Welcome to my weekly “In the Spotlight“! featuring my favorite authors and bloggers.
This is also on of my favorite author interviews. I love that Michael took the time to give us awesome tips. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did 🙂
Michael, thank you for the interview!
My name is Michael Omer, and I’m a writer, journalist and game designer. I wrote and published my first novel when I was sixteen, and figured I’d keep at it. Since then, I have published two more novels, and wrote… who can even count how many? I’m happily married to a woman who keeps pushing me to write more, and have three kids who insist I should stop writing and come play with them. I also have two dogs. Let’s not talk about the fish. I really need to do something about that fish.
D: Michael, What do you enjoy most? Writing, journalism or game designing and why?
M: They all come with their small bits of fun, but I think the answer is definitely writing novels. I found journalism a bit limiting (because, y’know, I had to write about specific stuff). Game design has an incredible amount of technical boring decisions. It’s fun to say “I want a green monster there”, but what does it do when you hit it? What does it do when you don’t? What happens if you ignore it completely? How do you balance its difficulty? It gets exhausting.
Writing novels, on the other hand, has no restrictions, and almost no boredom. In fact, if you’re bored while writing, you’re probably doing it wrong, or writing the wrong thing. If you’re bored writing something, your reader will be bored reading it. Except for the final hunt for grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes and dastardly commas, I enjoy every bit of the writing process.
D: Who encouraged you or what made you decide to write a novel and seek publication?
I wrote and published my first novel when I was sixteen. There was nothing that made me do it except for the thought that I really wanted to write a book. And once I wrote it, I thought that I would really love to see it in book stores. The only thing that really ever pushed me to write and publish was reading books, and I did that A LOT.
D: How do you think being a game designer has influenced your writing?
I’ve given this some thought, and my final conclusion is… it probably didn’t.
Game designing and writing don’t have a lot in common. However, for me they both require the same thing – the ability to be able to build something large from smaller bricks.
When I write a novel, it is composed from chapters, which are built from scenes, which are made with characters and settings and tone.
When I create a game, I know that I need to create a client and a server, each with its own set of limitations, each created with packages and modules and small functions.
With both projects I build one brick at a time, but I have to maintain the big picture in my head the entire time.
D: Tell us about your experience publishing Sleepless?
It was pretty exhilarating. Publishing these days is a very fast paced and streamlined experience. Once you have a formatted edited manuscript and a nice cover, your book can be available in Amazon in 24 hours. The joy of seeing your book on a large retailer’s site, seeing the sales reports with the little dots signifying actual people buying your book and (maybe) reading it is really hard to match. Which, of course, means that you have to do it again. Because it’s really addictive…
D: I’m very wary of sharing my first draft with beta readers but I know I HAVE to do it. Would you share your experience with having people review your work and give you feedback?
Oooooh. Big question with a long answer…
First of all – you don’t HAVE to do it. I know authors who don’t have beta readers. I know one author who just published a brilliant, engaging book which skyrocketed in Amazon’s sales’ charts, and she never had it beta read.
That said, I use beta readers, and most authors I know use beta readers. I believe it’s very good practice. There are things which the author simply can’t see, and a beta reader will. But it can be heart wrenching to have your book decimated by a foolish reader who can’t seem to understand that everything you write is brilliant…
Here’s a list of small suggestions which I think can be helpful
1. Have an alpha reader. The alpha reader needs to be someone who is at once critical and gentle. He has to know to tell you how brilliant you are, but then point at the greatest flaws of your book. You have to trust him almost completely, so he should probably know what he’s talking about. In short, he has to be my wife. You can’t have my wife. She’s taken.
The alpha reader reads the book first and points at the most basic flaws. Then you fix them before you give the book to the beta readers. This way, you hopefully won’t get six angry e-mails from beta readers asking you what this atrocity is.
2. Be very receptive to criticism. Don’t be defensive about it. Listen to what your beta reader says, and try to see the book from his point of view. Is he right? He might be.
3. Not everything a beta reader says is true. They think they know better than you. They don’t. You’re the author. You make the calls around here. Sure, be receptive, but not blindly so.
4. Never ever take it to heart. Some beta readers might hate your book, or get bored by it. It doesn’t mean that your book is boring or terrible. It means that they’re not the right match for it.
5. It’s good to have a beta reader that gushes over everything that you write. It’s completely useless in terms of honing your book, but it can really help you get through the day when someone tells you that your protagonist feels like a psychopath and that the book ending is crap.
D: You have a great post about rejection letters. What advice would you give an aspiring author like me about rejection?
m: Shorter and sadder answer for this one – get used to it. All authors get rejected. They get rejected by agents, by publishers, by disgruntled readers, by busy bloggers, by advertising sites… the list is endless. You have to learn to shrug and move on. It always kinda sucks though, no matter how used to it you are.
D: Great job with Amy’s voice! I felt inside a real teenager’s head. I’m very impressed. I’m writing a dark fantasy book and I get stuck in the hero’s voice often. Can you give aspiring authors like me some tips about voice, especially about writing from the opposite gender perspective?
Thanks! I’m really glad you liked it!
Well, I’m still trying to figure out how to create an immersive and deep character voice myself, but here’s something that really helps: Try to assemble your character from people you know well. It can be yourself, your sibling, a good friend, anyone you think you know well. Then you simply have to try and guess what he/she would do in any given situation.
Opposite gender issues – I have a lot of women in my life, so I feel like I can represent them pretty well by now. But most of my beta readers are women, and they always point out things which don’t sit well with the character’s gender.
And good luck with your fantasy book J Fantasy is a very hard genre to write. I’m constantly impressed by the dedication of the fantasy writers around me.
D: The blog! Looooved the blog 🙂 very original! What inspired it?
M: Awesome! I’m really happy it worked out. The inspiration was Patrick Carman’s “Skeleton Creek” series, in which one of the characters communicates with the other character using video blogs which are live. Originally I wanted to create a video blog for Amy, but it was too difficult to pull off, so I decided to do the textual blog instead.
Patrick Carman has a great TED talk which was how I first found out about his book, and you can watch it here
D: Please tell me the blog is in Book 2, Moth to a Flame!
M: The blog is in Book 2, Moth to a Flame! 😀
I can also promise that it has in it a blog post which will make your blood run cold. Maybe. Depending on how sensitive you are.
D: Where are you with Moth to a Flame? Can you give us a sneak peek? An
M: Advanced readers receive copies today, and it will be published on the 3rd of July. You can read the blurb and order the book here
And here’s a short excerpt to whet the appetite:
I grasp the cage’s door, moving it. It swings freely, squeaking as it moves. I kneel and stare at it.
“Check this out.” I say. “The door’s lock. It’s completely bent. I think whatever was here broke out.”
He doesn’t answer. I turn around. Shane’s gone.
“Shane?” I call. My voice echoes unnervingly in the room. There’s a moment of silence. Then, from somewhere else in the house, there’s another creak. I don’t want to be here anymore. This place is… wrong. Just wrong.
I turn around towards the living room and freeze. The room is completely dark. For a second I feel furious. Shane turned off the light! What a nasty thing to do!
“Come on, Shane, that’s not funny!”
Silence. I almost call him again, but then I hesitate. Shane would never have done this. He doesn’t like practical jokes, and anyway, he was scared. No, the bulb probably burned out.
Either that, or someone else turned off the light.
Thanks for the interview, it was a pleasure!
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