Name: Michael Lee Mendelson
Where are you from? Miami, Florida
A little about yourself, i.e. your education Family life etc.
I am a recently retired firefighter of 26 years. During the past 12 years, I was also a part time law enforcement officer. I have retired from both, and I am now a private investigator as well as an author of fine literature.
The truth is, I’m not much of a pleasure reader. That is to say, I’ve read maybe five books for pleasure in my life. So the idea of me writing something was bizarre to me, to say the least. I consider myself an “accidental author,” and I had no idea where or how to start. But, at the behest of my beautiful wife of almost two years now, Yvonne, I started writing. Without her persistent encouragement, this story would have never come to life.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
The latest news involves me learning how tough it is to market yourself as a new author. Even with a publisher, I’m finding that if you don’t actually go out and market yourself, your book will go nowhere.
With that said, I have recently developed my new web and improved website. The site is really coming out nicely, and there are many interactive things for my visitors, including links to my Spotify playlists, if they have Spotify themselves. There is also a blog that I have started, and I am trying to post any new activities there to keep people up to date.
Finally, I have started my next book. A break from the horror genre, this will be a post-apocalyptic thriller that I promise will be nothing like anything before it.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
As I mentioned earlier, I am totally an accidental author. One night as I lay in bed in the fire station, I was in that twilight stage between sleep and awake, when the idea suddenly came to me. I actually remember thinking, “Wow, this would be a really good book, or even a movie.” With that, I came home and told Yvonne. She agreed, thought it was an interesting concept, and also thought it would be a good book or movie, if it was done right.
I recall asking Yvonne, an avid reader herself, if she knew of any authors that might want to take the idea and develop it. I just wanted to see the idea come to life. To my horror, she actually suggested that I write the story. I actually balked at the idea and said, “Are you crazy? I’m no writer.”
To my surprise, after reading the first chapter she told me, “This is really good.”
Of course, my response was, “Well, you have to say that. You’re my wife.”
But after much reassurance and encouragement, she convinced me that she really did like it and that she wanted me to continue writing. So, with Yvonne looking over my shoulder and allowing me to bounce every twisted idea off of her, before I knew it, within about two months I had written a 103,000-word novel. The rest is, as they say, history.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ll let you know when I do. Honestly, this is all very surreal to me. The idea that I, an ordinary guy with an extraordinary imagination, could string together a collection of words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters that people would be interested in, let alone be thrilled at, is so far beyond anything I ever expected, words cannot do it justice. I am so humbled by people’s reactions and comments.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Like I mentioned earlier – my vivid imagination that haunts me in the times between sleep and awake. But the true inspiration came from my wife.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t think I have any particular writing style. In fact, a friend who read my book, who is also an avid reader, told me that very few authors would have ever tried what I did in my book. My response to her was, “I didn’t know enough not to do it.” She laughed and said, “Well you, pulled it off.” Based on the reaction from people who have read the book so far, I’m guessing that I did.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title was actually something I agonized over for a very long time. It surprised me how tough a title can be to come up with a proper title. In the end, I chose “Letter From Hell” because I believed that it conveyed the story without being too revealing. Plus, I believed it to be sort of catchy, something that would jump out at you.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
It’s not exactly a self-help story. I basically hope that the book can be an escape, send a chill or two up the reader’s spine, and perhaps be a memorable experience for them.
Fiona: How much of this book is realistic?
That would all depend on your belief in the supernatural. As far as the character development and story line, I believe they are very realistic. The interactions between characters is extremely relevant and realistic. Several readers have commented about the characters and the fondness they feel for them in the end.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Not specifically. But during my twenty-six year tenure as a firefighter and twelve years as a deputy, I saw many disturbing things. All of these memories lent to my graphic descriptions in the story. The actual events in the story are completely make believe. However, unless you’ve actually seen firsthand some of the scenes I have seen, I don’t think could you accurately describe the minute details.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
No personal mentor, per se.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m not actually reading anything at the moment, as I’m busy working and writing my next soon-to-be classic.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
My current project has a working title of “Last Man Standing.” At this point I’m about a third of the way completed.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Without a doubt, all my co-workers at the fire department. They put up with me bouncing one idea after another off of them, all the while encouraging me to keep writing and thought it was really great thing I was doing.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
That all depends on the readers. I enjoy this newfound creative side. If the people want it, I will continue. I would say I am passionate about writing. But if I had to write for a living, with deadlines and pressure, I probably wouldn’t be any good. I can only write as I’m inspired. I may go a month without writing anything, but then I’ll write fourteen hours a day for two weeks as the ideas come. I would never write just to write.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t believe I would. I’m not saying it’s perfect in any way, but it’s my work and it has taken on a life of its own at this point.
