Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Michaelbrent Collings who is an internationally bestselling novelist, a #1 bestseller in the U.S., and has been one of Amazon's top selling horror writers for years.
He is one of the most
successful indie horror writers in the United States, as well as a
produced screenwriter and member of the Writers Guild of America,
Horror Writers of America, and several other writing groups.
He published his first "paying" work - a short story for a local paper - at the age of 15. He won numerous awards and scholarships for creative writing while at college, and subsequently became the person who had more screenplays advance to quarterfinals and semifinals in the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship screenwriting competition in a single year than anyone else in the history of the competition.
His first produced script, Barricade, was made into a movie starring Eric McCormack of TV's Will & Grace and Perception, and was released in 2012. Michaelbrent also wrote the screenplay for Darkroom (2013), starring Kaylee DeFer (Gossip Girl, Red State) and Elisabeth Rohm (American Hustle, Law & Order, Heroes).
In addition to selling, optioning, and doing rewrites on screenplays for major Hollywood production companies, he is currently developing several movies and television shows.
He recently released a horror novel, The Deep.
Norm: Good day Michaelbrent and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going?
Michaelbrent: I got started in writing at a young age. My father was the head of Creative Writing for a major university on the west coast, so I grew up with the sound of typing in the next room. He was also (literally!) the world expert on Stephen King for about two decades, so I grew up with screaming in the next room. Hence: horror.
As for what keeps me going: my kids have this ridiculous eating habit.
Norm: Where do you see book publishing heading?
Michaelbrent: That’s an interesting question. And, honestly, I see the future as sort of an apocalyptic struggle between Amazon, Apple, and Google where they will battle Highlander-style until there is only one still standing. That one remaining company will then have god-like power to crush all foes and will at the same time turn on itself, forgetting that with great power comes great responsibility. And, because at their hearts all three of these entities are run by computers that will lead us to – you guessed it – the birth of Skynet. Eventually a hero will be sent back to kill Steve Jobs, who will himself turn out to be part machine. Jeff Bezos turns out to be completely machine. Larry Page and Sergey Brin (the Google guys) turn out to be part of the Borg collective. Then, because we’re now in Star Trek territory, someone will slingshot around the sun to find out that the Nazis in fact won World War II, and…
Wait, what was the question?
Norm: What is the most important characteristics of an author?
Michaelbrent: The ability to work hard through any circumstance. I know some people talk about “inspiration” and “creativity,” but really those are just code for “bullheadedness” and “tenacity.” We work until the right opportunity meets the right set of products. Success rarely equals inspiration. Success almost ALWAYS equals preparation plus opportunity.
Norm: What was the first story you ever wrote, and what happened to it?
Michaelbrent: It was a story about a parrot who escapes from a cage. I wrote it in red crayon when I was four. My dad took me in hand, explained why more was needed for a good story, and helped me craft something a bit (though not much – I WAS four) better. The story was relegated to a file, then (thankfully) to the trash. That’s where first products SHOULD go. Too many writers think they are the exception; they think THEY are the one who can write gold their first time out. Disavow yourself of that notion. Few people emerge from their mothers’ wombs with pen in hand and ready to write a Shakespearean masterpiece. 99.99999% of us write crapola for years, and those of us who understand and accept that fact are that much farther along the learning curve.
Norm: Why have you been drawn to writing horror? As a follow up, are there aesthetic advantages and disadvantages peculiar to the horror novel? Does it have a form?
Michaelbrent: As I said before, there was definitely something of a “genetic” component. And there is also something specific about writing horror. I’ve written about it at length on my website, but in short: you can write about things in horror that you can’t write in any other genre. You can write about the biggest of the Big Questions: why we are here, where we came from, where we’re going. You can write about Good and Evil, about God and the Devil.
If there is a devil possessing a little girl, a priest must exorcise her with the power of God, and that opens up all sorts of interesting conversations. The cosmic can be discussed in sci-fi, the power of love in romance. But only in horror can you examine the mystical to its fullest, the spiritual to its natural conclusion. It’s powerful stuff, and it’s something that humans inherently yearn to talk about.
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Michaelbrent: I’m a religious person, first and foremost, so talking about questions of Morality (capital “M”) is something that interests me. Talking about God and the devil as a reality is something that I grew up around, and talking about morality as something apart from cultural relativism is something that I both believe in and find more powerful than standing to the side and looking at it as a product of the moment. I think when we view Good and Evil as opposed to good and evil we enter into a realm of story that is tremendously powerful, and speaks to a great many people in the world.
