I'm a bestselling author, most known for my Lust, Money & Murder Series, which now consists of nine books (three trilogies), with more on the way. I also have written some young adult books and a few in other genres. I primarily focus on the e-book market.
This happened with the advent of e-books during the period between 2010 and 2012. Up to that point, I had written a novel every couple years over a period of 20 years, but was never able to work out an acceptable deal with a big publisher. This was largely due to the fact that I write within my own genres (some would say mixed genres), and publishers don't like that because they don't know how to categorize the book for bookstore shelves. Also, I'm very entrepreneurial and don't like the idea of someone else deciding what the title should be, what the cover should look like, or how much it should cost, etc. E-books came along and opened the doors for "authorpreneurs" to make all these decisions by themselves and publish their own books. I saw the opportunity and took advantage.
3. What did you do before you became a writer?
Well, I have been writing since I was a teenager so there was no "before." I studied engineering in school and then became a successful entrepreneur and professor of entrepreneurship, but during all that time I was always writing, first short stories, then novellas, and finally full-length novels. My mom was a good writer and I always knew I wanted to be one, too; it was my long-term goal to become a professional novelist and make a living doing it.
The unlimited canvas you have to work with, the infinite creativity at hand.
5. In your opinion, what is the most difficult thing that writers have to deal with?
That question makes me smile, Chris. I once took art lessons to learn how to draw portraits, and as my teacher and I worked on the details of each facial feature, I would say "Drawing mouths is hard!" or "Drawing ears is tough!" and he would always say, "It's all hard, Mike." Writing is like that. Writing a great story is hard. Getting your book noticed is hard. Dealing with rejection is hard. It's all hard, hard as hell.
It used to be, but that was before I understood what it is. For me, it's simply when my story has not been fully worked out and I get stuck on one part, which is a perfectly normal part of the creative process. The way I've learned to break it is simply to move to another part of the story that I'm clear about, and after I start working on that, the other part usually clears up in my mind, too.
7. When do you write? Do you have a set routine?
Not so much. I just try to put in about four hours a day, usually in a couple of two hour blocks. Actually writing (cranking out words) for more than four hours, total, tends to mentally exhaust me; I'm very intense about it. I don't have any specific number of words I make myself write every day, but I think it averages about 1,500. Of course some hours are spent plotting and imagining scenes in my head, and words don't actually go down on the page. I'm thinking about my stories at all hours, in the middle of the night sometimes. But in terms of actually writing words, I usually work for a couple of hours in the morning, then go out and get some vigorous exercise outdoors, to get the energy moving and clear my head, and then do a couple of more hours in the afternoon, usually at an outdoor cafe. I live in Cyprus most of the year and it's a great environment to write and the year-round good weather allows me plenty of fresh air and exercise.
Do you consider this your greatest achievement so far as a writer?
(See some of the glowing responses to Mike’s books here:
Thanks, Chris. I would say I consider that series my greatest achievement as an "authorpreneur," not as a writer. I think all my other published books are just as good as that series. I can't choose favorites. Every book has its strong points. If I don't think a book is good enough I don't publish it, and I have quite a few of those sitting around in drawers, too.
Well, that's a little hard to explain, but I think it mostly comes down to deleting the boring parts of your story, cutting out everything except the proverbial "candy bar scenes" before you publish it. Each and every scene should be exciting and gripping to you, as an author, as well as to any trusted readers or editors you test your book on. I think being a teacher helped with this, too, learning how to start a lecture and get the students' interest and talk for a whole hour without putting them to sleep. It's a skill I believe any author can learn; it just takes focus and listening to feedback from readers, as well as being willing to "kill your darlings," as the saying goes. You have to be willing to cut material that most of your readers will not find engaging, no matter how much you may love it yourself. This can be painful.
LOL. If you consider literary agents and publishing house editors readers, too (and they are), I could paper my floors, walls, and ceiling with their rejection letters and criticism, some of it quite blunt, even cruel. And ordinary readers, too, and readers who are also writers - almost every one of my books has some one and two star reviews. It always hurts, but you do reach a point of having a lot of confidence to deal with it when you have many more positive reviews to balance those out and a base of satisfied readers who want more. And my earliest bad reviews, back twenty years ago, cruel or not, were often valid - I didn't yet know what I was doing then.
