Monday 23 May 2011

Interview with Michaelbrent Collings

Michaelbrent Collings is a novelist, writing thrillers, Sci-Fi and Young Adult and children's books. He is also a screenwriter, has optioned and done rewrites for screenplays for major Hollywood production companies, and is currently developing several movies and television shows.


Michaelbrent's Amazon page

What was the first thing you had published?
The first thing I had published was a short story for the local paper. I was 15 at the time, and there was a contest to see who could write the spookiest story (fictional, of course) about my hometown for the newspaper's Halloween edition. I received the huge sum of fifty dollars for the piece, which supported my video game habit for about three weeks.

Tell us about your proudest writing achievement.
Hmmm. That's a tie, I think. It would either be when I sold my first screenplay to a big production company (a movie called BARRICADE which is currently in post-production...yippee!), or when my suspense thriller RUN made it to No. 61 in the Kindle store in the USA. Both were amazing moments that made me feel like maybe - just maybe - I was really an author.

What are your writing strengths and weaknesses?
My strength is definitely that I write fast. I can hit 10,000 words in a day if things are really flowing.

Weaknesses...that's a tough one. I suppose it's probably being too amazing. Just kidding. I'd say my greatest weakness, or at the very least the thing I have to watch out for most when I write, is a desire to get finished. Meaning that when I get to the end of a book or a script or a story or whatever, I really have to fight the desire to cut corners so that I can get the thing out the door. It's constantly a struggle for me to slow down, take my time, and get it done right.

Do you have a writing routine or any odd writing quirks?
Well, I do tend to cover myself head to toe in whipped cream and hum music by the Backstreet Boys while working. Of course, now that I'm married I do that less, because my wife complains about the melted whipped cream everywhere. Geez.

Actually, my writing routine is pretty simple: wake up, roll out of bed, sit on chair, begin typing. Continue until exhausted, then rinse, lather, repeat.

Is there a special place you like to write?
I prefer to write on paper. I tried writing on marshmallows for a long time, but found that editors were constantly complaining. Whiners.

Oh! You mean, like, LOCATION. Ah. Well, I like to either write at home, or, if things are too crazy here, I abscond to a bookstore where I can soak up the literary vibes while I roll out my next masterwork.

How important is it to you to plot your novels?

That's a great question! And the answer is: it depends. Some novels I hardly plot out at all. In those cases, I know exactly how the book begins (I'm pretty good with beginnings), and have a general idea how it ends, then I just sort of turn my characters loose to see what they will do to get from point "A" to point "B".

My most recent book, PERDITION, (get yours at today!) was a lot like that. I knew that the book would begin with a man whose family would try to kill him, and I had a pretty good idea that there would be a twist or two at the end, but in between there were as many surprises for me as for the reading audience. Contrast that to my books RUN (also at amazon) or THE MERIDIANS (also also at amazon), which are very complicated structurally. Those two I had to map out in a very detailed way so that I didn't lose myself in the writing. So really, it's case by case. I enjoy both!

Are your characters ever based on people you know?
Yes. For instance, there's this one nasty lady who constantly interviews mean....there's this one GREAT, AMAZING, STUPENDOUS PERSON who interviews people. :o)

In all seriousness, I'd say the answer is: kind of. I take interesting snippets from real people, and use them to liven up some of my characters. And all my heroes are, of course, based on me. Only they have full heads of hair (I am what could graciously be referred to as "a baldy").

Which author has influenced you most?
Probably Dean Koontz or Orson Scott Card. Not only are they both amazing writers, but I have the immense privilege of being friends with both of them, and they're simply amazing human beings. That's a really cool thing I've found about writers: most of them, even the big-time celebrities, are immensely interesting and generous folks. Dean has influenced me in the kinds of stories I write - we both gravitate toward genre-bending pieces that thrill and often (hopefully) inspire. Orson Scott Card, on the other hand, has been a tremendous influence on my treatment of thematics, since he is a master at that. There have also been others that have influenced me tremendously, but space doesn't allow for me to list them all.

How do you handle less-favourable reviews?
Mostly the same way everyone does: I cry until my mascara is runny (my wife hates it when I wear her mascara!) then I solemnly add the reviewer's name to my "Must Kill Soon" list.

Alternatively, I try my best to ignore the bad review. It's gotten easier as time has gone on, especially since the great majority of my reviews are quite positive. So I can look at the occasional less-than-glowing review and convince myself that that reviewer was just having a bad day, or was dropped on his/her head as an infant. Stuff like that.

What qualities do you think writers should have?
The most important quality for a writer to have, bar none, is an ability to WRITE. And by that, I don't mean that you have to be the next Billy Shakespeare. But you DO have to be able to plant your butt in a seat and write. People who say they want to be writers and who have never even typed or written out a single word are fooling themselves. If you want to be a great writer, the first step is to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and start WORKING.

What are you working on at the moment?
Well, I just finished up a book called PERDITION (which is still available at amazon, hahaha!) and next I'm going to do some work on a few screenplays. I'd tell you more, but they're very hush-hush, so if I told you I'd have to kill you and all your blog readers. And since I don't know who is going to read this, that would mean I'd have to hunt down everyone in the whole world and kill them all. Which, to say the least, would really mess up my sales figures.

What advice would you give to an aspiring novelist?
WRITE. WRITE WRITE WRITE WRITE. Write until you are so tired you can't write anymore. And then write some more.

I do joke around a lot, but this one is no joke. The only path to greatness in this endeavor is through toil and training. And both of those are achieved when you sit down, start clicking those keys, and crank out page after page after page of work. Not all of the pages will be good - heck, lots of them will be bad - but that's what God invented rewrites for! And if you never write, then that's the most certain way to assure yourself that you will never be a good writer...or any writer at all.

So get out there and write! I actually have a webpage and I posted a free paper there (it's under the heading "LTUE Papers") for all aspiring writers about the best way to achieve overnight success, and I talk at length about the importance of just DOING THE WORK! So feel free to stop by the site and take a gander at that paper. ;o)

Michaelbrent Collings was talking to Maureen Vincent-Northam, co-author of The Writer's ABC Checklist


David Robinson said...

Mo, Michael, I can identify with so much of what you say and I still do nothing about it.

And 10,000 words a day. I get tired after 9,999.

Great interview, lively and witty reading.

Anne-Mhairi Simpson said...

Awesome! Just love it. I write pretty fast too, although the one day I wrote 10k I was then useless for 48 hours. It took nearly a week to find the thread again.

One of my pet peeves is people who, on hearing you're a writer, reply "Oh, I'd love to do that but I just don't have the time." I'd heard of this happening to others and laughed about it. Then someone said it to me. Instant inclusion on the "Must Kill Soon" list.

Loved the interview - will check out the books :)