Author Interview - Michaelbrent Collings (Internationally-bestselling novelist, produced screenwriter multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist)

1.What motivates you to write?

Mostly two things:

1) The story. I enjoy writing stories, I enjoy telling those stories to people and seeing them react or hearing that they enjoyed it. The stories keep coming, and I think that I would probably be in serious danger of exploding if I didn't let them out as fast as I can manage.

2) Eating. I'm a family man, and writing is my job, so writing = taking care of my family. As much as I enjoy the stories I write, and enjoy having people to tell those stories to, I enjoy taking care of those I love most far more. I'm glad I get to do both at the same time.

2. How did you feel after publishing your books?

Every time I finish a book there's a huge sense of relief. That lasts about six seconds, then it's onto the stress of figuring out what to do next.

I say this a bit in jest, but largely in truth. I do love finishing something, but there's little "down time" where I just relax and enjoy or sit back and see what will happen next. I'm an indie author, which means I have no huge team behind me to do marketing or schedule advertising or do cover creation. There's just me. I like it that way, and have found a lot of success that way (for which I am beyond grateful), but there's no denying that there's little time to rest with that business model. I don't mind it - I love to work, and I love doing what I do -  but it definitely means that "feeling" some way or other after finishing usually loses out to the "Oh no what comes NEXT?!" feeling.

3. What are some of your favourite novels and authors?
Oh, no! That's the worst question because there are far too many of both!

I am constantly reading - there are books in random places all around my home, and I tend to simply pick up whichever one is closest on those rare moments when I come to rest. So I'm a voracious reader, and I love to read everything from books on science and philosophy to classic literature like Les Miserables to whatever novel Stephen King or Dean Koontz just cranked out. The world of words is an ever-expanding wonder, and I'm an extremely happy permanent resident in that world.

4. Is there a specific reason for naming your novel?

The book is called Scavenger Hunt because five people wake up in a white room, with no memory of how they got there (at least at first), and are quickly told by a madman who calls himself Mr. Do-Good that they will be forced to perform a series of tasks/challenges in the coming hours... or face dire consequences. As the "game" unfolds, the strangers come to understand how their paths have intertwined, why they are now in Mr. Do-Good's game, and what they will have to do to survive. The scavenger hunt is something that all the kids did growing up - going around to people's houses and asking to do some pre-chosen task for points. Then all the kids came back together and compared notes to see who did the most tasks/got the most points. I did that, too, but always thought the idea of going to a stranger's house and asking for some random object or asking to come in and do some minor task for points was a bit odd. "A bit odd" often translates for me to "terrifying story opportunity," so Scavenger Hunt was born.

5. Where do you write from? Do you go to some specific place, like beachside or the hills?

I have an area at my home where I can write, but rarely do. I'm not good at ignoring family noises - if someone goes, "Ouch!" then I'm not likely to just keep typing, and with a family someone is always going, "Ouch!" So most days I leave home ten or fifteen minutes after waking up and will go to a restaurant or a coffee shop or a delicatessen - pretty much anywhere with a WiFi connection and a place to plug in my computer will get my vote! I'm low maintenance that way, and getting out among others keeps me from turning into too much of a recluse.

6. What inspired you to write the books(in general)? Any tales to tell…
No tales in particular, though one of the themes that the book explores is the idea of black market organ trafficking. I went to law school and was a lawyer for a number of years before becoming a writer, and so my ears were constantly pricking up when I heard of new developments or trends in criminal law or similar legal issues. During some of my research I started looking into the dismaying reality of human trafficking - which happens far too often, and for far too many terrible reasons - and eventually some of that made its way into an idea for a game where the players had all been touched by this horrible event.

7. What was your biggest learning experience throughout the writing process?
Biggest? No idea. Learning as I write always comes in tiny moments. There are few instances where a light goes off above me and the heavens open with wisdom. Mostly I'm just making little choices, which can range from deciding on just the right word to looking into things that might occur in the book. For one of my books I remember spending a half hour researching what kind of light would be in a bus terminal parking lot, which ended up mattering to only a single sentence. Even so, I considered the time well used. One of the best parts of being a writer is that I am perpetually ignorant... which means I can continue to learn and so also be perpetually enlightened.

8. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in as a writer?
Mostly it was just refusing to give up, and having a good support structure around to scold me when I did want to give up. That and, you know, actually writing. A lot of budding authors get so involved in "breaking in" that they forget to actually create things. The marketing and the meeting and the schmoozing are all well and good, but when push comes to shove if you don't have a good product to back it up, you're not going to do very well or last very long.

9. Any best piece of writing advice that you would like to share with new or struggling writers?

A 10-part list:

1) Write
2) Know that your first book probably won't sell, because it probably stinks. That's not bad, and it's part of life. The best athletes in the world did not spring forth from their mothers' wombs simply "doing it right." They were terrible at first, and had to practice practice practice before they were okay. Then more practice until they were good and MORE until they were great. It's the same with writing, and resisting the need to fail at first dampens the likelihood of succeeding later one.
3) Write
4) Make friends with people in the writing industry and start making contacts
5) Write
6-10) WRITE!

10. Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
Hmmm... I wrote a song about my wife (before she was my wife) which I sang to her on our first date. It must have been a good experience, because we were engaged very soon after that!

11. Any future books that you would like to discuss now?
Right now I'm working on a book called Stranger Still. It's a sequel, to a bestselling horror/thriller story I wrote called Strangers. In Strangers, a rich family wakes up one morning to find out that they have literally been sealed in their home with a madman who wants to share some "life lessons" with them... and is willing to kill to drive home his points. Still Strangers continues that story. It's fun because I've never written a sequel before. I've written several series, but they were designed to have beginnings and endings from the start, so the series were just longer-form stories. I intended Strangers to be standalone - and it has been for seven years or so. But I recently realized there was more to tell, and so I have returned to that world and am having immense fun with it!

12.What other profession excites you the most?
Not much of any. I tell people I made it as a writer because I am so woefully unqualified to be anything else. I have a lot of hobbies and interests, and I have (I think) a pretty rich and rewarding family and social life. But I can't think of any other job that would provide me with the happiness of my present one. I was a lawyer for a while, and I shudder at the thought of ever returning to that life!

13.Any special mention about your reader (be it with reviews/feedback or anything else)
Not really. Reviews are always appreciated, and they really matter. Not only do they make for nice reading on long cold nights where we authors think no one loves us, but the book retailers like Amazon have algorithms that take reviews into account. So when you review a book you loved, it is not only a nice gesture, it actually makes it more likely that that retailer will automatically try harder to sell that book to others.

14.Do you write the story at a stretch or you take your time to complete it? If you take a longer time, wouldn’t you be forgetting the story? How do you tackle it?
I write very quickly. I typically write from four to six books a year. A few times I've only written three, and I think one year I wrote eight books. I enjoy writing, and never suffer from writers block. So my routine is to think on a story for a few days or as long as two weeks. I doodle a lot during that time, just writing down ideas for characters, setting, and plot events. Then I put it all together in my mind and start the story. Sometimes I will write a screenplay for it at the same time (I'm also a screenwriter), but either way, once I start typing I'm usually done in six weeks or less.

15.Traditional or Self-Publishing? Why?
Self! Nothing against traditional publishing, not at all. In fact, I tried to be traditionally-published at first, because that was all I knew how to do. But after spending years getting rejected, I heard of that "eBook" thing and figured that the book couldn't hurt me by being on Amazon and other retailers. So I published there and began to accumulate a very wonderful set of fans who have grown in numbers and now follow me and buy my books.

16.How is the response so far for the book?

It's been wonderful! The book has a very high average rating on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, and the critical response by genre book reviewers has been wonderful! And the audiences have been enjoying it as well - it's been out over a month now and has spent most of that time on numerous bestseller lists on Amazon in several markets and on different continents. Now I just have to get the movie made...


One of the most versatile writers around, Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally bestselling novelist, produced screenwriter, and multiple Bram Stoker Award finalist. While he is best known for horror (and is one of the most successful indie horror authors in the United States), he has also written bestselling thriller, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, humor, young adult, and middle grade works, and Western Romance.

As a novelist, Michaelbrent has written dozens of bestsellers that have also received critical acclaim, and he and his work have been featured on everything from mom-and-pop podcasts to Publishers Weekly, The San Francisco Book Review, and National Public Radio.

Find more about him at his website, WrittenInsomnia.com, or sign up for his mailing list (and get a free book!) at http://eepurl.com/VHuvX.