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Writer Vs. Writer: Michael Collins

In this post we will be chatting Michael R Collins. Michael is from the wilds of southern Idaho, a Bi author with a trail of captivating novels. From Austin, Texas bassist to Pennsylvania settler, his journey fuels his unique storytelling. Recent novellas like "Verum Malum" and "Dick Wiggler and Other Useless Superpowers" showcase his dynamic range. His writing space is minimal, occasionally accompanied by mood-setting music. If that resonate with you, let's beginning our journey getting to know this skilled author.


Hi Michael. Thanks for joining us for this interview. You mentioned you were born in southern Idaho. How has your upbringing in such a location influenced your writing?


Thank you for interviewing me. I really appreciate it.

Southern Idaho is still fairly rural. It’s not near any major urban areas, so I think it gave me a sense of space that I like to use in my writing. I like to leave openings in my narratives to let the reader fill in with their own imaginations, making it more personal for them. Because I grew up in a rural environment, then moved to Austin, then eastern Pennsylvania, its allowed me to use various sorts of settings in my stories to add much more flavor than I would have had I stayed in one place.


That's very interesting and relatable. Well, I'm curious how would you describe if your personal experiences and gender identity played a role in shaping the themes and characters in your novels? How so?


One of the strongest tools writers are their personal experiences. I think it adds an authenticity and tone to their work. For myself, I grew up knowing I was different, but not exactly understanding how or why. As I matured, I came into that understanding. Since then, I’ve incorporated it into my writing. Living in an area that wasn’t as friendly to the LGBTQ+ community had its challenges. Being bisexual on top of that, more so. I identify as cis male, but it’s a fuzzy line. It’s interesting playing around with liminal spaces and gray areas for that reason. Few things have solid boundaries, especially in terms of the human experience and these are the best places to write about. I also feel it’s important to have diverse characters and queer representation in my work. While I can’t speak to everyone’s experiences, I can draw on my own to bring more representation and different textures into the worlds I create.


I understand. Sometimes, it's the limitations that boost creativity. You've published four novels and some novellas. Can you share your favorite piece among them and the reasons behind your choice?

The favorites question is always the hardest for me. I suppose if I had to pick one, it would have to be Verum Malum. I wrote it at a time when I wasn’t sure about myself as a writer or if I wanted to continue writing. The process of writing it, and how it turned out, was more satisfying than I expected. Plus, with its release through Gloom House Publishing, I gained a whole community and good friends. That was unexpected and has proven to be the most wonderful part of the whole experience.


Wonderful in deed. As a "pantser" in your writing process, how do you handle moments when the story seems to take an unexpected turn? Do you embrace the change or try to redirect it back to your original idea?


I think I’m a pantser because I enjoy unexpected turns. In some ways I like to be as surprised by what comes next as the readers do. I generally have an idea what’s going to happen and where it’ll end up, but I don’t dwell on the details until I’m sitting down to a particular scene. If things do start going a little too sideways, I’ll stop and evaluate just how far I want it to go. Sometimes I may need to nudge it back on track and other times I’ll see where it takes me. I have found that if I over organize a story ahead of time, I will lose interest. I suppose it’s because I’ve already told the story in my head, and I might as well go on to the next one. Over the years, I have been able to find a balance between being organized and just letting the story lead the way.


So you let ideas marinate before writing. Could you elaborate on how this process of incubation helps you develop your stories?


An initial idea is a wonderful thing, but ideas are interconnected things. I like to take the time to explore those connections. What set of circumstances gave birth to the idea? What are the consequences of the actions related to it? These are questions that I like to spend time on. Not only do they help flesh out the ideas but often light the way forward. I like to give time during later drafts too. Editing with fresh eyes helps find flaws and show missed opportunities that I didn’t notice during the first or second drafts. It also keeps me from getting tired of my own work as I go over it for the millionth time.


Well, that makes sense. On occasions when I find myself unsatisfied even after multiple rounds of editing, I turn to music. Specifically, I curate a playlist of particular songs that embody the essence of the story I'm currently engaged in. Can you share an example of a scene from your works that was significantly enhanced by the right piece of music?

When I was writing ‘I Am the Gate’, a story that in the ‘IN UTURUS’ anthology, I was listening to a lot of moody atmospheric music. One song, ‘The Cellar’ by Antonio Cora really seemed to get me through and helped set the texture of it. It’s creepy subtle tones helped build the dark atmosphere and made a complimentary offset to the craziness that takes place in the last half of the story.


Could you describe how your perspective changes when you come back to a draft with "fresher eyes"?


With fresher eyes I can pick up things I missed, or wanted to say, but didn’t because I was so busy trying to get the story out in the first place. The biggest perspective change is when I catch myself experiencing it, not as the story’s creator, but as its reader. Often that’s where I can see what is, or isn’t, working. Or maybe I see an opportunity to riff off something I hadn’t considered before.


Let's talk about "Verum Malum" and "Miracles for Masochists" intriguing titles. What inspired these novellas, and how do they differ from your other works?


Verum Malum came from the fact that I am a little bit of a science dork. I enjoy reading about sub-atomic particle theory and spatial dimensions. I also have a slight fascination with occult and demonic stories. Verum Malum was adapted from a short story I wrote as an effort to expand on both of these subjects into a cosmic-occult package. It’s different from my previous works because I think I had much more confidence writing it than on previous stories.

Miracles for Masochists was born when James G. Carlson asked if I’d be interested in doing a shared collection with him. James is a great guy and hell of a writer, so I was all in. We each contributed stories and then collaborated on one together. Most of my stories were ones that I had sitting around, and it was fun revisiting them and banging them into shape. Our collab story, ‘The Sequined Spector’ is a quirky story involving the spirit of Elvis that we both had a lot of fun writing. Its definitely a favorite.


Writing under the name "Mick Collins" for "Dick Wiggler and Other Useless Superpowers" seems like a departure from your other works. What prompted this change, and did it influence the style or content of the book?

I decided to write Dick Wiggler as Mick instead of Michael because I wanted to write something funny. Everything I’ve written as Michael has been serious, or horror, so the change made sense. Everybody knows me as Mick and I figured that it would be an easy way to promote as myself but let readers know that they can expect something different. I’ve kept it going when I kicked off the ‘Obscene Adventures of Bisexual Zombie’ series through Godless.com

I don’t think the name change influenced the style of the story, but I definitely think I was ready to write something different. I wanted something light and funny. I have a goofy sense of humor to begin with and I really felt the need to express it. If nothing else, it was a lot of fun to write.


Lastly, if you could spend a day with one of the characters from your novels, who would it be and why? What activities would you do together during your adventure?


That’s a tough question. I think Twila from my first novel ‘Night Shall Overtake’ (rereleasing in 2024) would be fun to hang with. She is witty and observant, but also very no nonsense. I think we’d get along quite well and probably just go to a bar somewhere and shoot the shit. Being a shapeshifter, she’d probably get half loaded and start messing with people using her abilities, which would be fun to watch.


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