Interview: Micah Moss

A big welcome today to Micah Moss, author of Nutjob: A Squirrel’s Dozen Secret Tips to Productivity.

“Have you ever watched a squirrel?  I mean, REALLY watched one?  Author Micah Moss has, and he’s harvested a bushel of productivity tips from these energetic creatures and shares them with you in: NutJob: A Squirrel’s Dozen Secret Tips to Productivity.”

 

Pauline: Was writing something you always wanted to do? How did you get your start?

Micah: You know, storytelling was always something I wanted to do; when I was a wee lad, I was probably more interested in sketching, watching cartoons, absorbing those characters, and trying to impersonate them the best a goofy kid could.  It was my own way of understanding story and working it out as a child.  Later I did get into creative writing, thanks to my high school English teacher, Mr. Dingle.  (Yes, Dingle, I was listening!)

It wasn’t until I studied the art of screenwriting (ironically) that I fell in love with writing.  After reading tons of books on story arc, structure, and simply watching films with an analytical eye—I started to see what a classic “hero’s journey” was.  Then I was hooked.

Pauline: Seems pretty clear that Nutjob was inspired by squirrels. J What made you go from watching them in the park to writing a book?

Micah: I sort of had a “why the hell not?” moment!  When I explore an idea, and realize I can tell a compelling story on multiple levels (even if it doesn’t have a traditional narrative, like non-fiction), then I get stoked.  Again pulling from my screenwriting background, I enjoy “high-concept” ideas that are unique, with a compelling “poster” that an audience can instantly “get,” but I’ll only agree to spend a ton of time on the concept if there’s something more to it.  If I can tell a timeless message underneath it all, then that gives me the satisfaction to see the project through.

I’m also attracted to small, intimate ideas (like the work habits of squirrels), blown up and magnified so the implications seem huge!  I enjoy that dichotomy and juxtaposition.

 Pauline: Is there a particular squirrel tip that’s a favorite of yours?

Micah:  Hmm…  They’re all a bit goofy and endearing; I’d have to say for me as a writer “A Squirrel Without A Cause” (aka Be A Rebel) is important for me to remember.  Sometimes, you just have to go “rogue.”  Writing is, in a way, an act of rebellion.  A writer rebels against distractions, complacency, the status quo, The Man (!) on a daily basis.  The act of creation is urgent and beautiful, and I never want to apologize for that.  In a world where we’re told what to think and buy and consume 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—we need to retain our independent thought, and writers bear the responsibility of making that voice sing.

 Pauline: You’re stuck on a deserted island with ONE thing to eat – day in and day out. What is it?

Micah: What if the question was, “You’re stuck on a deserted island with only ONE thing to cook — day in and day out.  What is it?”

Pauline: Works for me—so what do you love to cook?

I love the act of cooking; the sights, the science, the smell, the taste—and if there’s one thing in the world that can take a lifetime to master, yet I never get tired of eating—it would be pizza.  Pizza is a perfect food.  The toppings are only limited to my imagination.  The sauce can be spicy, light, oil, white … but where the real artistry lies is in the crust.  To make a crispy, light, satisfying vehicle for all those toppings?  That my friend, is a universe all to itself…

Pauline: Mmm, I love pizza!! ’Scuse me while I go get a snack …

… So, you once mentioned having a special writing place, care to tell us about it? Any writing quirks?

Micah: So there’s this dungeon I keep below Chuck E. Cheese …  Ahem.  Seriously?  I have multiple “special places” I try to keep available.  I’ve converted my garage to an “open-air” writing studio (affectionately dubbed the “Garagio”); sometimes I write at libraries, coffee shops, colleges, you name it.  For me, the major consistent I keep across all these locations is the workflow.

I’ve become a huge fan of timed writing; I use a technique similar to the “Pomodoro,” but I generally use shorter writing spurts, i.e. 10-15 minutes writing with 5 minute breaks, etc.  I love the sense of urgency; it’s like having little mini-deadlines, and also tiny rewards built into it.  For those writers out there interested in this kind of workflow, I highly recommend the iPhone app “Phocus.”  It’s so well made (I would go so far to say “artisan-crafted”), I could talk forever about it, but it’s just wonderful, so buy it.

Pauline: My “garage” is an unheated shed—don’t think that would work out too well for me as a work space in winter here in Northern Ontario. An open air work space sounds great though, maybe I’ll have to try working out on the deck this summer.

Do you plot everything out or are you a “pantser”?

