Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Michael Shotter

Meghan: Hi, Michael. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Michael Shotter: Greetings! I’m Michael, I’m from Pittsburgh, and I write books!

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

Michael Shotter:

  • Before publishing my first novel, I worked as an IT professional for over twenty years.
  • I’m a formally-trained journalist, with a bachelor’s degree in the subject.
  • I’m a musician, and have played guitar in various capacities for over thirty years.
  • I’m a good cook.
  • I’ve been legally blind since birth.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Michael Shotter: The Little Red Caboose, who I have it on good authority always came last.

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Michael Shotter: I do more writing than reading these days but I did recently finish Cured: A Tale of Two Imaginary Boys by Lol Tolhurst.

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

Michael Shotter: The Glass Flame by Phyllis A. Whitney

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

Michael Shotter: I’ve written all sorts of things ever since I’ve been able to do so. Consequently, I don’t know that I ever decided to write as much as I instinctively acted on an inherent desire to express myself creatively.

In terms of making the decision to write professionally, the seeds of that were planted in my early twenties during college. For better or worse, they didn’t really take root until my mid-forties, when a series of life events forced me to reevaluate my future as an IT professional. When the dust cleared, I was a writer.

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

Michael Shotter: At my computer desk, where I do all my work. I’ve never really explored any alternatives to that, but I’m not against the idea in principle. It’s more an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset at this point.

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

Michael Shotter: Sometimes, I physically act out scenes, particularly pivotal, dialogue-heavy ones, a few times before writing them. I’ve done some acting and improv, and I find that those skills can at times help me get a better sense of my characters, especially when they need to say and do things I wouldn’t.

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

Michael Shotter: I used to really struggle with writing anything related to self-promotion. Even though I’m comfortable with that sort of thing now, I’d still say that finding the time to properly and consistently address all the aspects of my writing career is my biggest, ongoing challenge.

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

Michael Shotter: My novels, The Big Men and 309. I’ve certainly written other things in my life that have given me a sense of satisfaction and pride, but the only things that even approach the relevance of those two books in my mind are the songs I’ve written.

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

Michael Shotter: Piers Anthony (the Adept series and Incarnations of Immortality), Clive Barker (Cabal), Ben Bova (Orion Among the Stars), Lois McMaster Bujold (Falling Free), Stephen King (the Dark Tower series), and too many others to list.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Michael Shotter: An original or innovative premise, fully realized characters participating in compelling relationships and activities, and the ability to convey those elements via a strong command of the written word.

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

Michael Shotter: Relatability helps, but it can also be compelling to explore a character that’s opposed to one’s own way of thinking and behaving. For example, I can love a villain in a story if they’re presented in a compelling way.

Personally, I always strive to represent my characters in as complete a way as the story allows, trusting that the reader will inevitably bond with them as a result of the familiarity that creates, regardless of the circumstances of the narrative.

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

Michael Shotter: Mike Maxwell from 309.

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

Michael Shotter: Absolutely. I have a design and publication-production background, so I feel I’m particularly sensitive to that sort of thing. I personally design my own book covers, though I do use stock or commissioned imagery as part of those designs when necessary as I’m not an artist, nor am I a particularly-proficient photographer.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Michael Shotter: The importance of self-promotion.

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

Michael Shotter: In my first novel, The Big Men, there’s a particularly-critical scene fairly early in the book that I’ve always seen as a make-or-break moment in terms of compelling a reader to buy in to the story and its characters for the duration. Without a doubt, it’s the most thoroughly-revisioned, painstakingly-crafted thing I’ve ever written. Thankfully, it fits so seamlessly into the text that surrounds it that I’ve yet to encounter a reader who could successfully identify it without being told where to look.

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

Michael Shotter: In general, I go out of my way to defy genre conventions. That’s not to say that I don’t occasionally, intentionally lean into an established or expected trope from time to time; however, I do feel confident saying that one of the best attributes of my books is that they don’t readily fit into neat, predictable literary pigeonholes.

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 Shotter: Titles are very important for attracting new readers. When someone’s not already familiar with your work, you often have little more than your title and your cover art to get their attention in the first place. Once a reader knows and trusts you, I think they become somewhat less vital.

In any case, titles do represent a great opportunity to reinforce or play off of a reader’s expectations, or pique their interest in a variety of ways, particularly when combined with good cover art.

Personally, I like my titles to be fairly literal, while working on at least one additional level that besoms apparent at some point during the story. That can be tricky to pull off but I think I have a fairly solid track record when it comes to titles so far.

