Saturday, October 30, 2010

Interview with Lucifera's Pet author M.T. Murphy


I recently interviewed fellow author M.T. Murphy and had the pleasure of learning more about the man behind the creative genius of Lucifera’s Pet, his debut novel.

SDA: So do tell, how did this story come to you?

MTM: I enjoyed reading the Anita Blake books with all the vampire and werewolf story lines, but I never liked the main character. I read a few more "urban fantasy" books back before the genre had a name, but nothing captured my interest. I always wanted to read a story from a werewolf's point of view. I think I may have watched "Teen Wolf" a few too many times as a kid.
I also have always been partial to the villains and anti-heroes. Darth Vader, the Joker, and Angelus from the Buffy series are some of my favorites. I greatly enjoy any stories that give a glimpse into their side of the story.
I was also intrigued by the idea of a Romeo and Juliette type pairing of a werewolf and vampire. Instead of escaping or committing suicide when faced with being torn apart, this pair would proceed to kill anybody who got in their way. That is the story I wanted to capture. You know, a sweet little tale. ;)

SDA: HAHA! Do you find that to be a problem for you when reading what is now considered mainstream fiction? Meaning I know I have a lot of problems reading books nowadays because I get pissed at the writer for things they do to the story or the character.

MTM: I don't get to read nearly as much as I would like to these days. When I do sit down to read, I have usually gone through reviews and either read a sample of a book electronically or in a book store or am reading based on a recommendation from a friend. If I am not enjoying a book, I will give it a few chapters to see if it captures my interest. If it doesn't, I drop it like a bad habit.
It is usually apparent how an author is going to treat their characters from the beginning. To answer your question, I guess I have become a bit of a snob when it comes to my reading. I think my biggest pet peeve is when an author sees a popular book/genre and shapes a character specifically to cater to what's hot at the moment. It shows through in the writing and usually makes for a tedious reading experience.

SDA: Something that I get teased about is the types of things I write. As a horror writer has any of your friends or family expressed fear or apprehension over your mental state?

MTM: Ha! No more or less than before I started writing. Everyone has something they consider taboo. Few people admit that they actually find those taboo subjects to be fascinating. I dream up and write about disturbing things so those people can read about them in private. If they point and whisper about me afterward, I'm okay with that as long as they actually read it.

SDA: That’s a good thing to talk about! Why do you supposed vampires and werewolves are considered so taboo? I mean I know why it is in my world because of how I was raised, but in society especially one that is so politically correct about everything you would think it wouldn’t still be that big of an issue.

MTM: Sex has always been a taboo subject to a degree, and vampires are sex. They taste other beings, penetrate them with their fangs, and derive great pleasure from doing so.
We in the US and UK live in a primarily Judeo-Christian society. The belief in a benevolent higher power and a malevolent adversary is widespread. Vampires and werewolves as bringers of death and destruction are commonly associated with that malevolent side of the coin. If there is one thing society as a whole can get behind, it's hating the bad guys.

SDA: Well okay then, in writing characters that are ultimately villains in most aspects, how hard was it to give them redeeming qualities to make a reader actually care for them?

MTM: It was actually easier than you might think. The key is to remember that there are no absolutes. It's like Yin and Yang: even the most heinous villain must have at least some good and the most virtuous hero must have a little darkness. Once you establish a character as a villain, they are often a single heroic act away from gaining the reader's sympathy. Sure we hate the bad guy, but we want to believe that he or she can change. If you give someone even a hint of good in an evil character, their need to see the best in people kicks in and a connection is made.
I have mentioned it before, but the book title "Save the Cat" pretty much sums it up. When the villain goes out on that limb to save Mr. Fluffykins, readers find themselves rooting for a character they could have hated two pages earlier.
By the way, "Save the Cat" is a screenwriting book by the late Blake Snyder in which he addresses this issue and many others. It is a fantastic guide, not just for screenwriting, but storytelling in general.

SDA: Yea the love/hate relationships in your book I loved which brings me to something else I was wondering. Do you think all of your characters have traits that are yours or are they all figments of your imagination?

MTM: It's a little bit of both. My characters are an amalgamation of my thoughts on certain character types and various people I have known or known of. First I design a character, giving it a physical description, personality profile, and a rough history. I also try to add at least two or three quirks that will make them memorable. Once all that is in place I put myself into their head and try to react to the story as realistically as possible from their point of view.
It's very similar to putting on a Frankenstein's Monster mask and acting the part: walking stiff-legged, groaning and growling, etc. I set the character up rationally, then throw rational thought out the window and see where it goes.
But, whenever you see one of my characters being a total smartass, that's me.

