Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Michael R. Martin

Meghan: Hi, Michael. Welcome welcome. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Michael R. Martin: I was born in St Helens, Lancashire, UK in 1962. I have a degree in mechanical engineering and a HND in multimedia. I’ve worked as a design engineer, a volunteer IT tutor, a medical records officer and I’m currently a freelance graphic designer….and, of course, a writer. I enjoy watching football (soccer) and rugby league. I love reading, watching cool films and TV (cool to me, anyway), listening to music, mountain biking and hill walking (preferably if there’s a pub at the end of it).

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Michael R. Martin: I can’t think of one thing, to be honest. Well, not that I’d like to make public. I’m a quite introverted person, really, but what you see is what you get.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Michael R. Martin: An Enid Blyton book, most probably The Adventures of Mr Pink-Whistle. I must’ve been five or six at the time.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Michael R. Martin: Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote and The Trial by Franz Kafka.

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Michael R. Martin: Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Michael R. Martin: It’s hard to say exactly. I was encouraged to write when I was thirteen by a teacher who saw an ability in me I didn’t. Instead I went into engineering! That said, over the years, I did write some short stories but never attempted to get them published. I was forty-eight when I eventually decided this is what I really wanted to do. But I suspect that, in my case, I may’ve needed to reach that age and gain all those life experiences to write anything worthwhile.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Michael R. Martin: The spare bedroom where my PC is set up.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Michael R. Martin: Not that I’m aware of.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Michael R. Martin: Writer’s block has been a problem in the past, but now I have two or three stories on the go at the same time, so I switch between them if one story hits a creative brick wall. I do a lot of editing as I write, but the final edit and proofread are challenging and quite maddening at times.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Michael R. Martin: The short story, Zombie World. Writing a high-tech, virtual reality narrative in a way that was exciting, relatively easy to understand, without dumbing down or being patronizing, was very satisfying. Also, I don’t do a lot of gore, but this is the exception. It was only inflicted on zombies, after all!

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Michael R. Martin: In my teenage years, I devoured every edition of the Pan Book of Horror Stories; a rude introduction to the horror and supernatural genre. Since then, I’ve drawn inspiration from the works of Nigel Kneale, H P Lovecraft, H G Wells, Arthur Machen, R Chetwynd-Hayes, John Wyndham, Stephen King, Philip K Dick, Alan Garner, and M R James. Other authors from different genres have also influenced me in many ways. I admire the writing style of Martin Amis the most. Reading Money was a wake-up call, but I felt he’d set the bar too high for me to reach. Then you realise it’s not about that; it’s about developing your own unique style (hopefully) and working hard until it becomes second nature.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Michael R. Martin: Now there’s a question! I suppose a strong idea enacted by believable characters is the essential combination for me. These must be established in my mind before I start typing. This first stage I don’t find too problematic, but how the narrative develops and unfolds can make or break a story regardless of the strength of the idea or characters. And it never seems to get any easier! Timing, like a lot of things in life, is the key.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Michael R. Martin: I don’t really ‘love’ characters, but I can bond and empathise with them. If your characters are believable, your readers don’t necessarily need to like them; they just have to behave in a realistic and convincing manner. However weird the subject matter, the suspension of disbelief can be prolonged if the characters feel real.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Michael R. Martin: I suppose there’s a bit of me in all of them, but so many other people in the mix, too. And it’s all subconscious: I never deliberately base my characters on actual people. And they’re braver than me; I think I’d run a mile if faced with some of the situations they have to deal with.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Michael R. Martin: I am, and there are some really bad ones out there. Many self-published authors don’t pay enough attention to this. A book can succeed or fail on the quality of the cover. It’s worth paying for a professional design. I’m lucky in that I’m a graphic designer, too, and create all my covers, and some for other writers I know. Keeping an eye on current trends is important, not least to buck that trend and make your covers stand out from the crowd.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Michael R. Martin: That nothing about it is easy. As a self-published writer, I’ve had to learn to write effectively, edit, proofread, format, design and create artworks, and market the finished product. I’m hamstrung because they’re steep learning curves and it’s nigh-on impossible to be really good at all of them. That said, I do enjoy the challenges involved. Also, you learn to be thick-skinned when it comes to the ratings and critique that come your way. I suspect that some would be kinder to you if they knew the effort and emotional investment involved, even when they haven’t enjoyed your book.

