Today I welcome another Texas author, Michael Bayer, to my blog. Michael released his debut novel, The Absconded, in November. You can purchase it on Amazon.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
I always had an artistic side. I tried to draw, but I never could get on paper to match what was in my head. I played the violin for a few years in grade and middle school, but my high school didn’t have an orchestra, so I needed something new to do. Then I had an assignment to write a scene using the ten or twenty vocabulary we were learning that week. I still remember my English teacher’s exact words after I read it aloud, “Herm, that was beautiful.” I’m pretty sure that was the seed that started it all.
Over the years I would get complements for my writing, usually term papers in college and grad school. Whenever any writing was needed for work, I would jump at it. It would take over twenty-five years before I could do anything beyond that, but that’s where my wife comes in. When we moved to Texas for her career, she insisted I start writing full time. Just when I thought I couldn’t love her any more, she shoulders the financial burden so I can pursue a dream.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I know some people say it’s the moment you start writing, but for me it was when I pressed the publish button and it became available for anyone to purchase. It had taken a little over three years to get to that point, but felt so good when I finally clicked that button, though with some trepidation.
Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?
I started a short story, but that was mainly to keep my writing skills up while I was working on the nuts and bolts side of self-publishing. The downside to doing it all yourself is the need to step away from your writing to work on the business side of it. Sometimes I can jump right back in to writing, but most of the time it takes a couple of days to get back into the flow of the story. But I’m happy to say I’ve started the sequel to The Absconded. It starts off a few months after book one ended and is a continuation of the story.
Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write full-time, but not the full eight hours a day I’d like to. By the time I get my wife off to work and daughter off to school, it’s almost 9:00 AM and I haven’t even had my breakfast yet. Which is fine, because I’m not hungry until around 9:30 AM anyway. Once that’s done, it’s off to the word mines!
I tend to write in bursts. Thirty minutes of staring or pacing followed by ten minutes of furious writing, followed by on the fly editing, re-wording, deleting, doubting and occasional cursing. When I’m really stuck, I go and spend time with my bearded dragon. He’s a good listener but doesn’t hold back his opinions. This all goes on until about 3:30 PM when it’s time for me to pick my daughter up from school. That’s when I worry about making dinner. I rarely do any work in the evening, unless I have an inspired idea. I’ve learned that if I don’t write it down almost immediately, I’ll forget it.
What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?
There are two things I love about being a writer. The first is when someone reads a scene or a chapter, and completely gets what I wrote. They have a clear image in their head of the characters and settings. It’s not easy putting what’s in your head onto the page, but when that happens it’s magical. The second is when someone tells me how much they love a character. To have spent so much time crafting and giving them a personality, mannerisms, quirks and a history is not easy, but so satisfying to hear someone, other than me, say how much they love that person.
The worst part is deleting scenes. The Absconded is about 107,000 words and that was after I trimmed about 35,000 words. There were scenes I spent weeks writing, and absolutely loved. But in the end, they didn’t serve the story and slowed down the pace, so they needed to go. It was rough, but in the end I was glad. The story was much better, much tighter. Whomever said you must be prepared to kill your darlings was right.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
The Absconded was written flat out. I had been trying to write it for about ten years, so when I was finally able to dedicate myself to writing, it just came pouring out. That’s why I needed to trim 35,000 words from it as well.
Unfortunately, I am not having the same experience with the next book. While I came up with the basic idea for book 2 (and book 3) while editing The Absconded, I needed to outline the story and character arcs. That took about three months, but once done it felt great to start writing those people again.
How did you come up with the title?
I’ve always liked the sound of the word, absconded. It’s a fancy word for stealing and would always conjure up images of Ocean’s Eleven and Mission: Impossible type heists. It’s also similar to abducted, but with a big difference. You abduct a person, but abscond an object. Having someone think of a person as an object, a thing, is quite unnerving to me. You haven’t just taken away their humanity, you don’t even acknowledge it. Right off the bat, it sets the tone of a person, or in this case an entire alien race.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
More than you think based on what’s described in the book. I read all I could on theoretical physics and scoured NASA and other websites for space travel, living in space, and long distance expeditions. Now I had to apply that to an alien race and decide how they would resolve those issues. And this became an interesting rabbit hole for a couple of months. How would an alien species design their ship? What would be a priority to them? Now I had to create the alien’s history and how they evolved because culture determines priorities, so that required researching different cultures on our planet. Once all that was decided, building their ship was easy. Well, on paper it was easy.
