diverged from me in some ways. (No, it's not the character named Michael, and no, I won't tell you who it IS.) There's also a character directly based on someone I know, done with that person's blessing.
CA: Do you have any advice for the aspiring writers out there?
MGM: Always carry a large supply of cardboard tubing. (Okay, just kidding. It'd be an interesting gauge of how many people take these answers to heart to see how many people start lugging some tubes around though, wouldn't it? Or maybe it's just me.) Seriously, though, two things: First, find someone whose honesty you trust to read your work. They'll help you make sure that what's on the page matches what's in your head when you're writing it. Second, TAKE NOTES. Even if you think you'll remember that plot development or character arc detail when you come up with it, it's horrible to come back to something you thought of a month ago and find yourself panicking as you try to reconstruct an elusive thought process. Fail to do this, and you'll want to beat yourself over the head with the aforementioned cardboard tubes.
CA: How can a reader contact you or purchase your books?
MGM: Both can be done on my website: www.michaelgmunz.com. A Shadow in the Flames can also be found on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, etc., or you could just ask your local bookstore to order ISBN #978-1-60264-104-4 if they don't have it. (That's especially fun because then you get to play with numbers!)
CA: Is there anything you would like to add?
MGM: The likelihood of anyone ever actually dropping a needle in a haystack, much less wanting to find one, is incredibly small. Additionally, feel free to stop by if you're on MySpace: MySpace.com/michaelgmunz
CA: Michael, thank you again for dropping by this week, and offering a copy of your book to one lucky commenter! Keep up the writing and I’ll be reviewing your book soon!