Interview with Mike Wells – Author of Lust, Money & Murder Series
Peter: I had the pleasure of reading some of your novellas in the thriller series, “Lust, Money & Murder”, starring Elaine Brogan as a Secret Agent. I’m looking forward to continuing on the journey. Thank you for agreeing to this interview and allowing us to discuss these books and your influences in becoming and developing as an author.
Mike: Thanks so much, Peter! I’m honored to be here.
Peter: You are a prolific writer with over 25 books published. What was the first book you released and what inspired you to write it and become an author?
Mike: That’s not a simple question to answer because my writing career has been, like my book plots, a long and twisty path, with a lot of surprises. I wrote seven novels back in the 1990’s and 2000’s trying to get traditionally published using NYC literary agents, etc. One of the biggest surprises was that, when I finally got close to achieving that goal, I found out that a traditional publishing contract is not what I wanted, even with a big publisher. If you know anything about business and marketing, these contracts are deeply slanted in favor of the publisher, not the author. They kind of assume an “author” is a person who sits in a room cranking out books and is more or less oblivious to business side of things and should just be happy collecting royalty checks, however small they might be. This is not who I am. I’m very entrepreneurial and want to take complete charge of my publishing career, and that includes being responsible for the marketing, book titling, blurb writing, book cover design, editing, pricing, release schedule, etc. Fortunatley, about the time I realized this, the Amazon Kindle product had just hit the market, and so I decided to polish up all the best books I had written and publish them not only on Kindle, but on Nook, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, etc. So the answer to your question is that back in 2011, I self-published seven books simultaneously.
Peter: You often find a winning recipe which enables you to create a book series. What was your first series and when did you realise it had the attraction to be developed as a series?
Mike: I would say that this decision is partly driven by reader feedback, having readers asking for more books about the same characters, and partly my own desire to write them. Both elements have to be there in order for me to decide to turn a standalone into a series.
Peter: What was your inspiration behind writing the “Lust, Money & Murder” book series?
Mike: With that book, I wanted to write about two things – a strong but flawed female hero, which became Elaine Brogan, and also about currency counterfeiting, which was an interesting area of criminal activity to me and had not, from what I could see, been covered very well in fiction.
Peter: Why did you approach these books as a novella series?
Mike: I didn’t, exactly. At that time (2011) , ebooks were still a relatively new kind of product. No one was sure how long ebooks should be, since there was no paper printing expense. A 50 “page” ebook is no cheaper to download that a 400 ‘page’ ebook. There was also a feeling that with ebooks, readers wanted them to be shorter (don’t ask me why, exactly). Thirdly, there was a lot of hoopla about serials and series coming back a la Charles Dickens, since readers could easily download new installments instantly over the Internet. Anyway, I did a lot of experiementing and found that my ebooks sold better in the way that do it, with a free short starter book and then follow-ups that are longer and normal novel-length.
Peter: The Elaine Brogan character is the focal point of the Lust, Money & Murder books. What was your motivation behind creating Elaine and what attributes did you feel were important in developing her character?
Mike: Well, as I said, I wanted her to be flawed and not one of those perfect, kick-ass superhero types, which I felt there were too many of at that time. It seems to me there was too much focus on phsycial strength and abilities. I wanted her to be more complicated and for her feminine characteristics to be there, intact, working for her in some ways and against her in others, just like masculine characteristics do.
Peter: You are now on book 12 of Lust, Money & Murder, do you feel an ongoing connection with Elaine, and how are you looking to develop her further? Do you feel you still control Elaine or does she now control you?
Mike: LOL, good question. I think about this from time to time. Actually, what Elaine very much feels like to me, is an actress who has signed a lifetime contract to “perform” in my books. In between books she rests, exahusted, in her trailer, but she is impatient for the next story to start and also making jokes about it. “What are you going to make me do this time, Mike? What kind of horrors are you going to put me through?” I think she sees me as a very tough taskmaster who is hard to please, very demanding. So, to answer your question, no, I don’t feel that she has control of anything but she does feel like a very distinct part of myself with her own powerful personality, and she can be difficult at times.
Peter: Do you use storyboarding or mapping processes to develop your plots or do you go with the flow and follow your instinct and gut feeling?
