Please give me a moment to introduce Michael Dellert to you. I met this man through one of the many social media platforms we share. I get his blog updates and newsletters in my email everyday and can say without a doubt, they are fantastic. He’s a great author to have on my side 😉 He’s helped me with some technical aspects of writing, with getting my creative juices flowing, and just being a good human anda good friend. Please welcome Michael!
You write fantasy. Do you read it as well?
I’ve always enjoyed reading fantasy and sci-fi literature. I’ve never restricted myself only to that genre, especially not as a lit student, but it was my entre-nous into reading as a kid, and it’s the genre I come back to for pleasure reading more often than not.
Favorite fantasy series: The Xanth novels by Piers Anthony. Because those were funny when I was a kid!
What drives a fantasy for you and makes it something you want to read/write?
I think the first thing that drives any story is character. Fiction, like life, is about the people you meet and the problems they have. I like stories that reflect the moral ambiguity of the world we live in, stories that don’t cast characters into simple black-vs.-white conflicts. Beyond that, I appreciate a fully-realized, well-considered setting that hangs together logically.
I love the old tropes and tricks of the genre, but finding the twist on them that makes them fresh, that’s why I want to write in the genre. Genre is really nothing more than a discussion in progress. That’s how nerd-feuds about the relative strength of Superman versus the Hulk get started. So you read one author in the genre, and then you write something in reply: “Oh yeah? What about this?” Then another author reads your work and says, “Oh no. Didn’t you think about that?” Before long, there’s blood in the streets. It’s great fun.
My bets are on Pirates. Every time.
How have your aspirations as a writer changed over time?
I think when I was younger, I had very romantic notions of what it meant to be a writer. I wanted to be a cross between a young F. Scott Fitz-Hemingway and the later Wittgenstein. I wanted to be taken seriously “as an artist,” or some such nonsense. Nowadays, I realize that I don’t get to decide whether I’m taken seriously, or if my work is really any good. That’s for my readers to decide. The only thing I get to decide is what kind of stories I want to tell, and how much work I put into telling them.
Yep. Set the bar at a reasonable place and then get pleasantly surprised when it is raised for you.
You have put your blood, sweat, and tears into your work. What made it worth the effort?
I have three particularly close friends who have never failed to believe that I could do anything to which I set my mind. I honestly don’t know what makes them so certain, but I’m so lucky to have them urging me on and encouraging me forward. I also have two beautiful daughters. The idea of making them proud of me keeps me moving forward, despite the obstacles. I want them to see that they can be whatever they want to be, so long as they’re willing to work hard and sacrifice for it.
Honorable intentions–I like it! I can’t say the same for me 😉
How has self-publishing changed the way you read?
For one thing, I read more self-published authors now. I try to keep up with what’s popular in the market and what kind of work is being done by other professional writers, and increasingly that means (especially in genre fiction) reading the indies. Over the last few years, they’ve really come to dominate the genre markets, and one would have to be a fool to ignore them or dismiss them. Until the lights go out and the post-apocalyptic nuclear winter begins, indie publishing is here to stay.
I’ve also become a lot more genre-tolerant. As a student of English Literature, I’ve sometimes been a bit “snooty” about certain genres. But as I’ve matured as a writer and started working with other self-published authors, I’ve come to see how much innovation is being brought to literature through the genre-crossing work that’s being done these days. I think there’s a lot of really original work being done right now in the industry.
On the other hand, I’m also much more critical of self-published work. I know there aren’t teams of editors and production staff behind these books, so I hold them to a higher standard of quality. If self-publishers are going to be taken seriously as an industry, we have to take responsibility for the quality of our work in ways that previous generations of authors haven’t. That means becoming (or hiring) better editors, cover artists, interior layout designers, and other publishing specialists. Like them or lump them, the traditional publishers have generally high production values, so the bar is set pretty high for indies to compete on quality. When indies start to demand higher prices from their work, they’re going to have to show better quality for the money.
Totally true! I definitely hold indies to a high standard. Don’t give me a book that would be good if not for the editing. Don’t assume to be a writer if your grasp on language isn’t good enough for you can’t afford and editor. Tell me I’m harsh, I’ll take it. I have standards and so should most readers and especially indie authors.
