Welcome to the six hundred and tenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with novelist and children’s author Michael Rowland. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Michael. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Michael: I am 63 years young and I divide my time between Yorkshire and Cheshire England. I am also currently out of work, seeking employment! They say there is a book in everyone? Well in my case it took nearly 60 years to find my first one.
Morgen: Oh dear. Sorry to hear you’re looking for a job. I hope you find one quickly (I’ve been made redundant twice, although I’m lucky enough – thanks to having two lodgers – to be at home full-time now). I was two-thirds of the way to your “nearly 60 years”; I wrote my first novel when I was 41. You write children’s books, was there a reason to choose this genre?
Michael: Writing children’s novels means I can go back to my own childhood.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
The idea for my first children’s novel has been on my mind for a number of years. It was only after finishing the 9/11 novel when I decided to write Leap Year by Daniel M Warloch. (Anagram of Michael Rowland) I didn’t want to associate a serious topic with a children’s novel so I used a pseudonym.
Both the 9/11 novel and Leap Year are self-published, but I have now a book deal with Mira Publishing Leeds, and my next children’s novel – Christmas Presence by Daniel M Warloch will be published in November 2012.
Morgen: It’s a good idea, if you’re known for a genre already, to have a pen name. I’ve always written a variety of genres so that helps. What age group do you write for, and do you think it’s easier writing for children than adults?
Michael: The age group for the children’s novels are 8 years and upwards. I did find it easier writing the children’s novels, as you can use your imagination.
Morgen: I kill people in most of my writing so I definitely have to use my imagination! Do you get a second opinion on your stories before they’re published – if so from adults, children or both?
Michael: I gave the first four chapters of Leap Year to a local school for them to check it out. The response was Fantastic. This then gave me the confidence and determination to make it into a first class children’s novel. In the case of Christmas Presence I didn’t get a second opinion so I am very nervous about the response.
Morgen: Fingers crossed. Do you have any tips for anyone thinking about writing for children?
Michael: I would read a cross section of other children’s novels to give you an idea of what kids like. Also ask children what they like reading, and call into a book store and see what’s selling.
Morgen: That’s a very good idea – research your market. You’re self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Michael: I am aware publishers receive hundreds of manuscript a month and I didn’t want to wait around waiting for their decision, so in the case of 9/11 and Leap Year I self-published. Which was very expensive.
Morgen: Oh dear. I hope you feel it was worth it. I just eBooked mine via Amazon and Smashwords but there’s nothing like seeing a real book with your name on it. Are your books available as eBooks?
Michael: Yes both 9/11 and Leap Year are available to download. In both cases I paid for the privilege.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If either of your books were made into films, whom would you have as the leading actor/s?
Michael: I don’t have any favourite characters in Leap Year as the three brothers are based on my grandchildren. It actual fact, a film company is looking into making Leap Year into a film, and I am currently going over the screenplay. As far as actors are concerned I’m not bothered as long as the film comes across as exciting as the novel.
Morgen: Oh wow. Congratulations. How exciting! Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Michael: YES I had a say in the titles and covers, and I personally feel the cover is very important. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – I DO! If the author has spent a lot of time and effort on the manuscript you must also spend the same amount of time on the cover. I designed the 9/11 cover and my son Lee designed the cover for Leap Year. A friend of mine designed the Christmas Presence cover.
Morgen: You should all be proud – they’re great covers. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Michael: I have been asked by a publisher to write a trilogy of Leap Year. I have already written the sequel, but I am just waiting to see if they are happy with them first.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day?
Michael: I write when I am in the write frame of mind. I sometimes write at night and go to sleep during the day.
Morgen: I could do that now I’m at home all day, although I do sometimes have an afternoon nap. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Michael: Both. I get a great deal of inspiration from listening to people and picking up certain words. I can visualise a scene just by hearing a word such as ‘ripple’.
Morgen: Isn’t it great that we can officially eavesdrop. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Morgen: I love that. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Michael: I do LOTS of editing. Someone asked me how I write, and the simple answer is “I write like a painter” I layer the novel. I go over it numerous times, adding plots etc. as I go on.
Morgen: That’s a great analogy. Do you have to do much research?
Michael: Not for the children’s novel. But for the 9/11 novel, I spent three years researching the events surrounding that fateful day. I also spent a week in New York.
Morgen: I think we all remember where we were (I was driving back from a recycling centre, helping my mother after she’d moved house). Do you write any poetry, novels, non-fiction or short stories?
Michael: I have actually an idea for writing a series of novels that could be available every two months, similar to Dickens’ and Stephen King with The Green Mile.
Morgen: That sounds like hard work, but I’m sure they would be popular. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Michael: Not at the moment.
Morgen: Let’s hope that remains. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Michael: No rejections to date.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Michael: I don’t have an agent, but I would like one as I personally think it will be a benefit to me.
Morgen: I’d never say never. I’ve had mixed reports from authors here, but I’m sure in the main, they’re a great boon. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Michael: Due to me self-publishing I have had to promote my books. I also organise the book signings.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Michael: My favourite aspect is when children write and tell me they enjoyed reading my books, and is looking forward to my next one.
Morgen: I don’t get feedback from readers very often but when it do, I’m like a Cheshire cat. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Michael: If you have an idea go for it. I wish I’d started when I was younger as I have now dozens of ideas. Keep at it. If I can write a novel, anyone can.
Morgen: I thought that (starting younger) but then I have 40+ years of experience to write about. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, whom would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Michael: Tolkien, Lee Child and J K Rowling. I would take them out for dinner, so it would mean I would have more time talking to them.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Michael: “If you don’t succeed at first, try try again”. I did.
Morgen: Anyone who’s received rejections (myself included) can relate to that. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Michael: I am hoping to do lectures about 9/11.
Morgen: It’s still a very talked-about subject. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Michael: I tend to read a lot.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Michael: Smashwords and Goodreads look good.
Morgen: I’m on both. It’s funny, I’ve had more success with my novel novel on Amazon than Smashwords (as one would expect) but much more on Smashwords for my other pieces than Amazon. I’m also on Goodreads but don’t do much with it. I should because I get my harshest reviews on there! What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Michael: Now that there are e-readers the outlook is great.
Morgen: Isn’t it. I love that we can do what we like (as long as it’s good). Where can we find out about you and your writing.
Michael: www.michaelrowland.me.uk, Goodreads, Smashwords, Twitter- @DMWarloch and LinkedIn.
Morgen: Thank you, Michael.
Update February 2013: “Since the interview I have been working on a children’s picture book, working alongside an illustrator based in Spain. I am at the moment seeking a publisher. Over the next two weeks I am visiting a number of schools in the area, working closely with children with learning difficulties, and using Leap Year as a reading and writing aid.”
Morgen: Thank you, Michael. Good luck with the publisher!
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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