How and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?
I enjoyed writing stories in high school, as well as reading science and science-fiction voraciously. I didn’t know any writers personally growing up, so I was only inspired by the reading I did. I loved stories but hated poetry, which I studied in high school and found boring. However, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I was inspired to write a poem and became a poet at that moment. I’ve continued to write poetry sporadically since then and have published several award-winning volumes. It was only in my 40’s that I returned to writing fiction. Since then I’ve written a novel and numerous short stories. It’s never too late.
What inspired you to write flash fiction?
I think I was drawn to flash fiction by poetry, which demands extreme concision, making every word meaningful and essential. The stories I wrote were naturally very short, with the emphasis on plot and idea rather than character development or scene description. When I found that the genre of flash fiction was becoming popular, I began to write primarily in that genre. My collection of science-fiction short stories, Passing Strange, is almost all flash fiction (under 3,000 words each).
Describe your writing process.
I’m retired now and am able to write more than when I was a library administrator. I don’t write every day, but am constantly thinking of story ideas and how to express them. I usually write mid-mornings for several hours. I like to play background music (classical and jazz) as I write. I also have a window onto a small pond and bird feeding area that I can view when I pause from writing to relax my mind.
I do a lot of revision of stories and poems. Almost every time I look at a piece I’ve written I see changes that will improve it. Revision is just as important as first writing. I seldom get it completely right the first time. Sleeping on it gives the mind a chance to do a lot of creative processing on what you’ve written.
As for research, I do a lot. As a former librarian, I have extensive experience with research and enjoy it. Many of my stories involve scientific ideas for which I do research. My novel, Murder Music, involved research into the history of violin-making, jazz and classical music, Indian philosophy, the American space program, and the civil rights movement, among others. Fortunately, research is easy to do these days with web access to expert knowledge.
What was the inspiration behind what was published on FewerThan500.com?
My story tattoo was inspired by noticing the plethora of tattoos many members of the Millennial generation seem addicted to decorating their bodies with. We baby-boomers never did anything that crazy!
What are you working on now?
I’m currently about halfway thru another collection of flash science-fiction stories to supplement Passing Strange. I’m almost finished with a children’s book that will take kids on a tour of the solar system. I’m making notes for a sequel to Murder Music. My book of Texas-based poetry, Lone Star Heart, will be published soon by Lamar University Press.
Read Michael’s story.