Micah: I’m sort of a blend; I always like to have a general outline completed before I lay down some pipe.  I always, always, always need to know the beginning and the end, first thing.  I love the trope of “bookending” a work; to the audience, when you reciprocate and revisit a scene, theme, or tone present in the beginning, there’s a feeling of completion, or a “full-circle” moment that feels intentional and well designed.  I need to be at peace with those moments before I proceed.  I don’t necessarily mean I have to clone the beginning and the end—far from it—I just mean there needs to be a feeling of “intent.”

When I get those done, I outline the rest of the meat in the middle.  I used to be hyper-specific in my outlines, but then I realized that was probably a subconscious form of procrastination.  Now, I know I need to leave some surprise for the writing process itself, and give the piece and characters room to speak as I work.

Pauline: What’s the most unforgettable thing you’ve ever done or has happened to you?

Micah: Whoa.  Biggie here …  A life-changing moment for me occurred on an Oregon beach in high school.  I grew up in the Redwoods, so I was surrounded by nature’s beauty from an early age, but this one moment hit me like a ton of bricks.

I was beach-combing at low tide, looking in the craggy rocks for colorful sea life.  All sorts of vibrant sea stars and crabs in every color of the rainbow tried to hide from me.  Then I came across something striking.  A tiny seal pup nestled in the rock.  Alone.

I looked around.  Was this thing beached?  It looks stuck?  Where’s its mom?  I assumed the mother was away hunting, but I couldn’t turn away.  This silver, football-shaped (and sized) creature was sleek, shiny, and the cutest damn thing I’d ever seen.  Giant, almond-shaped black eyes peered up at me longingly.  It truly looked like an alien.  Its little tail was a clover-shaped nub.  Amazing.  I wanted to pet it!  I knew it was a stupid idea …  It could bite me and I could get sea-rabies!  But I HAD TO.  I needed to touch this thing from another universe.  So I carefully lowered my hand to its back (away from its mouth) and touched it.  It was so soft and slick.

In this moment, I felt … close to God.  I realized how big and complex this world is, and how much beauty we humans will never see in the abyss of our oceans.  It was kind of my “James Cameron” moment.

Pauline: Wow, that certainly is an incredible experience—to be in that place, at that time—amazing!

What books do you have available to date?

Micah: Right now, only NutJob.

Pauline: Are your books available as print, eBooks or both? As a reader, do you prefer eBooks or paper?

Micah: I’m only doing eBooks for now.  If someday I’m with a traditional publisher, then I’d of course explore it—but honestly I hate the waste in the “dead-tree” model of publishing.  So many thousands and thousands of books reaped, only to be schlepped again to recycling.  Just so much waste of transport and fuel.

I love holding traditional books, but I’ve come 360 on the whole eBook thing as a reader.  I pretty much only buy eBooks now because of the ubiquity of having that on my iPad, iPhone, computer—anywhere.  It’s truly magic.

Pauline: I’m with you on that one! Those who have read previous interviews will already know I’m a huge fan of eBooks.

What are you working on now?

Micah: I’m working on an urban fantasy trilogy.  The books are named Lark Shaw & The Doomsday Sketch, Lark Shaw & The Blood Pigment, and Lark Shaw & The Burning Canvas.  I won’t go into great detail about it yet, but I can say that it’s a colorful, modern vision of the Apocalypse.

Pauline: Definitely something to look forward to! I’m a big fan of apocalypse books. 🙂

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Micah:  Write for you—an audience of one.  Only write what you love reading, what you love experiencing.  If it’s not interesting and there’s no wonder in it for you—that will absolutely show.  By sticking to what you love, your passion will shine through and the audience will sense that spirit and find you.

Pauline: Great advice for anything! It’s all too easy to get caught up slogging through mundane day-to-day matters to take time for the things we really enjoy.

What are your favorite things to do when you’re not writing?

Micah: Meanwhile, back at Chuck E. Dungeon …  I’m a pretty low-key kinda guy; I love watching Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Dexter, anything Batty by Christopher Nolan ...  I dig coffee, and the whole concept of “slow-cooking” in a crock-pot.  I also direct short films, act, and create visual art (mainly digital these days).

Pauline: I hear congratulations are in order as you’ve just become one of the “artist partners” for One Day’s Wages! How did you find out about them?

Micah: Ah, thank you!  How did I find out about them?  I think I started googling charities from the Northwest, and also possibly charities that work with partners?

Pauline: What makes ODW special?

