Friday, April 9, 2010
Writer Interview: Michael Emeritz
Okay Ladies and Gentlemen! It’s time for another writer interview! Yaaaay! Let’s welcome Michael Emeritz to the stage!
*the crowd goes wild*
Before we begin, I would like to remind you all again I am interviewing authors about their day jobs and/or their writing habits. You don’t have to be published to qualify, and you can use a pseudonym for your day job if you want to. So if you would like to participate, just email me at: writer (dot) elizabethpoole (at) gmail (dot) com and let me know.
Today I am interviewing Mr. Emeritz, an up and coming new author who has an amazing sense of humor. I laugh at almost every one of his posts, and they manage to be vastly informative as well. Mr. Emeritz commented that his responses to my interview questions were long, and I say that’s fine in my book! (pay no attention to the behemoth I posted yesterday. I am not biased, I swear) Seriously, I love reading about other author’s habits and preferences. Michael was brave enough to answer my interview questions, so let’s all give him a round of applause…
*audience claps wildly*
You can find him at: http://michaelemeritz.blogspot.com
Let me again apologize for the terrible linkage, I shall have to fire my tech boy.
1. Why did you decide to become a writer?
I didn't really decide, it just sort of happened. When I was very young my mom would always make me do these English worksheets during the summer, and I couldn't go out or watch cartoons until I finished them. Eventually, as a plot to undermine her scheme, I started finishing entire books of them in one long go so that I could be done with it and move on to fun Summer shenanigans. Still, that laid the foundation for me to have a means to express myself clearly through writing, and I eventually adopted journal writing as a means to sort out the thoughts in my little head. It wasn't long thereafter when I made the distinction between fact and fiction, and the idea of making shit up without getting in trouble for it appealed to me.
2.What is your writing environment like now?
I share a two bedroom apartment with my girlfriend and a roommate. My "office"takes up a good half of the living room which also serves as our dinning room and entertainment area. Because of this I tend to write at night when everyone else is asleep, or early morning before everyone begins their day. My roommate is an amateur game designer who works from home, but he's kind enough to keep his bloops and blips in his own room so I can concentrate while I'm working. My desk is cluttered with sticky-notes,reference material, pens, pencils, dictionaries, writing journals, books,coffee mugs, notepads, and little what-nots to fiddle with while I'm thinking.
3.What is your ideal writing environment like?
An isolated vault similar to the lab Rick Moranis' character uses in Honey I Shrunk the Kids. That would be nice. Sound proofing all around so even the deafening boom of a jet breaking light speed fifty-yards above my property would be merely a soft poom... Like that of a bagel falling on a down pillow, the entire metaphor also encased in an airtight plastic chamber. All along the walls of my vault, bookcases of varying heights; some as high as the ceiling, others to eye level with artsy knick-knacks displayed atop, and still more of many different shapes and sizes.Against one wall, a large drafting table and a shelf next to it filled with note-cards, paper, and other needed supplies. Opposite this table one would find a large desk, computer on top, more shelving, and more supplies. On either wall to the side, yet another desk, a clean wall behind it where a gigantic chalkboard is mounted, magnets holding note-cards scattered all over the surface of the board in rows. In some corner of this vault would be a lounge of sorts, a place to sit back comfortably on a long couch, or in an armchair with my feet up on a coffee table, and a stiff drink within arms reach. The smell of wood, the sound of music. Oh!, it would be beautiful.
4. Do you write with music? Why or why not?
I am distracted by the most minuscule of repetitive ambient sounds, so I like to keep a play-list of music on to drown out any potential outside distractions.I'm very finicky with music though. It takes me a long time to sort through my library to construct a play-list I can work to. I don't usually like anything with vocals, but I do make some exceptions if the singer isn't too distracting.The piano and violin have an incredibly emotional effect on me, so I try to fill my play-lists with music incorporating those instruments. I can write easily without music, but the reason I choose not to is it helps me find a rhythm, it even "inspires" me to think deeper into the subject I'm writing about.
