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?
Thanks much for your time. My name is Mike Gutowski. 61 years young.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
B.A. English at Loyola College of Maryland. J.D. Law at Widener University in Delaware. Divorced a few years ago after 31 years of marriage. We gradually drifted apart over the last 10 years or so, then went our separate ways. Three daughters, all grown now, have been a blessing for us. The youngest and her 3 dogs still live with me in a semi-detached house guarded by a 200 years old oak tree. We live just outside of Baltimore City. The City lights somewhat mask a clear view of the night stars, but I have been looking up at them since I was a little boy, so I know they are there in all of their elegant glory. An obsession for me is to search for the meteor showers usually visible at the intended times if cloud cover doesn’t intercede. I follow Earth Sky news for reminders of the showers.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I self-published my first book “Cratch” on Amazon.com available in softcover book or Kindle e-book form, about 100 days ago.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing as a young child. My first work published was a poem written in 3rd or 4th grade of elementary school. It was only published to the school students. I recently found a copy of it after moving from Libertytown back to Baltimore, during the unpacking stage of the move.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I started keeping a journal in 7th grade, helped create a class newspaper around the same time. It was in my nature to want to publish the written word, whether mine or the words of others.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A lifelong dream of doing such mysteriously infected me for as long as I can remember. I have been writing for a long time, at every stage of my education. My school teachers encouraged us to grow in many ways. Most of my schooling occurred in Roman Catholic schools. At each stage, my stories were published within the environment available. There are too many publications to mention. I never stopped writing once I started; elementary school newspapers, college, law school, at my job as an insurance investigator, and in Toastmasters. There were endless opportunities and I regularly gravitated to them. I honestly don’t know why. An unquenchable thirst to share experiences or to teach about them, I suppose. My first real book publishing opportunity happened after I retired early from my insurance job. The company was moving out of town. I am Baltimore born. We from Baltimore have an entanglement to the City that is hard to escape, emotionally. Our city is the city where Edgar Allan Poe briefly resided and died; where Tom Clancy spent his formative years; a place not far from the farm town where Nora Roberts creates her Romance masterpieces.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The book title is an amalgamation of three words: crow, rat, and roach. The story fits into the horror, science fiction, dark fantasy genre. I had been working on it, off and on, for over 10 years. Once I retired, I drowned myself in the notes and outlines, then came up for air and it was done, or as done as I could make it.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Yes. I suppose I could call it experimental and somewhat haphazard, not necessarily a good thing, as I sometimes fall off the edge of the cliff. I greatly respect authors like H. P. Lovecraft, E.E. Cummings, and Charles Bukowski. Irreverent is somewhat my style. I try to dial it back. Some short stories I worked on for publication I ended up rolling up in wads of paper and tossing them into a trash can. My thought was, if this hurt me so much to write, I don’t want to inflict it upon the sensibilities of the reader. The horror genre can be a cruel master. If the writer’s block grips me, I escape through what is a time-tested remedy for me. I sleep on my right side, which generally produces fairly traumatic and scary dreams.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Much. The story is a fantasy, but the characters are somewhat based on an amalgam of persons I grew to know personally or learn about during my education and personal endeavors. The more horrifying moments are more imagination, researched for technical viability. In the Polish side of my family, many stories I heard when I was knee-high to a grasshopper. I don’t remember all who told the stories. I could hear them verbalized in the back yards bordered by chain link fences. They seep out when I am writing, but I know they have been garbled in the telling by sleep nightmares.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
No. I have not exhausted the use of my experiences over 61 years. Probably won’t live long enough to do so. There are 25 more outlines I intend to turn into books. I have started working on the next one.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I did the design, but the cover picture is a drawing my middle daughter created a while ago. My daughters are talented in their artwork, as was my ex-wife. My drawings are not worthy in their realm.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes. When all hope seems lost, know there is still hope to be found in an expanse and measure as wide and deep as the universe itself.
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?
