Michael Gerard Bauer - Interview (Mar 2014)
Q. What prompted you to sit down and write your first story? Tell us about your writing journey.
The first things I sat down to write were actually song lyrics, because songwriters especially Bob Dylan, were by far the biggest early influence on me.
I got the desire to write stories more after I went to University and did a large range of literature subjects. I loved the American writers like Steinbeck, Faulkner, Salinger and Vonnegut. When I became an English teacher I was always planning to write short-stories and send them off to magazines to see if I could get published, but I never got around to doing it. One of those short-stories was going to be based on some memories I had of looking for silkworms on the mulberry tree in our family backyard when I was a kid. It was never written as a short story, but over time it grew into something much larger, my first YA novel The Running Man.
But to answer your original question, the first story I actually completed and sent away, was only 100 words long! It was called The Dos and Don'ts of Short Story Writing. It was a short-story (obviously!) about the art of short-story writing, which involved a story, about a short-story writer, who was short! I wrote it as an entry in the 2003 Brisbane Writers Festival Writesmall micro-story contest. The stories had to be exactly 100 words in length. There were over 600 entries and amazingly mine won. I received some lovely prizes of clothes and books and a holiday at a beach resort and I also got to read my story out one night at the Festival. It didn't take long! Also, three or four word phrases from my story were printed on the backs of all the Festival volunteers' t-shirts. So I was a published author at last - at least on cotton. Just a few days after I was told I had won the Writesmall competition, I received an offer to publish The Running Man. It was quite a week for an aspiring writer.
Q. How important are trailers in promoting your books?
Everything little bit of publicity helps, but I'm not sure book trailers have had a huge impact for me yet. The most effective trailer I've had was the one created by my son Joe for Eric Vale Epic Fail.
Q. What tips would you give to an aspiring writer?
First up, concentrate much more on the 'writing' bit than the 'aspiring' bit. If you write what you're passionate about, then you are a writer. I was excellent at aspiring to be a writer. I did it successfully for many years. Taking the plunge and actually writing something? That was a little more challenging. Also you should keep in mind that you are your initial target audience. So write the stories that you would want to read, the ones that move, touch, inspire or excite you in some way. And be determined and resilient and believe in yourself and your story. That's easy to say, but as I know from personal experience, much harder to do at times. Finally read the kinds of books you want to write and seek out like-minded people.
Q. Do your characters wake you up at night with ideas?
Not really. I'm a pretty sound sleeper, but I often drift off to sleep thinking about my characters or scenes from a story I'm trying to write. Most of my ideas come when I'm out walking. I try to do an hour morning walk each day, particularly when I have a work in progress. I follow basically the same route each time when I walk, so I'm on automatic pilot while I think about various aspects of the story I'm working on. I'm not sure why, but everything always seems clearer when I walk and I often find solutions to writing problems or come up with new or better plot ideas. My novel Just a Dog owes its entire existence to a walk. I highly recommend it.
Q. Where is your favourite place to write?
I rarely write anywhere else but at home. We have a study upstairs and a small writing nook downstairs. I'm usually at one of those two places, mainly depending on the weather. It's generally a bit cooler downstairs. Although I love the idea of writing in cafes, I could never do it. I need to be away from people and distractions when I write.
Q. Do you road test your ideas before you start your story?
No. In fact I don't like to talk about a new story to anyone much until it's finished. I think Writing Groups can be really helpful, but they are definitely not for me. Discussing potential ideas or even rough drafts with someone else would probably make me lose confidence and focus. I like to get it all done by myself and then hand it over and say, 'There it is. That's what I wanted to write. What do you think?' My wife Adriana is always the first person to read the completed manuscript. She takes great pleasure in correcting my spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes!
Q. If you could invite one author, dead or alive to dinner who would it be?
Just one? That's cruel! And it's a very tough question because I suspect some of my favourite authors might not be that sociable. Like you probably wouldn't get much out of Salinger. Ok it's a toss up between Kurt Vonnegut and John Steinbeck and in a photo finish I'll opt for Kurt since in my twenties I read more of his books than anyone else's. Plus I think he'd be a very entertaining dinner guest.
Q. If you could be any character from any book for a day who would you be and why?
That's an even tougher question! There are plenty of characters I love, like Yossarian from Catch 22 for example, but I wouldn't want to be him or be in his situation, even for a day. Atticus Finch? No, I think I'll go with Gatzby. With his money I could pack quite a bit into twenty-four hours. Party time!
Q. What’s next from Michael Gerard Bauer?
The next thing coming out for me will be the first of three spin-off books featuring the crazy adventures of a character from the Eric Vale series called Secret Agent Derek 'Danger' Dale. Like the Eric Vale books these will be fully illustrated by my amazing son Joe Bauer. The first book is done and almost ready for the printers so I have two more stories to write this year. I'm also in the middle of writing a light-hearted teenage novel featuring a female narrator. Then, after all those are done, I really want to write a serious YA novel in the style of The Running Man.
Speaking of The Running Man, 2014 marks ten years (!) since that book was published and so this year I'm very excited to say that there will be a special 10th Anniversary Edition released with a new cover. (Although the new cover will in fact be based on the original cover design which was replaced at the last moment ten years ago, when a couple of book buyers gave it some negative feedback. I'm very happy they are finally using it because it's the cover that I and my publisher always wanted for the book.)