Micah: ODW is incredibly ambitious in scope, but entirely practical in how they raise funds.  ODW seeks to eradicate extreme poverty.  (Some tiny feat, eh?)  How they go about it is unique; they pick specific towns / regions in impoverished areas, and target a specific problem (i.e. “Lets fund a safe-house for abused women in a town in the Philippines.”)  They set a campaign goal (say, $30,000), and then they raise it!  Once that’s accomplished, they move to another project elsewhere.  Perhaps most intriguing of all is that 100% of your donations go straight to the local project.  They’re primarily run by volunteers, and their administrative costs are financed through separate donations (a % of my eBook sales are donated to help sustain ODW’s Operational Budget).

 Pauline: Sounds like a great cause!  Where can we find out more about you and your work?

Micah: I’m glad you asked!  Before that hullabulloo, I just want to thank you for featuring me here, and most importantly, for being a brilliant editor!

NutJob On Kindle: http://mmoss.us/nut-job

Check out Micah online at the following sites:

 

 

Pauline: Thank you very much, Micah, for the kind words and for taking the time to join me here today. 🙂 I’d also like to say a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to stop by and visit! Have a great day!

Interview: John Paul Davis

Joining me today is John Paul Davis, author of The Templar Agenda, an action-packed thriller, and also two non-fiction books, Robin Hood: The Unknown Templar and Pity for the Guy – a biography of Guy Fawkes.

 Pauline: Was being a writer something you always wanted to be? How did you get your start?

John Paul: When I was at school, I used to love writing stories. I’ve always had an extremely vivid imagination and never struggled to come up with ideas. Sadly, I never saw anything through back then, but I did enjoy English literature, particularly having to write a story based on some sort of theme – mine always seemed to be about pirates.

Growing up I never believed I would be a professional writer, though it had always been a dream. Throughout my childhood I often enjoyed reading books with an adventurous protagonist and found it easy to imagine their work as though I was watching a film. When I graduated from university I knew I wasn’t cut out for the corporate environment. I graduated at a time when it was becoming harder and harder to walk into a great job – now it’s almost impossible. For that reason, I decided I wanted to follow my dream. Early 2007 I began writing a novel based on an idea I’d had since the late ‘90s. It was awful, but the process had a huge effect on me. Also, as fate had it, during the research I came up with an original thesis on Robin Hood. I submitted it to 7 publishers and 1 came back straightaway with real enthusiasm. The book was contracted and I spent six months writing my first work of non-fiction.

Pauline: What books do you have available to-date?

John Paul: I have 3 books out at the moment: 2 are non-fiction and 1 fiction. The non-fiction are both histories: Robin Hood: The Unknown Templar (Peter Owen 2009) is my theory on Robin Hood; Pity for the Guy – a biography of Guy Fawkes (Peter Owen 2010) is the first ever full length biography of Guy Fawkes. I have also released my first thriller, The Templar Agenda, as an e-book.


Pauline:Your books seem to have a lot of historical content. Have you considered working in other genres?

John Paul: Although The Templar Agenda was definitely history related, for me the politics and banking themes were of equal importance. My degree was in Business Economics and Finance and I used to work for the British Ministry of Defence so neither aspect is totally alien to me. History is my first love, but I do plan to write other thrillers that take on a more political or financial theme. That said, the past is always important to a plot.

Pauline: For The Templar Agenda, how much research did you need to do for the historical aspects of the story?

 John Paul: A lot. Off and on it took 5 years to write, edit and proofread, and even when I was writing and editing I never really stopped reading. While some of the research was quite intense, some was just reading books on conspiracy theories and other non-fiction books. Also, I watched a lot of documentaries, both on TV and online, which were of great interest. I think, all in all, most of the research was for the more modern bits rather than the historical.

Pauline: You’re stuck on a deserted island with ONE thing to eat – day in and day out. What is it?

John Paul: I’m guessing sand.

Pauline: Okay, let me rephrase. What’s your favourite food?

John Paul: Unfortunately I’m something of a carnivore so anything that comes from a cow or a pig. I love almost any kind of steak. I guess if I were on a deserted island I could learn to spear fish. That’d work for me.

Pauline: What are you working on now?

John Paul: Until July, I’ll be concentrating on my next non-fiction book, an historical biography of King Henry III of England. King Henry was the longest reigning king of what was once the Kingdom of England, which comprised England, Ireland and parts of France (in later years the 60-year reign of George III surpassed him but his reign came after the fall of the French fiefs and unification of Great Britain). He was the king who first had the Magna Carta inflicted on him – his father John annulled the Runnymede Charter almost immediately and died in the subsequent war. His reign was also complicated by war with Wales, France and rebellion from his own barons. Away from the conflict, he was at the forefront of the construction or development of many great castles and gothic cathedrals, including Westminster Abbey.