Another rabbit hole was designing the alien’s biological research area and procedures. You’re abducting aliens, but how do you know they aren’t contagious to you? I needed to create a combination quarantine/medical research facility and all that encompassed, but make it alien and believable. And place it on a ship where real estate is at a premium.
Very little of the technical aspects are explained in the book, but I’m hoping to describe at least some of it in to the sequels. It was a lot of fun and I’d like to explain some of the science and logic behind the tech, but only if it pertains to the story.
If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?
The Absconded is the first in a series. How many books in total remains to be seen, but I was thinking of at least three. It took me a couple of months to plot it out and have everyone’s character arcs. I don’t have a firm title for the second book, but it picks up about three or four months after the end of The Absconded. The survivors of the first book (yes, I am being coy for those who haven’t read it) are now in limbo. They’re all far from home and some are wondering whether they have a home to return to while others are searching for their purpose, their function in life. Everyone’s definition of home and purpose is different and the story is their journey to find it, all while being hunted by the aliens who originally captured them.
What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?
The hardest scenes were describing the settings on the ship, specifically where all of the aliens that have been collected are kept. Making it foreign, yet similar, was a challenge and required quite a few re-writes. My first attempt was pages of settings and descriptions and was boring, almost to tears. Thankfully I was able to find right balance of action, character and setting. I think the first year of writing was finding my voice, my style.
Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?
I need a dedicated place to work. Someplace I can go and my mind says, “Okay, playtime is over.” My wife’s work requires a lot of conference calls, so it made sense for her to use the home office. Once she closes the doors, she can tune out the rest of the house. Since we never use our formal living room, I converted it into a second office. It has a desk and an old sofa, but that’s just so the cats can hang out in there while I write.
But I could easily pick any spot and label it my work area. What really matters to me is getting into the right frame of mind for what I’m writing, and that requires music. Lots of music. I have about 60 GB of music on my computer (about half of my CD collection) and there’s always something playing when I’m writing. If it’s an action scene, I need a song to give it a cadence and rhythm. If it’s a character scene, then it needs to be appropriate for the scene. Even when creating a character one of my first decisions is what type of music would be appropriate for them, what type would they like, and I listen to that incessantly while creating their history and description. For me, music is more important than where I write.
Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?
In addition to music, my writing is fueled by green tea. Dragonwell, to be specific. On average, I have five cups a day. Anything else I snack on is whatever I find in the kitchen. It ranges from an apple to carrots to chocolate cake. But the tea is required and sometimes supersedes lunch.
What book are you reading right now?
I’m reading two books at the moment. Seven Brief Lessons in Physics by Carlo Rovelli. I like keeping abreast of science and this is a great refresher on the basics of Einstein’s theory of relativity and other advances in physics. It also goes into the history that led to the discoveries and theories. I find it fascinating how one little observation, a moment of curiosity can lead to a discovery that reshapes how we view the world and universe around us.
The other book is Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Mexico City has banned vampires. Just think about that for a moment. That means vampires are so ubiquitous and intelligent that you can ban them from a city. That says a lot about the world of the novel and immediately caught my attention. I’m only a couple of chapters in, but the world building and characters have me completely hooked.
If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?
First up is Tom Clancy. He made technical jargon and events utterly fascinating. He described the explosion of a nuclear bomb in vivid detail, both the physics of it and how it affects the environment, and made it riveting. He also managed to juggle so many characters in his novels and I never was confused. I would love to know how he managed that.
Second would be Aaron Sorkin. He’s a master of writing conversation. The first few seasons of the West Wing are fantastic. He made smart people with opposing view points arguing so engrossing.
Unfortunately for Scott, aliens exist. Snatched from Earth, he finds himself added to their collection of creatures gathered from throughout the universe. His cage is a window to the wondrous varieties of life, and the atrocities that can be inflicted upon it. Atrocities that are clues of what awaits him.
Nearby is Kaliria, a furred being that’s equal parts wild and wily. A long, torturous captivity has filled her with a righteous rage. She spends her days alone, simmering in her cramped confinement, pining for the fields and forests of her world. Pining for companionship.
While happenstance makes Kaliria and Scott neighbors, it’s desperation that makes them allies. In order to survive, they must overcome each other’s language, culture and mistrust, all while keeping their interactions hidden from their captors. And if they succeed, there’s still one more obstacle to surmount — escaping an alien ship traveling through space.
About the Author
Michael C. Bayer lives in North Texas with his family consisting of two humans, two reptiles and four felines. At the urging of the humans, he quit his job to follow a life long dream. He combined his love of science, knack for telling tall tales and decades of daydreaming, and began to write. The Absconded is his first novel.
You can purchase The Absconded on Amazon.