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Author Interview: Michael Crane

In my next installment of author interviews, I wanted to bring to you the man who has made drabbles incredibly popular recently. For those who don't know, a drabble is a 100-word short story. This author, Michael Crane, has now sold somewhere in the realm of 2,000 of these little nuggets in the form of two collections: LESSONS I and LESSONS II. He's currently hard at work in the third edition, which yours truly has a sample in.

Mike and I are part of a little lynch mob -- erm, writer's clique, called the Indie Author Mafia. I'll be bringing the Mafia around over the next few weeks. Mikey just happened to draw the short straw. And he brought along a little friend, how nice.

I'll now proceed to hide in the closet. I've sent Mike the questions via paper airplane. You'll see why in a second.

Sean Sweeney: Let's talk first about your writing. How did you get your start, and what drives/motivates you?

Michael Crane:  Thanks for having me!

Mr. Giggles:  *coughs*  Ahem!

MC:  Oh yeah… Mr. Giggles decided to tag along.  Hope that’s okay.  I tried to tell him that he couldn’t come, and that’s when he broke one of my fingers.  *waves hand*  So, I really had no choice, as you can see.

Mr. G:  Crybaby…

MC:  Anyway, I was a huge movie fan when I was little—still am.  I had a crazy idea in my head that I’d make movies when became older.  Then I began to read and that’s when I realized what it was that I loved about the movies I’d watch over and over again.  The story.  That’s what always captivated me, and the more I read, the more I wanted to be a writer.  So, I’d write some short stories—a bunch of horror.  I loved horror movies and books back then.  I had all of those books by Alvin Schwartz, SCARY SHORT STORIES.  When I grew up, my interest in horror, or at least writing horror books/stories kind of faded, until I started on the LESSONS books. 

SS: Drabbles. They seem pretty popular for you -- how did you come across them, and how do you write them?

MC:  I wrote a story for an online contest that was 55 words long.  It didn’t have to include the title as long as it wasn’t over a certain number of words (4 or 5, if I’m not mistaken).  I never wrote anything that short, and it was fun.  Challenging, but fun.

An author friend asked me if I had ever tried my hand at a drabble before, which I learned was a story that was told in 100 words.  Really the only 100-word shorts I’ve read were by David McAfee, from his excellent collection THE LAKE AND 17 OTHER STORIES.  The more I thought about the idea, I decided to give it a shot.  It was October, and I thought I’d try to go outside my normal comfort zone when it comes to writing, and give horror another shot.

Mr. G:  Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.  Stop boring everybody, otherwise I’ll break another finger.  When are we going to talk about me!?

MC:  I’m getting there, I’m getting there!  Okay, so the first drabble I wrote was “Lessons.”  Just kind of came to me.  I was really pleased and surprised by how well it turned out.  I showed it to some other people, and they really got a kick out of it.  So, I just wondered how far I could take this.  At first, I thought I’d make some sort of a mini collection, of maybe two or three drabbles, and just put them up on Smashwords.com for free.  Once I started, I couldn’t help myself.  I kept writing them and it came to a point where I felt I had enough where I could publish it for 99 cents.  It was really just a mad experiment, and I had no idea if anything was going to come from it.  Now, when it comes to how I write them—

Mr. G:  Stop pontificating, asshole!

MC:  I’m answering the question!  I’m not pontificating!

Mr. G:  Just give him a simple answer for once!  Nobody is interested in your process.  You don’t have a fucking process!  You think of fucked up things and see if you can make a drabble out of it, and that’s that!  See!  That’s the pontification-free version, jackass!

MC:  It’s a little more than that, and I really don’t think I’m pontificating—or I hope not.  Anyway, yes, I do try to think of really twisted scenarios, but I also try to inject some dark, campy humor into them as well.  I think that’s why people like them.  They’re creepy and disgusting, but in a goofy and fun way.

SS: You seem to have a couple of creepy characters in your first two editions of Lessons. Clown and Giggles. Explain the method behind the madness.

MC:  I wished I had a method… I just try to think of things that might’ve horrified me as a child and use that as my guide.  *looks at Mr. Giggles*  Is that better?

Mr. G:  Much.

MC:  No pontificating in that answer?

Mr. G:  Keep mocking me, and I’m going to force-feed you a couple of razor blades.

