Kevin Peter of Moterwriter.com caught up with author Mike Martin and got him to talk a little about his novel A Twist of Fortune. This is what transpired in the tête-à-tête with the author.
Kevin Peter: What’s a typical day in the life of Mike Martin like?
Mike Martin: I’m an early riser and I tend to get up with the sun. I have a few freelance writing contracts that I work on first to pay my bills and then I do my own writing. When I am writing a book it usually means an hour or two of concentrated writing and then a break for a light breakfast and if I’m energetic a trip to the gym. Later there’s more writing. I try and pace myself but I also have a word count that I have to hit for the day. I break things up by doing social media and promo work but I don’t mind writing into the evening if I have to meet my quota. I’m a tortoise kind of writer, until I get near the end and all hell breaks loose as I try and finish the draft I’m working on.
KP: Tell us a little about your background?
MM: I’m from a lower middle class working family and have always been interested in social justice issues. That led to a series of jobs and careers with trade unions and social organizations. I have been a freelance writer and communications consultant for the past 20 years. My work and articles have been published all over the world and I still do some freelance writing on work and workplace issues for a number of online publications. My fiction writing is fairly new and has only taken off in the last 5 years or so.
KP: How did you become a writer and have you always wanted to write?
MM: For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a writer. I just didn’t know how to go about doing that. It didn’t seem a viable career option when I was young so I tried to find jobs that had an element of writing. That included correspondence and policy writing and later led to both speechwriting and editorial positions. But none of that satisfied my writing itch. Finally, one day I told my partner that I wanted to be a writer. In fact I told her I had decided that I was a writer. Then I wrote a short piece that got picked up by a magazine for $25.00 and the rest as they say is history. Except for nearly starving to death as I tried to carve out a career as a freelance writer. But I kept at it and over a period of time I did manage to eke out an existence. I have published thousands of articles in print and online since that time but I also remember the early days when I wrote for nearly nothing and got 10 rejections for every acceptance.
KP: How would you describe your writing process?
MM: I am a truly creative writer in that I draw my writing from my imagination and try to connect to the creative current that’s inside all of us. I never plot out stories but simply write when I am inspired. I do have to be disciplined and write every day. You never know when the creative muse might decide to leave. The fun of writing, IMHO, is in watching the story unfold from your imagination, just like the reader does. The characters come. They tell the story. I write it down. I get to say where the story begins, and where it ends. At least for now.
KP: Just as your writing will inspire others, who are the writers that have inspired you?
MM: My favorite authors are Charles Dickens and JRR Tolkien. Dickens because he wrote about his times with humor and a social conscience. Tolkien because as everyone in the world now knows, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are some of the best fiction books every written. Because I’m a mystery writer I also like Agatha Christie, who doesn’t? And some modern writers like Ian Rankin, Donna Leon and Elizabeth George. Each of these authors is a master and I would and do read their books over and over. To me that it the test of a great author, that you want to re-read them in different parts of your life.
KP: What do you think is the best way to influence others, through your actions and your deeds or through your words?
MM: Actions speak louder than words, always. That doesn’t mean that our words are not important, that they do not have power, they absolutely do. We express ourselves through words first. But then we have to back that up with our actions.
KP: Who or what inspired you to create the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series?
MM: I don’t think I came up with the stories or the series at all. I think they were already out there somewhere in the creative flow and I found a way to tap into them. But my own creativity has been sparked by images and things I have seen along the way, particularly when I am near the ocean. That image is often the beginning of the story and then the characters show up and tell the story. I just write it down. I do add a few local details and some of the history and culture but it’s like I plan the menu after the grocery shopping has been done. But Sgt. Windflower is more than just a figment of my imagination. He’s real enough. Just ask people who read the books. I just don’t know where he came from.
KP: What’s ‘A Twist of Fortune’ all about?
MM: This book takes place during a particularly difficult winter and that brings new challenges to Sgt. Windflower and his team. There are also challenges in both his personal life and the community which is facing the loss of its major industry. Through all of this Windflower manages to try and extract the most joy possible out of life, including his continuing love affair with the local cuisine, any cuisine for that matter. And there is a new major character in A Twist of Fortune, a four-legged one. You’ll have to read the book to find out more.
KP: Deconstruct Sergeant Windflower for us. What’s he really like?
MM: Sgt. Windflower likes to think of himself as a simple man, but he is revealing himself to be much more complex than even he believed. His basic qualities are honesty and an innate sense of fairness. He knows that he doesn’t know some things, like how relationships work so he trusts Shelia to lead him in that area. He also knows where to go and who to ask for help when he’s in trouble, which given his lack of relationship skills, happens a lot. He is also actively exploring and deepening his spirituality and his aboriginal roots. That gives him a sense of who he really is in the world and the person he is trying to become.
KP: Sgt. Windflower has his own share of loyal fans who love his laidback approach to life. So have the fans and their expectations ever influenced your writing?
MM: Absolutely. I encourage and welcome comments and suggestions and the most persistent sometimes get an opportunity to be a beta reader for the next book. People also develop an affinity for some of the characters and want them to stay true to their vision of them, but still to grow. It’s a challenge to try and meet these expectations but it’s also a lot of fun to have that interaction with readers.
KP: Considering the fact that you have such close ties to the place your stories are set in. Did you find researching for the story easy or in some way harder than planned?
MM: The research is fun because I get to find out more about my own geography and history in Newfoundland. Like the history of the fishery in Newfoundland and how some places got their names. For example there is a small town called Wabana on Bell Island near St. John’s. That is the Beothuk Indian word for ‘the place where the sun first shines.’
KP: Food plays a big part in the series. What are some of your favorite dishes?
MM: I love food, which probably comes as no surprise to anyone. I particularly like seafood, the fresher the better. The Windflower series gave me the opportunity to find and try out new recipes. There’s one in A Twist of Fortune called Smothered Salmon Steaks that is fabulous. I even had a food blogger try it out and she’s thinks it wonderful too. There’s so much food in the series that there’ve been suggestions of a cookbook. That might be fun.
KP: Can we expect a more influential role for Sheila in the next installment?
MM: Shelia really came out of her shell in A Twist of Fortune. So far she had been the strong, solid, quiet type, which is part of the reason Windflower was attracted to her. But now she’s found her voice and will certainly be a major force to reckon with in the next book.
KP: Do you know where Winston Windflower is headed? How many more stories can we expect with him in the lead?
MM: There’s at least one more book. I know that for sure. After that, we’ll see. I have a nagging sensation that he will continue to speak to me and I will have no choice but to write it down. But I am also hoping that I will be writing and contributing to a Windflower TV series that is being actively discussed. I signed an option agreement last year and that is moving ahead, much more slowly than I would like, but still moving.
KP: Reading anything at the moment?
MM: I just finished Stephen King’s Revival and am reading ColmToibin’s Nora Webster, along with a whole pile of light reading that’s great for the summer.
KP: And lastly, thank you for parting with your valuable time Mike Martin and all the very best for your book.
MM: Thank you so much. It has been a pleasure.
Connect with him at –http://sgtwindflowermysteries.com