Michael West is a member of the Horror Writers Association and serves as President of its local chapter, Indiana Horror Writers. His first novel, The Wide Game, was published in 2003, and since that time, he has written a multitude of short stories, articles, and reviews for various on-line and print publications. A graduate of Indiana University, West has a degree in Telecommunications and Film Theory. He lives and works in the Indianapolis area with his wife, their two children, their bird, Rodan, and turtle, Gamera.
Michael kindly spoke to Daniel Cann in June 2009.
Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
Well, anyone who follows me on Facebook and Twitter knows I love two things: coffee and Horror. I’ve loved Horror as long as I can remember; as a child, I used to trick babysitters into letting me stay up late to watch Night Gallery episodes and Hammer films, I subscribed to Fangoria and read every Stephen King that came out, and I wrote my first novel while still in high school (A work that will never, ever see the light of day. Awful (*shudder*). My love of coffee didn't start until much later, but if you took it away from me... well, let's just say that would be a real Horror story.
Who or what inspired you to be a writer?
I’ve always loved telling a good story. Before I could write, I drew pictures to illustrate the tales that were spinning inside my head. As I got older, I wrote screenplays and made films with my parent’s video camera. And, when the stories that I wanted to tell outgrew my meagre budgets, I turned them into short stories and novels..
What authors inspire you?
I've had so many influences over the years everyone from Clive Barker to Richard Matheson to Rod Serling but, growing up in the eighties as I did, I’d have to say Stephen King was, well, a king. I just loved the way he could take a normal, everyday, real-life place or situation and make it into something horrific. Going to the grocery store? Well, you’re going to run into a monster. Oh, and that quiet little town you live in? Overrun by vampires. The hotel you’re staying in and the car you’re driving right now? Haunted. That’s something I try to do in my fiction as well, making the real fantastic and vice versa.
What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?
My advice to beginning writers is to read your work out loud. If you can’t say it without tripping over your own tongue, something needs to change. Also, get pre-readers who don't read or even like the genre you write in. Horror fans are forgiving of Horror clichés, but someone who only reads Romance or True Crime won't be… They will help you to make your characters and situations more authentic, more ‘real.’ The more ‘real’ your story feels, the more your readers will be drawn to it.
How many hours a day do you actually spend writing?
It varies, depending on my schedule and how inspired I am. There are some days I spend 8-12 hours a day writing and others where I might only spend an hour or so.
Who is your favourite fictional character?
Ben Mars, the writer from Stephen King's 'Salem's Lot. It is just about my favourite novel, and I have read it countless times. I keep wanting things to turn out differently for him, but they never do. LOL
Which character/s from your books ‘Cinema of Shadows’ and ‘Poseidon’s Children’ do you identify with the most and why?
I identify a lot with Robby from Cinema of Shadows, mainly because he is like a lot of people I know. He's this reluctant hero, who starts off thinking that he has things all figured out in his little corner of the world, but he soon realizes that the world is a vast and scary place and he has a lot to learn. I think we've all been there before. Just when we think we have things figured out, life throws a big, fat monkey wrench into things.
In Poseidon's Children, I tend to identify with Horror Show of all people. He's this hired gun who kills people for a living, but I can't help but like him for some reason. LOL
What do you expect your readership to get out of your stories?
I want them to be able to identify with the characters, to become invested in what happens to them, to experience their joy and their pain. I also want to scare the hell out of them.
With books, television and the cinema almost saturated with ghosts, ghouls, witches, vampires and werewolves how difficult is it to get new, fresh ideas for writing in the horror genre?
I tend to steer clear of traditional Western tropes as much as possible.
I often look to Asian, Native American, and Central American mythologies for inspiration.
There are so many interesting gods and demons out there. Writers should not feel constrained to use the same old legends time and time again. That said, I have written stories on vampires, witches, ghosts, and shape-shifters, but I do try to put an interesting spin on them. A lot of it depends on the characters.
What can your fans expect from you in the future?
I have another Harmony, Indiana book coming in the fall called Spook House, and the second book in the Legacy of the Gods series, Hades' Disciples, due out next spring. I also have a few short stories coming out: ‘Unknown Caller’ in the Cadence in Decay anthology, coming from Mansion House Books, and ‘The Grove,’ which will be in issue #13 of Shroud Magazine.
Do you have any other hobbies outside of writing?
I enjoy movies, music, and collecting movie memorabilia.
What do you hope to achieve as a writer?
I just want to tell good stories--the kind of stories I'd like to read, and I hope others enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.
Thank you very much for your time Michael.
To learn more about Michael West visit his website here: http://www.bymichaelwest.com
Visit Daniel Cann’s website here: www.danielcann.com
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