5. How do you find time to write in between the other demands on your time—kids, family, job, etc?
I don't have kids, I'm not very involved with my family, and I work from home...Writing is my passion; the thing I want most out of my life is to be a successful writer, so if ever there is a free moment to spare I'll spend it writing. I've made some hard sacrifices in my life to allow myself the freedom I need to pursue my dream. There was a time when I considered myself to be a reporter on life, and I felt I knew more about some strangers than I did about my own family. I never look back on those times with regret though. Sadness, yes, but never regret. I've made my decisions,and, having come this far, I can see it's a much longer road back home than it is toward the dream. I think I'll keep on walking.
6.What are your comfort books? Those books you can read again and again, that foster and rekindle your desire to write?
Oddly enough, the books that do this for me are style manuals or books about writing.Reading The Elements of Grammar makes me want to brush up on my grammar, The Elements of Style makes me want to construct elegant and well-formed sentences, Your Screenplay Sucks inspires me to be honest with myself and to create a story that follows the books 100 rules. Fiction serves as a strange muse to me.If I'm not completely immersed in the story I'm reading, a work of fiction will make me want to put the book down and go write my own. I guess in that respect bad books compel me to write more than anything else. It's like an--"If they can get away with THIS,then surely I can write something worthy of publication"--sort of attitude.
7.What authors do you find influential?
Tolkien:I don't care for fantasy, but I love how thorough he is in describing every last detail, and his command over the English language is inspiring... Clive Barker: Straight to the point. Very imaginative. Captures emotion well.Brilliantly talented story-teller... Hunter S. Thompson: He lived a life worth telling through fiction. I love the complexity of the subject matter in his books. There is so much subtext in his work that it's worth reading every book again and again... Anne Rice: Her characters are so deep they're nearly four-dimensional... Steve Martin: Yes, he's also an author and a columnist.Very smart even when the content is incredibly silly. His writing flows very naturally. The way he constructs sentences and uses punctuation ensures the humor in his writing is delivered with whimsical rhythm and perfect timing...Poe: I adore his ability to convey emotion. The pace and rhythm of his poems and stories are captivating... H.G. Wells: His imagination is boundless... Mary Shelly: A true master of prose... John August: A screenwriter, but a writer nonetheless. His stories are all so unique and well balanced... Stanley Kubrick: A screenwriter/director. This guy knows how to tell a compelling story that will take you on an emotional roller-coaster... Oh, there's so many. I should really stop now.
8. Do you belong to a critique group? Writing organization? Why or why not?
Stephen King writes, "It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster's shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters." I wholeheartedly agree. I've never been a part of a critique group, and never will. I have a few individuals whose opinions I take into serious consideration, but outside of them I don't put stock into the opinions of others unless they are miles ahead of me in the field. The "why"is where I'm probably going to offend a lot of people, but this is just how I feel. In my opinion, time spent in a critique group is time wasted that could be better spent working through the project yourself. In the end, it is the author who writes the story so why trust anyone else to tell you what's right or wrong with it? A person can say that something doesn't sound right, a better word can be used, a bit of dialogue is weak, but if the author is worth their salt then they should be able to see that for themselves. Now, there is one exception; if the critique group consists of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Anne Rand, Mary Shelly, Tolkien, Thoreau,and the most renowned agents in the industry... Order me a tall, double latte,and I'll be there as soon as I finish printing my manuscript.
I have along-term goal to become a member of the Writers Guild, but that's for accreditation, and to ensure royalty payments and credit aren't overlooked when a film goes into production that is based on one of my screenplays... If I'm ever that lucky!
* * *
Here is a dramatization of how Michael likes to edit. He assures me no manuscripts were hurt in the making of this dramatization:
I marvel at how similar my manuscripts look after I am through editing them. Especially the “REDRUM” and the fire breathing dragon part.
* * *
9.Have you ever been to a writing conference? Why or why not? If so, what was your experience like?
No. For the same reason above.
10.Are you querying? If so, what’s keeping you sane?