Norm: How does writing screenplays differ from writing novels?
Michaelbrent: Geez, that’s a book in itself. They are completely differently languages. I would liken them to surgeries. One (books) is with scalpels, one (scripts) is with lasers. Neither allows for many mistakes, but scripts are much more precise, simply because you have fewer words to mess around with so the mistakes stand out in greater relief.
You have a hundred thousand words in a book, so if you fumble a few words you can be forgiven. That same number of words may be a mistake that the reader of a script will throw up his/her hands at and throw away said script at in disgust. Also, the formatting of a script is much more rigorous – and with reason, given that a script is not meant to be read for pure enjoyment, but rather as a working blueprint. A script is not a finished product, unlike a book. Rather, it’s just a blueprint for the finished product: the movie. There’s more (much, MUCH more), but these are the core differences.
Norm: What's the biggest mistake you've made as a writer?
Michaelbrent: Not writing more, and thinking my early stuff was better than it was.
Norm: Which of fictional characters would you most like to have a drink with, and why?
Michaelbrent: Hmmm… Ender from Ender’s Game – only when he’d grown up into Andrew Wiggin from Speaker for the Dead. Maybe Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps Santiago in the book by the same name. Stu Redman from The Stand. Roland from The Gunslinger (though that might also be rather depressing). The Phantom of the Opera. Jean Val-Jean from Les Miserables (the book, not the crap Broadway musical – and yes, I know I’m in the minority there). And on and on and on and on. I read a lot, so this is a tough question.
Norm: Are you a plot or character writer and what helps you focus when you write? Do you find it easy reading back your own work?
Michaelbrent: I rarely read my work once it’s done and away to the world. I might read snippets occasionally, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a complete book twice – though I’m reading Billy: Messenger of Powers to my kids, and I’ll probably do the same with a few others.
As for plot/characters – I believe they grow out of each other, so I don’t separate them. Plots move characters, and characters make choices that influence plot. The best books have the two intrinsically intertwined.
Norm: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Michaelbrent: The interwebz, of course!
Also, real life – my family, my past experiences, my friends, shameless borrowing from things I observe.
Norm: Could you tell our audience a little about your most recent novel, The Deep.
Michaelbrent: It’s about a group of people, each looking for something different, on a dive boat. They come across something that entices them to dive to the very limits of what their equipment and their bodies permit. And once down there… well, let’s just say they find something much different and much nastier than they expected.
Norm: What would you like to say to writers who are reading this interview and wondering if they can keep creating, if they are good enough, if their voices and visions matter enough to share?
Michaelbrent: Okay, first WRITE. Writing is the number one way to write well. Don’t settle for writing a little bit and then hoping you’re awesome. Write a million words. Write a hundred thousand more. Then take the first million, throw it away, and go out with that last hundred thousand. You’ll find success with that last hundred thousand. You’ll find more with the NEXT hundred thousand. I wrote ten books before I started making money. Another five before I started making “real” money. And another five before it was “real, regular” money. Don’t expect to vomit magic. Ain’t gonna happen. It’s a start-up, and most start-ups take years to turn a profit.
Norm: After your phenomenal success as an author, what, if anything, remains "undone" for you? What is the one thing you haven't done, that you are still "itching" to accomplish?"
Michaelbrent: I just want to keep taking care of my family. I’d like to make more movies, have some theatrical releases. I’d love to make a movie with Bruce Willis, because I think he’s Made of Awesome Covered in Tough. I’d enjoy selling MORE books, because I’m greedy. <grin> But mostly I just want to put bread on the table, and keep my family happy and healthy. That’s enough, and plenty.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?
Michaelbrent: I’m pretty easy to find: my first name is “Michaelbrent” and if you type that into Google you’ll find I’m the only Michaelbrent on the planet. Though there is a Michael Brent who’s an underwear model. So if you’re looking for me and you find a stunning naked dude – that’s not me. I look like an author. Which is to say a frumpy guy for whom a “good looking day” entails combing what little hair I have left and putting on a shirt with actual buttons. Heh. But seriously, just type in my name and you’ll get my website, my amazon page, my imdb page, and probably every other major “me-related” page. Or you can go to MY WEBSITE and you’ll get to all my books and other things Of Me.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
Michaelbrent: My pleasure, and thanks!