SDA: I recently did an interview with someone who told me their biggest goal in the book they just wrote was to make the reader cry. Did you have any goals like that?

MTM: My biggest goal in everything I write is to entertain. I want the reader to experience what my characters are going through and feel like their time was well spent. By the end of my novel, I want the reader to care about the protagonists but still be at least a little apprehensive. Hopefully they will have an uneasy sense of "like" peppered with some fear over what they will do next.

SDA: I feel I have known the characters in your book, at least Lucy and Mickey, for some time now but what was the most important thing about them for you to convey to the readers and why?

MTM: We should mention that we were part of an amazing writing group started by you and another upcoming author. If the others who wrote with us haven't already written novels of their own by now, they should get their asses into gear. That is where S.D. and I were each introduced to the other's characters. (SDA: Nice shout out MTM to the wonderful writers we know!)

In Lucifera's Pet, the characters are seemingly at the end of their character arcs at the beginning of the book. We find them in modern day Los Angeles as a ruthless vampire and savage killer werewolf. They both started out their lives as normal people with good hearts and the best intentions. I wanted to show their transformation and leave the reader with the sense that, even though they became monsters, they managed to hang on to a little bit of their humanity in each other.

SDA: Were there any subtleties you threw into the story that was more for your benefit that may have gone over a reader’s head?

MTM: I purposefully left in dozens of "Easter eggs" that will come into play in later stories. I also left two big story threads open. One of them, the fate of newly-turned werewolf Lily, is addressed in the Werewolf Gunslinger short stories and my upcoming novella. The other is a central theme in the follow-up novel to Lucifera's Pet. There are tons more, but I will be more fun to let them come out as I publish more in the future. Plus it will give people a reason to go back and look through Lucifera's Pet again.

SDA: What was the hardest thing about writing a book?

MTM: Time management and motivation. Telling the story was the easy part. I researched as much as I could about novel structure before I started and found that a typical 300 page novel weighed in at around 90,000 words. That's a pretty daunting number when you think about it. I set a monthly goal of 10,000 words and broke it down to 500 per day.
For the first two months, I didn't come close to meeting my goal. Then, my dad passed away two weeks before Christmas in 2008. Needless to say, the book was no longer a priority. I didn't even think about it for a month while we took care of things and spent the holidays with mom. Dad had been an avid reader. He got me into reading when I was a kid and definitely played a part in my decision to start writing. I was really disappointed that I didn't even tell him I had started a book.
Sometime in late January, I decided to start back and finish it. I took two days and wrote out a detailed outline for every chapter I had planned. Then, everything clicked. I started blowing past my 500 word daily goals. Some weeks I would put out 10,000 to 12,000 words. If you are a full-time writer, this is par for the course. If, however, you write from 11:00PM to 1:00AM while working 45-50 hours at a non-writing job and trying to be a good parent in the few hours in between, that is a decent chunk of words.
Having that outline hanging over my head and the idea that I could dedicate the book to dad were the two things that gave me the drive to get the book done.

SDA: How did you find the time to write a full novel while balancing family and a full time job?

MTM: Well, I average about 4.5 hours of sleep a night. Does that answer your question? ;)

Honestly, I write whenever I can. Usually it is after the kids are in bed. The trick is to set a realistic goal and stick to it. I tried to write at least 500 words a day when I was writing Lucifera's Pet. Some days I wrote 25 words. Other days I wrote 3,000.
My perfect situation was me, my laptop, and a dark, quiet room--which is why I was able to write a good bit in the wee hours each night. I scrawled on post-it notes and shoved them in my pocket when I was at the office and an idea hit. I still keep a half dozen notebooks in my car and strewn throughout the house to capture stray bits of scenes that pop into my head. When you have limited time to write, you learn to improvise. I would describe my technique as "guerrilla writing," because ideas often ambushed me and I had to be able to take them down with whatever I had handy.

SDA: Geurrilla writing? HAHA! Care to explain that or do you have a writing process you have to follow, or a particular way that makes it easier?

MTM: I usually brainstorm to come up with the general theme for a story. Then I plan out the opening scene and a rough idea for the ending. Once that is in place, I create a very basic outline. I never have to wonder where to go after a scene because I already have it mapped. Sometimes the story changes, but I just alter the outline and pick right back up. I do not have time for so-called "writer's block," so this is one of my ways to avoid it.

