Interview with Michael J. Martinez

dde26dcf199a48b38a941cfe3a44ca9c-w204@1xMichael J. Martinez is the author of the three novels in the Daedalus trilogy.
You can follow Mr. Martinez on Twitter @mikemartinez72.
His most recent book, The Venusian Gambit will be released on May 5, 2015.

Robert – Starting with the struggles you had with publishing your first book until now, what advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Michael – A book rarely travels a smooth, worry-free road to publication. Granted, the sale of Night Shade Books to Skyhorse Publishing two years ago (which delayed my debut several months and could’ve potentially derailed it entirely) was a bit more extreme than most. But something will go amiss and awry at some point. That’s just how it goes. My advice? Allow your agent to speak for you in difficult negotiations with your publisher, because that’s why they make their 15%. When speaking publicly about anything that’s been difficult, always remain professional about it, even if you’d much prefer to rant. In fact, remain professional in all your dealings. Make your feelings known to all involved, but do so as productively and politely as possible. Publishing is a business — act like someone people want to do business with. That, I think, is my best advice. Be a pro.

Robert – What makes your books stand out from the crowd?
Michael – It always surprised me that nobody put the Napoleonic Era into space before. Yes, of course, there’s the Honor Harrington books, but they took the Napoleonic Era as a model for military SF. I’m talking about putting HMS Victory in space in 1809, as happened in The Venusian Gambit. I think that marriage of Master and Commander naval fiction and a very Star Wars vibe is probably the key difference. And really, it’s just plain fun.

Robert – Tell us some ways that you promote your work?
Michael – I’m doing it RIGHT NOW! Obviously, online interviews, podcasts and guest posts and that sort of thing are a big part of how I get the word out. Of course, I have a blog (http://michaeljmartinez.net) and Twitter (@mikemartinez72). I occasionally do contests and giveaways online. And I manage to hit up two or three conventions each year, which are great fun in addition to being very good promotional vehicles. Reviews, of course, are always welcome, and anything anybody can do to help spread the word about books they like is super important. Finally, I really enjoy participating in the Con or Bust and Worldbuilders auctions, because not only do I get my name and works out there, but I’m generating several hundred dollars a pop for really great causes. That right there is worth it.

Robert – How long have you been writing fiction?
Michael – Well, I’ve been a journalist and marketer for over two decades, and during that time I suppose I’ve dabbled here and there with fiction. But I really never gave it a serious go until the start of 2010. I’d had the idea for the Daedalus trilogy for about seven years by then, but I was originally going to turn it into a pen-and-paper role-playing game — largely because I didn’t think I had the chops to be a fiction writer. Then I suppose I had a fit of hubris one day and decided to go for it. Five-plus years later, the third book is out. And I’ve also sold a short story to the Cthulhu Fhtagn! anthology by Word Horde (coming in August!), which makes me think that this fiction thing may yet have legs beyond Daedalus.

Robert – How often do you read reviews of your books?
Michael – Oh, I read ’em now and then. Certainly, if someone blogs about my work, it’ll crop up on a search alert at some point and I’ll dig in. I scan Goodreads and/or Amazon with less frequency, but I’ll go ahead and see what’s up. I know there’s a maxim of sorts among writers to never read the reviews, and I think that’s probably good advice for many folks. I spent a lot of my career in daily journalism, and I’ve been “reviewed” by editors, PR people, angry sources, etc., hundreds of times, so I tend to have a thick skin about these things. If you take the reviews in aggregate, I’m exceptionally pleased with the response my work has received. In fact, it’s better than I could’ve reasonably expected – The Venusian Gambit got a starred review from Publishers Weekly, after all. And it’s always important to remember that no single work of art will ever please every single person who experiences it — it’s pretty much impossible. Besides…the small handful of rants I’ve read against my books and my alleged crimes against the English language were pretty epic, so much so that I hope writing them was cathartic for the reviewer!

Robert – Where did your love of storytelling come from?
Michael – I think a lot of that came from journalism. Stories have power, after all, and when you can tell people something that will affect how they go about their lives, that’s pretty intense. Now, journalism is very practical, so you’re telling them about their taxes or school boards or, later in my career, about the companies they invest in or purchase products from. But when you get published in newspapers around the world and affect a company’s share price, well…it’s heady stuff. And sobering at the same time — you really work hard not to screw up. When I finally left daily journalism and found the time to try my hand at fiction, I found that impetus translated well, but in a more subtle and more positive way. Now I’m taking people for a really fun, imaginative ride, and I hope it leaves them entertained and maybe just a bit more thoughtful about things.