Yes. I've sent out four queries in the last two-months, and have been sent a rejection letter from three out of the four. What's keeping me sane is that each rejection stated that the agent wasn't a good match for my book, and that I should try elsewhere. This tells me that they're either very polite, or they actually believe that someone else will pick it up. The genre of my book teeters between transgressive-lit and contemporary fiction, so my choices for agents are slim. I absolutely love writing, so I've already started two other novels and three screenplays to keep me busy while I patiently wait for that magic moment when someone finally requests a partial or full manuscript.
11.What are your favorite kinds of characters to write about?
Flawed, awkward, anti-social, pathetically alienated losers. They have the most potential for change, and it's incredibly fun to put them in situations they would dread. I also like characters with some grit and grime to them. I thoroughly enjoy writing about the kind of characters that most people would never take the time to get to know in real life. I would, and do, so I have a unique perspective in this area. I'll converse with anyone who is at least friendly enough not to try and harm or rob me.
12. What are your favorite kinds of characters to read about?
Same as above, but there is really no limit to the types of characters I will follow in a story. There only a few requirements to keep me interested in a character: flawed--I can't stand perfect characters; human--I have trouble relating to aliens or fantasy creatures; unique--I want to read about a needle in the haystack of people around us; searching--I enjoy characters who seek change.All in all, as long as the character isn't some boring, whiny, self-centered,two-dimensional little peon, then I'll be interested enough to keep reading about them.
13.Are you an outliner or a seat of the pants writer? Why?
Outlines are my friend and worst enemy. I have more elaborate outlines than I have finished books, but thank the stars for that. If I had written half of those stories without creating the outlines first, by the time I would have realized they all sucked, it would have been too late to get my life back. Not to mention that after writing an entire horrible book I may have actually tricked myself into believing it was good just because I'd put so much effort into it. A story is like a piece of music in that it has to have rhythm, and I honestly don't see any other way to achieve that rhythm without a very distinct plan in mind.
14.Would you like to be a bestseller or have a smaller, more manageable following?
I'm happy just writing for my own amusement, but, to be perfectly honest, I want to be a rock-star of modern lit. That's the only way I could ever achieve the sort of dreams I have. I write stories that are meant to change people's lives, move them, make them think in a whole different way. I also write to entertain, but if my story doesn't have a strong theme I scrap it. This attitude extends into my personal goals and aspirations as well. If I'm ever fortunate enough to become ridiculously wealthy from writing, I would ensure my family is taken care of, I would pioneer a creative arts school geared toward educating miscreant kids like me when I was growing up, and I would start an entertainment company to produce freaking amazing shows, movies, and events that will rock this world upside-down. So, yeah, I want to be a bestseller and then some. Why not? Shoot for the stars, but plan to land on solid ground.
15. Do you have a writing "process?" What is it, if so?
I carry a notebook with me everywhere, so whenever I get an idea I jot it down.Eventually an idea will hit me like a brick and I'll know that's the one I need to start writing about. From that point on I'll dedicate any spare moment of thought to elaborating on the ideas that I've already come up with. If a scene comes to mind, a bit of dialogue, or a concise stream of exposition, I find a quiet place and write my brains out until I can't think anymore. Over time I'll start to write the best ideas on note cards, and tack them up on my wall where I think they'll fit in the general time line of the story. I repeat this process for as long as it takes to fill the wall, then I try switching cards around to find the best rhythm. When I can read the wall without questioning whether something is going to work or not, I'll type up an outline based on what I've written on the cards. By then I've decided on the title, and I start thinking of chapter titles as well. Then I create a file for each chapter, setup the formatting, and type the titles into each file. This is where the real fun begins. I write a one-paragraph summary for each chapter, then a page, then two, three, and so on... I only add to the length of a chapter if it absolutely needs more information, otherwise--why drone on for no reason? After each revision, (paragraph, page, etc...) I print what I've written and add it to a binder. I take that binder with me everywhere, and any chance I get I make edits, write in new lines, suggest changes. I'll make a copy of the chapter file with a new version number, and rewrite it with the new edits from the binder. I'll do this for as long as it takes. Somewhere along the way, (usually when I feel that I will jump out of a twenty-story window if I make one more edit), I'll call it finished, leave it alone for a month or so, then go back to edit it again. Wash, rinse, repeat as necessary.
