pleased to welcome as our guest today, Michael J. Merry.
Michael was educated at the Royal Liberty School, England. Transferred to Panama in 1959, he worked as a Telecommunications Instructor. When the Panama National Guard staged their coup in 1968, he drove the escape vehicle carrying the President, Dr. Arnulfo Arias and several Ministers, through the military blockade to safety in the Panama Canal Zone. In 1987 he became Division Vice President of a major U.S. news operation in Latin America. He was in Argentina when the Army revolted later that year and Venezuela during the attempted coup by Lt. Colonel (later President) Hugo Chávez in 1992.
In 1995 working in Miami he wrote two televised financial programs and became Editor of a popular financial report. Previously to his most recent work, The Education of Santiago O'Grady and Other Short Stories, he published The Golden Altar (2002) and The Reluctant Colonel (2008).
Michael and his wife reside in Miami Shores, Florida.
Norm: Good day Michael and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?
Michael; I started writing about 15 years ago. I was working for a large financial news corporation and was making long overnight trips up and down the Americas. Instead of trying to sleep I started to write down memories. I found I had a pretty good recollection of things that had taken place fifty years previously and the knowledge encouraged me to record some of these in the form of essays.
Norm: What's the biggest mistake you've made as a writer?
Michael: Not having a professional editor for The Golden Altar,” my first book. A subsequent publication was edited but in that first edition I found over a dozen small errors when I read the print copy!
Norm: What was the first story you ever wrote, and what happened to it?
Michael: The first story was an essay about my schooldays. I sent it to the school association and it still resides in the “Essays and Poems” section of the archives. The story told the history of a small wood or forest on the school grounds. It’s still there today!
Norm: Why do you believe people like to read works of fiction?
Michael: It allows them to dream. Most people lead very uninteresting and boring lives. The read because it allows them to immerse themselves in tales that they could only dream of. Fiction allows them to expand on those dreams.
Norm: What helps you focus when you write and do you find it easy reading back your own work?
Michael: Once I decide I am going to write I start the research. That’s a huge part of any author’s work. You have to be very accurate with your facts. You just can’t say “He jumped on a flight to New York”. You need to know where he was, what time the flight was, what airline, what time the flight arrived etc. I have had people review works and having checked the accuracy and tell me that I was absolutely spot on with details. There are people out there just waiting to pull you up if things are not absolutely correct. I always write and read back, write and read back. You have to do this all the time and keep checking your work. I don’t mind doing this at all.
Norm: Why have you been drawn to writing short stories and what do you think makes a good short story?
Michael: I wrote Golden Altar and Reluctant Colonel and then decided on short stories. I had so many ideas for books there was no way I would live long enough to write them all! I decided short’s were the answer. Also, with a book a reader can throw it down after read in couple of pages. Then it will probably never get read! With short stories there’s the chance that next tale may be far more interesting to the reader.
Norm: Can you tell our readers about your process as you worked your way into a new short story that is contained in your most recent work, The Education of Santiago O'Grady and Other Short Stories?
Michael: I started with the story entitled The Major. It was so easy because I had known of a former officer that came upon hard times. The title novella, The Education of Santiago O’Grady was based on facts!
Norm: What purpose do you believe your stories serve and what matters to you about the stories?
Michael: My stories allow readers to visit situations few people will experience during their lives. They can make their own judgements as to the morality of the events. It lets me take a dream and expand on it. The power an author has is that he can make almost anything happen!
Norm: Which fictional character in your stories would you most like to have a drink with, and why?
Michael: Well, I feel I already know Santiago but I would love to sit down with Miguel, the main character from The Hand. Imagine! Talking with a modern age saint.
Norm: What's the worst advice you hear authors give writers?
Michael: Well, after Reluctant Colonel I received advice and comments from several authors complaining about the way women were treated in the book. The story is about Latin America in the 50’s/60’s and the tale tells the truth about the way women were, and in some cases, still are, treated. If you have not lived in Latin America it would be difficult to understand the way of life as it relates to women. I merely told the truth about things. I do not necessarily agree with everything I record but I do try and tell things as they are.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?
Michael: Putting my name, Michael J. Merry into most search engines will usually bring up my works as will the title of the books themselves.
Norm: What is next for Michael J. Merry?
Michael: I think I will start another book of short stories in 2015. I enjoyed writing The Education of Santiago O’Grady and I have a lot of new ideas for more tales.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Michael: You didn’t ask how much truth is in the stories! Well I must say that some have more truth in them than others. I’ll leave the readers to guess which!
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.