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Michael R. Martin: There’s a scene in Screams in the Woods (my first novel) where three people are killed in quick succession. They weren’t bad people per se, but they had to go at that moment, in that way, to jolt the narrative and move it along. I never really like killing people, even the bad ones.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Michael R. Martin: I use violence and gore only when appropriate and in context with the type of character(s) I’ve created. My stories are meant to frighten and intrigue rather than upset your stomach. I deliberately build in ambiguity and the let the reader’s imagination fill in the gaps.

Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Michael R. Martin: It’s absolutely critical but always occurs to me in an organic way, as I’m writing. I know the title some time before the story is finished.

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Michael R. Martin: I feel fulfilled writing both. There’s obviously more work in a novel, but some short stories can take ages to fully develop.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Michael R. Martin: All my books are concerned with how quite ordinary people react when they experience extraordinary events and situations, usually of a supernatural origin. I don’t have a target audience (other than adult), but I’d like all of them to feel they’ve had their imaginations fired and their nerves jangled.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Michael R. Martin: There’s only one of any significance, and that was in Screams in the Woods. The story is about a nineteenth-century mining accident, the strange and sinister cause of which is still being covered up today. I had a lot of back story, played out in scenes from the past, about the events leading up to the accident that I cut out and replaced with exposition through dialogue.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Michael R. Martin: I have three novels in various stages of development: a horror/supernatural in a UK setting, a sci fi with a US setting (my first) and one set in the early-first century AD (another first). I can’t give any spoilers just now. What I’d like to do on a ‘rainy day’ is develop a story as a screenplay/script. It’s a pipedream to see one of my narratives on the large or small screen, but we all have to dream. Don’t we?

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Michael R. Martin: See above!

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Michael R. Martin: Facebook ** Twitter ** Website

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?

Michael R. Martin: I’m not sure if ‘fans’ is the right word, but I’d like to thank anybody and everybody who spends their hard-earned cash on my books. I hope it was worth it. Also, constructive feedback and critique is always appreciated.

My name is Mike Martin. I have a degree in mechanical engineering and a HND in multimedia. I’ve worked as a design engineer, a volunteer IT tutor, a medical records officer and I am currently a freelance graphic designer and computer animator.

The aim of my writing is to create imaginative, supernatural thrillers populated by believable characters in realistic settings. My influences are many, but I draw particular inspiration from the works of Nigel Kneale, H P Lovecraft, R Chetwynd-Hayes, Arthur Machen, John Wyndham, Stephen King, Philip K Dick, Alan Garner and M R James.

I live in the North West UK.

13 Dark Tales: Collection One

A shocking event on an evening train only revealed by hypnosis, a man driven to extremes to rid himself of nightmare neighbours, and a rural driving holiday stopped in its tracks by a mythical creature. Just three of the 13 Dark Tales, inspired by macabre urban myths and sinister folklore, in this first collection.

Read them in the dark hours when they might call to mind a disturbing story you can’t quite place or a strange shape glimpsed from the corner of your eye; things you dismissed as too fantastic to take seriously but left nagging doubts, nonetheless. Some of them may be true.

13 Dark Tales: Collection Two

A headless corpse dumped in a field leads to a terrifying insight into the future, a UFO investigator gets more than he bargained for when he tracks down an eyewitness, and bank robbers find something in a safe-deposit box they wish they hadn’t.

Just three of the 13 Dark Tales, many inspired by macabre urban myths and sinister folklore, in this second collection by Michael R Martin.

Read them in the dark hours when they might call to mind a disturbing story you can’t quite place or a strange shape glimpsed from the corner of your eye; things you dismissed as too fantastic to take seriously but left nagging doubts, nonetheless. Some of them may be true.

Zombie World

Imagine a video game you could physically interact with. A brutal, post-apocalyptic battleground so realistic a health check is strongly advised beforehand. Welcome to the future of gaming. Welcome to ZOMBIE WORLD …

Screams in the Woods

One rainy Monday morning, private detective Christine Lynch is presented with an untitled lever arch file to review.

It contains the detailed research of a 19th century local mining accident.
The authors have been missing for over a year.  
Two unrelated facts, surely?
Then she reads the file…

Area 62

When Colin Thurcroft decided to expand his hiking-gear business with a retail outlet, the derelict shop close to the centre of his home town seemed ideal. But something truly bizarre happened there nearly forty years ago, and it has left behind some tantalizing clues. As Colin digs deeper, he comes face to face with an international conspiracy beyond his wildest imaginings and the darkest of government secrets. Brought to the very edge of reason, he must challenge his understanding of reality and accept a future within which the human race has little influence.

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