Friday, 16 December 2011

Author Interview: Michael Rowe

Novel: Enter, Night

Other Works: found here

> What is Enter, Night about?  

Enter, Night is a classic vampire novel, set in 1972. A destitute young widow, her daughter, and her brother-in-law return to the town of Parr's Landing after an absence of fifteen years. They're forced to take up residence with the widow's mother-in-law, who hates her. Also returning to Parr's Landing is a homicidal former mental patient who believes he's been receiving telepathic messages from beneath the cliffs surrounding Parr's Landing. It turns out that he has been. He wakes a 300 year old vampire who was killed by a Jesuit priest in the 1600s. Naturally, when the vampire has been resurrected, all hell breaks loose, and not just on the undead front. The novel is about all sorts of horrors--families, small towns, prejudice, exploitation of the land. All come into play in the novel.

> You've won several awards for your writing (the Lambda Literary Award, the Randy Shilts Award and the Spectrum Award) and been a finalist for several others (National Magazine Award, the Associated Church Press Award and the International Horror Guild Award).  Where do you display your awards and how does it feel to have your writing recognized for excellence? 

I keep them all on one side of my office! One wall is the "award wall." Underneath it is a table where I stash the trophies. It's tremendously rewarding to have my writing recognized by awards committees. That said, letters and emails from readers are the best sort of recognition to me. Last month, someone friended me on Facebook because of my Enter, Night. For a first novelist,  that's sort of amazing.

> You've edited two critically acclaimed horror anthologies, Queer Fear and Queer Fear 2, what are some of the challenges associated with editing anthologies?

Finding terrific writers who can tell stories that are appropriate to the theme of the anthology, and encouraging them to do their best work while gently nudging them back into the guidelines when they stray too far!

> What do you remember the most from your time working at the World's Biggest Bookstore?

I remember reading Danielle Steel love poetry aloud in the fiction section with a co-worker who went on to become a major figure in Canadian publishing. I figured if anything that awful could find its way into print, there would be hope for me. I also remember being very young and relatively poor, and loving the employee discount. My library got a very solid foundation during the years I worked at WBB. Even today, when I walk into the store, the smell of the books takes me right back to a very happy time. A great time to dream about being a writer.

> What made you want to be a writer?

Probably a childhood of voracious reading, and the realization that someone actually sat down and wrote those books I loved so much. The sense that I had a talent for writing was a wondrous discovery, the way it is for some boys when they discover an aptitude for football, or hockey. I had teachers who recognized it and encouraged it, and parents who supported the notion of me as writer. I published a poem in 'TEEN' magazine in December 1977. The contact high I experienced opening that acceptance letter from the magazine in October 1977 is one of my strongest memories. I remember everything about that moment. I also remember reading a paperback copy of Stephen King's Night Shift one winter weekend when I was at boarding school. If there was one definable moment when I decided I "wanted to be a writer," it was when I closed that book.

> If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

Things don't end well for too many of the characters in Enter, Night, even the ones who do survive, so no--I think not!

> What was the first novel that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?

Enter, Night is my first novel, though I've written several nonfiction books. It took me about a year to write, but that's a very intense year. I wrote a novella a few years ago that appeared in a collection of three novellas, called Triptych of Terror. It was longer than the average novella, almost a short novel. But I do consider Enter, Night to be my first novel.

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

The hardest scene for me to write was one of the pivotal scenes in the novel, and I can't really describe it without releasing a major plot point. It would be a spoiler. I will say, however, that I wound up in tears after writing it, and that I still become emotional re-reading it, or even listening to the music I played on my iPod while I wrote it.

> Do your find that your journalism background helps with writing fiction?

Journalism gave me a mania for research, and an excellent ear for speech patterns and the way dialogue sounds when people speak. It also trained my memory so that I can recall the way scenes look, or remember details of things I've seen. All of that comes into play in my fiction.

> When and where do you write?

In my office, ideally in the morning before my mind gets too cluttered up. I wrote Enter, Night on a Mac Book Pro laptop, so I consider my "office" and my "desk" to be more mobile lately than it has been in the past. But my home office at the top of the house is still my preferred venue for writing.

> What’s the best/worst thing about writing?

The best thing is the finished product. The feeling of holding a book with your name on it is extraordinarily satisfying. The next best thing is when writing is flowing naturally and you love what you're doing. The worst part is everything else that it takes to get to the finished product.

> What is something you didn’t know about the publishing industry before you had your first book published?

I had my first book published in the mid-90s. I may have had a younger man's inflated sense of the degree of celebrity conferred on writers merely for having published a book. I've since been disabused of that delusion. "Fame" and "success" are extraordinarily flexible concepts, especially for writers.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

Read omnivorously and constantly. Buy Writer's Market every year--it lists nearly every publisher in the business, what they want, and how to submit. Write, learn your craft, and submit your stories and books. Avoid the siren call of self-publishing. While the success stories in self-publishing are impressive, they're few and far between. There's a process to becoming a writer, an apprenticeship. It's worth undergoing. 

> Any tips against writers block?

Learn to differentiate between actual writer's block and laziness or moodiness. Actual writer's block is horrifying and paralyzing. When you have it, just do something else--read a book on an unrelated topic, watch a movie, go to the gym and work out, hard. If you're actually just feeling lazy or disinclined to write, make yourself do it.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

Deadlines are a wonderful way to discipline yourself. The motivation can be dramatic. But the easiest way to discipline myself to write is to remember that while 1000 words a day is only about four pages, three months of 1000 words a day yields a novel of 90,000 words. For most people, the idea of writing "all those words" is unthinkable. But when you break "all those words" into a sane daily formula, it changes everything.

> How many rejection letters did you get for your first novel or story?

I hate sound like I'm bragging, because I'm not, but I haven't ever had many rejection slips. I came to fiction through nonfiction, and by the time I wrote my first novel, I was a known quantity among many editors, so it was more or less a question of finding homes for the stories and, eventually, my first novel.

No comments: