Name Mike Chinn
60 going on 25.
Where are you from
Birmingham, UK – although I was born in Smethwick (and I’m not getting into any argument over whether Smethwick is in Birmingham or the Black Country, The answer is ‘yes’).
A little about yourself: i.e. your education Family life etc.
I live with Caroline, my wife of thirty-three years, and (at present) three guinea pigs. I began an honours degree in Applied Chemistry at Lanchester Polytechnic (now Coventry University) but never completed it and wound up as a laboratory technician at the University of Birmingham’s Medical School. I took early retirement in 2012.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I have a short story, ‘Radix Omnium Malum’ in the final volume of editor Dean M Drinkel’s Tres Liborum Prohibitorum trilogy: The Grimorium Verum. In March The Alchemy Press is publishing my first ever collection, Give Me These Moments Back, which I’m very excited about. And Pro Se Productions recently accepted my latest Damian Paladin collection of weird adventure pulp fiction, Walkers in Shadow, for publication in 2016.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I can’t remember when I started writing, I just know I was pretty young – still in primary school, in fact. Writing very short stories and drawing my own comics. It sort of blossomed in grammar school when I was always being hassled for something to go in the school magazine. As for the why: who knows.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’m still not convinced. One day I’m going to wake up and find out everyone has cottoned on to what a fraud I am.
I suppose I realized there was something going on when I was being asked for stuff for the school magazine. Then I discovered fanzines, and the British Fantasy Society, and sent them contributions. Ultimately, the late and wonderful Fantasy Tales took a story of mine; actually giving me money for it – so that was a defining moment. But it was such an organic process I’m not sure I can pinpoint an exact moment when I thought ‘I’m a writer, now.’
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first ‘book’ was really a short story, heavily inspired by Alistair MacLean, for which I also drew the cover and wrote the blurbs. There was one copy, luckily long destroyed. Come to think of it, that should have told me I was going to be involved in publishing in one way or another, I guess. J
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I’ve been told there is a ‘Mike Chinn style’ – but I’m not conscious of what it is. Nor do I want to be.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Give Me These Moments Back is a line from the Kate Bush track, ‘This Woman’s Work’, which I have always found intensely moving. I used it as the title for a short story which I initially wrote to exorcise a couple of personal demons. It felt like the ideal title for a collection that’s largely comprised of reprints.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t do messages – too steeped in the pulp tradition, I guess. If it starts to get preachy, I bring in a character with a gun and shoot someone.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I try to make the characters and their landscapes as realistic as possible. At some point they’re going to step off a very high ledge and fall into something pretty weird and horrible. Grounding them from the start helps the readers suspend their disbelief, as well as (hopefully) creating a rapport – if not sympathy – with the characters.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Occasionally real events and places sneak in – although the events are usually fictionalized beyond recognition. On a couple of occasions I’ve based a character on someone I know (once as revenge on an old boss). I think we all do it. The central character can’t always be an idealised version of yourself.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? A mentor?
Michael Moorcock’s Stormbringer was the first book to make me go ‘Wow!’ when I reached the end. I instantly turned back to the start and read it again. I’d never read anything quite like it before; maybe the nihilism and bleakness appealed to a mid-teen boy. Moorcock is still a major influence, I think, even when I’m not writing fantasy or even science fiction. When I was scripting for DC Thompson’s Starblazer comic digest many years ago, the fantasy stories fair shrieked ‘Moorcock!’
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
What do you mean ‘book’?
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I have ideas for three novels, all pulpish (although to be fair, two are not much more than germs of ideas at present). I’m thrashing out the plot for the third, a Western (in fact, a Gothic Western), but haven’t figured out the title yet.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I’ve been a member of several writers’ groups, and they are invaluable, as long as everyone is sincere – not just there to be told how good they are (then growing petulant when no one does). It can hurt like hell when a piece of yours is mercilessly shredded by someone who knows what they’re about, but ultimately it’s all for the good.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Now I’m retired I do. It’s either that or gardening (which I hate).
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’d resist the urge, I think.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Everything. When I was little I’d rattle stuff off with no regard (and no concept of how bad it probably was). Now I’ll fret over the smallest phrase, trying to get it just right. If you let it, it becomes paralysing. (But if you ask my editor, they’ll tell you I still royally cock it up).
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
For the three The Alchemy Press Books of Pulp Heroes volumes I edited for The Alchemy Press I’ve been lucky in having excellent artwork from Bob Covington and Les Edwards. Bob also did the covers for the first Damian Paladin collection, The Paladin Mandates, and my first editing job, Swords Against the Millennium (both Alchemy Press). Whilst I had a hand in the artwork for Give Me These Moments Back.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That I seem to have a peculiar fetish about eating and meals: it’s everywhere. I’ll just say that’s it all symbolic and move swiftly on…
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Never give up. Never surrender. No – that was Galaxy Quest, wasn’t it? Doesn’t matter, it’s still true. Never stop trying, and never stop writing. And don’t expect success straight off; or just because your family has said your novel is the greatest thing since sliced bread that it actually is.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Janet and John Go Quantitative Surveying.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I told you I was sick (Spike Milligan has it on his, but in Gaelic).
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I collect Daleks, batmobiles and superhero figures that I don’t have space for.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Mad Men, Arrow, NCIS, The Flash, Hell on Wheels, the first series of Broadchurch (the latest one has been very disappointing) and Agents of SHIELD on telly; most of the Marvel superhero and Batman films, Italian Westerns and Horror films.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
You’ll find me (very occasionally) posting at http://saladoth.blogspot.co.uk