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

Michael Shotter: Writing novels, simply due to the sheer effort required to complete them. The scale is so much bigger, the demands and expectations of readers are so much greater in the case of novels. Having said that, there’s absolutely a wonderful, unique fulfillment in crafting an efficient, compact tale that makes economical use of its words but in my experience, novels give me a bigger thrill.

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 Shotter: My primary goal as a writer is to surprise and delight my readers. In everything I write, I strive to give them a unique, memorable experience unlike anything else they’ve read. Obviously, that’s a tall order and it’s objectively impossible to write anything that absolutely appeals to everyone, but I do my best.

It’s worth mentioning that my works are generally targeted at adult readers as I don’t shy away from harsh language and mature themes if they serve the story I’m telling. If you’re looking for kid-friendly books, I’m definitely not your guy; however, I do consider myself quite measured and thoughtful when it comes to incorporating unsavory elements into my writing, which many seem to appreciate.

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

Michael Shotter: For the most part, I have a fairly complete sense of the stories I write before I ever sit down in front of my word processor. As a result, there’s not a lot of fat in my writing process. I’ve certainly tweaked the occasional bit of prose for one reason or another during editing passes but I honestly can’t think of an entire scene or section of a project that I’ve felt compelled to cut after writing it.

That’s certainly not to say that my writing is flawless out of the gate as I’m as big a beneficiary of copious editing as the next scribe; however, I think the degree to which I tend to think about stories and characters prior to my initial drafts goes a long way toward keeping things lean and tidy once the furious typing starts.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Michael Shotter: In the past, I’ve published original music and the occasional video game. Those are both extremely expensive and time consuming endeavors in my experience that I think I’m unlikely to revisit at this point in my life. Still, given the right circumstances, I certainly have a few “dream” music and game development projects in my “trunk” I’d be tempted to pursue.

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

Michael Shotter: In 2020, I’ll be including that story (and several others) in a new, short-fiction anthology. I’ll be revealing more information about that project shortly after the new year.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Michael Shotter: Blog ** Amazon ** Goodreads ** Twitter

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 Shotter: As always, I greatly appreciate the support people have shown for my written works over the past few years. It’s taken a lot of time and effort to establish myself as an author but every time one of you reads and enjoys what I’ve written, it all feels worthwhile.

Also, huge shout out to Meghan’s House of Books for giving me this opportunity. I hope this was a fun and interesting read for everyone!

Michael Shotter is a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a lover of science, fiction, and fantasy, his works aim to push beyond the boundaries of traditional genre fiction into new and exciting realms born from literary craftsmanship.

309

Paperback ** Kindle ** Google Play ** Apple iBooks

Meet Lisa Hudson, a dedicated journalism student, on a beautiful, spring morning in Pittsburgh that proves to be the last ordinary day of her life.

As she struggles to survive in a new reality, forged from catastrophe, Lisa confronts its mysteries and dangers with the aid of intriguing and unlikely companions.

For her, the world will never be the same. For you, the journey is just beginning.

Michael Shotter is a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a lover of science, fiction, and fantasy, his works aim to push beyond the boundaries of traditional genre fiction into new and exciting realms born from literary craftsmanship.

“309” represents his most ambitious effort to date and is sure to thrill fans of both science fiction and high adventure.

The Big Men

Paperback ** Kindle ** Google Play ** Apple iBooks

The pursuit of power is as old as human history. In ancient times and in various cultures, it was believed that a person’s power, indeed their very essence could be literally extracted through a variety of means.

The methods by which this was accomplished were largely lost to the ages or banned and purged from historical records by kings, pharaohs, and the like in efforts to preserve their own power and authority.

Still, the echoes of these ideas and techniques persist. What would happen if a man living in modern society, a descendant of the practitioners of those arts were to inadvertently awaken such an ability and what would be the consequences of that awakening?

“The Big Men” is a paranormal thriller that explores the perceptions, manifestations, and consequences of power as wielded and coveted by men in the modern era. This debut novel by Michael Shotter will keep readers guessing as they are drawn into the world of such men by an outsider capable of taking everything from them.

Academic Displacement

Kindle ** Google Play

In this gripping novelette from the author of “The Big Men” and “309,” witness Roy Carter, a man with everything he ever wanted, confounded by an inexplicable event that completely disrupts his idyllic existence after apparently changing almost nothing about it. Prepare yourself for “Academic Displacement.”

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