Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi Fiona, hi everyone. My name is Michael R. Stern, but please call me Mike. I’ve been called a lot things, but we’ll skip that. My age, hmmm. Let’s say I’ve been around for 12 U.S. Presidents, and I watched Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Chicago, raised on Long Island, in a village called Garden City, which is suburban New York City, and I live now in southern New Jersey, about 20 minutes from the center of Philadelphia (without too much traffic).
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I am a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, a college town in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, and an area where there are quite a few vineyards. My Bachelor’s degree is in Industrial and Labor Relations, and I hold Master’s degrees in Hospital and Health Services Administration, and a Master’s in Business Administration, all from Cornell.
I am married with two adult children. My spouse is also a writer, having just recently released her second book, the first of a trilogy. She’s a better writer than I am. She publishes under the name of L.C. Bennett Stern, in case you wondered.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
In April, I released the fourth book of my time travel series, called Quantum Touch. Book Four is titled “Storm Unleashed.” I also entered my first short story contest and submitted my entry last Monday. Now, it’s wait and see, but the contestants chose from nine prompts. I intend to try writing stories from the eight others. I see a short story collection in the near future.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have had scraps of paper, notebooks with doodles, essays, and general yelling on paper all over the place for years, but I never thought I would attempt to write a book. In 2009, my dad died, and I intended to write some personal memories for my family. When I began to format the stories, I also was sorting his stuff, and found a lot of source material, about his life and the world he lived in. He was born in 1911, lived through the Depression, was in the US Army during World War II, and returned to have a successful business career, as well being an active member of the community. In that context, I wrote a book about the world in his lifetime, focusing on him, but also the events that captured his generation. A lot happened in 98 years. The book is titled “Reflections on a Generous Generation.” He was friends with people the world over, including the family that founded J. Lyons, Ltd., the Salmons.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As a tribute to indecisiveness, I guess I would say after my second book. But I’m still not sure I really am. I pinch myself a lot.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
You already know part of the answer. The inspiration was my father, but the opportunity presented itself, so I took it, and I haven’t stopped since.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The Greatest Generation was already taken, but I think Tom Brokaw didn’t go far enough. That generation created a new world, and rather than settle for accolades, pushed further. There was no limit to accomplishments.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I think I do. Much of my story telling, for the series, is dialogue. I almost feel like I’m recording, not writing. My characters are very much alive for me. I am challenged with keeping the story exciting, interesting and accurate. I find that a fine line exists between too much description and too little. But it has been fun. Book 5 is in final first draft, and book 6 is now at 110,000 words. Editing will take a while.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I grew up with books always around me. My parents read constantly, my dad with two or three going at the same time. As I said, my first book is realistic. But the series, although science fiction and time travel, takes a different approach. My main characters are high school teachers, history and English, and are based on two men who taught me in Junior High School. The selections I have made for where they travel in time is of course based on people who I would have liked to meet and places I would like to go.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
No, at least not in the sense of getting in a car, or hopping on a plane.I do my travelling online. And find that some of what I’m making up is actually available, and hence I can check my inaccuracies.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Cover design is so important to a reader’s total experience that I let artistic people do the work. I have ideas of the elements that fit the story, tell my designer and we find the pieces to fit. Then the massaging goes to my wife and daughter, Amanda for final approval. My designer is Jack Parry of Parry Design Studios.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I am an historian, albeit amateur, and try to present the story to show how important history is to our understanding of the present, and its implications for the future.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
The list of new authors is too long to add here, Fiona. I am a fan of indie authors, and as one, I’m a cheerleader. The world is full of incredible imaginations, and stories that are as good as you’ll find, better even, than what traditional publishers think makes the market. The worst thing is that there are so many new writers that I would like to read and just not enough time.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I would have to say that early on, I joined a writer’s group called The #Awethors. The members have been tremendously supportive.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I would like to continue to write for the rest of my life. If I ever make enough income from writing, then it could be the endgame. But I’m not there yet.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
In the age of publish on demand, do-overs are not only possible, but in my opinion, a great way to improve as a writer. I haven’t thought about my most recent release yet, but I have republished the first and second books of my series, based on comments that have come from readers. I think they are both better reads than the originals. More excitement, more conflict, and I closed a plot hole I didn’t see the first time through.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes. With five published books, all edited professionally, I had a light-bulb moment. My editor (for all the series thus far) is my primary beta reader. It’s not criticism she offers, but rather, what doesn’t work for her as a reader. I’ve listened to her all along, but now I appreciate why she’s been so hard on me.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I have four main characters, and my choices cover a range of time, appropriately enough for a time-travel series. I’ve actually thought about this. If wishes were horses…Anyway, I would have younger version of Damon and Affleck as the main characters, William Frawley (Fred Mertz in I Love Lucy) as the school principal, Jennifer Aniston as Fritz’s wife, Linda, and Angelina Jolie as Dr. Jane Barclay.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Start early. Read everything because you never know when you’ll need it. Write to challenge yourself. Writing is an art and a craft. Learn the craft, become the artist. And have fun. Try things you don’t think will work, and then make them work. And don’t expect to make any money. If it happens, great. There are currently 7.5 billion people on this planet. If you write a book, you will still be one of the very few who have done it. Have a website, and learn how to use it.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
What…you mean besides buy my books? I love talking to my readers. Send me a note, and above all, remember to write reviews for all the books you read. Not just mine.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
My next books are C.L. Schneider’s, Nite Fire, and Rick A. Mullins’ “The Changeling.”
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Sitting on either my mom or dad’s lap, they probably did more of the reading than I did.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Comedy and politics. They do both.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Only one? I guess I’ll need to use time travel for the rest. John Jakes, author of the Kent Family Chronicles, North and South.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Besides writing? It’s still an avocation. At an earlier age, I would have said skiing. Today, I guess digging in the dirt. Some people call it gardening. And of course, reading.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m one of those annoying people who can rewatch a movie many times. Love Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. I appreciate good drama, and I like good war films. Love “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific.” My wife and I watch BBC detectives on Netflix. I liked Doyles War, and the Father Brown mysteries. And not to forget Cumberbatch and Freeman in Sherlock We like some paranormal, like Haven. And the news is on most of the evening.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Enchiladas, prime rib, broccoli, French fries, red, and the poetry of 1960s folk rock, like Simon and Garfunkel.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I would listen to stories, read, and watch TV, yelling at the news reports.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
When that time comes, I hope that I will have earned the right to be called a good storyteller.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Used to blog, used to have a website, and probably will again. Right now, I’m a regular on Facebook, with a little Twitter thrown in.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
My Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/michael.r.stern.5
My Twitter page is @sternmike52
My Amazon Author Page is https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008OP4DVU
I write for you, the reader. I hope you enjoy my stories. And I would love to hear from you. Ask questions, discuss writing, or anything else. I am a politics fan, a believer in good government, and I have faith in the eventual wisdom of people.
Thank you, Fiona for the opportunity to be part of your world. Mike