Today’s Debut Author Q&A is with Mik Wilkens, who is the fourth Lazy Day Publishing author to be featured on this blog. (We’ve also chatted with George Pappas, Liz Borino and J.M. Kelley.) I always find that I learn a little something or am reminded about something in my own process when I read those of others. Thank you, Mik, for reminding me of how fortunate I am to have “a very tolerant husband.” :)
Name: Mik Wilkens
Name of book: The Silver Cage
Book genre: Fantasy
Date published: December 1, 2010
Publisher: Lazy Day Publishing
What is your book about? The Silver Cage is a fantasy novel about David Conner, a down-to-earth guy who has everything going for him: he’s got a great job, he has plenty of money, and he’s just met Jennasara, quite literally the woman of his dreams. But David’s world is turned upside-down when he finds himself on Lucasia, a world where magic is a force of nature and creatures of myth are real. To save Jennasara, David must learn the ways of the strange world he finds himself on, master its magic, and decide who is his friend and who is his enemy.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process for you? I’m horribly anal about everything being perfect, so my editing sessions can get a little crazy. I’m rarely happy unless I’m 100 percent positive that every comma is in the correct place, every word I’ve used is perfect for what I’m trying to say, and every sentence is structured just right. Because of that, deciding that a piece is finished and ready for submission can take a ridiculously long time.
What motivates you to write? My muse and the sheer joy of writing. My muse can disappear for months, even years, at a time. When she’s gone, I mostly spend my time editing or working on other creative pursuits. But when she’s here, when the writing mood strikes, it’s all I can do to not write. I carry around a pad of paper everywhere I go and write every chance I get. Fortunately, I have a very tolerant husband who doesn’t mind me writing when we go out to dinner or go for a drive. At times like that, words, ideas, and characters just seem to flow out of me. Because I don’t outline or plot my stories ahead of time, it’s a very exhilarating process of discovery, as if the story has already happened and I’m just reporting it. It’s a wonderful feeling.
Did you experience writer’s block? I don’t get writer’s block. Instead, I get out of a writing mood. When that happens, I haven’t found much that I can do about it. Until my muse decides to come back, I usually just pursue other creative outlets.
How long did it take you to write this book? For some reason, my muse likes to give me stories in two parts. The first part is usually 2/3 to 3/4 of the novel, and then I hit a dry spell where I have no idea what happens next. Eventually, the remainder of the story will come to me, and I’ll finish writing it. I wrote the first section of The Silver Cage in about six months. The second part took me a little less time, and then I had to put it through the editing process. During that time, I was attending design school and then entering the workforce, so I wasn’t writing full-time. Overall, about three years passed while I was working on the novel, but the time I spent actually writing and editing was probably closer to a year and a half.
How difficult was it to find a publisher? When I first started shopping The Silver Cage around, all of the publishers interested in fantasy novels required agents, so I spent most of my time trying to get an agent for the book. Lazy Day Publishing was the first actual publisher I sent the novel to, so I’d have to say it wasn’t difficult to find a publisher, it just took a long time.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? Maybe I’m lucky, but I don’t know anyone who has any misconceptions about just how much time and energy it takes to write a book, and I’ve been writing for so long (I wrote my first “novel” when I was about twelve years old) that any misconceptions I may have ever had about writing have long since disappeared.
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? As with anything I write, the best part is discovering the story and the characters as I go along. For The Silver Cage in particular, probably the most fun I had was taking standard fantasy elements and twisting them. The concept of a modern person being transported to a fantasy world is not new, so I had to approach the subject in a fresh way. To do that, I put familiar fantasy elements such as unicorns, werewolves, dragons, and magic swords into the story, but I gave each a twist that makes it different from similar elements found in other fantasy stories. I also gave a modern feel to most of the characters. I hoped that by doing that, the story would appeal not only to people who are already fans of fantasy novels, but also to people who just like to read a fun story. It seems to be working. Several people who aren’t fantasy fans have read the novel and really enjoyed it, including the co-owner of Lazy Day Publishing, Staci Helling.
Do you plan to write another novel? I’m working on several books right now. I’m almost finished with the sequel to The Silver Cage. It’s called The Golden Drake, and it starts where The Silver Cage ends. I’m also almost done writing another fantasy novel called The Greyhounds of Aeravon, which is the first book in a series of novels I plan to use to raise money to support the adoption of retired racing greyhounds. I’m also working on a science fiction trilogy. All three of the books in the trilogy are finished in rough draft form. I’m doing the final edits on the first book, and then I’ll start on the other two. Finally, I’ve recently completed and submitted a science fiction novella called Esora, which is a follow-up story to another science fiction novella I have coming out in 2011 called The Price of Conquest.
Wow! Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I definitely agree. I do consider myself a lucky person, but I realize that luck really is just an attitude, a way of looking at what happens in a positive light. Hard work, preparation, and knowing an opportunity when one comes along are all important for success not only in writing but in most other aspects of life as well.