Who or what has helped you become a better writer over time?
The readers, of course. I couldn’t be a writer at all if it weren’t for the readers, and their feedback, energy, and enthusiasm for my work is a tremendous boost to energy and creativity.
Beyond that, I mentioned three particularly close friends earlier. They never let me get away with doing less than my best.
And when all else fails (as it sometimes does), there’s always consistent, focused practice. Being disciplined and committed to the craftsmanship of my work always gets me through the lonely times when I can’t find a friend.
And there’s the mission. So many of the things and artifacts in our lives are machine-made on assembly lines from schematics. It’s rare that we hold something in our hands that required the dedicated attention of a human mind over weeks and months of time. But books are still like that. There’s a magic, an alchemy, a techne to them. That’s the mission: to make magic.
^^^ ❤ ❤ ❤ ^^^
What kinds of activities do you do to keep yourself fresh and happy with your writing?
I have two wonderful daughters that I try to spend as much time with as possible, given our situation.
I also have paying editorial and ghost-writing work that keeps me from getting too lost in my own fictional world. Instead, I get lost in other people’s fictional worlds.
After that, swimming and hiking with my dog keep me from getting too stir crazy. I live in the beautiful, rural wilderness near New York City, so the changing seasons and landscape provide me with a deep wealth of inspiration for my work.
And of course, reading is part of the writer’s job description, so I set aside time to do that every day.
Beyond that, I try to get out to readings, gallery shows, and publishing industry events as often as I can. It’s important to stay connected to friends and colleagues in the real world as well as online.
Nature and people..like it!
How did you work your advertising and build your following?
Publishing might be very competitive, but the creative writing community is deeply supportive, and writers are notorious readers. Writers love to share our victories and successes, and we’re quick to console each other through failures and difficulties.
I think the best thing I’ve done for my following was to develop close relationships with other authors. By engaging with them broadly and commenting liberally on their social media platforms, I became involved in the conversations they were having, and added my own two cents’ worth.
But it was hard for me for a long time. The most important thing I did was get over the “I’m not worthy” mantra going on in my own mind. I had this idea that I was “just starting out” and “aspiring,” which is all just a way of saying “not good enough.” Once I realized that my heroes, my idols, and the amazon best-sellers all put their pants on the same way I did, it was easier to just step into the conversation and make myself heard.
And then I just try to be ruthlessly helpful to other writers. I publish tips and tricks about publishing and writing on my blog, and I engage with my followers, my readers, my peers, and my idols every day. In this day and age, audience engagement makes all the difference.
I am eager to know your idols…another time, perhaps.
Aside from some last minute rewrites for Hedge King in Winter, which starts publishing on Wattpad in October, I’m currently rewriting my next novella project, tentatively titled A Merchant’s Tale. I plan on releasing it shortly after Hedge King comes to an end. It’s set in the same milieu, but with different characters and different concerns.
After that, I have two short novel projects in the pipeline that could more properly be considered sequels to Hedge King. I also have a longer, more serious novel project currently in rewrites that I hope to release by the end of 2016 or early 2017.
Where can we stalk–erm, follow your work online these days?
Ha. For stalkers, my private number and address are…. 😉
I’m not hard to find online. GooglePlus (mdellert1172@gmail), Facebook (fb.me/mdellert.editor) and Twitter (@MDellertDotCom) is where I do most of my self-promotion and audience engagement, and you can follow me on Wattpad, where Hedge King in Winter will publish.
Once the serial is complete, the final episodes will be collected into an ebook format and made available through Amazon, Smashwords, and other online ebook vendors. I’ll be announcing those releases to my mailing list as the details become available.
And if you really want to stalk me, my blog (mdellert.com) and my newsletter is where you can really get a window into my workshop. I share daily writing prompts from my own personal collection, I make special content available to my subscribers, I offer tips and tricks about writing and publishing, and it’s where you’ll hear about my new releases before anyone else.
Thank you Michael for spending some time with me!! And thank you, Reader, for spending time with us!