Michael Stark is an incredible author that really knows what he’s doing. He’s written some awe-inspiring books filled with action and adventure. It seems that throughout his life he has always had a story, or several, running through his mind. His answers to these questions will give you a glimpse of his lifestyle and how he creates the great books he writes and publishes.
Consider connecting with him on Facebook and also following his Amazon Author Profile to keep up with his books and other information. Authors always love hearing from their fans. Like he says in the interview, we hardly fathom the idea that we really do have people who want to read our work. It’s a cool thing and hearing from you guys always brightens an author’s day.
What prompted you to become an author?
When I was 14 or so, one of my teachers took the class outside, sat us in the grass, and told us to write something, anything. That was the extent of her direction. I, like most of the people around me, looked around unsure of where to start, what she meant, and what we should do.
I don’t know how long I sat there before I realized the real story was embedded in the people around me. They became my essay, their descriptions, the perceived characters, and their place in our tiny corner of the world.
I wanted to write from that point forward, but life didn’t allow much time for it. I eventually began freelancing non-fiction, articles, and news, for the most part, some for magazines, and some for a local paper. Fiction didn’t come along until later, until I was bored with reading stories that teased the ideas in my head, but never quite got there.
Then one night, I had a disturbing dream about being lost in a city with no idea who I was or where I was headed. That dream became the genesis and idea behind John Abbott, one of my first short stories.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Tell No One by Harlan Coben – I couldn’t put it down. The story is gripping, seamless, and full of mystery.
Knife of Dreams – I’d read all of Robert Jordan’s previous books and enjoyed them greatly. Knife of Dreams, however, read differently, like he was driven. I found out later that he was, by a disease that would ultimately take his life. The book moves. That doesn’t mean it ignores character development or skims through a story that has spanned decades. It captures you, pulls you in, and rides you right through to the end. When I finished it, I thought it the best read of the entire series.
The Shining – Easily the scariest book I’ve ever read. In true Stephen King fashion, the writing sucks you in from page one and doesn’t let you go until the nightmares have ended months later.
Tom Sawyer – In all his tales and adventures, Mark Twain captured what it meant to dream, the oftentimes absurdity and hilarity of the things learned people want us to think and believe, and the real connections that are possible when we deal with people as people.
One of the more whimsical of all his tales has a scene I’ll never forget. In Tom Sawyer Abroad, Huck and Tom are arguing about where they were. Huck was adamant they’d not crossed state lines because, on his map, the state was red and, obviously, since the trees and grass were still green, they’d not crossed over.
Every time I look at a map, I remember that moment. That’s what great writing is, crafting a scene the reader never forgets.
Robinson Crusoe – I was fortunate to read this book at an early age. My uncle read prodigiously in those days and his library was mine. All the popular books ended up in bags and traded at used bookstores. The volumes that held tenure on the shelves, however, were the classics.
Robinson Crusoe turned my imagination loose. Defoe captured what it would feel like to be alone, to scrabble together an existence without help, and with no other supplies than what he could salvage from the wreck that delivered him to his remote island.
I tried reading the book again later in life and struggled for a long time because of the antiquated wording. I’m fortunate I was able to enjoy it before my mind put boundaries on what looked good on a page.
Who are your five favorite authors?
Describe your writing process?
When I started writing The Island, I just sat down and wrote. The story came to me in bits and pieces and developed on the page in front of me. I knew vaguely where I wanted it to go but had no real concept of how to get there.
So, I stopped and thought, what would it really be like? I’d spent time on Portsmouth (Core Banks) before and decided, like William Hill, that if the end ever came in the form of a deadly disease, I’d probably head down and spend a while reliving good times and enjoy the days I had left.
That was fine. Writing the next books in the series couldn’t follow that haphazard route, however. Now, I write a synopsis of what the book needs to cover and go from there. The vast majority of the story emerges as I write using that initial outline as a guide.
As for the writing itself, I write in the morning, usually, about 6 am to 8 am. I work a day job just like most people in the world. As long as I can get coffee in me early enough, those hours are the most productive for me. By night, between work, family, and housework, I’m usually too tired mentally and physically to write anything.
What’s the story behind your first book?
I wrote the first few pages of The Island on a Compac I owned in the late 90’s. There it sat until the computer died. I hooked up the hard drive to a new computer and copied some directories over.
In 2012, I rose early one morning and started poking around in those same directories, clicking on things I’d carried forward for more than a decade from one computer to another. I found a doc named Catastrophe. In it were four or five pages.
I liked what I read and wrote a little more. Day by day, the story grew, mostly because I was bored in the morning. I finished the prologue, then wrote another chapter, then another, and another.
The book wrote itself in a way, leading me from one scene to another.
Why did you become an indie author?
Because I had no real time to do anything else. Life was busy. I had, and still have, a full-time job, a family, kids, events to go to, you know, just the stuff that makes us who we are. My non-fiction days were filled with success.
I often said that I’d sold everything I ever wrote, a true statement on that side of the pen. The fiction side though proved fraught with rejection and endless delays.
I had a friend who wrote indie fiction and who’d done very well at it. She pushed me toward the indie side. That too, turned out mostly a non-event as I used a few shorts as my launching pad. When The Island came along, I’d learned the value of providing things for free. That’s why the story was delivered in parts and why some of those parts will forever remain free.
Do you have any advice for other indie authors? If so, what is it?
Just write. Spend time on your characters. Make them believable or do the best you can, which means infusing yourself into them in some ways. Real characters are rounded, not flat.
They’re not all expert marksmen or superheroes or the best at what they do because know what? You aren’t either. Draw readers in by being as real as you can be. Put them in as fantastic a setting as you want, but people your book with people, not infallible cardboard cut-outs.
What do your fans mean to you?
Such an odd question because it’s weird having fans. It’s so… odd to know there are people out there waiting for me to write the next volume just like I waited for other authors. I feel incredibly fortunate to be in this position and I want to do them right.
I want to give them a good story with a good ending and ending that only one other person in the world knows at this point.
My mom. Well, let me clarify that, I told the ending to this story to my daughters, but none of them will remember it until they read it. I want that aha moment with them and a good, rousing feeling with my readers. I think I owe my readers an ending they can remember.
It’s what we all want. Life is a journey and stories, like life, are mostly about the road we walk to get there. I want them to enjoy the ride and love the destination.
What is your best, most effective, book marketing tactic?
Give something away free. People have too many options these days to waste money on someone who might deliver a story they’ll like.
What do you do when you aren’t working on books?
I work 8-9 hours a day as an analyst, one of those people who fix things when they break. I don’t want to point to the actual business, but I work from home. I get up, work on the book if I have time, then spend the rest of the day with clients trying to figure out what broke, why it broke, and how I can fix it.
It’s tiring and sometimes, mentally exhausting.
After that, I usually cook dinner, hang out with the kids and crash- just like most people
I want to thank Michael for taking the time to do this interview. He’s a very busy person. How me manages to put out so many great books while working a full-time job and raising a family is something that most people will never understand. He clearly has drive and ambition. I also want to thank you guys for being fans and for reading this interview.
I encourage you to learn more about Michael Stark and the books that he writes. You can see them on his Amazon Author Profile. Follow him so that you’ll know when he releases new books. In addition, you can connect with him on Facebook for all kinds of book updates and other great information.