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?
My name is Michael Conley. I’m 52. I had to think about for way longer than one might think.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I am a disabled veteran from the Gulf War and live in the house of my dreams with the woman of my dreams. I have three daughters and five grandkids. I went back to school at 42 and got my degree in studio art and found that I loved making art with words as much as I did with other mediums.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I just released my first book with Jacob Floyd’s Wild West Press. It is a unique Western Fantasy that takes place in an alternate 1800’s America where the slaves freed themselves and the Native Americans chased away the European invaders with magic. It’s told from the point of view of a young African girl who gets drug into adventure and danger by a tough as stone mountain man. But there is a bit more going on for readers that know their myths.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have always told stories in one format or another. I have written many short stories and ran a successful Live Action Role Playing Company for years which was all about story telling. I am avid reader and was full of ideas. I came to realize in creative writing classes that I was able to create better pictures with words than I was on an art pad, but never really pursued it. Then I was diagnosed with Gulf War Illness which limited a lot of my physical capability, so I was looking for something to do when I had an episode to keep myself from getting depressed. I found an anthology submission contest and was accepted. Then it was on. I couldn’t stop writing and the ideas keep coming.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
An odd thing to consider. I suppose after my first story was published, but I also think of writing like I do art, and I have always been an artist. So in that way I have always been an artist and a story teller and I knew it, it’s only the media that changed.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A character in a Live Action Role Playing game got things started, but it was really when I started to consider magic in other than medieval times. Urban fantasy made good use of it, but the old west was underserved. It is a perfect match for magic and fantasy elements. Many of the old west movies and stories are based on Asian myths and stories, and the two just really went together.
When I started researching things, trying to find a place in history for our time line to end and for magic to jump in, things just started to fall into place. All of a sudden there was this rich world developing and it needed great characters to go with it.
I also love strong female characters and being the father of daughters wanted a young girl to be the protagonist. We need more girls kicking ass.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Well, it’s my dog’s name, but there is more to it than that, you’ll have to read the book and see. It isn’t a dog in the book, I just liked putting her in there and it fit.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I don’t. I don’t really understand “style” all that much. I tell stories. Words are the medium I use to paint the picture. My vocabulary is strong, I use it, but I don’t have the prose I always hear about. It always sounds artificial and pretentious to me.
I just try to tell the story in an entertaining way. That’s the goal right? Not to use lot’s of flowery words, but to tell the story. Paint the picture in every scene you want the reader to see.
That does make it difficult for me in some ways. I struggle at times to get enough of the fluff in there. I tend towards being a straight line story teller, and if I am not careful I miss adding color to the painting. A story is better in color.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Hmm, not much if any. I suppose there are things in there that are from my life experience, but they slipped in if so. It wasn’t intentional. I am sure Topher (The young girl character) has a lot of my daughter in her. Wasco has a lot of me.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I used to. I like inspirational places. I also like good food and drink and new places. But now I live in a house built of inspiration. Now I hate leaving it. I could sit right here looking over the creek in my back yard and painting my stories into words.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The publisher hired Rebecacovers.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Oh there are a lot of them. Mostly in the world I built where some actual justice happened and the oppressors got what they had coming. There are others, but they really aren’t the point. I did blow up Texas, so there’s that…
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?
Steven Brust is my favorite. I say it every time all the time. Nobody creates characters like he does. He tells a great story and creates great deep characters. I highly recommend everything he’s written.