SS: Will they make an appearance in Lessons III? Any other new devilish, wonderful characters we're going to see?

Mr. G:  Oh that’s right… this is Clown’s loverboy, ain’t it?

MC:  Stop it.

Mr. G:  No, this is the guy that was boo-hooing because his beloved Clown wasn’t in LESSONS II, ain’t that right?  What’s so scary about Clown?  Huh?  He writes love letters!  That’s not scary, that’s just plain lazy!

MC:  Please, he was asking me a question.  To answer the question, yes, Mr. Giggles and Clown do make appearances in LESSONS III.

Mr. G:  Effin’ Clown…

MC:  *rolls eyes*  Anyway, there are some new characters you’ll run into.  You’ll run into Lil’ Gabby.

Mr. G:  Oh, that’s a terrifying name, now ain’t it?  Whoa-ho!  Watch out!  Lil’ Gabby is coming for you!  How can you not shit your pants senseless when you hear a name like that!

MC:  *mutters*  People can say the same about your name—

Mr. G:  What was that?!  Care to repeat that little comment?

MC:  Nothing!  Nothing…  *whistles*

SS: Okay boys, settle down. You've also got a pretty good niche going in short stories, mainly the slice of life tales. What goes into those stories?

Mr. G:  Hee-hee-hee-hee-hee…

MC:  It’s not that kind of slice!  Behave yourself.

Mr. G:  Up yours.

MC:  Raymond Carver was a huge influence on me.  When I started reading his short stories in college, that’s when I realized what kind of writing I should focus on.  I love throwing characters in real everyday situations and see how they react to them.  It’s fun to find some experiences in life and see if you can make an entertaining story out of any of them.

SS: The big question everyone's been waiting for: When is the Drabble Man going to sit down and slog it out with a 90,000-word behemoth, better known as a novel?

MC:  You’re never going to let me go on that one, are you?  I wished I knew, but the truth is I don’t.  It really depends on the idea and material I come up with.  At the moment, all of the ideas I have are for short stories.  I know I should attempt something longer.

SS: Has Nermal tried to get out of the cage recently?

MC:  Happy to say that she hasn’t.  Nermal is my chinchilla, and about a month ago or so she managed to escape from her cage.  She was just in my room, so no big deal, but my room isn’t quite chinchilla-proof, so I was afraid of her chewing on wires or getting lost under my bed.  It’s quite a thing to wake up to, seeing that opened cage door.  I was so afraid she was stuck somewhere, but she was just by the corner of my bed.  I think she even barked, which is probably what woke me up.  Her way of saying, “Ha, ha!  Look at me!  I’m out, I’m out!”  I’ve found a better way to close the door, so I don’t think she can get out.  Not to say that she hasn’t tried.

SS: Who is the man behind Mike Crane? What loosens him up? What does he do when he's not typing away?

MC:  Um… uh… uh… hmm…  *looks at Mr. Giggles*

Mr. G:  *shrugs*

MC:  I think I may have to get back to you on that one.

SS: What's next on the writing agenda that we should prepare ourselves for?

MC:  Not really sure at the moment.  Like I said, it’s whatever hits me at the mom—

Mr. G:  A Giggles novella!  A Giggles novella!

MC:  I told you that I haven’t decided for sure if I want to do that!  Don’t want people to burn out on you.  You’re annoying me by the day and—

Mr. G:  *snap!*  Ooops, there goes another finger!

MC:  FOR GAWD’S SAKE!!!  YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO BREAK ANOTHER FINGER, YOU STUPID LITTLE MONKEY!

Mr. G:  *snap!*  And I didn’t have to break another one, either.

MC:  STOP IT!!  STOP!!  Did it ever occur to you that I can’t write a Giggles novella if I don’t have any fingers?

Mr. G:  Computers have that voice thing, or whatever.  You can talk into it, and it’ll type for you.

MC:  I don’t know how to do that.

Mr. G:  Well, now would be a good time to learn!  *snap!*

MC:  AUUUUGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!

SS: Thanks for coming by, Mike!

MC:  Th-th-thank you… oh god… I think I need to go to the hospital.  I’m feeling numb… losing my sight… so cold… so, so cold… the pain…  the pain

You can find out more about Mike's work at his website. You can follow his on Twitter at @M_Crane, and find him on Facebook. LESSONS III will be coming to an eBookstore near you within the next few months.

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