Robert – Who are some of your favorite writers and how have they influenced your work?
Michael – Obviously, you have to look at C.S. Forester (Horatio Hornblower) and Patrick O’Brian (Master and Commander, etc.) as two of my favorites, as well as huge influences on the Daedalus trilogy. A big part of that is, I think, something of an homage to those great Napoleonic naval adventure writers. Among SF/F and genre, I would say Arthur C. Clarke was a big influence as well. I’ve enjoyed H.P. Lovecraft since a friend introduced me to the Mythos in college, which made me really happy to be able to contribute a story to a Cthulhu anthology. I love the voice Mary Robinette Kowal brings to her Glamourist Histories series; I’ve tried to do something similar in my work as well. Lately, I’ve been all about thrillers, and I’ve been revisiting my love of early Tom Clancy. And of course, I read a ton of history, because historical fantasy is my jam.

Robert – What is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process?
Michael – I firmly believe that a good editor is worth his or her weight in gold. I’ve been fortunate enough to have two excellent editors on the Daedalus trilogy: Ross Lockhart did a great job on The Daedalus Incident and really got my debut off on the right foot, and Cory Allyn has been a joy to work with on The Enceladus Crisis and The Venusian Gambit. I learn a lot from good editors, and I still feel like I have more to learn, so that’s probably my favorite part — learning what works and doesn’t work. I’ve also had input into the covers of the second and third books, and I’ve geeked out over that quite a bit. It helps to have talented cover designers at Skyhorse and a fantastic artist in Lauren Saint-Onge.

Robert – What are your thoughts on print books/ebooks and traditional/self publishing?
Michael – I’ve done a couple of screeds up on my blog on this. I personally don’t care whether people read in print or ebook or listen to the Audible audiobook. They’re getting into my stories, and that’s awesome. And I think self-publishing is a perfectly valid way to get stories out there. For my own personal situation as a part-time novelist (and full-time worker, father, husband, etc.), I simply don’t have to time to be my own publisher. I feel like I have a great partnership with my publisher — I write books, and they worry about the editing, copyediting, cover design, production, distribution, publicity, etc. To me, that’s worth what they’re getting out of it. To others with more time and patience, it may feel quite different, and if they want to take that on, then they can do very well for themselves. Whichever way you get your story out there, it’s all good. Get it out there.

Robert – How detailed are your outlines?
Michael – Frighteningly detailed, in point of fact. I use Excel to map out each scene in the book, complete with characters, location, timing, action, plot/subplot, character arcs, little setting bits to help build out the world, etc. I put a lot of time into the outline, but in the end, I end up knowing exactly what I’m writing. It’s like writing forty feature articles, which is something I can easily knock out in a day or two. It may not work for everyone, but it works really well for me.

Robert – What future projects are you working on?
Michael – I really wish I could tell you! Just by saying that, you can safely assume that I’m working on what’s next, but the business end isn’t quite wrapped up yet. When it is, you’ll hear me crowing excitedly from the rooftops. At the moment, I can tell you that the Daedalus trilogy is very much wrapped up and done, and that my future work will not be in that setting. I’m also sticking with historical fantasy, because I enjoy it immensely. I might or might not be throwing up some teasers on my blog in the coming days and weeks, because I’m really excited about it. As it happens, it’s also some of my best writing yet, which honestly kind of took me by surprise. As in, “Wow…I wrote that? That’s pretty darn good!”

Robert – I noticed the beer fridge on your site. What’s the best craft beer you’ve had recently?
Michael – I’m doing this interview while vacationing up in Vermont with a can of Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine IPA next to me, and it’s excellent. Vermont beer in general is just amazing and I wish I could get more of it down in New York. So many great breweries up here. Then again, I do like Belgians a lot too. A few nights ago, I treated myself and my cousin to a cellared 2013 Gouden Carolus Van De Keiser Blauw, a strong dark ale brewed once a year in small batches to commemorate the birthday of Charles V of Belgium. I geeked out over that quite a bit.

R JunkerRobert Junker – AISFP Contributor

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