SDA: HAHA! Nice to see someone else refers to writer’s block as “so-called”, I take it you’ve never experienced problems with it, but have you ever had anything come close, if so, how did you overcome?

MTM: I kept hearing friends and other writers talk about "burn out" and "writer's block." I never understood how they could suddenly wake up and not be able to put words on paper. Then one day I woke up with that feeling. After scouring the internet for resources on overcoming these things, the advice on how to "cure" them was always the same: start writing again. It sounds silly, but writing just one random sentence will often trigger another, and another, and POW: no more writer's block.
I don't think there is some invisible force that blocks ideas nor do I believe in some ethereal creature that whispers ideas into the ears of artists. In my case, the reality was that I just didn't want to write at that time. Once I rediscovered the desire, the words came.
Now, I picture writing apathy as a grungy leprechaun sitting on my shoulder burning me with his cigar. When he comes around and I'm trying to write, I kick him in his gnarly leprechaun coin purse and write while he rolls on the floor.

I hate leprechauns.

SDA: So I take it Lucky Charms isn’t your favorite cereal hehehe. If you had to pick a theme song for your book what would it be and why?

MTM: A Long Way Back From Hell by Danzig. It is bluesy, gritty, and full of dark imagery, much like the book. I'll see if I can get Hollywood to play that over the ending credits when they wise up and turn it into a big budget blockbuster film.

SDA: Who has been your biggest creative inspiration?

MTM: There are many writers who have specific traits I admire: The creativity of Neil Gaiman. The humor of Douglas Adams. Anne Rice's ability to tell a compelling story in first person. Laurell K. Hamilton's world-building. Stephanie Meyer's ability to connect with her audience. (Yes, I just said something nice about Twilight. Let's not dwell on it.)
Recently I have fallen in love with Martin Millar's Lonely Werewolf Girl. He shows that good storytelling does not have to follow the rules.

SDA: Very good choices but you do realize you’ve complimented Twilight for the world to see right? On the flip side of the last question, who has been your worst critic?

MTM: I am both my own biggest fan and my own worst critic. I write the stories I have always wanted to read but I can never read my work without finding something that could have been expressed a better way.

SDA: Well with inspiration and critics let’s talk about support groups. I find as a writer, my support group is more of an online following than people in my everyday life. Do you have a support group that you call on and what is it about them that helps you?

MTM: Well, you have definitely been a huge help to me from the beginning. I have several writers and friends online who have helped me immensely as well. My offline friends and coworkers are aware of my writing, but few have read any of my work. That's okay with me. Most of them are not fans of the horror/urban fantasy genre anyway.
Even if you have a hundred people who are supportive and offer great advice, in the end, a writer must be his or her own support group.

It's kind of like being Spiderman, only with a pen instead of webs.

And no super powers.

And no groupies unless you're Ray Bradbury.

Okay, maybe it's nothing like being Spiderman but I always wanted to make that comparison.

SDA: Should have known you’d throw comics into it somewhere! HAHAHA! I hear a lot of people complain about an issue of their favorite serial or whatever and get appalled at the writer for something. What do you feel is the cardinal sin for authors, one they should never commit?

MTM: I believe the worst thing an author can do is bore the reader. We have to remember that, just because we care about every minuscule detail of our character's lives, that doesn't mean we need to put every sigh, smile, and nod of the head to paper. I am one of the worst offenders when it comes to this. That's why I could never even consider publishing anything without a good editor.

SDA: Speaking of publishing, why did you choose to self-publish?

MTM: I purposefully broke many rules of traditional books: villains as main characters, first person POV, multiple POV's, extended flashbacks, etc. Unless someone was willing to totally go against the grain, my chances of jumping out of the "slush pile" (a term I loathe) were less than slim. I started researching traditional publishing and learned, much to my naive dismay, that most authors control very little about their finished product, including the timing of a book's release and the overall appearance and formatting. That was a bitter pill for a control freak like myself.
Once I realized that self publishing via a print-on-demand company was a viable alternative cost-wise, I decided to go that route. It thrilled me to be able to work with an artist to design an unorthodox cover that I loved and find my own editor who helped me tell the story I wanted to tell. For the record, any formatting or typographical errors in the book were due to my hasty last-minute self-edits and failure to let my editor give it a final pass. Lesson learned.
At its core, self-publishing means taking all the credit for yourself when you succeed and accepting the blame if you fail.

SDA: So if a big time NY publisher came to you with a deal, what would it have to include for you to agree?

