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An Interview with Michael Essington — Joannes Rhino - Bali Online Editor " />
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23 Jun

A full-time writer who believes to write your own stories, meet Michael Essington…


JR: Tell us about yourself, and how would you describe yourself?

ME: I’m an American author/poet.  I have published four books and one chapbook that I co-authored with writer David Gurz.  My fifth book, Broken will be published late summer, early spring.


JR: When did you first realise you want to be a writer? Who spotted that talent and what was the first thing you do knowing that?

ME: I wrote for the school newspaper in the 80s.  But the inspiration came from a kid that was a year older than me.  He worked at a newsstand and one afternoon when I stopped by, he grabbed a book off the rack to show two girls I was with.  Turns out it was his.  He was published when he was 18.  Somehow, at that moment writing seemed like something within my grasp.  Prior to that, I had only thumbed through books by my Great-Uncle Zane Gray.  But his work seemed like something from a different world.  Something I could never do.


JR: Do you have any formal education in creative writing? Do you think formal education in writing is necessary?

ME: I took the basic literature and English classes in school.  I believe you need the basic understanding of grammar and punctuation, certain things like past and present tense in order to tell a story that total strangers will understand.  Beyond that, there is a lot of learning to be done at the typewriter.


JR: Are you a full-time author? Do you have other activities as main source of income? How do you organise your schedule and time in writing a book?

ME: I am a full-time writer.  I did record and concert reviews for more than a decade for Strange Reaction.  Then I did a weekly newspaper column for The Los Angeles Beat newspaper.  The column, Southland Tales was basically observations of different oddities around the city.  The column lasted a year.  Eventually, I started doing music reviews for a magazine in England called Deep Red.  I’m not sure how long I wrote for them, a few years, and then they went out of business.

My writing is ongoing.  If I see something that might make a good story idea, I’ll text myself.  I’m constantly jotting down ideas and partial stories.  When I sit down and start a book, it’s more of an exercise in what not to include.


JR: What made you decide to start writing something? What or who influences you?

ME: I have always written.  Whether it was half-baked song ideas when I was a kid or little stories, it seems like I always had pieces of paper around with a sentence or two that I wrote down, along with some drawings that I had done to accompany the words.

My influences seem to change often.  When I write my nonfiction stuff, I enjoy Jim Carroll or Eddie Little and Dan Fante.  When I write fiction, I enjoy the Richard Stark stuff.


JR: What is the greatest lesson you have learned and/or greatest achievement you have reached as a writer?

ME: My greatest lesson that I have learned is to edit and proof my work constantly.  Things slip by, edit as much as you can, then get a second set of eyes on your work.

My greatest achievement was first getting published, then it was winning awards for Born Frustrated and then for Misconceptions of Hell.


JR: Do you have habits in writing? Any specific time and/or place to write?

ME: I don’t have any specific habits.  Anywhere that is quiet and/or I’m left alone.


JR: How long do you normally finish writing a book? What is the hardest part in the process?

ME: I average one book a year.  The hardest part of the whole book process is the marketing.  Making sure I do enough signings, making sure people are aware that the book is out there.


JR: Do you have professional editors to furnish your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

ME: I use between two or three editors for each book.  Recommendations?  Not really.  Just find someone that you can relate to.  The wrong editor can steer the book in the wrong direction.


JR: How do you think you have evolved creatively?

ME: I have evolved, yes.  When I finished the Last One To Die trilogy (Last One To Die, Life Won’t Wait and Born Frustrated), I took on my biggest challenge and wrote Misconceptions of Hell, which is a collection of short-stories and poems that all tie-in into each other.  I would not have attempted this book when I started.


JR: Do you ever face Writer’s Block? If you do, how did you overcome the situation?

ME: Very rarely do I get writer’s block.  When I do, I write something completely different, sometimes starting a whole different book.  Forcing yourself to write is harmful to the story.  I don’t think a writer should force the words.


JR: Do you have a professional designer to design the cover and/or interior of your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

ME: For my first published book, Last One To Die, I didn’t know what I was doing.  I had a photographer take a few photos and used and online cover creator to do the rest.  From that point on I have created most of the covers myself and have posted proofs in various author forums to get feedback before going to print.


JR: How do you involve in promoting your books? Any marketing technique you can share?

ME: Build a Facebook page that links to your Amazon page, your blog and any readings you do on YouTube.  And find your niche.  If you write about music, get a table at local gigs and sell books.  If you write about vampires, get a table at a local horror convention.  Always be on the lookout for ways to alert people to what you’re doing.


JR: Give your thoughts about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?

ME: Publishing, much like the music industry, has changed a lot over the past two decades.  Everything is much more digitally oriented.  Publishers (and record companies) now spend less and reap greater returns.  Leaving the author with less creative control, smaller profits and less chance of multi-book deals.

Self-publishing offers better returns, but now the author must learn to become a marketing expert.  Some of us would like to sit and write, but as a self-publisher, you are forced to learn every aspect of social media under the sun.  Your actual sit-down writing may only take up 10% of your day and marketing will be the other 90%.  You’ll be responsible for websites, Facebook pages, mailing lists, and signings.

There is positive in both, but you have to be prepared.


JR: How many books have you written (published and non-published)?

ME: I have written six and a half books (one chapbook).  Two are still unpublished.


JR: What genre that you normally write, and what draws you to this genre? Do you always write in the same genre?

ME: My first three books are nonfiction and are based on my life and growing up in Los Angeles.  The chapbook and Misconceptions of Hell are fiction.  So, I bounce back and forth.  Some may argue that my fiction is more realistic.


JR: Of all the books that you have written down, which book that you think the best one? And what do you think readers will find most appealing about this book? What’s the “real story” behind this book?

ME: My last book Misconceptions of Hell is my favorite.  My son helped with a few of the plot points and contributed a story. My first book, Last One To Die, is consistently my best seller.


brokenJR: Any other works in progress?

ME: Finishing my book Broken and deciding whether or not to publish a book I wrote years ago, compiling all my celebrity interviews.


JR: What advice would you want to give to an aspiring writer?

ME: Write your own story.  If another writer makes the top ten list by writing about a family of elves that speak some lost elfish language, do not follow that trend.  Tell your story.  The world does not need anymore teenage zombie or vampire books.


JR: How can readers discover more about you and your works?

ME: My Amazon page has an up to date listing of my published work and an occasional blog post: amazon.com/author/michaelessington


 Michael Essington