That’s sort of like asking me if I would change anything about one of my kids. I would not because they are who they are. If I changed anything about them, they wouldn’t be the children I have come to love. I feel the same about my story. It’s all grown up now; it’s time for it to live on its own. Now, all I can do is watch it in the world and hope I did a good enough job that it will prosper.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
By accident. Just wanted to see an idea I had come to life.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I cannot say anything other than it will not be in the horror genre. I would say it will be an action-adventure story. It will have the same attention to scene details and character development, and I promise you will get emotional.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Honestly? No. I don’t want that to come across as haughty, but I really only write as I’m inspired. And when I’m in the groove, it really flows out from me effortlessly. Writing “Letter From Hell,” I would often write two or three chapters in a day, only stopping when I had to sleep, work, or eat. I never sit down and try to come up with something. When it’s there, it’s there. If it isn’t, I leave and come back when the inspiration returns.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Not being an avid reader, I would have to say the most prevalent influence in my writing would have to be Suzanne Collins, author of “The Hunger Games”. Perhaps you have heard of her? After reading her Hunger Games series, I was amazed at her ability to paint a picture with words. As a reader, I was immersed into the scene and I could visualize everything as it was happening. That is what I try to do in my writing.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not yet, but I’m looking forward to it. I actually have one idea for a historical fiction novel that would require me to travel some. We’ll have to see where that goes.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I truly love the cover. My artist, Yosbe, really hit this one out of the park.
I wanted the cover to reflect a man in true anguish, in a desperate situation that seems hopeless.
Yosbe is a very busy graphic artist in Venezuela, and expressed that she did not have the time to read the entire book. I asked her to read the prologue and the last chapter. This would give her the feel for the book. After that, and bouncing a few ideas off each other, within two days she had a concept which ultimately became the cover you see today. Her design really captures all that I wanted it to convey without giving anything away. She is truly amazing and talented and far exceeded my expectations by creating a cover that really grabs your attention.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Writing was easy. My publisher, Booktrope, has made the publishing process very easy as far as the way they have you build a team around your project. Everyone on your team has a vested interest in seeing it through. The hardest part of the process to date is this part – getting the word out – getting people interested in my work.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
The one thing I have learned is how therapeutic writing can be. When I am in the “zone,” I sleep better and feel very much more relaxed than I normally do. Normally, I’m an insomniac and live life in the stress zone.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t bloviate. Write only for the love of the story you are writing. Don’t just write for the sake of putting something out. If it means something to you, I believe that readers will sense that as they review your work.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
To those who have read and enjoyed my book to date, thank you. The fact that you have found enjoyment in my written words means the world to me. I do hope that you find my effort worth sharing with others, and I do hope you are looking forward to my future endeavors. Thank you for all the support.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes, believe it or not. As a young lad, I read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” Don’t ask me why I read it. I have no idea. At the time, I thought it was just a book about a bird, not realizing the spiritual undertones to the story.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Smart comedy makes me laugh, the kind of comedy that pokes fun of the human condition, comedy that actually pokes fun at the terrible things in the world. Mel Brooks was a master at this. There was often religious oppression and racial indifference in his movies. However, in reality, he was showing just how stupid these things are. He was a master at making us laugh, while at the same time, making a genuine statement.
What makes me cry? Everything. I’m a big softie. Yvonne can attest to this. I find that I have the ability to feel empathy for those that are suffering. More than once in my tenure on the streets, I walked away form a call with a tear in my eye and a pain in my heart for someone who had just endured a nightmarish situation.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
One person from the past that I would love to meet would be Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King was the most impressive human being I have ever read about or heard of. He truly understood the need of not only his peers in the black community, but truly understood what all humans need, the need for peace. If you study his speeches, you find out just what a brilliant man he was. Our world is far worse for not having him with us anymore. There are many who have tried to take his place, but so very few that truly understand his message of absolute equality and true peace.
One person from today that I’d like to meet would be Stephen King. Not just because he shares the same last name as the good doctor, but rather because, let’s face it – he’s the man. What a brilliant imagination he has. Oh, to pick his brains one-on-one for just a few minutes.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I want it to say, “If you are reading this, you’re too close.” I would say this because I don’t want my life remembered on a headstone. I want to live in the hearts and minds of the people who cared about me. I hope no one ever comes and hangs around the cemetery to visit a grave. I don’t have plans on being there, so I won’t hear you anyway. Remember me by reading one of my masterpieces, live life to the fullest, and enjoy the little time we have here.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy fishing, geocaching, and shooting clay, neither of which I get to do enough.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m kind of a sheep when it comes to TV. I’m a huge fan of “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones.” I loved all the Hobbit movies, but my favorite movie of all time was “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson. No one can play a psycho like Jack.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Foods, colors and music are all dependent upon my mood. Angry = pizza, black, and good heavy metal — Ozzy, Metallica, etc. Happy = pizza, red, and good old classic rock — The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, etc. Sad = pizza, maroon, and sad songs or even classical music, like, of course, Mendelssohn.
I will also listen to various types of music in the background while I’m writing, and depending on the mood I’m trying to set, I will play specific music appropriate for the scene. This helps me get “into” what I’m trying to convey.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I’ve been blessed to have already accomplished so much in my life. I have always done just what I wanted to do, and have been fortunate enough to get to do the things I set my mind to do.
In the words of Don Henley:
“Well, I could have been an actor, but I wound up here I just have to look good. I don’t have to be clear.”
So instead, now I just deal with everyone’s dirty laundry.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My blog can be found on my website, http://www.mleemendelson.com/ The site is full of interactive things for people to enjoy, and I plan to keep it fresh and interesting. So check it out, and check back often to see what’s new. There is also a link to send me an e-mail message. I would love to hear from my readers.