MTM: I would want a fairly high level of control over the finished product as well as ownership of the electronic rights. I would also want to be able to publish a book as quickly as possible after it is finished rather than waiting for a certain time of year or trying to time the release to compete with some other new book.

SDA: You have also published a short story/novella series, tell me about that?

MTM: My dad was a big L'ouis L'amour western fan. He owned all 100+ of L'amour's books and read them dozens of times. Without giving too much away, I introduced a character in Lucifera's Pet who became a werewolf in the 1700s but purposefully left off what became of the character after that. Just for fun, I decided to follow that character's adventures in the late 1800s American West. Thus, the Werewolf Gunslinger short stories were born. I have published two stories in the series so far and released them for free via Smashwords.
I am currently working on a novella set in the same time period. It started as a third Werewolf Gunslinger story, but has grown much bigger. I am dropping "Werewolf Gunslinger" from the title and calling it "All Hallows."
As a nod to one of my favorite books, A Night in the Lonesome October, the novella will have some Lovecraftian themes as well as an original drawing of one of the memorable scenes for each chapter. The cast of characters will be massive for a novella: zombie gunfighters, werewolves, vampires, angels, demons, sorcerers, seers, and even a certain lumbering man-made monster introduced in the second Werewolf Gunslinger story. I have had a ton of fun working on the novella and I can't wait for readers to see it.

SDA:I would like to thank M.T. Murphy for taking the time to spend with me and do this interview process. I recently told another author that if I wasn’t going to write I would probably go into reporting just to interview people.

If you would like to learn more about Mr. Murphy or his book Lucifera’s Pet, please check out the awesome clicky links below:

Smashwords (Free eBooks):

You can also purchase your copy of Lucifera’s Pet at Amazon:

Friday, October 29, 2010

REVIEW - Lucifera's Pet by M.T. Murphy

Okay so I’ve said it before, I’m a slacker. I read it and posted a blog about it but it was more to Mike… er… um… M.T. (sorry it’s habit) and bowing to his greatness. And upon reviewing a few others, I realized I have yet to review his book on my blog…

This will be followed up with a blog interview with none other than M.T. Murphy… Get excited.

So here goes…

In a world of vampires and werewolves that has descended onto pop culture of today… aren’t you the slightest bit sick of sparkly vampires with stupid, shiny Volvo’s, and werewolves that aren’t menacing at all but more or less overgrown Chihuahuas? Trust me this isn’t your kids Twilight style vampire story. Trust me when I tell you that this isn’t the Anne Rice or Anita Blake story you’re looking for either.

But instead of jumping on the bandwagon of what the media and publishers shovel down your throats of how the villains are supposed to be, why don’t you pick up a story where you know you feel bad for actually kind of liking the villains?

I could give you the backstory, leave you with an excerpt from the back cover, but it wouldn’t come close to explaining the connection between the lead vampire, Lucifera, or her furry companion Mickey. This story is told from multiple points of view, and will leaving you both loving and hating them. But through it all you will understand them and connect with them no matter what you feel about ‘bad guys’ or girls in this case.

Have you ever wanted to dissect a villain and find out what made them evil? What if while uncovering the ins and outs of what made them the evil, you realize that society as a whole is only a few bad situations away from being evil themselves? This story is done in such a way that you go into it knowing that you should loathe the lead characters. They are evil. They are people you probably wouldn’t look in the eye if you ran into them somewhere. But through it all, learning about their lives and how they came to be, you find yourself rooting for them like they are the underdogs, and I guess in a sense they are.

And imagine my surprise when I read this to find what I expected to be a lot of blood and guts and despicable menacing creatures that I see a beautiful love story between two characters that are damned from the jump?

I cannot recommend this book enough, to the vampire/werewolf enthusiast in a lot of us, you will not be disappointed. And even for those of you that aren’t. My stepmother has read this and loved it as well, and she is not the vamp-obsessed type such as myself.

Well done Mr. Murphy, hats off to you. Get cracking on more… I can’t wait to see what happens next!

M.T. Murphy is the author of Lucifera’s Pet, a violent and sexy dark fiction tale of werewolves and vampires. If you have ever wondered what goes on in the twisted head of a dark fiction writer, here is your chance to find out.

Smashwords (Free eBooks):

Monday, October 18, 2010

Guest Blog by Chris Kelly - My Mum Hates My Book


She doesn’t, but I had to call this post something. In fairness, it wasn’t a complete lie. I know her tastes fairly thoroughly, and if she ever read my book, she’d hate it. Now don’t get me wrong, she’d be happy I wrote a book, but vampires... steam-powered Iron Man-like power-suits... assassination plots?