Yes. Naomi Novik and Katherine Arden and Ksenia Anske. Their stories wind a tale in a mystic way. The ready has to reach out their hands and feel their way through the curtain of the mist to find their way. That type of storytelling is what inspires me. If I could be called half as competent as any of these three, I would consider myself successful.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Thomm Remaley, a work friend who shared the same passion for literary stimulation as myself. He and I worked on one of my comic book ideas which I used in Part Third of the book I wrote, he edited. The comic book was never published but I saved the 24-page story.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. It is my career now. Just hoping to break even to pay the bills at this point. Anything better is “gravy’, as we say in the States.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yes. Shorten it. I cut out about 100 pages before I published it. Another way to think of it is too much pepper, not enough salt.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes. Don’t get stuck in the mud. One day, perhaps, I will rewrite it and republish, but for now, it was the best effort I could hope for. Getting on the railroad tracks and shoveling the coal into the steam engine was a big emotional fix for me. Fears of failure plague me, like any writer, but the fear is not based on profit margin. It is based on whether the reader enjoyed the trip and feels like they got their money’s worth. I’d rather fail at my perceived mission and leave the reader happy than succeed in the crafting yet lose the reader’s interest at the same time.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame, but not the reason one might think. Some of his post-J.K. Rowling interpretations of characters have been quite impressive, in my view, such as “Horns” (2013) in movies and “Miracle Workers” (2019) on TV.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Just do it. Sometimes the toughest step to take is the first one; a lesson I firmly learned when I first started training for the 1984 Baltimore Marathon.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
First, learn to like yourself. The toughest part of going through a divorce was the realization I would now be alone for a good while. I have become comfortable in that realization and environment. I am not lonely in the least. Find a way to get to know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses alike. Don’t be afraid to extend yourself. Nothing is accomplished, ever, unless that first step, that first attempt is made. Failure is a part of life, like the seasons. It comes and it goes. Don’t let it rule you.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
“Something Wicked This Way Comes”, by Ray Bradbury. I too long neglected his wisdom. Making up for lost time.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Other than the Encyclopaedia Britannica, it was either “Call of the Wild”, by Jack London or “A Wrinkle in Time”, by Madeleine L’Engle. Each had a profound effect on my thirst for the largest and wettest and sweetest drink of beauty in the art of storytelling.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
This question may be the toughest to answer. It is difficult to laugh. Jokes involving a surprise catch ending tends to do the trick. Crying seems like an easier emotion to release. For me, it usually involves a story where the underdog of the plot overcomes a mountain of obstacles to accomplish even the simplest of victories. Gets me in the heart every time.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Stephen Hawking. I have some questions about his theories. Not that I would fully comprehend or understand the answers, but the opportunity to ask him a single question would be unbelievably incredible.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I went to 7 straight Baltimore ComiCons in a row, usually with one or more of my daughters, but I missed last year when I retired. The Con is for comic book enthusiasts. Too many things to straighten out while beginning the job retirement life. I have collected only a few over the years, usually new releases, after talking to the author, artist or publisher at the Con.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Reruns of Andromeda, Babylon 5, Doctor Who, The X-Files for TV. Two movies really stuck with me after seeing them. I have watched the original Ghostbusters (1984) movie over 50 times. Next would be the first Independence Day (1996) movie with Will Smith. Others are The Exorcist (1973); and Halloween (1978); and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). Finally, Star Wars (1977). Each of the choices influenced me deep inside.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Foods: Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and red beets or sauerkraut. Colors: brown and green. Music: Vivaldi, Mozart, and Smetana and Dvorak and some of the other Slavic composers, then pretty much anything rock, soft rock or jazz or R&B from the 1960s to 1980s.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Draw or sculpt. I finished 3rd place in grade school (45 plus years ago) for a science project where I used clay to sculpt dinosaurs like a T-Rex, Triceratops, and Stegosaurus.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Listen to classical music like Vivaldi, Mozart, and Smetana and Dvorak and some of the other Slavic composers, then say my goodbyes to everyone, but would still want some time to make peace with myself and then hopefully not shudder in the thought I could be reborn. Don’t want any do-overs. Don’t need them. My life was saved once; I saved someone’s life once.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
One day at a time.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/mike.gutowski.62/