J. Michael Major
Featured Author: J. Michael Major is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association. His debut crime novel, ONE MAN’S CASTLE, won the Lovey Readers’ Choice Award for Best First Novel. His three dozen short stories have been published in such anthologies as Splatterlands, DeathGrip 3: It Came From The Cinema, New Traditions in Terror, and Tales of Masks & Mayhem, Vol. III, and such magazines as Weirdbook, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Bare Bone, Pirate Writings, Into The Darkness, Hardboiled, Crossroads, Outer Darkness, and many more. He has several other stories submitted to various anthologies and magazines, and has just started work on a three-novel series.
Though he wrote many stories while growing up, especially in high school, a college English teacher “sucked the joy out of writing,” and he gave it up for several years, until he discovered the Science Fiction Book Club while attending dental school. Inspired by what he read, he started writing again and submitting the stories for publication. He sold his first story a couple of years after graduation, and hasn’t stopped since.
Michael balances his time between his family, his dental practice, and his writing. He has been married to his wife, Eileen, a pharmacist, for more than twenty-five years. His son recently graduated with a dual degree in accounting and finance, and is currently working on his MBA, and his daughter is studying to be an elementary school teacher. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.
Learn more about Michael on his website at www.jmichaelmajor.com, Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MajorWriter, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MajorWriter.
Featured Author: J. Michael Major Interview
- How long have you been writing?
- What/who inspired you to be a writer?
- What genre do you prefer to write in?
- Describe your writing process. What comes first–character or plot? Do you “pants” it or outline?
- What is your daily routine as a writer?
- Are there any software tools, resources, or websites you use often while writing?
- What are some of your biggest challenges you feel like you have to overcome in your writing career?
- Do you have a set number of words each day or a goal?
- How much time is spent on “the business of writing” – queries, seeking an agent or publisher, marketing/sales?
- Do you prefer short stories or full-length novels in your writing?
- Can you give some us some insight into your story?
- What advice can you give other writers?
LHP: How long have you been writing?
J. Michael Major: I have been writing for most of my life. It’s something that I can’t imagine not doing. Even when I am not actively working on a project, I am always writing down ideas for the next possible one.
LHP: What genre do you prefer to write in?
J. Michael Major: That depends on the idea. Most of my short ideas are expressed in horror/science fiction, while the longer pieces are crime/mystery/suspense/noir.
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LHP: What/who inspired you to be a writer?
J. Michael Major: Originally, most of my inspiration came from the authors that I read, the “Wow, I want to do that!” feeling. That’s still true, though now my fellow writer-friends in both the Mystery Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association contribute to the excitement and encouragement to keep going. Authors are pretty cool people to hang out with.
LHP: Describe your writing process. What comes first–character or plot? Do you “pants” it or outline?
J. Michael Major: “Haphazard” would be the best description of my writing process (see below). Probably character comes first, because the genesis of my stories is the coming together of two What-ifs. Then I wonder: How would my characters react to a particular situation? How would their backgrounds affect the choices they make?
Oh, I am definitely an outliner. I have to be because, as a writer, I don’t think linearly. I learned this lesson the hard way while writing my novel One Man’s Castle. I tried to follow everyone’s advice on how I should write it. BIG mistake, and it wasted a lot of time. I found out that I have my own way of crafting a story, and that is completing the scene that is in my head. Trying to force working on Chapter Four when Chapter Seven wants to be written doesn’t work, and pretending that I will remember everything I was thinking about in Chapter Seven when I finally get there isn’t going to happen. Everything grinds to a halt. The solution for me then was to outline, just a sentence or two, what will happen in each chapter. Then I set up a template in Word, every chapter with a couple of blank pages each. That way I can go directly to that section in the book and write what is most vivid in my head without losing the inspiration, while still knowing what happens before it and what will happen after. I complete the whole chapter as if it were a short story. Then with the miracle of word processing, I just fill in the gaps as I work on the others, piecing the narrative together like a jigsaw puzzle. Most of the story is already in my head, and often all that is needed to make things cohesive is a few tweaks or additions. Haphazard and odd, but that’s what works for me. So an outline is absolutely necessary.
LHP: What is your daily/weekly routine as a writer?
J. Michael Major: My dental practice keeps me very busy, so writing at work is almost impossible. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think about the story or scene between patients. Sometimes, I even bounce ideas or lines of dialog off certain patients for feedback. Usually, though, my routine is to scribble down ideas, descriptions, and/or lines of dialog on scraps of paper while at work. Then on my days off, I use those scraps as my starting points to continue the narrative as I’m typing everything into the computer.
LHP: Are there any software tools, resources, or websites you use often while writing?
J. Michael Major: Other than Microsoft Word and Google, not really. Paper, pen/pencil, and transcribe into the computer. And lots of coffee.
LHP: What are some of your biggest challenges you feel like you have to overcome in your writing career?
J. Michael Major: Discipline and word count production. Because of my busy dental practice, I still treat writing like a hobby. But I am currently outlining and writing a three-book story arc, and in order to get it done, I must be more dedicated and work on it every day.
LHP: Do you have a set number of words per day you target? or do you set other goals to meet?
J. Michael Major: Nope. Just get it done the best way I can.
LHP: How much time is spent on “the business of writing” – queries, seeking an agent or publisher, marketing/sales?
J. Michael Major: Way too much, though it is a necessary part of the business. The writing itself is the fun part, but you have to sell what you wrote.
LHP: Do you prefer short stories or full length novels in your writing?
J. Michael Major: Up until now, I have focused mostly on short stories. It fits in easier with my work schedule. But I really enjoyed writing One Man’s Castle, and I am very excited about my three-book project, so the preference for short stories might be changing.
LHP: Can you give some us some insight into your story?
J. Michael Major: I was reading RL’s Dream by Walter Mosley, and in it there is a scene where an old man is just sitting in a chair, staring off at nothing, and I thought “What is he thinking about?” At the same time, I have watched several elderly people I know suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. One of the characteristics is that, until the later stages where all memory is gone, short term memory goes away while older memories stay. Why would that be? And then when I read the description for this anthology, Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths, everything came together, and suddenly I had a story about how an old man uses his favorite memory to guide him through the portal to his desired beyond.
LHP: What advice can you give other writers?
J. Michael Major: Look at all the wonderful ways the writers in this anthology series interpreted the description for this amazing collection. No one has your experiences, your thoughts, your history, your way of doing things. What story can you share with us? What makes you unique? Celebrate diversity by being yourself. I can’t wait to hear from you.
J. Michael Major authored “Portals” for Beautiful Lies, Painful Truths Vol. II on sale now.
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