Mike: Well, I used to be a total “panster” (no outlines) but as my skills have developed I’ve become more and more of an outliner. I don’t go too far with it, though—my outlines are very much like a loose charcoal sketch an artist makes before actually applying paint to the canvas. Lots of new ideas come to me during the process of writing, and by the time I’m finiished, the outline has changed a bit. But the overall story arc is usually intact (how it will start, the middle, and the ending)
Peter: Are you very disciplined in how you approach each writing day? What is your routine?
Mike: Yes, I think one has to be disciplined to get anything done, especially if you are trying to be a professional author (earn significant income from your writing). Sometimes you feel inspired and sometimes you don’t, and you just have to push yourself through those hard spots. I try to write 3-4 hours per day, and that’s concentrated writing.
Peter: Did you have any formal education or training in literature and writing?
Mike: Not exactly, but I have three degrees (B.S, M.S., & Ph.D. in engineering) and all the writing I did, especially of the doctoral dissertation, was a great help not only in terms of writing but doing research. The latter is a big part of fiction writing, as I’m sure you would agree. Also, at my jobs and in the businesses I owned I did a tremendous amount of writing—adverts, company newsletters, users manuals, press releases, employee handbooks, etc.—and all of that makes one a better writer, a lot of it transfers to fiction.
Peter: Did you always feel that writing was a path you would take?
Mike: Yes, I knew I wanted to write novels since about the age of eight, when I was addicted to the Hardy Boys Series.
Peter: What authors have you most admired and have had an influence on you?
Mike: Well, there are far too many to name, but a few are Rod Serling, Stephen King, Sidney Sheldon, Nora Ephron, Woody Allen, and Thomas Hardy.
Peter: I know you support upcoming authors so what is the main advice would you give to aspiring or debut authors?
Mike: Be prepared for a very long and difficult climb, not only in perfecting your writing so that readers love it, but also figuring out how to promote your books so that readers know about it in the first place.
Peter: What are the greatest benefits and restrictions to being a Self-Publishing Indie Author?
Mike: The greatest benefit is that you are one hundred percent in control of everything…which also may be the greatest drawback, having that tremendous and broad responsibility on your shoulders. But to use your word, the greatest restriction is definitely that you don’t have the seal of approval of the Establishment and probably never will, no matter how successful you become. That is, unless you manage to publish a book traditionally, too…but then you are no longer just a self-published author, you’re a “hybrid” author. There are some of those, but very few.
Peter: What websites do you feel are important to promote your books on?
Mike: For me, Twitter is my strongest promotional tool, and Facebook, Goodreads and LinkedIn are all tied for the second position. Every successful indie author promotes his/her books differently—I don’t think there are any set rules as to where you have to be. It’s whatever works for you.
Peter: How much time do you spend on writing compared to promoting your books?
Mike: If you include editing, proofreading, outlining, etc. and managing those who help me as “writing,” I would say about 3:1 – three hours of writing for every one hour of promotion.
Peter: What is your favourite medium to enjoy a book: electronic, paper or audio? What appeals to you about each medium?
Mike: All other things being equal, I would read everything in paper format. But all things aren’t equal, including price, storage space, delivery time, the ability to expand font size to reduce eye strain, etc. As a result of this, I only read ebooks – I haven’t bought a paperback or hardback book since 2011. But I travel a lot, live in non-English speaking countries, so I’m probably an exception.
Peter: Can you give us any insights into any future books or projects that you’re working on?
Mike: Well, at the moment I just finished Baby Talk, Book 3 – Daddy’s Back, a sequel in a Rosemary’s Baby/Demon Seed kind of series. This will be released on Halloween. Now I’m working on Book 13 of the Lust, Money & Murder Series, which will be called Face-Off. (By the way, the first three books of that series are a free download now from all major ebook retail sites)
Peter: How can readers learn more about you and your work?
Peter: Mike, I appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions and if there are other snippets of information you wish to provide, please feel free. You are very supportive and complimentary on social media, for which I would personally like to thank you. I would also like to congratulate you on the book series and the development of such intriguing characters and exciting plots.
Mike: Thanks so much, Peter! It was a real pleasure answering all your questions, enjoyed it! And thanks for all the wonderful support you’ve given me and other indie authors.