Michael Dellert is an award-winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 18 years. He lives in the Greater New York City area. He is the author of The Mike Manifesto and recently launched a serial novella, Hedge King in Winter, which is now available free on Wattpad.
I have met Michael on the social networks and am impressed with his thoughtful posts and blogging. So I had to invite him to my blog to get to know more about him and his books. Hello Michael and welcome to my blog. Please tell us a little about yourself as a person.
I was born and raised in the New York City area, but in the rural countryside, which probably went a long way to inspiring me as a writer, particularly of fantasy literature. I like to call the town where I was raised, “The Land that Time Forgot.” We didn’t have a paved road past my house until I was nearly in my teens, and there wasn’t much to do except roam the forested mountains and make up games and stories. My inspirations came from myths, legends, and comic books. I also watched a lot of old movies like the “Tarzan” films with Buster Crabbe and Johnny Weismuller, and “the Adventures of Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn and Olivia deHavilland.
Tell us about your writing history. When was the first time you decided to write and when was the first time you did?
It’s really hard for me to pinpoint a specific time when I first wrote as an intentional act rather than as “play.” Probably the first time was when I was about eight or nine years old, I co-authored a comic book with a classmate: I wrote the story, she did the art. As it turned out, she grew up to be a graphic artist, and here I am writing.
Did anyone influence you / encourage you to become a writer?
One particular high school teacher, Donna Spector. She was a fiction writer, poet, and playwright herself, and she taught an enrichment course in creative writing one summer. I ended up being the only kid in the class, so I got an intensive six week crash-course in the basics. After that, she had me transferred from my run-of-the-mill English Composition courses and into her advanced literature class. I was a confirmed student of literature and writing from that point on.
When did you decide to write in your chosen genre(s)?
I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing fantasy and science fiction. As a young undergraduate at university, I veered off for a while into “serious” literature and a godawful amount of lovelorn poetry, but I came back to fantasy afterwards. It was a lot less intimidating trying to be Terry Brooks rather than James Joyce.
Tell us about the concept behind your books. How did you get the idea?
The overarching concept of The Matter of Manred series is a sort of bildungsroman of the “Child of Destiny” character. The early stories are told from the point of view of the characters responsible for bringing that child into the world and raising him to become the hero he will ultimately be by the end of the series, and the later stories will explore the character’s coming of age and self-development into the reluctant hero that I’ve envisioned.
I had my first ideas about the series late in my undergraduate years. I started to explore the idea of a fantastical version of medieval Ireland in the time of the Anglo-Norman Conquest, and a unique character who would be caught in the conflict between his own native culture and invaders from abroad. The ideas for the stories grew out of my study of ancient Irish, Welsh, and Scottish myths and legends, combined with my study of medieval history and literature.
Which of your characters is your favourite?
Right now, Eowain is my favorite. He’s so politically naïve at first in Hedge King in Winter, but I’ve enjoyed watching him grow into the morally compromised and richly textured character that he becomes by the end. I’m also fond of a character known as Adarc the Acolyte. He has an unnamed cameo as the student of the fickle game in Hedge King in Winter, but he’s a main character in the next story, A Merchant’s Tale, and he’s the protagonist of a novel that’s still in development as the fifth entry into the series.
Are you like any of the characters (and how so)?
There’s something of me in all of my characters, I think, sometimes more so than others. For example, Eowain is reluctant to be married in Hedge King in Winter as a consequence of an ill-fated infatuation with another girl when he was a younger man. That has its roots in my own clumsy attempts at love as a teenager. And Adarc and his father have a complicated relationship that borrows from my own relationship with my father.
Were the plot and subplots completely planned from the start or did they change during the process, and if so, how?
I’m almost obsessive about planning, so the broad strokes of the story were all in place from the very beginning. But I’m often surprised at how different the details turn out to be compared to my original conception. For example, I knew I wanted to set up the rivalry between the brothers Lórcan and Eowain with their cousin Tnúthgal through some form of contest, and I knew which day the contest would occur on. But I originally thought that it would be some kind of physical contest, like a horse race or a ball game. As it turned out, they end up playing a strategy board game not unlike chess, which was inspired by the classic movie, The Seventh Sign, and old legends about King Connor of Ulster, who spent a third of his days playing chess with his nobles. I hadn’t expected that, but I enjoyed researching the game and using it as a way of foreshadowing the conflict.
What is your life like outside of writing?
I swim, I hike with my dog, I enjoy movies and some TV series, and I like to cook. I’m a perpetual student, particularly of history. And more than anything, I like spending time with my daughters, who have interests like gymnastics and theatre, which keep me busy. And for a long time, I worked a day-job in corporate publishing before more recently turning to freelance editing.
Who would you like to invite for dinner?
C.J. Cherryh. She’s one of the most prolific science fiction writers that’s ever graced the field, and her Morgaine Saga had a profound early influence on my interest in becoming a writer. Aside from the masterful blending of a traditional fantastic medieval-style setting into what was ostensibly a science fiction story, she also practices a method of story-telling that she refers to as “third person intimate internal” which is absolutely stunning. She develops characters in at least six different dimensions.
What song would you pick to go with your book?
That’s kind of a funny question, because the song I would choose is completely ill-suited to the setting, but I’m fond of “Short Change Hero,” by The Heavy. “This ain’t no place for a hero, this ain’t no place for no better man” sums up the kind of milieu I’m working to develop, a land that is so war-torn and morally compromised that it will require a real effort for the heroes to find that which is heroic in themselves.
I’ve just recently launched the first tale in the Matter of Manred as a serial on Wattpad called Hedge King in Winter, and I’m finishing rewrites on the second tale, which is called A Merchant’s Tale and will be published as a serial on JukePop in early 2016. I’m also drafting a short fantasy romance novel called The Romance of Eowain, which is due to be launched in April 2016.
Adventures in Indie Publishing (blog): http://www.mdellert.com/blog/
Wattpad (profile): https://www.wattpad.com/user/mdellert1172
Hedge King in Winter on Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/story/39248567-hedge-king-in-winter