She prefers books about people beating cancer, or people not beating cancer sometimes. I don’t write what she reads, and I reckon I’d rather never read again than read what she reads. We’re different people, at different stages in our lives, with different tastes and desires, dreams and hopes. So it’s not completely ridiculous to say “my mum hates my book.”

But that doesn’t mean my book is shit, either. Samantha recently blogged a review on my book, and it seems like she enjoyed it. Other people have tweeted that they couldn’t put it down. So does that mean it’s good?

Well, no, because it is never as simple as that. Taste is subjective. People like different things, and different things are good for different people.

I read a post recently on Zoe Winter’s blog ( ) about a writer worrying her mum would read her sex scenes. It’s not something I’ve ever worried about. And not just because my mum won’t read my books.

Okay, my next novel (Nasty Foul-Smelling Mean-Spirited Ugly Little Goblinses is the next one I’ll write. If all goes well I’m hoping for a pre-Christmas release. I’ve just started the planning. You can follow my journey on the blog I set up just for this, Goblins {}) won’t have sex in it either, but it will have lots of sex talk, jokes and innuendo. This is a Young Adult book, incidentally.

My current book, Matilda Raleigh: Invictus, might alienate readers. It’s steampunk in the setting, some characters, but the plot is more historic urban fantasy, and the main character and the pacing and the sheer number of fight scenes are sword and sorcery. It’s fast, it’s exciting, it’s deadly. When I was writing it I could have worried about steampunkers hating the S&S elements, or vice versa, but I didn’t.

You have to shut those voices out when you write. Especially if you’re an indie. See, if I submitted Invictus to a traditional publisher I know they’d have wanted me to change it. How would depend on the editor, but some would say it was too steampunky, and others would say it wasn’t steampunky enough. It’s because, by combining two genres I have essentially created a new, third genre (I call it steam and sorcery, by the way).

Because I’m an indie I don’t have to fit an editor’s view of what is marketable. Marketable, in traditional publishing, means what there is already a market for. There’s a market for steampunk, and Cherie Priest does very well. There’s a market for sword and sorcery, and Conan still sells well. But there’s a market for indie books, and that market consists of people looking for something that hasn’t been done before. That market is people who are looking for books that are a little (or a lot) different.

That’s the market for steam and sorcery. That’s the market for YA stories about good but ugly goblins and a sex mad princess trapped in the body of a 3 ft high Barbie fighting an evil child-stealing Santa (my next book; I’m super-excited). It’s the market for Invictus ( If you’re in that market, take a chance on the world’s debut steam and sorcery novel, and if the genre explodes, you’ll be able to say you read it before it was cool.

If you’re writing to that market, do something weird and cool, shut out the voices that tell you no one will buy it, and write what you love. Because with six billion plus people in the world, someone will buy your book.

Chris Kelly’s debut novel, Matilda Raleigh: Invictus, has recently been released on Smashwords, and will be heading out to most other retailer’s soon. A steampunk/sword and sorcery cross about a 72 year old woman reluctantly having to save the British Empire again, it has been reviewed on this blog in the post just before this one. LOL. He lives in Scotland with his wife and three daughters and has never killed anyone. Honestly.

Follow him on Twitter:!/IndieChris

Stalk him on Facebook:

Browse his blog and search his site or just skip to the exciting bit, and buy his book

Thanks, Samantha, for letting me torture your readers today.

Friday, October 15, 2010

REVIEW - Matilda Raleigh: Invictus by Chris Kelly


Everyone knows old people are senile. Okay sorry, I’m not being very politically correct. Senior citizens. Better? Haha.

The reason I say this is because I recently read a book by up and coming author, Chris Kelly. Matilda Raleigh: Invictus is a tale of a woman who is far past her prime, quite literally on her death bed, but afraid to give up the fight and succumb to her own mortality. Oh and did I mention she talks to herself? Okay well not really herself, to a demon tied to a pair of percussion revolvers. So I’ll say it again, seniors are senile...

Seventy-two Matilda Raleigh strikes me as a woman that has had a hard life and is now staring death in the face. This tale is told from an era where women were supposed to be prim and proper and Matilda doesn’t seem to fit that criteria at all. She’s tough as nails and to be honest reminds me of one of my grandmothers. We all have one, the grandmother that was brutally honest no matter how bad we felt we needed sugar-coating, it was almost as if it was beneath her. If you’ve ever had a grandmother like that, you will love this story.

