Who Is Mistral Dawn?

Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)) where she works as a hospital drudge and attends graduate school. Taken By The Huntsman is her first effort at writing fiction and if it is well received she has ideas for several more novels and short-stories in this series. Please feel free to visit her on FaceBook or drop her a line at mistralkdawn@gmail.com

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Michael Dellert #Interviewed By Mistral Dawn

Hey Everyone!! :-)

Michael E. Dellert is joining us today! :-)  Michael, please tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.

Michael:  I grew up in a small town in Northwest NJ that I fondly refer to as “The Land that Time Forgot.” The forests seemed practically primeval back then, and still do today. Of course there’s been some development between now and then, but even so, there are still many parts of town where you can’t get a cell-phone signal. Very rural, very beautiful, and very little to do, so my imagination was my best friend as a kid.
I’ve been a writer for a long time. I think I started seriously considering writing as a career when I was about 12 or 13 years old, and truly fell in love with it when I was about 15 or 16 when I met a teacher that really encouraged me. So that’s, gads, 30 years now.
Of course, a boy’s gotta make a living. I’ve worked in and around publishing most of my adult life. I’m also an avid student, I love to learn. Best writing advice I ever got: “Eavesdrop shamelessly. As a writer, there’s nothing that’s not your business.” I really took that heart.
I’m glad you asked how many I’ve written and not how many I’ve published. I’ve written several “practice novels” that will never see the light of day, if there’s any justice. More recently, I just completed a novel in November 2014 that I think has a good chance in the market, as well as a number of novellas, one of which is coming out in October 2015.

Me:  How exciting!! Congratulations on making your first foray into the world of the published author. ;-)  What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

Michael:  My latest “book” is a novella called Hedge King in Winter. It’s a fantasy action-adventure yarn that was inspired by a lot of the “child of destiny” story lines you often find in fantasy literature. But the twist comes out of the old time travel quandary: what happens if you go back in time and kill your own parents?
Instead of telling the “child of destiny” story, I wanted to explore the lives of those around the child of destiny: the parents, the kings, the priests and philosophers. The ones whose responsibility it would be to raise the “child of destiny” into the hero that everyone expects him to be. How much do these people know about their own role in that destiny? What kind of inspiration will they be for that hero? And of course, can they survive long enough to even raise that “child of destiny” to be a hero at all?

Me:  That reminds me of the song Mary, Did You Know? ;-)  Sounds interesting! What are you working on now?

Michael:  Currently, I have two short novels on the calendar for the coming year. I’m experimenting with mixing/matching genres and different points of view, so while they’re both fantasy novels, one is a romance, while the other is a political thriller. They’re all set within the same world and timeline as my other recent works, so they hang together as a series, exploring that “child of destiny” theme I mentioned earlier.

Me:  Wow! Very ambitious!! Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, so that sounds fascinating to me. ;-)  What authors, or books, have influenced you?

Michael:  Far too many to list here. I think everything one reads has some influence (for good or ill) on a writer. But to mention a few:
I grew up as a fan of sci-fi and fantasy literature. Tolkien, of course, but also Terry Brooks (the Shannara series), Stephen R. Donaldson (the Thomas Covenant series), Poul Anderson, Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton (Witch World), Ursula LeGuin, Robert Heinlein.
Probably the most significant was CJ Cherryh, whose Morgaine Saga blended fantasy writing into a sci-fi universe. Her “intimate internal” point of view and the subtlety of her world-building really captured my attention as a young reader and writer.
A few years ago, I came across an anthology of the original Conan short stories by Robert E. Howard, which was a delight to read. And I was a particular fan of the Tarzan and John Carter of Mars novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs as a kid. And Evangeline Walton’s retelling of the Mabinogion stories from the Welsh Arthurian tradition are beautiful.
As a student of literature, I was particularly captivated by the Modernists: Virginia Woolf (my thesis subject), James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Samuel Beckett, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and so on. If my early influences determined the direction of my interests in writing, my later reading set the bar for craftsmanship and style.

Me:  Wow! That's quite a list, and I have to agree with you that all of those authors are worth reading and have made significant contributions to the world of literature.  If you haven't already, you also might want to check out the Childe Cycle (or Dorsai) series by Gordon R. Dickson, especially if you're interested in exploring the political ramifications of your characters' actions. ;-) What are you reading now?

Michael:  Glenn Cook’s second collection of Black Company novels, The Tales of the South. Some of his fantasy is a bit too flighty for my tastes (flying whales and such), but I like the idea of the amoral mercenaries and grunts in the trenches, fighting sometimes for good and sometimes for evil, but always for each other. It has a very “earthy” quality, a moral ambiguity that rings true. Yet in spite of the sometimes amoral nature of the characters (or perhaps because of it), Cook finds a way to make them sympathetic, almost in spite of themselves. The first collection in the series was particularly inspirational in my current work.

Me:  Of course, how could such human people be anything but sympathetic?  I love characters who are as flawed as real people. ;-)  For those who might consider reading your book, what would you tell them to expect?

