Today I’m happy to be interviewing Author Michael C. Bailey.
In September 2013, Michael released his debut YA novel “Action Figures.” Every book in the series has landed on Kindle top ten best-seller lists, and “Secret Origins” was the number one book on two Amazon best-seller lists (June/July 2016). His first adult novel, The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot, a humorous fantasy adventure, was released in 2015.
Welcome, Michael, and thanks for answering a few questions!
What kind of stories do you like to tell? What draws you to fantasy and superhero fiction?
My stories tend to be rooted in the traditions of a given genre, but I like to play with the tropes. Superhero fiction is rife with elements that have become part of our pop culture consciousness, and that tends to plant subconscious expectations in readers’ minds. Take those tropes in different directions, even if only for the humor value, and it throws the reader off-balance.
I love superhero stories in part because a traditional superhero setting lets creators play in a variety of genre sandboxes, sometimes simultaneously, while still creating a cohesive fictional world. Using the Marvel Cinematic Universe as an example, we’ve seen elements of high fantasy with the Thor films, political thriller with Captain America – The Winter Soldier, rollicking space opera with Guardians of the Galaxy, heist capers with the two Ant-Man movies, hardboiled detective noir with Jessica Jones — and they all coexist in the same universe. A setting like that gives creators a lot of flexibility.
What motivates your writing? What gets you in front of your keyboard?
Sometimes a book, movie, TV show, or song gets me going on a specific project, but in general I’m driven by a simple need to tell stories. It’s my main creative outlet in life.
Any formative books, either fiction or nonfiction, that impact your writing? Are any authors your role model?
I regard Neil Gaiman as a mentor from afar. His writing advice is spot-on, but he had the greatest impact on me while he was working on The Graveyard Book. He blogged regularly about the difficulties and challenges he faced while crafting the story, and those experiences often reflected issues I was having on a project of my own at the time. It made me realize that there was no set formula for writing, no right way or wrong way to do things, and that even someone as gifted and skilled as Gaiman had these problems, and that keeps me going anytime I hit a rough patch on a project.
What do you hope to achieve in the next year or two with your writing?
My ongoing goal is to continue honing my craft, finding new audiences, and stretching as a storyteller. I have a new project coming out this year, Well-Behaved Women, a strongly feminist urban fantasy trilogy that challenged me on every level. It’s different than anything I’ve written before and the thought of finally putting it out is scaring me, but I don’t necessarily regard that as a bad thing. It means I’m stepping out of my comfort zone, and I need to do that if I expect to keep growing as a writer.
Is there a superpower or sci-fi/fantasy invention/gadget/or magic item that you’d most like to borrow for a day?
A Green Lantern ring, hands down.
What’s your writing schedule?
What’s a schedule? I write whenever time permits and motivation strikes. I know lots of writers push the “Write every day!” concept but I disagree with the idea of scheduling creative time if that approach doesn’t work for you — emphasis on if it doesn’t work for you. If that’s how someone else works best, great, but creativity isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.
What was the biggest challenge in finishing your latest novel?
Accepting that the protagonist of Well-Behaved Women was not going to appeal to everyone. She’s a messy heroine whose actions and motives aren’t always perfectly noble or selfless, and that turned off some of my beta readers — all the male beta readers, in fact. The women who test-read book one generally liked the main character and identified with her personal challenges, but the men simply did not like her, often for the same reasons the women did like her. I ultimately decided that making her more appealing would have meant robbing her of all the things that made her interesting, but it took a while to reach that conclusion.
Can you tell me about Action Figures’s main character?
Carrie “Lightstorm” Hauser is a more-or-less average 15-year-old girl recovering from her parents’ divorce when she inherits superhuman abilities from a dying extraterrestrial. She has no desire to do anything with her powers, she just wants to get her life back on-track, but that changes when she learns there is a team of aspiring teen superheroes in her new high school.
What makes Carrie a fun character, for the readers and for me as a writer, is that she’s a young person trying to figure herself out, and that’s sometimes a messy process. She has a tendency to outsmart herself, and she has a stubborn streak that leads to her butting heads with the people around her, including her friends.
Thanks, Michael, for the interview! How can your readers best find you?
The best place to find me is at InnsmouthLook.com, which has links to all my social media outlets, a newsletter signup form, and links to all my books, both in print and ebook format.
The first book of the Action Figures series, Issue One: Secret Origins, is part of the Heroes & Villains: A Superhero Collection boxed set. The collection contains ten novels by ten authors, each with a unique take on the superhero genre. You can check out the boxed set at the retailers below.