Today is the birthday of the World’s Greatest Dad – not to be confused with all of those other fathers out there who believe that this title is theirs. It’s partly because of him – and completely because he married my mother – that I am the person I am today, and I thank God every day that I was able to have the time with him that I did. Unfortunately, he passed away while I was in high school – a million years ago, but just like yesterday – and has spent the last 20+ years being a guardian angel to a kid that really needed him.
When Michaelbrent asked me if I would be interested in reading his latest, Stranger Still, and said that the release date was today, I knew that having him on for a second interview would be the PERFECT birthday present to my dad. Michaelbrent is the kind of author that would have captured my dad’s attention, and he writes the kind of books that my father would have made sure his daughters spent some time with. I am excited to be able to sit down with his latest – it looks fantastic – and honored to have him here today.
So, without further adieu…
Meghan: Hi, Michaelbrent! It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?
Michaelbrent Collings: SO much! I’ve written some more books – my newest, Stranger Still, hits today – and I’m a dad and husband so life only functions on “sleep deprived” and “slightly more sleep deprived.” But it’s been a great time overall. Just finished out the most successful year of my career and passed a quarter-million ebooks sold, so I can’t complain!
Meghan: A quarter-million ebooks?! That’s amazing!! Who are you outside of writing?
Michaelbrent Collings: See above re “dad and husband.” My most important jobs all revolve around them. There’s also a lot of church stuff (which often makes people laugh given what kind of thing I write), and I’m also involved in community stuff. I mentor a recently-released felon, I try to take my kids to do service around our city, things like that. But first, last, and mostly: family.
Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?
Michaelbrent Collings: Great! Most of them are big readers, so it’s actually more “who can I count on not reading my book?” Obviously my kids are too young for some of the books I write, but other than that… have at it! If I was ashamed/worried about someone reading something, I’d have to ask myself why I was doing something like that. I’m not ashamed of what I do, or who knows about it. So read away.
Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?
Michaelbrent Collings: Why can’t it be both?
That’s the nature of good things – they tend to come paired with a bad thing, and vice-versa. Writing is a huge blessing in that it allows me to express myself, to try and tell stories that entertain and enlighten, and that allow me to hang out with tens of thousands of readers who have provided me with a livelihood. It’s a curse in that it so often keeps me up at night, makes me ramble incomprehensibly, and sometimes just sees straight-up incompatible with “normal” life.
But overall: blessing. Definitely.
Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?
Michaelbrent Collings: Well, I grew up in a reading and writing environment, so that was huge. My father was the Creative Writing Director for a major university, and my mother spent many nights and weekends reading books to us as children and then – as we grew – reading the stories that we wrote. Dad was also the world expert on Stephen King for a good long time, so I grew up with screaming in the house as a good thing.
Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?
Michaelbrent Collings: I couldn’t even begin to guess! All I know is that I’ve researched enough bizarro stuff that every once in a while I wave and hold up a sign that says “Hi!” so that whatever NSA guy is monitoring me through my laptop’s webcam will have a nicer day.
Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?
Michaelbrent Collings: The end, definitely. That’s where everything comes together, so it tends to be the most emotional as an experience. And though I always try to craft a story that people can enjoy spending a day or two with, sometimes people forget that I haven’t spent a few days with it. I’ve spent weeks or months with it, and by the time I get to the end I very often just want to get it over with! I try not to rush things, but there’s definitely a cumulative exhaustion that sets in.
Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?
Michaelbrent Collings: I do ‘em all. With Stranger Still, I mostly pantsed it. Same with The Colony Saga, which was a seven-book series. On the other hand, I typically do pretty thorough outlines for mysteries like Blood Relations and The Longest Con. They’re all fun to do – though going in without an outline is definitely the scariest because it usually isn’t until about 2/3 of the way through that I finally figure out what’s happening myself!
Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?
Michaelbrent Collings: Giggle maniacally.
Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?
Michaelbrent Collings: Think about all my vices – like paying for food and shelter.
Meghan: Are you an avid reader?
Michaelbrent Collings: Yes, but it’s changed a lot over the years. I do a lot more non-fiction reading for fun, and while I read a lot of fiction as well, it tends to be during the day as part of the “market research” aspect of my work.
Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?
Michaelbrent Collings: There are very few I don’t. I don’t like erotica, but other than that, the breadth and width of my reading tastes are pretty wide.
Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?
Michaelbrent Collings: Depends on the movie. I don’t get mad when movies don’t follow books – they’re different beasties, and changes should be made. But I do not like a bad movie regardless of it’s genesis. So I like good movies based on books, and bad ones make me groan.
Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?
Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?
Michaelbrent Collings: Quite the opposite. I tend to get very into my characters’ heads, so writing about their pain hurts me as well. I wrote a character based on one of my children, and when I realized he was going to die for the story to work, I really had a bad day. The day I wrote that scene was worse – I barely talked at home that night.
That said, I do make them suffer. Suffering is not only interesting, but it shows us who the characters really are – and hopefully that way also shows us what kind of people we are as we read.
Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?
Michaelbrent Collings: OHMIGOSH. There’s a character in Stranger Still that I just had a blast with. He is a murderous psychopath who is a narcissist of unbelievable proportions – to the point that he believes every thought he has is deep, even though the extent of his education is mostly reading Netflix descriptions and Instagram posts. He was a hilarious set of dichotomies and I worried it wouldn’t work, but advance readers almost all have mentioned how much they loved/hated the guy.
Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?
Best: keep writing
Worst: give up
Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?
Michaelbrent Collings: They mean so very much. I write because I have to. But I write full-time because they allow it. They support my family, and so there is a debt I can never hope to repay.
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
Michaelbrent Collings: More books! I will be working on a paranormal horror novel (tentatively called The Forest) about a pair of teens who go into a forest where their friend has been lost. Two of the three survive, because of what happens there. Twenty years later they go back… and things get even worse.
Meghan: Where can we find you?
Michaelbrent Collings: I’m easy to find. Just Google “Michaelbrent” and you’ll find me!
You can also sign up for my mailing list (called Michaelbrent’s Minions) and get a free book, plus special access to deals and giveaways!
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 or the last?
Michaelbrent Collings: Just thank you. I appreciate every single person who’s made this weird, wild, wonderful trip possible!
About the book:
Your sins are Legion…
… and now you belong to him.
Legion is a teacher. An avenging angel. A murderer.
Born in the blood of a dying mother, raised in the underground hideout of an insane father, he travels the world looking for those who keep secrets and sins. He finds those who have fallen short, and teaches them the lessons they need to leave their mistakes behind.
And if he has to teach a lesson that ends in death, well… sometimes that’s the cost of proper education.
That’s why, when he sees a man kidnap two people on the side of the road, Legion knows it is time to teach again.
Soon he finds himself caught in the crossfire of a coup in a Russian crime syndicate. Legion is captured, beaten, bleeding, in chains; cut off and alone.
It’s just the way he likes it.
Legion has his students. And the lessons are about to begin…
About the author:
One of the most versatile writers around, Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally
bestselling novelist, produced screenwriter, and multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist.
While he is best known for horror (and is one of the most successful indie horror authors
in the United States), he has also written bestselling thriller, fantasy, science fiction,
mystery, humor, young adult, and middle grade works, and western romance.
As a novelist, Michaelbrent has written dozens of bestsellers that have also received
critical acclaim, and he and his work have been featured on everything from mom-and-pop
podcasts to Publishers Weekly, The San Francisco Book Review, and NPR.