New authors? I am afraid I haven’t read too many lately enough to call them new. The only one that comes to mind is Jillian Kuhlmann. She tells a great story and has that wonderful way with words that I am lacking.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I suppose it’s cheating to say my girlfriend. We’re not technically married, but, yeah it’s cheating. Even so, there is nobody else that has done as much. She is so supportive and interested and wants me to be happy telling my silly stories.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I don’t know. It seems like a broken industry to me. I am fortunate that I do not have to write to eat, so I doubt it. It doesn’t slow me down, because I want people to read and like my stories, but there are so many people writing and the big publishing companies have really throttled new writers. I doubt it is a career at my age.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Oh yes. But that is ever the case with my art. I drew a picture of some hydrangeas for my girlfriend once. She put it in an expensive frame and hung it on the wall. I stare at that damn thing every day wanting to “fix” it. She has threatened my life, so I leave it alone. But that’s the way of it. Its torture, but the key to making any art is to know when to be “done”. But, if I were allowed to start all over? Oh, I have seventeen ways I’d improve it.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Too much to list. I had a great editor, then Jacob in his editing had so many good suggestions. Along the way I would go to books I like and see how they did this or that and it really helped hammer the art of the story. As added bonus I learned a ton about 1700 and 1800’s America and Europe and even more about our Native people and cultures.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I hate this question.
I don’t know enough actors to be able to name any.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write. I know cliché, but that is the real of it. Don’t get caught up in style and prose and all those other words writers like to use. Just tell your story. You can learn those things. You do need to do the research, especially if you write characters of other cultures. ALWAYS be respectful of how you handle that. I think I managed, but it still worries me that I might not have been careful enough.
Then just write. You can’t tell your story if you don’t get it on “paper”. You can fix the technical issues, but you can’t fix what isn’t written.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Throwing me that softball are ya? Yes, READ MY BOOK! Other than that, I think I told them everything I needed to in the book, for now…
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I unfortunately have fallen prey to audio books. I am so busy I rarely have time to sit where I am not writing my own. I am listening to Mark Lawrence’s Holy Sister.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Oh man, I don’t think so. I remember some books from my childhood. The Five Chinese Brothers was a favourite, as was There’s a Monster at the End of this Book. When I was a teen I read so much, but I have no idea what might have been first.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My dog makes me laugh, so does my girlfriend Laura. Sometimes we laugh so hard I think I’ll die. As for crying, oh lots of things. My health lately has gotten me a few times. This War Illness really took a lot from me. Anything about dads and daughters is bound to get me. Some songs will do it. I can’t even sing the words to “Gunner’s Dream” from Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut. “and no one kills the children anymore” breaks me. Killkelly Ireland is another.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
That’s a tough one. Present would be President Obama. I really admire him. Past, Jesus. I’m not a religious man, but if there was the man named Jesus Christ, I have some questions.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
All of them. I still make art, I play Dungeons and Dragons, build things, grow things, fly radio controlled airplanes and more.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I like the super hero movies and anything that is a good story. I don’t watch a lot of TV anymore. I’d rather write, read or make things.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I food from places I haven’t been. I’m not adventurous, I don’t have any desire to eat bugs or anything, but I love other cultures and how they cook and eat.
Purple is and always has been my favourite color.
I olisten to a lot of things. My playlist will explode your brain. It goes from Willie Nelson to Godsmack, to Mozart. But mostly you’ll find Rush. They are my all time favourite. One of the main reasons is pretty obvious. Storytelling
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’ve never been bored. I would build things, make art, grow things and whatever my health allowed. If not able, I would read and think.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
That’s tough, obviously. My instinct is to say, with my kids, but I wouldn’t want them upset. With Laura is a given. Not that I want her upset, but she’s stronger and I would want her near me. I’d pet my dog and I’d listen to the birds and call it a life well lived.
At least that’s what I like to think. The reality is, I might not go quietly. There are some bad people in this world. In this country. People who have hurt millions of people. Who ARE hurting millions of women, LGBTQ people, and minorities.
It might a better life if I could end it with some justice. It’s probably best I don’t get that news.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I don’t want one. Toss me into the garden or cremate me or something that doesn’t take up space the living can use.
If I must have one, “I told you I was sick.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Just my Facebok page- https://www.facebook.com/Michael-Conley-author-248334646068981/ and Amazon- https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733548211/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_XJG3Cb5BMSY7X