welcomes once again as our guest, Michael J. Merry author of The Education of Santiago O'Grady and Other Short Stories, The Golden Altar, The Reluctant Colonel, El Altar de Oro(Spanish), Guten Tang, Mr. Churchill, Galleón and Seven Other Tales and his most recent tome, The Tomb Robber. 
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. 

Norm: Welcome once again Michael and thanks for participating in our interview. 

Are there any pitfalls in writing short stories, if so, please explain?


Michael: Indeed, there are. You are writing perhaps six or seven different plots, one for each story. There are around twenty-five characters. You have to keep an eye on everything and everybody in every story.     

Norm: Some people believe that writing a short story is a stepping stone to writing a novel? Do you agree or disagree? Please explain. 

Michael: I've written two full length novels and frankly I prefer writing short stories.  You can expand your thoughts with these and you're not restricted to one plot or one group of characters.  

Norm: How many times in your career have you experienced rejection? How did they shape you?  

Michael: Rejection! Ah yes, haven't well all experienced that at one time or another? After I left school I went for an interview with a national newspaper. The job was in their city office and had a lot to do with stocks and share prices. My knowledge of fractions, or lack of it, precluded being hired. Probably a good thing! Two weeks later I was in training to go to Latin America and I've never looked back.   

Norm: What triggers your story ideas: a character, a setting, plot or dialogue? 

Michael: Believe it or not, personal experiences mostly! Things that have happened to me or to people I know. Sometimes just someone saying something that catches my attention. It can be a sentence or phrase and suddenly, a light goes on. Jot down the idea and visit it later and see if it's expandable. Places I've visited, especially in Latin America.    

Norm: Are there any specific challenges in the promoting and marketing of short stories compares to novels? As a follow up, how do you promote your stories? 

Michael: We all know the stat's about new books. It may well be easier to promote a novel but frankly I like to write short stories.  If you are not willing to spend a great deal of money and take a chance with a promoter, be willing to travel to book signings literary events, then you do your best with your work and hope word of mouth will spread the word. I have a small following and I use local press to help publicize my books.  

Norm:  What impact, if any, do you feel the advent of e-readers has had on increased interest in short stories? 

Michael: Definitely a great deal. With short stories you have several chances to grab a reader's attention. With a novel, you get only one. If they don’t like the first chapter, they put the book down. With shorts you get six or seven chances. Short flights, no lugging around several books, e-readers are a good thing for our trade. 

Norm: Do you have a personal favorite among short story writers? Is there a specific short story that made such an impression on you that you have never forgotten it? 

Michael: Jeffrey Archer. 'To cut a long story short' collection and one story, 'The Endgame' It tells of a rich man who fakes bankruptcy to find out how his 'friends' treat him when they become aware of his situation.   

Norm: Did you have a particular theme, message, or goal when you produced The Tomb Robber? 

Michael: Having lived in Panama for 20 years I saw some o the illicit trade in pre-colombian artifacts. It's a fascinating and little know story involving millions of dollars. I wanted to attract attention to this, it robs a country of its history and should be stopped.      

Michael: Norm: How much research went into writing The Tomb Robber?  

Michael: Visits to Panama, Ecuador and Colombia for background. A lot of research regarding pre-colombian artifacts. Sit downs with people involved in the tomb-robbing trade. Don’t write if you are not prepared to do a lot of research!  

Norm: If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be The Tomb Robber? 

Michael: There are a variety of subjects in the stories and at least one will interest someone! Adventure, engineering, religion, military, Latin American coups, Irish independence and others. 

Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and The Tomb Robber? 


Norm: What is next for Michael J. Merry? 

Michael: Later this year, another book of short stories. I have a few ideas already! 

Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.