Michael W Smart writes mystery and science fiction novels. A native New Yorker, he is an experienced blue water sailor and airplane pilot, two passions the protagonists in his novels also share. The Bequia Mysteries are set in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a tropical archipelago in the Eastern Caribbean where Michael lived and sailed for many years. He draws on these experiences to create intimate and lively portraits of the islands and the people surrounding these compelling mysteries.
What inspires you to write?
I was first inspired to write by reading novels by authors who captured my imagination with compelling stories and characters. In my own writing I try to emulate those authors I cut my teeth on reading, and I draw inspiration from everyday things like people watching, current events, history, and my imagination.
Tell us about your writing process.
I do 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. I usually type this into a document I call scene notes, which I then expand into chapter notes, and then I’ll also 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. In the Bequia Mysteries the Gage character came first. It was a time in my life when I was considering returning to the Grenadines to write. But I knew it wouldn’t be the same as when I lived there, some things I wouldn’t be able to still do. Too much time had passed, my perspective and my body had changed. And I wondered what it’d be like living there now. As I thought about those things the character developed, and also the themes. So Gage arrives in the Grenadines with an entirely new perspective than he had in his past life, and he has to cope with reinventing himself at an older stage in life.
I do create character profiles before I begin writing, including an actual image I use 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.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Oh definitely. How can you avoid it? They live in my head, and are constantly interacting with each other and with me. And I do listen to them because they often guide the dynamics of a scene or the direction of the story. They can even surprise me every now and then.
What advice would you give other writers?
The best advice is the one I’ve heard from every writer who is serious about their work, and I pass it on. It is to write, and write, and write, everyday. It doesn’t matter what you write, just write. Practice, practice and keep practicing. And the other tip, perhaps as important, is to learn the craft. How to do more than just use words and language, but how to manipulate them. Often what’s going on in one’s imagination doesn’t get translated to the page. And it doesn’t happen by itself or by accident. Doesn’t mean you need to take writing courses or get a degree in creative writing, although those will teach you the craft. But I think one of the best ways to learn the craft is to read, read and read, especially in the genre you enjoy and you want to create in. And while you’re reading pay attention to the language, how words are strung together to create a scene, or produce an emotion, or make you visualize what the author is imagining.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I decided to self-publish in order to maintain control and bypass the obstacles presented by traditional publishing, especially for a first time author. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to be published by a traditional publisher, but it’d have to be on my terms. So what are the chances of that happening? By self-publishing I get my work out into the world and into the hands of readers, including any agent or publisher who might take an interest. My advice to new authors is to explore all their options, but do the homework necessary to make an informed decision, and don’t drink the traditional publisher’s kool aid.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think self-publishing platforms will continue to grow and mature in terms of quality, and be a continuing force traditional publishing houses will have to contend with and adapt to. I don’t see how traditional publishing can remain economically viable if they continue their current business model. And the narrower the profit margin, the more difficult it will be for them to take risks and open the doors to new authors.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer
What genres do you write?
I write mysteries and science fiction.
What formats are your books in?
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