I suppose I’d define my genre as “dark fantasy.” I know it’s cheesy to say that I didn’t choose it; it chose me. Honestly, though, that’s how it feels. I ascribe a certain Zen-like belief on writing, meaning that you find your own voice by training your brain to write on autopilot. For me, that voice is fantasy on the one hand, and poetry on the other. In terms of fiction, I’ve always been drawn to gritty stories with complex plots, and I have a dark sense of humor. That, plus the sheer imaginative freedom you get with fantasy, made this genre feel like a perfect (albeit difficult) form of self-expression.
What do you find most challenging about the writing process, and how do you deal with it?
Character development is everything to me. In my opinion, genre simply defines the peripheral elements of a story: the way in which it’s told, the settings, the choice of weaponry, etc. But the story itself comes from the characters, and no matter how strange the world itself may be, the characters have to seem realistic within that world. The characters still have to be capable of surprising the reader, though, which means they also have to be capable of surprising the writer. That’s tough. You have to get invested in your characters, and be willing to have terrible things happen to them, while still ensuring that you’re being faithful to the story and not doing things for shock value. I tend to favor gritty, flawed characters with traits that the reader might recognize (even if the character has horns and wings, or hands made entirely out of purple fire). Inspiration can come from the newspaper or the history book, but often, my characters are built upon traits (sometimes exaggerated) that I’ve noticed in the everyday people around me.
When and where do you do your writing?
I really don’t have a set time or place, but I have found that I’m much more productive, and writing is a lot less stressful and more fun, when I give myself a certain but flexible routine. For example, I might write at three in the morning, or two in the afternoon. I might write at a coffee shop, or on my porch, or hanging upside down from a bell tower (well, maybe not). But no matter where I am, or when I’m there, I have to get a certain amount of work done. I’ve also found that I’m a lot more productive if I do one process at a time, though. For instance, writing the rough draft consists of one thing, and that’s writing the rough draft. Editing comes later. I fully expect the first draft of a manuscript to be pretty crappy, which is fine, because no one’s going to see it but me. But I go after each draft in pretty much the same manner: get caffeinated, put some music on (or put in headphones), sit down, and get to work.
What have you learned about promoting your books?
I’ve been privileged to work with some great bloggers and websites, but the modern market is such that there are about fifty bazillion writers all competing for a relatively small amount of dollars and attention. Right away, that means that indie writers are at a disadvantage, since they can’t afford the thousands of dollars it takes to buy lots and lots of ad space, get your books in every bookstore, etc. On the other hand, I think that said competition is a good thing, because it forces us to work hard and it keeps us honest. It also encourages us to have a healthy, genuine respect for our readers, and the people we’re working with.
What are you most proud of as a writer?
A couple things come to mind. First, although I’m always willing to talk to people who disagree with me, I happen to have pretty strong feelings about social justice. Put more bluntly, it pisses me off that in this day and age, there are still people who are judged harshly based solely on the color of their skin or which consenting adult they fall in love with. My books are about entertainment, sure, but they also give me a chance to tackle some real life issues—even if those issues aren’t always cut and dry, with easy answers.
Another thing I’m proud of is a bit smaller and more specific. Big Al’s Books and Pals, one of my favorite book review websites, was recently reviewing my work and said that as far as they could tell, it was typo-free. I like that. No, I love that. Typos happen, of course, but I can’t stand it when books are peppered with sloppy mistakes. I take excessive mistakes as a sign that somebody—the writer, the editor, maybe both—lacked the proper respect for their readers.
If you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?
That’s a tough one. I’m also a huge fan of contemporary poetry, so if you add that to list of fantasy and literary fiction authors (living and dead) that I admire, there simply aren’t enough meals in a lifetime. And often, the technical elements of writing are the last thing I’d care to discuss. Rather, I’d love to talk to Hemingway about boxing, or George Martin about metallurgy. I want to talk to Li Po about drinking wine under the stars. It would be fun to talk to Anne Sexton about religion, too. And I’d kill to have had a beer and swapped uncouth jokes with Flannery O’Connor.
Michael Meyerhofer grew up in Iowa where he learned to cope with the unbridled excitement of the Midwest by reading books and not getting his hopes up. Probably due to his father’s influence, he developed a fondness for Star Trek, weight lifting, and collecting medieval weapons. He is also addicted to caffeine and the History Channel.
His fourth poetry book, What To Do If You’re Buried Alive, was recently published by Split Lip Press. He also serves as the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review. His poetry and prose have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Brevity, Ploughshares, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Rattle, and many other journals. He and his fiancee currently live in Fresno, California, in a little house beside a very large cactus.
Author’s Blog: http://www.troublewithhammers.com/
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/mrmeyerhofer
On Red Adept: http://bit.ly/RAPWytch
On Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20935130-wytchfire