This one has been a while coming! The poor guy sent me his questions over a month ago! But never mind, he’s here now, I present to you Mike Shelton 🙂
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
I have enjoyed reading and writing since I was young, however, life (family, church, job) got in the way of me publishing anything. I have worked for about 30 years in corporate finance. I took 2 years years off to write full time a few years ago, but now once again work in corporate finance doing analysis and reporting from home. I have a wonderful wife and this year is our 30th anniversary. I also have three children.
I just released the first book in my 5th YA fantasy series (making 13 books and 3 novellas in total). The rest of the series will release over the next few months.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
The plots just seem to come to me; sometimes while sleeping or other times while hiking in the forest. When I write I do a brief outline, but mostly just make it up as I go on. My characters make a lot of decisions that I hadn’t planned on and I usually go with it. I usually know ahead of time where I want it to end, but not necessarily how I get there.
I try to make my characters as relatable to us as possible (well except for the ability to do magic) and hope that my readers learn to care about them as I have.
Tell us about your current project.
After more than a year since my last release, my latest book, Mark of the Medallion came out at the end of January. It is the first book in my fifth YA fantasy series. It is set in the same world as all my other books and focuses on three wizards. One, Kyril, is relatively weak, suffers from low self-esteem, and wants to be accepted at the wizard academy. Lots of exciting adventures, magic, and decisions cross his path as he discovers a powerful and ancient magic that belongs to him.
Is this your first entry into SPFBO? If not, how many times have you entered?
I am not entered in SPFBO at this point, though I did in the past.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
Each of my series have a set of main characters, usually a few teenage wizards who must overcome obstacles, sometimes the wizard establishment itself, and fight against evil to save their kingdom. My current newest series, has Kyril, Joelle, and Sylvie. Each from three different kingdoms who meet at one wizard academy. Each is from a different wizard discipline (wizard of the mind, wizard of the heart, and wizard of the earth).
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
I would say to just keep writing. Write for fun about something you feel passionate about and don’t let others get you down. You can’t please everyone. In the end, though before you publish anything, please use professional editors.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
I can’t say I draw from any real-life inspirations. I guess from the many decades of reading and observing the world around me, my mind is full of creative ideas. My system of magic, the geography of my world, the characters, and the stories just seem to come to me. It’s quite fun!
What inspires you to write?
First of all I write because I enjoy it, and always have. However over the past years as self publishing became possible, I also write to make some money to save for the future (lets be honest, we would all love to have the next million dollar best seller!).
When I began to write I had the distinct goal of writing fun, adventurous, magic-filled stories without any bad language or sexual situations. I also do not include any gory violence, but I realize with power wizards, greedy leaders, and evil men, you have to have some battles and people do die…but not in gory details.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
To me the hardest part of writing a book is the middle. I have a great idea for the beginning and I know how I want it to end. The part that takes the most time is the journey between those two points. I am still learning and growing there.
I also really don’t like editing. I love coming up with the story, but then going back through it on my own and with editors becomes very tedious at times. But very necessary.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
When I was writing for a few years full time (after getting laid off from my job) I did my best writing in the mornings, then used the afternoon for edits or marketing. Now, that I work full-time I am not so scheduled in my writing. I have to work it around my job, family needs, church service, and other activities.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
In my current book, as in most of my past ones, my favorite scenes are those with lots of magic. I love the big wizard battles; magic against magic. They get me really excited as I create something that has never existed before.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
This book took a while to write, as I had started working again and had some family responsibilities that took more time. So when I went weeks between writing or had to jump from my analytical finance job to my creative writing, it took awhile to get back into the story. In the future I won’t take that long between writing; even if it means just a few minutes each day.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
I start off thinking I’m going to have it all plotted out. I write a few sentences for most of the chapters before I begin. Then by about chapter 2 or 3 things start to change. My characters make choices of their own, new characters come in to the story, etc and I become more of a pantser from that point on. I still have an end in mind, and so usually get back to my outline in the last few chapters once again.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
In most of my series, I have learned to search the internet for someone that looks like I imagine the character. I print that out with a few sentences to describe them and then a few things from their background. I should be more organized there and wished I would have created a master list to keep track of all my characters better.
What are your future project(s)?
I will finish up my current series, The Wizard Academies in the next few months, then I need to think about what I want to do next. My most popular books deal with dragons and so I may go back to that in some way. I’ve also thought about a long ago prequel with more history of magic and the founding of the kingdoms in my world.
What is your favorite book ever written? Who are your favorite authors?
I don’t think I have a favorite fictional book per se. Historically some of my favorite authors were Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, Katherine Kurtz, Brandon Sanderson, and Terry Goodkind. Recently since becoming an author myself I have discovered great fantasy authors like D.K. Holmberg, Jeff Wheeler, Jeffrey Kohanek, Derek Alan Siddoway, Marc Secchia, and Morgan Rice.
What makes a good villain?
I think a good villain is persuasive and somewhat charismatic. But through their actions and intentions take us down a dark road to the point where we loath them and are happy when they meet their demise. A good villain really defines our heroes and gives them the opportunity to be great, overcome, and push evil away.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I read and spend time with my wife watching movies. I also really love to go hiking. I live in the pacific northwest a short drive from many forests and waterfalls. I find a lot of my writing and personal inspiration out hiking.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I’m not sure. I’ve worked in corporate finance for 30 years and have done well there. Though a job that would give more personal satisfaction, like teaching or helping others would be nice.
You can travel to any planet or moon in the Solar System. Where would you go, why and what would you do there?
Don’t know if it would be terribly exciting to go to one of our inhabitable planets, though it would be very cool to see the earth from space.
Finally, what is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
I love getting emails from my readers and respond back quickly. I also have a facebook page and a facebook group. The group is more interactive and I try to have fun with it at times. Of course my website has great information about all my books and promotions!
https://www.facebook.com/groups/MikeSheltonAuthor/ (facebook group)
https://www.facebook.com/mikesheltonbooks/ (facebook page)