Welcome to the forty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with historical novelist Mike Voyce. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello, Mike. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Mike: Firstly, may I thank you for letting me talk to your readers.
Morgen: You certainly may. You’re very welcome.
Mike: I reveal quite a lot about myself in Edward, I was the solicitor who set up a Law firm, had a failing relationship and set up a project to use hypnosis with serious criminals; and experienced the remarkable story I tell in the book. After all that ended, I went back to teaching, Law and Psychology, and now I’m retired. As to becoming a writer, I found I had to tell the story of Edward, but I’ve always been a story teller, it’s how I prefer to teach and how I used to present cases in court. What I’ve had to learn, still am learning, is how to put the reader of a book there – in the scene, as I saw it.
Morgen: A key ingredient but not always easy to pull off. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Mike: My genre is its own, I like to think it’s the genre of truthfulness, you could call it Historical, and I hope it’s a new voice, one which gives bite and form to the experience of the characters, going through past life at a new level.
Morgen: Maybe Amazon could create a new genre for you. 🙂 Do you have an agent, Mike? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Mike: No, I don’t have an agent. How vital they are, time will tell. What is vital is to engage the audience. If readers like a book, if they can live the story with the characters, that is all any writer really needs.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Mike: I believe in eBooks, they are the future, and an eBook reader can be as handy as any bound paper book – a lot more convenient and cheaper too. Of course, I’m published in paper, available through Amazon along with Kindle. Through Smashwords, I’m also available in all eBook formats. Getting the formatting right is so important, and quite a learning curve, but now I’ve done it I’m quite proud of the result.
Morgen: Ooh, tips please. I’m nearing the beginning of that process. 🙂
Mike: And yes, I read other people’s eBooks; the last was this week, a book by Mary Shelley.
Morgen: What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Mike: Writing is like exposing your inner most being, I defy anybody not to glow in praise and shrink from criticism. I went with the first publisher to praise my work, and yes, it was a thrill. It was also a thrill to have a professional agent take the time and trouble to declare my writing ‘competent’. Just that one word meant a lot to me.
Morgen: ‘Time and trouble’ absolutely. Their time is very precious and they wouldn’t have done that unless it was earned. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Mike: Rejection is part of life, especially for a writer. Everybody is vulnerable to it and it is a test of character, no matter how much you are told to expect it. What it does is teach self-analysis and honesty. You overcome it by hard work, and yes, I lost count of the rejections.
Morgen: I haven’t yet because I’m a nerdy lister and so they’re only in their 20s (OK, I do know exactly: 28). What are you working on at the moment / next?
Mike: I’m proud of the radical and accurate history in Edward. The next book is nothing less than an explanation of what happened to the Princes in the Tower, who Richard III was supposed to have killed.
Morgen: Spoiler alert coming up…
Mike: All I’m prepared to reveal at the moment is Richard didn’t kill them.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Mike: The way Edward came about was through a series of past-life meditations, you could call it channelling, and I had no control over the plot. I think every writer, at least every good writer, is more dependent on inspiration than many are prepared to admit.
Morgen: I’d agree – I’m sure no writer can honestly say that they have none.
Mike: It can play havoc with plotting, but the result is better than you could ever get through conscious planning.
Morgen: How do you come up with the names of your characters?
Mike: The names were given to me in channelling. I got used to it, one particularly worried me, for it was reaching back very far. Quite some time after writing it, I had a surprising confirmation in an antiquarian bookshop; the real name was the one I used in Edward.
Morgen: Ooh, intriguing. 🙂 Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Mike: I guess everyone does. It is better to move on, I think my writing is improving, and if I want to go back to an old idea, rather than resurrect it, I’ll re-write it.
Morgen: Couldn’t agree more; practice makes perfect (or thereabouts). What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Mike: Writing, even blogging, can be very solitary. I prefer interaction with people and writing is not good for family life. As I give you this, my wife is asleep in bed.
Morgen: I’m lucky. I have no family so keep my own hours… well, around the day job, Red Cross volunteering, dog walks, writing group, podcast… but I love it.
