Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Author Interview: Michael J DeRosa
Michael J. DeRosa is a college graduate with a B.A. in composition, and graduate work at the Juilliard School of Music. He has been a teacher for many years in private, public and performing arts schools. He is the father of four children. As a teacher with a great love of children, writing a teenage adventure story was second nature to him. He has adapted his novel into a screenplay and a TV pilot, as yet to be produced.
Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
I think good writing has to do a little of both. So I outline the entire story first. I know the beginning and ending in my mind before I write anything. Then I make a list of things I would like to see happen in the story, and then organize those things into a logical order. At that point I have a working outline, but some things will require more than one chapter. So I adapt the rough outline into a chapter by chapter outline. Then when I start writing and “fleshing” in the story, the characters lead the way, and I can let the story flow, without it running wild.
Do your characters ever want to take over the story?
Of course that’s always a danger if you’ve created real, unique, strong characters, which is a must for a good story. That is also something else I know before I start writing. Good characters take on a life of their own, which can send you down roads that might not take you where you want the story to go. That’s another reason why I outline everything first. Instead of having to end up scratching dialogue and events that divert the story, the outline lets me know beforehand that, I’m off track before I write something I like, but I’ll have to eliminate later in the process.
What is your favourite food?
My favorite food, like Garfield’s, is lasagna. Like my stories it has everything in it. It’s satisfying, and fills you up, not leaving you hungry for more. It’s a complete meal in one that only leaves you waiting for the next good meal. I like stories that do the same, and that’s what I strive to write.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I am definitely “night owl”, and I do my best work and get my best inspirations late at night. My pet peeve is daylight disturbing my sleep. However I get the menial tasks of typing, editing, and rereading what I thought was so great the night, before accomplished during the day. That being said, you just never know when “inspiration” is going to hit you. It could be while you’re driving in the car or stuck in a waiting room. That’s why I always carry a pencil and paper with me wherever I go to jot down those fleeting thoughts before I can forget them.
Where do you dream of travelling to and why?
I don’t have much of the wanderlust, and the places I dream of seeing aren’t near a five star hotel. That’s one of the reasons my story takes place on all seven continents at mysterious ruins that cover the globe. For instance Tiahuanaco is at 14,000 feet with air so rarified that it burns to breathe in. Writing about them brings me there through my characters, and from the comfort of my living room. I’m fascinated by ancient megalithic sites that defy explanation and seem to predate known history. I do dream of going to see them with my own eyes, but I’m a bit of a coach potato, so I let my characters do take the adventures for me.
Do distant places feature in your books?
Exotic distant places are what my story is all about! In fact I’ve written in my personal notes that the real stars of my story are not the characters, but the places that they go to. I’ve spent years reading and researching about ancient megalithic structures that cover the entire earth that are so intriguing and fascinating that they inspired me to create a story as to why they exist. There are all sorts of theories, from ancient aliens visiting in prehistory, to civilizations that were destroyed by Noah’s Flood which try to explain them. Somehow strange unexplained forces and events are always associated with these ruins, and placing that in the story only adds to the adventure.
Do you listen to music while writing?
That’s an unfair question, because I went to Juilliard as a music composition major. So like the plumber’s own house that leaks, “listening” to music is more like work than something that relaxes me. There is always music going on in my head. So when I’m writing a part of my story, I can picture the whole thing happening in my head like I was watching a movie. My mind can’t imagine the movie without a film score playing in the background while I picture it. In fact I’ve already adapted my novel into a screenplay, and I’ve written a fully orchestrated main theme for it, just in case I can get it attached to the project.
As a first time author, “Gateway of the Sun” is my latest release. However, the story is the first installment of a trilogy. I have already outlined the entire trilogy, and also adapted the first into a screenplay, and a TV Pilot with six episodes completed based on the main adventure in the first story. The synopsis pretty much spells the story out. What perhaps it doesn’t cover is that it’s full of comedy. The two main characters are ordinary eighteen year old teenage boys that are thrust into a very unusual situation, (not hardened mercenaries on a mission). The characters are best friends but diametrically opposite personalities. One is a grounded logical physician’s son, and the other is quirky creative thinker with more street smarts than formal education. They are mysteriously “teleported” into dangerous situations at exotic locations. Being that the main ingredient of comedy is the element of surprise, this situation is ready made for some laughs. The best comparison that I can think of to this type of story would be “Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy.” The physician’s son is always trying to figure out what’s going on, while his friend is busy reacting emotionally to their circumstances.