Told from the world as it was in 1912, when the British Empire is facing a magical threat to the likes no one has ever seen, Matilda must now choose to take on people that quite possibly could be the death of her, to save a world she is about to leave forever.

I think Chris captured some very pure emotions in his characters, told from Matilda’s perspective, a woman who’s keen sense is almost as appealing as the secrets of her past. Secrets that will keep you turning the pages to find out more of.

I will say that even though this is a historical fiction of sorts, it was appealing the way he has tied certain elements into this. Things that someone who, like myself, may not be a history buff can find appealing and will make you want to read more of. And it is all tied into a thrilling tale of a woman who you will sympathize with on some level no matter what situation she is in. And did I mention that she has a demon living in her head?

What Chris has done beautifully is capture what will be at the heart of most of us someday, facing death and choosing to give up and just lay down and die, or go out in a blaze of glory. He has done this all while throwing enough real-life emotion, thrilling action and effortless humor into the story as well. Overall impressive read, way to go Chris!

You can read more of Chris on his blog:

You can purchase your very own copy of Matilda Raleigh: Invictus at Smashwords:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Interview with Dying Light author D. Scott Meek


As a writer I find it sometimes challenging to sit down and read. Mainly because the books I choose to read, I’m constantly critiquing and it’s easier for me to just write and be done with it. This wasn’t the case with the book Dying Light by author D. Scott Meek, a uniquely written tale of a blood virus and the human race in a post World War 3 era.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Scott and picking his brain over his writing process among other things.

SDA: Your book is about ‘vampyres’ told in a very different light than your typical Twilight or Anne Rice realm, told from a point of view like biological warfare caused it. But in a world where everyone is jumping on the bandwagon for ‘vamps’, what do you tell the nay-sayers that say vamp books are a dime a dozen?
DSM: Honestly? I tell them that they are. But there's nothing wrong with that, especially when your "dime" novel is selling 10 million copies. Some people will tell you that every story has already been told, and that may or may not be true, but for me it's not whether or not the story has been told, it's how it is told and whether or not it connects with the reader. As long as people dream dark dreams and fear death, there will be vampire stories -- some will be horrible trash, and some will be magnificent.

SDA: Well yours was magnificent in my eyes, a great read overall. What made you want to do a story of this style, of this caliber?
DSM: In Hollywood movies, it seems like the good guys always win, and that makes me angry sometimes because it always seems a little too convenient, and if you've ever thought about it, there are always tons of collateral damage and things that never get wrapped up. I wanted to write something that felt real, looked real, tasted real, with all that collateral damage that would actually be dealt with or at least confronted in the end. Things are always pretty, and everyone has demons and pain, and I wanted the reader to feel the pain as much as the glory. If I have one actual goal, I want to make the reader cry. I want you be so in tune with my characters that when a fictional heart gets broken, I want the reader to experience it, too.

SDA: I know as a writer I struggle with that. I’m an emotional sap most days, and my writing makes me cry because I feel so deeply about the characters but do you believe that style or type of passion can be trained? Meaning if you were trying to explain to a fellow writer how to convey that kind of emotion onto a page, how would you?
DSM: Oh, well, I think a lot of it has to do with a person's ability to communicate in all facets of life. I'm a natural communicator as a teacher -- it's very important that I get my point across in a way that others understand so they can take something from the lesson and apply it. Is this something that can be trained? I would say 'no' -- you are either a teacher or you are not. That said, can you improve your ability to communicate? Of course. Can you recognize the things in stories that speak to you, that touch you, that make you laugh or cry or even love the characters? Of course you can. But you have to work at it, you have to recognize it, then you have to put it into practice and hone it until it is razor sharp. The goal is this: when you want the reader to cry, he cries.

SDA: Now another thing that I found interesting and what I think more and more new authors are attempting to do is to tell a story from multiple points of view. You did this beautifully in Dying Light from multiple characters. How hard was it to keep the voices of them sounding individual and not have them run into one voice?
DSM: Well, as some people might know, there's a lot of me in each of the characters, so I just tried to focus on that one aspect that I wanted to inject. Also, I did tons of re-reading, going back to previous chapters for this or that person, reading up to the present and then writing the next piece. I had to be in the flow and get to know each one of them, remind myself what the issues are and what the goal is. Otherwise, I'd say they write themselves, and I don't always know what they are going to say or do next.