Michael:  In the vein of the Morgaine Saga and the Black Company, the world I’ve created has its share of magic and the fantastic/supernatural. It’s a medieval-style action/adventure yarn, very low-fantasy, almost historical. There’s more in common, I think, with Conan and Tarzan than with Frodo and Gandalf. It’s a land of chaotic, petty kingdoms and fierce dynastic rivalries. The struggle to maintain one’s own individuality and autonomy against external centralizing forces is a central theme throughout. And there’s an undercurrent of something sinister moving through the darkness.
My work also carries with it a lot of my more modern concerns: the increasing infiltration of the surveillance state into our lives, the consolidation of power in the hands of a few, the moral integrity of those who hold power, and the supreme value we in the West place on trade and commerce, often at the expense of the social good.

Me:  Ha! Sounds like you've been watching CNN. ;-)  What is your favorite part of being an author?

Michael:  Well, it’s sort of a flippant answer, but my favorite part is that I get to play with my imaginary friends all day. To imagine and create characters and settings, to listen to what they tell me they want and then throw one damned thing after another in their path, it all offers a wonderful sense of play that’s often missing from the usual day-work one can get. Unless you’re playing Whack-A-Mole, it’s hard to have fun in a cubicle farm.

Me:  I don't think that's a flippant answer at all.  I thing most fiction authors would agree with you. :-)  Do you have a day job as well?

Michael:  I do. I’ve worked in and around the publishing industry for nearly twenty years, most recently as a freelance editor and consultant. I was even doing internships in publishing as far back as high school. Aside from writing, it was the only other thing I ever really wanted to do. Come hell or high water, I was born to make books.

Me:  Wonderful!! It sounds like your love of the written word is deep-seated, and all of that experience with different aspects of publishing can only help you as an author. :-) What are the hardest and easiest parts about being a writer?

Michael:  I think the hardest part is that western (particularly American) culture vastly undervalues writers. Sure, there are success stories like Harry Potter and Fifty Shades, but for each of those, there are thousands of talented writers who can’t make a living doing what they do best. Even those who do find work as writers aren’t writing their own original and creative material. They’re copywriting or grant-writing, or what have you. I read a study once that says that folks in the creative industry (and that includes actors, singers, musicians, etc.) only average about $17,000 a year from their work. And that average factors in professionals at the top of their game, like JK Rowling, George Clooney, et. al. Factor those big name, big money stars out of the equation and the average drops precipitously. So that leaves most writers (myself included) struggling to make time in their lives for writing when they’re otherwise making ends meet and trying to be (somewhat) normal people as well.
The easiest part about being a writer is the writing. And by that, I mean first-drafts. Editing is a bitch, but writing like no one is reading, that’s the easy part. If I sit still for more than ten minutes, I’m usually off in another world in my mind anyway, so I just have to write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts.

Me:  I think you've summed up the writer's dilemma very well. It's hard to get people to pay attention to your work, even when it deserves attention.  But writing is such a blast we'll keep doing it anyway, right? ;-) What genre do you place your book in?

Michael:  Sword-and-Sandal Fantasy with a strong dash of Sorcery. Ultimately, my work will level-up to Epic Fantasy, as the characters and plots mature through the series I have planned. But for the works currently on the calendar, the characters and plots are more humble. If the characters can save their kingdom against terrible odds and live to tell the tale, it’s a good day.

Me:  Good vs. Evil!! I love it, you can never go wrong with the classics. ;-)  Is there anything else you'd like to tell your readers?

Michael:  Of course, I’m grateful to all my readers, it’s important that they know that. Without readers, a writer is just another lunatic crying out in the wilderness, so it’s heartening to know that they’re out there, sending me their feedback, sharing with their friends, and being all around awesome people.
To those readers who are also writers, particularly “aspiring” writers, I would add: Don’t give up. Don’t ever stop. You have to have an almost Terminator-like level of tenacity to become successful in this business. If you’ve ever said “One day I’m going to write a book,” I’m here to tell you: “One day” is the day before “Someday” and the day after “Never.” To paraphrase Yoda, there is do or do not, there is no “aspire.”

Me:  Amen to all of that!! :-)  And so our wonderful readers can find your work, are there any links you'd like me to post?

Michael:  My novella, Hedge King in Winter, will be publishing serially on Wattpad from October 4 to December 31, with a new episode posting every week. Readers can follow along at https://www.wattpad.com/user/mdellert1172.
In my copious spare time, I publish a blog of writing tips, tricks, and advice at MDellert-Dot-Com: Adventures in Indie Publishing. Each week, I post a brief study of some element of storytelling: character development, setting, plot structure, etc., as a resource for other writers. I also do shout-outs to other bloggers/writers of my acquaintance, and interviews with writers and small press publishers.
For those on the mailing list, there are daily writing prompts and a monthly newsletter, as well as opportunities to get free content. For example, fans on the mailing list will receive episodes of Hedge King in Winter ahead of publication, as well as a free ebook edition of the collected episodes once the series is complete.
I also re-post a lot of content on Facebook (fb.me/mdellert.editor) and Twitter (@MDellertDotCom), including publishing industry trends and stories, promotions from other indie writers, and general brick-a-brack. Lots of nerdbait there for anyone who likes literature, reading, publishing, and writing.

Awesome!! Sounds like there are lots of rewards for those who follow you. :-)  Thank you for stopping by today, Michael.  And thank you to the rest of you who joined us!! :-)  Don't forget to stay tuned for the latest interviews, rants, and other musings I may come up with. :-)

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