What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started?
I’ve learned that it’s a lot of work, and a constant learning experience. Writing the story is the easy part. I’ve had a lot of publisher’s say that they really like the concept but no buyers. So I finally decided to self-publish, faced decline that’s changed the publishing industry. I’ve had to learn how to do all the things that a publishing company would normally do for an author. I had no idea how much work was involved in publishing. There are print styles to decide on, and formatting and layouts. Each part of the publishing process is done by experts in their fields, and never by one person. To self-publish your own novel is to take on the many tasks that all the people who work for a publishing company normally do, and it is a monumental task! Now that thanks to the new development of the Print-On-Demand technology, the publishing is behind me, I have an even more monumental task to accomplish. That task is namely to market the novel. Unfortunately marketing skills are not something that most creative people are blessed with, and in my case, it is only my stubborn determination and belief in my story that drives me through what I find to be the incredibly boring task of figuring out how to get people to buy my novel.
Is there anything you would do differently?
I’m not sure I could have done anything differently, as each step leads to the next. But if there was one mistake I made, it would be this: I had just finished the manuscript way back in 1992, and my wife and I began to contact publishers and agents. I only had one copy, we hadn’t even obtained a copyright yet, when an agency named “Macintosh and Otis” asked to see the entire manuscript. I told my wife, “I’m not sending my only copy to some “fly-by-night” agency in N.Y.C. so they can steal it.” Years later we were driving down Park Avenue near Grand Central Station when my wife said, “That’s the building where that agency that wanted to see your manuscript is.” In shock I said to her, “Are you kidding me! With an address like that they must be the biggest literary agents in New York!” They are, in fact they still represent the works of John Steinbeck! So if there was anything I would do differently it would have been hand delivering my only copy to them immediately! You really have to know your players to win this game.
Who, or what, if anything has influenced your writing?
I guess pretty much everything I’ve ever read has influenced my writing. I definitely have a style all my own though, and I’m not trying to imitate anyone. The story I’ve created however is based on the kind of adventures I enjoy reading or watching myself. So there’s a little of “Indiana Jones” mixed with “Abbott and Costello” and spiced up with the paranormal mysteries that Charles Berlitz wrote about in “The Bermuda Triangle.”
Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft?
If you’re just starting out to write something, study your market first. It’s no fun to write a great story that will sit on a shelf because no one wants to read that kind of thing. I believe that at the heart of writing is storytelling. If you’re telling a story that no one wants to hear, it kind of defeats the purpose of storytelling.
B&T: That's where we differ, I can only ever write the stories I want to read, not what the market might like :)
What are three words that describe you?
Funny, (I’m always joking around, trying to make people laugh.)
Informative, (I’ve been a teacher for many years, I’m full of information that I like to share.) Inquisitive, (I ask a lot of questions, and I’m always delving into things that are unexplained.)
What's your favourite book or who is your favourite writer?
My favorite book would be “Mysteries from Forgotten Worlds” by Charles Berlitz, whom I am a great fan of. But had the question read “what is your favorite story”, then that would more in line with my favorite writer, JK Rowling and the entire Harry Potter series.
B&T: Another Harry Potter fan, me too ;)
Blurb of your latest release or coming soon book
What if you were instantly teleported thousands of miles away? “Gateway of the Sun”: A story where “Young Indian Jones” meets “Stargate” on a very excellent adventure!
What if you were instantly teleported thousands of miles away? Two teenagers accidentally harness mysterious forces in New Hampshire at America’s Stonehenge. All at once they find themselves high up in the Andes Mountains of Peru, where evil savages are about to sacrifice a young virgin girl. Driven by curiosity, they recreate the phenomenon and go on a globe-hopping excellent adventure that rivals Bill and Teds. The paranormal forces whisk them to the archeological wonders of the world; each sacred stone ruins revealing more about spontaneous teleportation, a real but little known occurrence. Why do astronomically aligned megaliths stand on every continent? Who engineered it all? The answers lie at the heart of their adventure, but can they control the phenomena before it’s too late?
List of previous books if any
This is the first story I’ve published, but I’ve written many.
Any websites/places readers can find you on the web.
You can read an extract of Michael's books on the book spotlight here:
Thank you, Michael and good luck with your endeavours!