SDA: So is it safe to say us as writers all have split personalities? Hahaha.
DSM: Emily's talking to herself was unexpected. It just felt right. What's cool is that a friend who has a Master's in Psychology said it sounded really real. I was just having fun and went with it. We might not all have split personalities, but we all have internal conflicts -- eat the donut because it is delicious; don't eat the donut because it will make you fat. We all do it.

SDA: When you say that the characters wrote themselves, did you have any AH-HA moments while writing that totally took you by surprise?
DSM: Absolutely. Most of my writing is unscripted, and my fiction is considerably more unscripted than my blogging is. There were several major events in the book that were unexpected, that I had no inkling of at all until I was writing it.

SDA: Let’s talk about Charlotte and Michael, two of the characters from the book, personal favorites I might add. What sets them apart from other love interests of today that all seem to face the ‘against-all-odds’ type of lives?
DSM: Yikes. I don't know. I think the reader would be the best person to answer that. And yet, as we have honestly barely gotten to know them, we might have to wait and see. What I will say is this: how many marriages could last more than a century? That said, in most romantic couples, we see a transformation of one character, a developing love that is often predictable -- the nerd gets the girl (Sorcerer's Apprentice) -- but Charlotte and Michael are established and solid, although life has thrown them for a loop. We will see if they survive. I make no promises other than I promise to do my best to keep you guessing.

SDA: You said earlier that these characters all are parts of you, that being said, do you think it will be harder or easier to hear criticism about them?
DSM: Good question. I guess that depends on your self-esteem. A lot of the things that I have injected into my characters are things that I am fine with but in a way enjoy working on or exploring. Loneliness, trust issues, loves lost, fear of this or that. We all have these things, so I'm not so worries that people will indict me with their dislike as they will indict themselves.

SDA: The other thing about this is that you’ve put a lot of reference into real places within the story. What was the significance of putting in little pieces of your real life, places you’ve been? DSM: Yes, I've actually been to every location in the book -- the White House, the Library of Congress, United Methodist Church in Mount Vernon in Baltimore, and even the Oak Alley Plantation in New Orleans. I do that because I like to travel and see things, but put those places in my fictional world because I like making it very real, and I also like the idea that the future is heavily tied to the past. And we see that in how physical places are transformed over centuries; what's interesting is that we don't see that same transformation in the people.

SDA: Was there ever a point when writing any of your characters, or any of the scenes that you sat back and wondered if you were pushing things too far, if you had crossed a line?
DSM: In what way?
SDA: Well for example, there were a few scenes in my novel that made me kind of wring my hands and worry about who was I going to offend or piss off and in the back of my head it’s there that certain people I know are going to read this and wonder if I’m mentally stable to be able to come up with some of the things I did. Was there any of that time where you second guessed yourself?
DSM: No. I don't second guess really. I write a lot of emotionally charged political commentary in my blogs, so I'm used to being very careful about what I say so I can challenge people's beliefs and ideology without being nasty. I did the same in my book, but that is not to say that I haven't edited some things or changed some things -- it's just always been because I thought it made the story better, not because I worried that someone wouldn't like it or might be offended. Science fiction is wonderful in that one can throw up challenging ideas, controversy and outright criticism and yet couch it in a way that it comes across subtly or even invisible to those who don't pay attention. It's also a great place to be overtly critical or radical because it's not you, it's some aliens or future people who don't share the same values. This is one reason science fiction is so wonderful. You can do anything you want, even if it's not a metaphor for today. The only thing I chose not to do was get really raunchy. I write pretty good erotica, but I didn't want it to go that way, even though I wanted it to be hot. I toned some scenes down because of what I needed them to mean, and yet still, even during what was supposed to be a horrifying torture scene, women have told me how hot it was. I guess I didn't do quite a good enough job, but I can't account for the sexual proclivities of others. Or maybe some people just know me better than others. Haha.

SDA: You’ve made it a known fact that Dying Light is the first in a series of books, how many more does this story entail?
DSM: I talk about in the blog and on my Facebook fan page. There are going to be two sequels, of which "Midnight Sun" is one, and a prequel, which will take us back to New Orleans and show us Emily's back story. I'm also working on short stories that take place in New Baltimore, but may not be associated with the novel's events or characters. No telling what else might happen, but I don't want to get into this kind of serialized scenario and crank out a bunch of novels that go on forever.

