To say that Michael Bracken is a successful author would be an understatement. Along with writing over 1,200 short stories, Michael has authored several novels and edited multiple anthologies. He has received two Derringer Awards for short fiction and the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement in short mystery fiction. You can learn more about Michael’s amazing career and check out some of his works though his WEBSITE!
We were fortunate enough to feature Michael’s short story, “Deliver Us From Evil,” in our 2nd Issue (which you can read HERE). After the issue’s publication, Michael was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions we think many readers and writers would love to know.
1. You’ve had a great career as an author thus far having written several novels and 1,200+ short stories (along with being the editor for 6 crime anthologies). How did you get started in the industry?
During my formative years, I was raised by a single mother. We didn’t have much money—there wasn’t a television in the house until I was in the third grade—and we moved often. One of the first things my mother did each time we moved was find the nearest library and get us library cards. So, I was a voracious reader and, through reading, I could be anyone, go anywhere, and do anything. In the eighth grade I wrote a story, showed it to my mother, and told her I wanted to be a writer.
My first published piece appeared in my junior high school’s literary magazine. I wrote for my high school’s literary magazine, wrote for and edited my high school newspaper, wrote for an underground newspaper while in high school, and started my own publication—a science fiction fanzine—that included contributions from several science fiction writers who were then or later became quite successful.
I began writing professionally when I was a teenager—my first sale was a fantasy to a children’s magazine—and, though I intended to be a science fiction/fantasy writer, I’ve been more successful writing in other genres.
2. Along with writing and editing, you do quite a bit of teaching/public speaking. Do you feel like working as an editor or teaching has made you a better writer?
I don’t think teaching and public speaking has made me a better writer, but it has made me more cognizant of my process. I have to understand how I do what I do before I can teach the process to someone else.
Editing has made me a better writer because it forces me to evaluate manuscripts in unexpected ways. For example, a great story may be poorly presented—filled with typos, grammatical errors, and odd formatting, for example—while perfect presentation may hide a complete lack of story. As an editor, I must determine how much work I’m willing to do to a manuscript to make it something I’m willing to publish.
Applying that knowledge to my own work means ensuring that I have a story worth telling and then ensuring it is presented as professionally as possible.
3. Unlike many authors, you’ve published works in multiple genres. Do you approach the thriller genre differently than you do other genres?
I don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about genre when I write. My goal is to write a good story, and the essential elements of good fiction remain the same regardless of genre.
4. When writing a short story (particularly one set in the thriller genre) what is your process? Do you have a standard process or is each project unique?
My stories usually begin with an opening scene, something I think will draw in a reader. Often that’s all I have when I start writing. After the first scene is in place, I make notes about what might happen next and what direction I think the story should go.
As I make notes, working through plot points and possible twists, I’m also writing bits and pieces of scenes. At some point I’ll have a full draft. Because I’ve been rewriting and revising as I go, my “first” draft often only needs a close proofreading before submission.
I always have several stories in progress at the same time, and I bounce back and forth between projects. So, some stories get written in matter of days, while others take several months or even several years to go from a first sentence to a submittable draft.
5. Thank you for your time, Michael! One final question: Do you have any upcoming works that readers can look forward to seeing soon?
Just published, or about to be published: “Christmas Wish” at The Saturday Evening Post, “Little Bubba Visits the Roadhouse” in EconoClash Review #3, “The Fishmonger’s Wife” in the Winter 2019 issue of Pulp Literature, “Split Decision” in the January 2019 issue of The Digest Enthusiast, “Wishing Tree” in the January/February 2019 Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and “Something Fishy” in Black Cat Mystery Magazine #4. I have several more stories that should be published during 2019, but I don’t yet know release dates for them.
And coming this fall is The Eyes of Texas, an anthology of private eye stories set in Texas that I edited for Down & Out Books.