As soon as Henry III is finished, I’ll be finishing off my second thriller.

Pauline: Do you write every day or on a set schedule, or just when the muse strikes you?

John Paul: I write pretty much every day. Every now and then I’ll have a day off, but even then I’m usually thinking about something random. I always keep notebooks on hand, just in case the muse does strike. To be fair to the lady she stays in pretty regular contact.

Pauline: For your fiction, do you plot everything out or are you a “pantser”?

John Paul: No, I plot everything; in fact I try to imagine the entire story in my head first. Obviously when you’re writing and in flow the story can take on a world of its own, but I always try to figure out where I’m going. Only then can I be sure I’m on track to meet my objective. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

Pauline: What’s the most unforgettable thing you’ve ever done or has happened to you?

John Paul: I can’t remember 🙂

Pauline: Do you have an agent and/or publisher or have you gone the self-published route?

John Paul: A little from column B and a little from column C. My non-fiction work has been published in the traditional way and the Henry III book is also contracted to come out with the same publisher: Peter Owen Publishers. The Templar Agenda I released as an e-book. I did submit the first three chapters to about 40 or so agents in the way the writers’ and artists’ yearbook suggests, but the responses were pretty standard. A couple of agents were kind enough to say that they liked it but didn’t know where to place it. Since its release it’s been in the top 20 e-books in the UK and in the top 5 thrillers, so, you tell me.

Pauline: Are your books available as print, e-books or both? As a reader, do you prefer e-books or paper?

John Paul: The non-fiction is available in print; The Templar Agenda for now is just on kindle. My publisher is targeting 2012 releases for The Unknown Templar and Pity for the Guy on e-book, which is great news. As a reader, I do like kindle a lot, and I really love the indie process. Indie writers are able to produce real writing. Most write for love, not money. There is no interference or contamination. No industry politics.

As a reader, I’m really starting to love e-books. It’s not only great to be able to download something and not have to wait for Royal Mail, but to have so much on something so little.

That said, I love holding a book and enjoy collecting them.

Pauline: Any advice for aspiring writers?

John Paul: Yes. No matter how good you are 2 things are certain: Rejection and criticism. Neither can be avoided, but neither should be feared. Anyone can write a book, but some people write because they think it’ll make them rich or famous. Do that, you’re 99% certain to fail – and even if you succeed you probably won’t enjoy it. Write because you feel a need to and keep going. Benjamin Franklin said it best: ‘energy and persistence conquer all things.’ It might take a while, but persevere and keep true to yourself and I think you can have a great life.

Pauline: What are your favourite things to do when you’re not writing?

John Paul: I love to read, particularly thrillers and histories. In similar vein I love watching films and documentaries. I love travelling; I think had I been alive five hundred years earlier I’d definitely have been off trying to discover the unknown. I love the past and thoroughly enjoy visiting castles and other places of interest. I have a very active imagination and I try to stimulate it: I’m very bad at just sitting around and doing nothing. I love being out and about; I’m very sporty and often work out. I also love watching sport, particularly football, rugby league, and American football.

Pauline: Where can we find out about you and your work?

John Paul: My website is www.theunknowntemplar.com
My author pages at Amazon UK and Amazon US.
My non-fiction publisher’s website is http://www.peterowen.com/
I am also on twitter, @unknown_templar

About John Paul Davis

In short, John Paul Davis is an author of thriller fiction and historical non-fiction. My debut work, Robin Hood: The Unknown Templar, has been the subject of national attention in the UK, including articles in The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Yorkshire Post and Nottingham Evening Post, mentions in USA Today and reviews in the Birmingham Post and the Medieval History Journal. The Telegraph article caused a stir when they claimed the book implied Robin Hood was a loan shark. According to the Independent, a Conservative MP, in a tax related speech, referred to Robin Hood as not being as generous as people think. The journalist suggested the MP was influenced by my book. (That one really made me giggle!)

My second work, Pity for the Guy, is the first full length biography of Guy Fawkes and was featured on The Alan Titchmarsh Show in November 2011.

My first novel, The Templar Agenda, has been ranked in the top 20 bestsellers on Amazon UK. It has also been #4 in UK thrillers and has so far spent over 3 weeks at #1 in religious fiction. It has also been #75 in religious fiction in the US.

As mentioned, I am currently working on my second novel, another thriller, and third work of non-fiction, a biography of King Henry III of England.

I have worked for the Ministry of Defence and I have a BSc in Business Economics & Finance from Loughborough University. I live in Warwickshire.

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John Paul, thank you very much for taking the time to join me today, and a huge thank you to everyone who visits!!