Friday, October 29, 2010

Mike Stratton interview

Today's author interviewee is Mike Stratton. Mike is a psychotherapist in private practice in East Lansing, Michigan. He hosts a weekly jazz radio show, The Vinyl Side of Midnight, for WLNZ. Everybody Dreams is his first novel.

 Welcome to A Writing Passage, Mike.

            Thanks Tricia. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you have been writing?

            I started writing stories as a little boy: Ray Royal, my version of James Bond, was my first protagonist. I think I was about ten. Many years later, when my father was dying, I started writing poetry. They just started popping out. And then three novellas, one after another, which all sit safely hidden in a drawer. By then I had the bug.

Do you have a regular writing schedule or place where you write?

            For my first novel, I wrote about twenty minutes a day, every morning. Now I’ve taken the plunge and take Fridays off for writing. I also take at least two week long retreats a year for writing. The place isn’t as important for me as the time.

Why did you decide to write your books?

            People started to ask to buy them. Seriously, I was giving a talk on dreams in front of a large audience of 1,200 people in Santa Fe. Quite a number of people afterwards asked, ‘Where can I buy your book?’ and it hit me: I have to write it.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while writing?

            Balance. How to work full time, manage a life and make time for writing. And writing is very humbling work because there are some people who are so amazing that you read their stuff and it’s a little daunting. I just try to tell an interesting story that will engage people.

What was most enjoyable about your writing process? 

            When I’m in the flow, the story seems to be telling itself to me. And I’m writing like mad trying to keep up with it. That doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s an amazing feeling. Time disappears. And I hope that translates to the reader. I’ve heard back from some readers that they couldn’t put the book down at points, and I think those points match when I was in that flow.

            Also, when I’m writing I’m more attentive towards the world I’m in. I’m more awake and aware of color, landscapes, how people talk and gesture and move. The act of writing makes me pay closer attention. I bought my wife a nice camera for her birthday, and I’ve noticed how she has started framing everyday sights for her pictures. It’s changed how she sees the world, in a very enriching way. Writing does that for me.

Have you ever received advice from another writer that influenced you or that you still remember?

            The best advice is something that has been hard to follow. Write every day. Like anything, the more you do it, the better you get at it. In writing a novel, you have to create engaging characters. And then you need to make big trouble for them. At the end of each chapter, they should be in worse shape than they were at the beginning. I love ratcheting up suspense. And show, don’t tell.

What one piece of advice (or maybe two) would you give to other writers?

            Open yourself to the world, and the world will open itself to you.

Thank you, Mike. Please share with my readers how everyone can buy your book.

            Everybody Dreams by Michael Stratton is available on (

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Prompt, First Line & Question

So how did the prompt go?  Did it help you get started writing?  As writers, we can come up with some pretty great reasons to NOT write and one of those is we don't know WHAT to write about.  Using a prompt is a good way of putting that excuse to bed.  Now let's get writing:


Write about a childhood incident that is still alive to you today.  It might be something humorous, terrifying or life changing.  Put yourself there and tell us all about it.

First line: 

It was the biggest pumpkin in the patch, and it seemed to be moving.

And now for the question of the week:

Do you have a favorite time or place to write?  Where?  When?  Why?

My most productive time to write is first thing in the morning, before "life" creeps in.  That means before I get dressed, before I eat anything, and definitely before I answer the phone.  And I have to make sure I do NOT check my e-mails.  Once I do that, I've lost the momentum for writing.

The place is my bed.  I grab my laptop, prop my pillows behind me and start writing.  It is where my writing takes off and it is a safe, comfortable place.  Often, Sally (my miniature bull terrier) is laying under the blankets beside me; Eli (our rescue dog) is laying on the pillow beside me and Mary (our other rescue) is laying on a pillow on the floor beside the bed.  They are all sleeping and I'm writing.  What could be better?

So tell me what is your when? where? and why? for writing.