Michael is a fellow Hollins student in the MFA in Children’s Literature program. It has been a pleasure getting to know him and read his works in our classes. He has published several stories, including one he wrote during one of our summer classes. This delightful interview gives you a taste of the wit and spunk of his writing style. Be sure to check out his website!
- What name do you publish under?
Everything I do is under my real name—Michael M. Jones. At times, I’ve thought about adopting a pseudonym, but for now, anything I’ve written, edited, or worked on has my name attached. I figure if I ever do adopt a pseudonym, it’ll be an open secret. When I started writing erotica, I thought about maybe doing it under someone else’s name, but all the good ones like J.K. Rowling and Ernest Hemingway were already taken. By the way, do you know how many Michael M. Joneses there are? Too many. I need to remedy that. Luckily, I have no shame, and only a mild grasp of tact, so I’m okay with people knowing I write for kids, adults, and adults-enjoying-private-time… But man, was THAT a fun discussion at the family table.
- What genres / story lines / characters do you like to write?
A little of everything, as my bibliography will show. However, my favorite genre in which to write is urban fantasy, and I alternate between mainstream and Young Adult, with some overlap in the middle. I love retelling fairy tales, I love playing with mythology, and I love finding new twists to put on old themes. Much of my work takes place in the fictional city of Puxhill, which exists somewhere in the American Midwest, somewhere between Missouri and Canada, with a heavy Minneapolis vibe. The more I publish, the more I build up a roster of characters who can interact, and places where they can all go, such as Tuesday University, the Blackbird Café, Jackpot Comics, Elijah Morrison High, or the Gaslight District.
I always try to embrace diversity in my stories, with an eye towards encouraging hope, empathy, tolerance and understanding. Many of my protagonists are female, many are LGBTQ, some follow different faiths or credos, because everyone deserves a voice. While some of my stories are a little dark, I tend to lean towards positive endings and happily-for-nows as a matter of principle.
- What have you published?
I’ve published nearly three dozen short stories, which range from YA to mainstream to erotica. I’ve also edited a handful of anthologies, which again range the gamut. My full bibliography can be found on my website.
My most recent releases include “A is for Anger,” which appears in the anthology D is for Dinosaur, edited by Rhonda Parrish. It’s about a teen girl who suffers from anger issues, and who turns into a dinosaur in her dreams. One of my favorite stories, “Sea of Strangers,” which first appeared at Inscription Magazine online Inscription Magazine online, has just come out in audio form from the lovely folks at Far Fetched Fables. It stars Audrey “Aud” Martinez, and her girlfriend Charm, as they attempt to free their fellow students from a curse that’s infected the school. “Home by Halloween,” which I wrote while at Hollins, appeared in the fabulous anthology, Fitting In: Historical Tales of Paranormal Subcultures, and it addresses the question of what happens to a fairy changeling that grows up on Earth and wants to go home to Faerie.
But I’ve also written stories about Santa Claus as a private detective, Santa as a pirate, a theatre where you can experience someone’s dreams, a cat fantasy loosely based on one of my own feline overlords, and so much more. Handy links to everything on my website.
- How would you describe your publishing process from searching for a place to querying to either acceptance or rejection? What advice would you give hopeful authors?
The single most important piece of advice I can give is to Read The Guidelines. Seriously. Whether you’re querying an agent, submitting a story to a market, or doing -anything-, read the guidelines. Make sure you’re sending your best work—polished, edited, proofread, polished some more, edited some more, proofread by someone who doesn’t hate you—and make sure it follows every guideline, from manuscript format to theme to word count. This is serious business. You only get one chance to make a good impression on an editor, agent, or publisher, and you want to look professional. Of course, it also helps if you’re a good writer.
Know the market. There are a lot of places online which list open magazines and anthologies, or tell you what agents are looking for, or what publishers want. Market research is your friend. I rather like the Submission Grinder although I also follow some Facebook groups and other sites to keep aware of what’s available.
Get used to rejection. It sucks. It happens a lot. And because every editor and market is different, you can be rejected for any and all reasons. Sometimes, acceptances comes down to having the right story at the right time at the right place, because some editor needs a cat-themed steampunk flash piece to fill that last 1000 words in a magazine or something. Don’t look at me, I’ve no clue how it works either. It’s taken me anywhere from a day to 14 years to find homes for my work.
The last thing you need to know, and this is crucial, is that ooo shiny!
- What are you currently working on?
Right now, my attention is split between a number of projects. I’ve been working on editing a YA anthology, Schoolbooks & Sorcery, for quite a while now, and it’s just about ready to hit the next step in production. I can’t wait for this one to be released; it’s been a labor of love for a long time. I’m also working on a YA novel called A Study Hall in Scarlet, which is my love letter to teenage girl detectives, Sherlock Holmes, and boarding schools, all rolled into one. It started off serious, but people seem to think I’m funny. My greatest fear at this point is that someone else will steal the title. Maybe I’d better hurry up…
- Where do you find your inspiration?
Mail order. I signed up for Idea of the Month club, and they ship them from Poughkeepsie on the 13th, like clockwork. This month’s prompt is “Cybernetic penguins attack Pittsburgh.”
Writers are weird, man. There’s no hope for us.
- What is your writing method?
About a day before any deadlines are due. Sometimes I like to really push my luck and wait until the midnight before. I’m a very bad role model. I’m undisciplined, and my idea of plotting involves letting the characters go nuts and figuring it all out afterwards. I like loud music, lots of caffeine, and panic. Panic is good. I’m answering these questions in a mild state of terror as we speak.
- What do you like to read? Do you find that you read what you write?
I read everything. Well, almost everything. Science fiction, fantasy, YA, Middle Grade, mysteries, romances, reference and non-fiction—nothing is safe from me. One of my other roles is that of a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly, and they send me a LOT of books. No, I can’t say what I’ve reviewed for them. It’s anonymous. If I blab, my editor will vanish me down a well. But I read more books in a month than many do in a year. Asking me “Read anything good lately?” gets a blank look as my mind goes Blue Screen of Death as I try to remember what I’ve read… and if it’s even out yet.
- Why do you write?
Because I love to read, and sometimes I can’t find what I want to read. Because I have all these voices in my head that want to get out. Because I was promised fame and fortune. (Spoiler alert: THEY LIED.) And because I just want to make the world a tiny bit better with my words.
- What degree are you working on at Hollins? What other degrees do you have?
I’m steadily working towards my MFA in Children’s Literature, with several classes and a thesis left to complete. My undergrad degree, which has never really come in handy, is in Theatre and Dance (technical concentration) from Trinity College in Hartford, CT. I also have a whole lot of sociology classes under my belt, and the reason I don’t have a degree there is complicated and silly and involves college bureaucracy.
- What are your future goals as an author?
Earn enough from my writing to afford a Happy Meal. Maybe even get some recognition, be nominated for an award, have fans… y’know, that sort of thing.
12. Tell us something interesting about yourself.
I have a plaster penguin on the mantle and sometimes it wears a fedora. Also, I’m famous for my cookies, beef jerky, and pickles. Kitchen alchemy for the win. If you ask me about my cats, I will talk your ear off about the Feline Supervisory Committee.