11. When you write fiction, do your characters share any of your traits?
Of course they do, I think it's impossible for any author to create a character that's completely different from themselves, because even if you tried to copy a real life human being with perfect objectivity, you are still seeing that person through your own eyes. You put your personal spin on everything you touch; this is human nature - you can't help it. There is no such thing as being totally objective; it's an illusion. For example, in Lust, Money & Murder, there's a part of me that's Elaine Brogan, a part that's Giorgio Cattoretti, and a part that is Luna and Tony and Dmitry, and so on. They all share common traits with me.
Not really. There are a lot of authors I love and who have influenced me in one way or another. Some of these would include Thomas Hardy, Rod Serling, Nora Ephron, David Mamet, Stephen King, and Thomas Harris, just off the top of my head.
13. Where do you find inspiration?
For me, I simply feel inspired to write a good story, and then I start writing and plotting, struggling with that, and when it starts to come together, I start feeling inspired about that particular story, and I'm off to the races.
14. Do you have someone edit your books before publishing them?
I think editing is a crucial part of writing, and there are three different types of editing: story editing (big picture stuff), copy editing (grammar, spelling, etc.) and proofreading (catching hard-to-spot typos). For me, I've found that I actually need a whole team to do this, not just one person, because the required work covers too much ground. My wife is my story editor and I have a few other editors who do the rest, plus some beta readers and fellow authors who also help. Eliminating all the errors and continuity problems and typos from a book is a huge job, and one that I did not fully appreciate until I started publishing my work myself. It's a crucial one. I'm deeply appreciative of the folks who help me do this.
15. Do you design your own book covers? What’s the process involved?
I do my own book cover designs because, as I said earlier, I am a control freak and am particular about what they look like. I want the cover to exactly match the story in terms of content and feeling. I had to learn to use Gimp, a free Photoshop clone, to make my covers. That was kind of hard ("It's all hard, Mike" LOL). Usually I start designing the cover in the process of writing the book. I stop and take a break and work on the visual, and go back and forth between the written story and the image. It actually helps the writing stay focused, similar to writing a two-sentence synopsis. All I do is browse through images on the stock photo site I use (Shutterstock) until I find a few that look right, or see one that sparks a new idea, and then go from there, playing around artistically with the design and title. A business background probably helps with this, having a little experience in marketing and product packaging.
Man, that's a huge question, and what I've learned is that the answer is different for every writer. Sometimes a little different, sometimes totally different. You see one successful writer that uses, say, only Facebook for marketing, and others who use only email, and still others who don't do any social network marketing and just use brilliant book covers and titles and genre selection to get their books noticed. There are no rules, the marketing part is just as creative as the writing part. The bottom line is somehow, some way, you have to get your books noticed enough for people to start reading them and build a base. For me, one of my most effective methods is giving away free books on Twitter when new people follow me. But I probably use twenty other methods, at least, each one helping a little. I spent huge amounts of time on this the first few years but now that I have an established reader base it only takes about an hour per day, fortunately. I do enjoy interacting directly with readers, though; that part of the marketing is great fun. Without enthusiastic readers, it would all be pointless - at least, that's my feeling about it.
(See Mike’s article on this topic here:
I wish I had a dollar for every hour I've spent thinking about this issue and experimenting with it, Chris! My conclusion is that I, and most indie authors today, are never going to see our books in any significant number of physical bookstores, because paper books did not spark this indie author revolution. Ebooks did. That's what brought us to this party - ebooks. The very idea that a significant number of indie authors’ books could be sitting in physical bookstores defies logic - the store would have to be the size of an entire shopping mall. Therefore I believe that spending lots of time trying to get your books on paper and into bookstores is working backwards, like trying to go backwards in time, swimming against the current. Better to look ahead and write and publish more e-books, keep building your audience, and see what future industry development brings in terms of new formats and distribution methods. Audiobooks are one such example, and I will keep a finger in that pie; I've published most of my books in audio format. But so far, despite all the hype, audiobooks have not taken off the way e-books did. It’s possible that some new types of bookstores will catch on big that will accommodate our books, such as those that have super-fast print-on-demand machines or use new technology that nobody has even thought of yet.
18. Is there anything else that you would like to share?
Only that I appreciate you taking the time to interview me on your blog, Chris, and to come up with such good, specific questions! I really enjoyed it!
Thanks very much, Mike! It's been an honour having you on my blog, and I thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. I wish you all the very best with your novels and writing.
Please check out the Mike Wells website (see link below).