I'm excited to have back with us today Michael Smart, author of The Bequia Mysteries. If you're a fan, than you know the first book in the series, Dead Reckoning, was published earlier this year and
St. Vincent and the Grenadine Islands, with plenty of danger and romance.
R.L.: So, welcome Michel, thanks for stopping by LockEight to have a chat with us.
Michael: It’s so great to be here again. Thanks so much hosting me on your blog again.
R.L. : Michael, tell us how it feels now that you have a second novel about to be published?
Michael: Really great. Not as euphoric as when the first novel was released, but a close second. And after the positive feedback I received from the first, it’s a gratifying feeling to know there are readers looking forward to the second.
R.L.: Yeah, I can imagine how rewarding that must be to know you have fans out there who enjoyed your first novel and anxiously await the next one. Was the process for writing and publishing the second in the series different? Easier? More difficult?
Michael: Writing it was the fun part. The publishing process was easier the second time around. I had a better idea of the process and didn’t make the rookie mistakes as the first time. The promotional process is always a chore I’m not particularly fond of.
R.L.: Well, I'm happy to help you all I can with the promotion part of it. I'm curious, did you feel you knew your characters better in Deadeye?
Michael: Yes. By the time I started and finished Deadeye I knew my characters intimately, and I interacted with them constantly. They even provided direction from time to time on how certain scenes should play out.
R.L.: That's cool when that happens. There were some interesting choices for Deadeye, which I won't mention due to spoilers. Was there anything that surprised you as the writer?
Michael: A couple of surprises. My interaction with my characters as I mentioned before. I’d heard other authors comment on it, but experiencing it personally was enlightening. The other was how much fun I had writing it, and the third novel in the series. That sense of joy didn’t diminish with the subsequent novels. Perhaps because it’s a series and I enjoy the characters so much.
R.L: Did you have your whole series planned out in your head before you started, or did you take it one book at a time?
Michael: The first three titles in the series actually comprise a trilogy introducing the characters and the series. So I had a general idea of the plot and the big bad spanning the three novels, even though I didn’t have all the details of the plot in each novel.
R.L.: Ah, I like the idea of that, creating the trilogy to introduce the main players in the series. I know that you lived and sailed in the area that the Bequia series is set in. Obviously, that helps your story come to life. Are there any other areas you've traveled that might end up in a story someday?
Michael: I set parts of the story in each novel in cities I’ve actually lived in. There are other parts of the world I’ve travelled to I will incorporate into my novels, not just in the Bequia Mysteries, but other mysteries and series I might write. I have settings and locations I want to use but it’s been
so long since I’ve been there, in my research I plan to return to some of those places and wander around a bit.
R.L.: Most of my readers are writers, so what can you tell us about your writing process?
Michael: I’m a plotter. I usually construct the story around the plot, but I’m not always certain of the twists and turns the plot may take when I begin writing. I outline to a certain extent, but I’m not a dedicated outliner where I need a completed outline to begin writing. My outlines are more like short storyboards setting up scenes for how and where the story will progress. Then I’ll expend these scene notes into chapter notes, and I’ll create a day to day calendar of the story’s timeline. Sometimes the story idea will come to me first, at other times the character will come first and I think of the circumstances such a character might find themselves in. That’s how the Bequia Mysteries began.
For my characters I create a character profile before I begin writing, including an actual image resembling the character I have in my mind. I use the image as a reference for the character’s physical features. I call this my casting notes. I also sketch out their personality and history which may change or get tweaked as I write. I’m usually familiar with my characters, particularly the protagonist, before I begin writing.
R.L.: Awesome. I really like idea of a day calendar. I can see how that would be help, especially with a series. What about music? Do you have any favorite music you like to listen to while you write?
Michael: Sometimes I do write listening to music, usually a classical piece or movie soundtracks. Debussy’s La Mer and soundtrack composers like Lisa Gerrard, Hans Zimmer and Trevor Jones would definitely be on that playlist.
R.L.: One thing that struck me about Deadeye is that it seemed like it could be read quite easily as a stand alone, too. Any tips for writers about how to do a successful series, how to bridge that gap between the stories?
Michael: I did that deliberately. One, as a fan of series novels I paid attention to how the authors I love reading did it, and I discovered the successful series, at least for me as a reader, was due to the characters. It’s the characters I follow from one novel to the next, and anticipate meeting again, regardless of the story. I want to see how they’re coping with the lives I’ve been given a peek into, what’s new and what’s going on with them. And of course how they’re going to manage the dangers, pitfalls, and challenges they’ll encounter in the new story. So the characters and the lives you build around them are key. Second, and this is also from my perspective reading series, but marketers will tell you this also, you write a series so each novel helps to sell the others. It can’t happen if enjoying one novel in a series is dependent on reading the ones before. Again, the characters are key. It’s not about writing a story having those characters in it, but about those characters and the story happening in their lives. And you construct the narrative so you’re still able to introduce the characters to a new reader in a fresh way. Hopefully the reader becomes so attached to the characters they’ll want to meet them again and again in other novels. I also did something a bit surprising in the Bequia Mysteries, which you’re aware of since you’ve read the first two novels in the series. But I don’t want to get into it since the surprise is part of the stand-alone novelty of the series.
R.L.: What can your fans expect from you in the future?
Michael: More Bequia Mysteries of course, and I’m in the initial stages of notes and mapping out the research for a non-Bequia mystery. For fans who also enjoy science fiction, and for sci-fi fans I don’t have yet, my first science fiction novel is very close to publication. I still have to figure out and focus on the marketing for it before I release it.
R.L.: That sounds exciting. As a fan of your work, I'll be watching, and of course I will let everyone know here at LockEight whenever Michael has something new coming out. Michael, my friend, I wish you lots of luck and continued success in your writing. Keep us posted!
Again, Michael's newest book, Deadeye, the second installment in the Bequia Series is due to be released August 5th. If you haven't read the first novel, Dead Reckoning, you can get it here. You can connect with the author on the awesome website he has put together here and also on GoodReads. If you enjoyed this interview, stop by and let Michael know.
Please check back in guys. I'll be posting my review of Deadeye on launch day!