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One of my favorite activities on the blog is introducing new authors to my readers through interviews and author spotlights. Today we have as guest mystery writer Michael W. Smart, author of the ‘Bequia Mysteries’ series. The books are set in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, quite the tropical and exotic location, at least for those of us who don’t get to travel often far away from home.
I hope you will enjoy the interview and check out the author’s books. So let’s get started.
Marika, thank you so much for hosting me on your blog and for this opportunity to introduce myself and my novels to your readers.
Tell us a bit more about yourself. What are your hobbies outside of writing fiction and how do you usually spend your day?
I’m of Jamaican and British ancestry, born in New York City but lived until age 16 in various parts of Europe and the West Indies. Probably where I acquired the travel bug, but I think I actually inherited it from my adventurous mother.
I retired from the work-a-day world for the first time in my late twenties to travel around the world, and I spent years sailing around the Caribbean. Returned to the work-a-day world to raise two extraordinary kids, and retired again as soon as they were off on their own. My passions include flying, blue water sailing, reading, and of course writing.
A typical writing day for me begins around one or two in the afternoon, depending on when I awake and get out of bed. I’m usually writing until three or four in the morning. Many times I pull all-nighters. If the juices are flowing I’ll just keep going.
Usually the first thing I do is go through my email, check my social sites, browse any blogs which were shared and the ones I follow, make comments and respond to emails, check the day’s headlines, make notes on what I need to follow up on, including any marketing I need to do for that day, all over a cup or two of coffee.
That usually takes about two to three hours. Then I shower and dress and get ready as though I’m going to the office, which I am. I settle into a favorite nook, reopen my laptop and I’m there for the next ten to twelve hours with breaks for food or drink or to stretch my legs. I work until my eyelids begin drooping and the keyboard begins to get blurry.
What inspired you to start writing mystery novels?
I was first inspired to write by reading the novels of authors who captured my imagination with compelling stories and characters. I was fascinated by the power of imagination, and the ability to tell great stories. That triggered my own imagination and my desire to write and tell stories.
Which authors are your biggest inspiration and what are you reading at the moment?
I cut my teeth reading authors like Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett, John D. MacDonald, Author Conan Doyle, Leslie Charteris with the great Simon Templar Saint series, John Creasey’s The Toff, and Dick Francis among many others.
And of course sci-fi greats like Clarke, Wells, Bradbury, Heinlein, Herbert, Asimov to name just a few. These authors initially inspired me to write and their writing continue to inspire me, and those are the genres I write in, mystery and science fiction.
At the moment I’m reading most of my own work because I have projects at various stages going back and forth to my editor, and most of my other reading is research. I try to put weekends aside for pleasure reading, but that has to compete for attention with all the other non-writing activities I cram into the weekend, especially since I like to finish a novel in one sitting.
When a book really grabs me I won’t want to put it down. Last month I finished His Kidnapper’s Shoes by indie author Maggie James. A fantastic read. I really loved it.
Can you talk a bit about the Bequia Mystery series? How many books are published so far and how many more do you intend to write?
The Bequia Mysteries are about mystery and danger spiced with a bit of romance set in the exotic islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and involve three central characters who share my passion for ocean sailing and flying, and who navigate complex relationships while attempting to solve the central dilemma and of course, stay alive.
The stories involve themes of redemption, life changing choices, and love. Two titles in the series have been published, Dead Reckoning, the first novel in the series, and Deadeye, the second title, will be available August 5th. The third novel in the series is already completed, scheduled to be published around Christmas, and I’m currently working on the fourth novel. I have more story ideas for the series and I’ll continue writing them until I run out of plot ideas or my characters decide to do something different with their lives.
What do you like most about the main character, Nicholas Gage? Why him?
When I began writing the Bequia Mystery Series the character Nicholas Gage actually came first. Then I decided to set the stories in the Grenadines. It was a time when I was contemplating returning to the Grenadines to write. But I knew it wouldn’t be the same as when I lived there, some things I wouldn’t be able to still do. Too much time had passed, my perspective and my body had changed. And I wondered what it’d be like living there now.
As I thought about those things the character developed, and also the themes. So Gage arrives in the Grenadines with an entirely new perspective than he had in his past life, and he has to cope with reinventing himself at an older stage in life. That is what fascinates me about Gage, how he reinvents himself and navigates those changes in his life.
What is the reason for choosing the Caribbean setting for the books?
That was because the main character came first, as I just explained. And the idea from which the character developed made it natural to set the character and his story in the Grenadines. Also it allowed me to write about sailing as part of the stories.
Are the Bequia novels your first published work?
Yes they are. I’ve been writing since about age 13, but mostly as a hobby. Only in the last 5 years did it become a full time vocation, which influenced my decision to publish.
I understand that you self-published your books. Why not use a traditional publishing house?
I decided to self-publish in order to maintain control and bypass the obstacles presented by traditional publishing, especially for a first time author.
It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to be published by a traditional publisher, but it’d have to be on my terms. So what are the chances of that happening? By self-publishing I get my work out into the world and into the hands of readers, including any agent or publisher who might take an interest.
Are you a full time writer?
Yes, I write full time. I retired from the work-a-day world as soon as I’d decided I wanted to devote full time to wandering and writing.
Do you have any tips and advice for aspiring, budding writers?
I get this question quite a lot, and my answer every time is the advice I’ve heard from every writer who is serious about their work, and I pass it on. It is to write, and write, and write, everyday. It doesn’t matter what you write, just write. Practice, practice and keep practicing.
And the other tip, perhaps as important, is to learn the craft. How to do more than just string words and sentences together, but how to manipulate language. Often what’s going on in one’s imagination doesn’t get translated to the page. And it doesn’t happen by itself or by accident.
Doesn’t mean you need to take writing courses or get a degree in creative writing, although those will teach you the craft. But I think one of the best ways to learn the craft is to read, read and read, especially in the genre you enjoy and you want to create in. And while you’re reading pay attention to the language, how words are strung together to create a scene, or produce an emotion, or make you visualize what the author is imagining.
Thank you Michael for a great interview, it was a pleasure to learn more about you and your work.