Michael K. Rose is quickly becoming an Indie author to watch. He is a writer of science fiction and literary fiction novels and short stories. His work has received rave 4- and 5-star reviews and the books in his Sullivan's War series are frequent inhabitants of the Science Fiction Series bestsellers list. More information about his writing can be found at http://myriadspheres.blogspot.com
Actually, no. I've always enjoyed writing and publishing a book was on my bucket list for a long time but during various times in my life I've wanted to be an astronaut, an actor, a musician, an archaeologist and a travel writer (which counts, I guess, and still might be something I try my hand at).
When did you first begin to think you had an aptitude for writing?
When did you first begin to think you had an aptitude for writing?
A few years ago I had written some short stories. This was when I did begin to think about being a writer. I thought they were pretty good and so I started submitting them to the fiction magazines. I did this for a couple of years, collecting rejection slips, before finally deciding to put them out there on Amazon and to see what kind of response I got.
Was there anything specific in your educational background that provided a spark for writing?
I've always been an enthusiastic reader. Early on my dad introduced me to the Sherlock Holmes stories and, via films and television shows, science fiction (I'm an unabashed Trekkie). My interest in Victorian literature has continued, as has my love for science fiction. During high school I went to a prep school in New England and had great English teachers there who introduced me to many of the classics. In fact, one of them lent me Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles from his own personal library. And writing has always come naturally to me. I never had much difficulty with spelling or grammar and there were few words that I troubled over when reading as a child. Again, I think my dad reading the Sherlock Holmes stories to me helped with that. I was exposed to words that my peers simply weren't using so as my education continued I was at an advantage in that respect.
As mentioned, I paid my dues and collected a fair number of rejection slips before I decided to self-publish. And a year ago self-publishing wasn't even on my radar. It took getting a Kindle and finding all the wonderful self-published works available at Amazon for me to begin thinking about it. I decided I would start small, see where that went, and in November of last year I published a short story called Sleep and a collection called Inner Lives. Sales were not impressive but reviews full of high praise soon began trickling in. I was completely taken aback! I knew that I had a knack for writing but the overwhelmingly positive response was a big surprise. As of this writing, my work now has thirty-five positive reviews and only one negative review. It still amazes me that so many people think so highly of my writing.
Your books are "speculative" science fiction. How would you describe that to someone who is unfamiliar with the genre? Do you see yourself sticking with science fiction in the future?
Speculative fiction is simply any fiction that includes elements that are not found in the "real" world: magic, futuristic technology, vampires, etc. What I've always loved about the genre, particularly science fiction, is the limitless possibilities it offers. It is true that there are at least as many stories as there are people on the planet, but when we travel to other planets look at how many more possibilities there are! And I like the speculation, I like asking and answering the "what ifs." I like imagining what life would be like on another planet, on a spaceship, in a parallel universe. I find it endlessly fascinating to explore how other writers have imagined the universe.
Now, as a writer I do not limit myself to speculative fiction. It is the lion's share of what I write but I also have a few projects lined up that could best be called "literary fiction." Interpret that as you will. :o)
How balanced are your books--between plot, setting and character development? What aspect of this is the most difficult for you when you are knocking out a first draft?
I actually find that setting plays less of a role in my work than either plot or character. At least so far. I have one project lined up that would, essentially, be a grand tour of the great cities of Europe and how each city affects the main character in different ways. Regarding plot, I suppose some of my more literary works (see the collection Inner Lives, for example) could be accused of being bereft of plot. They are heavy in character development. The Sullivan's War series is plot-heavy, particularly in the first book, but there is quite a bit more character development in Book II.
Honestly, I find writing action the most difficult (ironic, considering how action-oriented Sullivan's War is). I sometimes feel like writing about people fighting gets a bit stale but based on the reviews I've managed to pull it off.
You recently released Book 2 in the Sullivan's War series, and I know you are planning on the release of Book 3 soon. Did you find that the first book in the series was the most difficult to write?
What do you see as the future of the book industry? Will the traditional, brick and mortar bookstore survive? Do you feel as though the future is bright for indie authors? Is the playing field becoming more level with the rise of the e-book? Do you think e-book marketing is beginning to follow established patterns? Is there a clear-cut method for success as an indie writer?
I'll address these questions as a whole rather than one at a time. I actually wrote a blog post about the future of books (here: http://myriadspheres.blogspot.com/2012/01/future-of-books.html). Briefly, I believe that the mass market paperback will become a thing of the past and while books will survive, they will survive as collectors' editions, items for those who want a physical copy of a book they love to have signed, display on a shelf, etc. I like to use the analogy of audiophile-grade vinyl records. They are still produced in small batches for those who want them but most of the population will opt for the CD or mp3 version. I could be wrong in this but if an ebook costs the same as a paperback (and in many cases less) and ereaders become increasingly more common, I think a lot of people will find themselves preferring digital copies. I hope that bookstores don't die off. There are still many collectible books out there, books people will want on their shelves. Will stores selling exclusively new material survive? I don't know. Barnes & Noble made the transition to ebooks and they could still have brick-and-mortar stores fifty years from now. But I doubt they'll be the warehouse-type operations they are now. They will carry the collectible versions and if they're smart, they'll include a free digital version with each physical purchase (just as some CD manufacturers have done). If they're smart they'll also begin to offer ebooks in multiple formats. If they offer mobi files of a book at the Nook store they will not be formatting themselves out of taking part in the biggest game in town: the Kindle. And the really smart retailer will produce an ereader that can read all the major ebook formats. They'll sell all the formats as well.
Regarding marketing, it is all about exposure, as far as I can tell. The more eyeballs on your book the better and it really doesn't seem to matter who those eyeballs belong to. I think ebook readers are, partially due to price, beginning to experiment outside of their comfort zones when it comes to book genre. Indie authors are developing large and loyal followings. It's completely possible a reader will pick up a book by an Indie author based on rank and ratings and not even realize it's self-published. The path to success seems clear: get your book out there in any way possible. But do so tactfully and respectfully. No one likes a self-interested asshole, which is something writers like you and I realize. Make connections. By helping each other we help ourselves. If a potential reader sees ten tweets about a book, it is certainly better that those tweets come from ten different people rather than one. And on that note, I would like to thank you for all the support you've offered me and other Indie authors. And thank you for the great interview as well!
Thanks, Michael! As you mentioned, we all have to support each other, and I enjoy working in concert with great people like you to promote Indie authors.