16.What is the single best writing advice you have ever received/come across?
"I asked for a ten-page short story, not a fifty-page novella! I'm not reading this, and you're not getting credit unless you cut it down. Just because you wrote something this long doesn't make it any better." ~College Scriptwriting Professor
Less is more, and never give anyone more than what they ask for. If the industry standard for a screenplay is between 110-120 pages, don't submit a 300page epic. If the standard for a novel is between 50,000 - 110,000 words, don't submit a 6,000 word short story and call it a novel. If a contract calls for a500 word article, don't write a 1,000 word essay; don't even write a 512 word article! More so than being conscious of standards, writing within a set limitation forces you to consider the importance of every single word.
17.Any fears about becoming published?
Nope. I really want it to happen, and being afraid isn't going to help me get any closer to that goal.
18.Where do you get your ideas from? (*grin* sorry guys, I had to include that)
My life experiences and wild imagination. Simple as that. If there's ever a time when I run out of life experiences to draw inspiration from, I'll take a walk outside where I'll always find something interesting. If I still can't think of anything real to base a story off of, I'll make something up. If there ever comes a time when I am unable to make something up, I'll buy a boat and a barrel of whiskey.
19.What is your biggest pet peeve in your genre?
Haha! There aren't enough agents representing it. Aside from Irvine Welsh and Chuck Palahniuk, who have a stranglehold on the genre, how many other trans-lit authors do you know? I think the bigger issue is that trans-lit encompasses an extremely broad range of subject-matter. It's essentially the avant garde of literature, which doesn't classify the story content very well. My books are basically romantic comedies, but because of the characters' life-styles, the settings, and the overall presentation I'm pegged for trans-lit.
20.What is your biggest pet peeve about books in general?
The binding. I hate breaking it, but it drives me nuts trying to read and drink coffee at the same time.
21.What is the biggest writing issue you’ve had to date, and how did you fix it?(writer’s block, crappy first draft, realized the main character sucks, etc)
The most difficult issue I've ever had was writing about a transvestite character in away that the reader would except her, empathize with her, and still find the situation of having her as a love interest funny. This also presented the challenge of conveying love without sex or any other intimate interactions. If this character had sex with the main character then my book would be pegged in the GLBT genre, which I didn't want. The book wasn't about gay relationships, it was about self-acceptance. I made it work by revealing the character as a transvestite in a humorous way, and then explained her perspective on this lifestyle in a very emotional conversation with the main character, and I left it alone after that. I let the character exist as a regular person, and only brought attention to her lifestyle through the concerns of the main character who thinks he's falling in love with her, when in actuality he's just happy to finally have a good friend. Despite my initial concerns while writing it, no one who's read the story has felt there was any other relationship between the two characters other than friendship in the end. Even the most prejudice of readers has accepted the transvestite character, and was not put off by any interactions between her and the main character.
22. Do you like books about writing? If so, which books would you recommend and why?
I do. The Elements of Grammar, The Elements of Style, The Elements of Editing, and Your Screenplay Sucks are some that I mentioned above. Stephen King's On Writing is a great book for any writer. Aristotle's Poetics should be in every aspiring writer's bookshelf. Georges Polti's The 36 Dramatic Situations is a great resource for basic plot foundations. 70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer is a great general reference for editing, and avoiding, well, common mistakes. Save The Cat by Blake Snyder is a must have for screenwriters, but novelists can learn a lot from this book as well. Blake was one of the most successful screenwriters in Hollywood, and a screenwriter is still a story-teller. There's a lot to learn from any successful writer.
23.And lastly, if you could only read one book for the rest of your life, which would it be?
What a tough question. If I had to pick one it would be Mission Earth by L. Ron Hubbard, only because it's the longest book ever written in the English language, and if I'm going to read one book for the rest of my life I want it to remain interesting for as long as possible. However, if my choices include fictional books, and I wanted to be clever, then I would read The Never-ending Story.