Mike: I find a medium which in many ways is better, which is so instant and directly with people, is the radio – but then, you could never write a novel on the radio.
Morgen: Perhaps a BBC Radio 4 serial? If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Mike: For me the most surprising thing is that, to be a writer, you have to examine yourself, so starkly and ruthlessly. There is so much of the storyteller in any story, you have, above all things, to be honest with yourself.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Mike: The obvious answer is “don’t do it”.
Morgen: Oh no!
Mike: Writers write because they must and so, my best advice, as I’ve said, is do it honestly.
Morgen: Phew. 🙂 “Writers write because they must” – absolutely. If they don’t have to, they’ll stop. I know I can’t do that regardless. What do you like to read?
Mike: Here is a confession; most of my reading is non-fiction.
Morgen: That’s OK. Lots of people do. 🙂 Non-fiction seems to sell better in my Red Cross shop than fiction.
Mike: In fiction, the author I most consistently like is Terry Pratchett; he never fails to make me smile.
Morgen: He was my brother’s favourite (I only say “was” because I think he’s too busy to read). Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Mike: Where to start! There are many; let me mention there are several good discussions between authors on LinkedIn: What’s the best way for writers to promote themselves?, What has been your experience with self-publishing a book and can you recommend a good company to work with on a project?. I would also like to mention Bobbie Crawford McCoy’s site for Nurture Your Books: She also has a presence on Goodreads which itself is worth looking at: Bobbie.
Morgen: I recognise the LinkedIn ones… I may be in them somewhere. LinkedIn had a wonderful array of talent, in which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Mike: I’m in the UK. I don’t think it makes any difference where you are. The internet is such a wonderful tool, it draws writers and readers together and geography just doesn’t matter.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Mike: You can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Gather, as well as LinkedIn and Blogspot. As to how valuable they are, it’s still too early to say. What I would say is they are essential to anyone who wants to be in the community of writers.
Morgen: Ah yes, I remember Garrison Keillor’s Where can we find out about you and your work?
Mike: My website Edward has 20 external hyperlinks, you can find out pretty well everything you want to know, just by clicking a link.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Mike: There is no doubt there are exciting changes happening. It is becoming possible for readers to open a dialogue with authors through the internet, that alone makes a book far more dynamic than ever could have been in the past, and the Edward site is set up to do just that. EBooks are cheap, you can download extracts, read reviews. There may be authors who do not welcome involving readers in their work, I feel sorry for them, writing and reading are going to become much more of a partnership in the future.
Morgen: Absolutely, unless the author is only writing for him/herself. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Mike: While I was writing I didn’t realise just how much interest there is in Reincarnation. Only today, I had to answer a question on how to go about discovering your past lives. I will make more available on this, mostly on BlogTalkRadio, we are in an age where people want to discover more and more about themselves. Of course, Edward reveals historical secrets, but the most important revelations it has are about our individual selves.
Morgen: Characters have to learn something along the way. Thank you, Mike.
I then invited Mike to provide me with an extract of his writing:
The blackened corpses were unrecognisable. The night’s rain had damped the fire so now only wisps of smoke curled upwards and a sickly smell hung in the air. No one was yet about and we banged on the alehouse door till it was opened. The innkeeper answered our questions so nervously my men pushed past him, and we found Thomas still hanging in the bonds where he died. The story came out of the man at knifepoint. When it was done I went out, back to the green, in a daze. I sat down, my useless sword in my hand, full of horror and stupidity. I couldn’t go up to the corpses of my love and my daughter – I was afraid they would fall apart in my hands. I sat silently and cried and cried. What drew my eye to it I don’t know, there in the grass, lay one of little Abby’s shoes all embroidered in different colours on green silk. She’d been so proud of herself, showing them off, her happy face dimpled with smiles. I held it to me, rocking back and forth, cradling that shoe as if it were a baby, my dear little Abby!
Mike Voyce was the solicitor, described in Edward, who set up a Law practice in Stafford and Peterborough. After the close of Edward, and closure of his Law firm, Mike went back to teaching Law and Psychology. Now he’s retired he’s taken up a new career, in writing.
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