SDA: Do you have a writing process you have to follow? If so, what happens if you deviate from that?
DSM: No. I just go. I can't say for sure if I have ever written a short story knowing totally where it was going. I certainly had no idea where this novel was going. I just started it and stuck with it, and it did the rest. I like to say I was just along for the ride. There's no process at all that I'm aware of. I just open to a blank sheet of paper, kind of how I'm answering these questions, and it just happens. I might need to set the mood, as I've said, but other than that I may have a vague goal in mind -- nothing more. So many things have happened in my novel that I didn't expect, it's ridiculous. I can't explain it.

SDA: What led you to become a writer?
DSM: Getting divorced and watching my kids driven away in my ex's minivan. I had to have some way to deal with it, so I started blogging. Then came some poetry, then short stories, now novels, more short stories and more blogging, but no real personal blogging. I did the healing I needed to that way.

SDA: So that is what made you start writing but do you believe that all writers are just simply born or are they made due to traumas and events in their lives?
DSM: Oh, I can't answer that one way or the other. I think perhaps though being a good communicator is the basis for being a good writer. You have to be able to get a point across, connect with the audience, whether it be a reader or your kid -- someone's got to get the message, or else you aren't doing your part. As a teacher, I'm quiet good with connecting. As a former personal trainer, I got to know my clients really well quickly from simply observing and them knowing when I was pushing too hard or not enough. You have to be able to read the feedback, which you can't do as a writer so much. So then you just have to trust yourself and go with it. Traumas and events don't lead to creativity or communication, but it can work for some people who perhaps had it in them all along.

SDA: Who has been your best and worst critics, beside yourself?
DSM: Besides me never really being satisfied, my editor actually thought I needed to take some writing classes and spending another several months working on it. I think that was a personal issue between us, but she was very critical and kind of ugly about it. I realize that it isn't perfect, but I've only been writing for about five years now, and this is my first novel, so I wasn't too concerned. I learn by doing, not by reading about it.

SDA: What was the biggest deciding factor in how to publish for you?
DSM: Well, I really wasn't worried about the publishing thing. It turned out that I knew someone who is a publisher at a tiny company that's really just getting started, and I like the idea of having a small little family, so to speak, of authors and the publishers. It's all very personal, like a community. I'm big on community. I could have tried to pimp myself out to a big name house, but I'm not doing this to pay the bills. I'm doing this because this is what I do.

SDA: Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?
DSM: Movies and music. Movies and books alike have always given me ideas about what could be, and music sets the tone. Depending on that I think is going to happen in the scene, I run different music. And I don't mean Counting Crows or something like that. I mean movie soundtracks or melancholy songs. They really get my emotions flowing and help me feel my writing. And as I always say, if I can feel it, you can feel it.

SDA: So now to my three top questions I ask almost every writer I’ve met. How do you feel about writer’s block, as it is a constantly debated subject right now with myself and a few people, did you ever struggle with it?
DSM: I have moments when I struggle, but often I go to great lengths to set the mood for myself -- candles, lights off, movie on that sets tone with the right qualities -- on mute so I can play music, reading scenes that lead to the one I need to write so that I can establish flow, and then I just push and write anything until it starts rolling by itself. If I have writer's block, it's really just me procrastinating.

SDA: AMEN! I won’t preach on that any more as this is about you. *winks* Onto another topic as a parent I struggle with the pleading from my oldest daughter who desperately wants to see what I’ve accomplished and I really want to allow her to share in the joy of this process with me as she is very creative herself. Do you let your children read your work, or are you careful about content?
DSM: My kids are well aware that they cannot read my book. It is not "adult" because that has connotations, but it is for grown-ups. My 14 yr old got over it quickly and now she is reading all the vamp books out there for teenagers.

SDA: As someone who has yet to finish the publishing process, so ultimately I’m a mere writer still, what is the biggest piece of advice you would like to give to aspiring authors such as myself?
DSM: In my humble opinion, there is nothing more important that getting your readers to feel it. If you've written something that made you tear up, they better tear up, too. If you laugh, they must laugh. If you are angry, they must be angry. If you kill off your favorite character and are broken up about it, they must be devastated. If you do that, they will love you. If you don't, you better figure out how.

Well I would like to thank Scott for allowing me to pick his brain with my questions, he is a wonderful inspiration to me, always has a helping hand for any advice needed. Not to mention he is a talented writer too.

If you would like to learn more about the novel Dying Light, as well as how to purchase a copy, check out the links below:

And if you would like learn more about why he put what he put in the book:

Or if you would like to connect with Scott himself, you can follow him on Twitter:
Or his personal blog: