Paul Michael Anderson is a new friend and writer to me. I am enjoying getting to know him. He has a delightful sense of humor and makes me laugh. He is passionate about his writing and his life. He loves his wife and daughter and I loved to hear him talk about them. He tells me that he is boring but I doubt that to be the case. I haven’t read his stories yet but have added his book Bones Are Made To Be Broken to my to be read pile. If you haven’t met him you are missing out on a really great guy. Please check him and his books out and say hello. Please welcome Paul Michael Anderson to Roadie Notes……
1. How old were you when you first wrote your first story?
I have no idea, really; I’ve always written something. My first published piece, ever, was when I was eighteen–a music review, I think. I started out as a journalist, in college. My first published fictional story was called “The Migration of Birds” in a small digest called BLACK INK HORROR, back in 2008.
2. How many books have you written?
I’ve dallied around with novels, but I’ve focused for the past few years on short fiction. My book BONES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN is a kind-of “best-of” collection of the past five years.
3. Anything you won’t write about?
Not that I can think of—I won’t write anything that exploits a stereotype or a child or a woman, though, but those types of “stories” don’t interest me much, anyway. Horror, which I tend to traffic in, only works when the reader can place him or herself in that situation and relate to the reactions of the participants. You can’t do that when the characters—both good and bad guys—are one-sided or used to push forth a noxious ideology. Stories need to be populated with real people, whether they be victims or heroes or villains, and there’s a whole ball of virtues and flaws in each one. I’ve written about fairly heady subjects—abuse, neglect, the breaking-down of marriages and relationships—but while those things, when dealt with head-on, are controversial in and of themselves, I keep the focus on the people and how they adapt to those situations. I guess that’s the difference between exploration and exploitation—exploration cares about the people and how they adapt; exploitation cares about the controversial subjects and what they do with people.
4. Tell me about you. Age (if you don’t mind answering), married, kids, do you have another job etc…
I’m in my mid-thirties, with a wife and five-year-old daughter. I’ve taught English and journalism for the past ten years (it’s what I went to college for, natch), and I enjoy the hell out of it.
5. What’s your favorite book you have written?
I have stories that are my favorites right NOW, but that’s like picking your favorite kid for all time and not just being proud of a particular current achievement. Right, in print, I’m loving a story I wrote called “All That You Leave Behind”, which you can find closing both my book and the anthology LOST SIGNALS, edited by Max Booth III and Lori Michelle for Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing; as a parent, I’m terrified of a whole bunch of stuff relating to my child and being a parent, etc. That story asked the what-if of picking up the pieces after a miscarriage and brought in parallel universes.
In the pipeline, I wrote a Lovecraftian-esque novelette called “I Can Give You Life” that I’m digging because I had to stretch a little (I don’t tend to write Lovecraft and, also, I set the story during a non-specific time in the late-1950s in Northern Virginia) that’ll be showing up in a year or so. Another story, “How I Became a Cryptid from a 1980s Horror Movie” will be showing up in SPACE & TIME magazine early next year—I love it because it’s so goddamned weird (a guy is cursed to being a sentient lake and it only goes downhill from there).
6. Who or what inspired you to write?
I like telling stories and getting a reaction, a connection, with an audience; I’ll be elucidating on some point in the classroom, or connecting a concept to an anecdote and I try to make the students laugh because, if they laugh, they’re absorbing the concept, at least on a minimal level that I can use as leverage to go deeper.
But, reading books like THE TALISMAN by Stephen King & Peter Straub or ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE by Eddie Little or FIRST BLOOD by David Morrell had me cock my head at a young age and go, “THAT seems like a good job.”
7. What do you like to do for fun?
I’m a horrendously boring mid-thirties parent. All the out-of-control, nihilistic wild stuff I got out of my system when I was in my teens and early twenties. Hell, my only vices are coffee and cigarettes.
Saying all that, if I’m by myself, I love cruising bookstores and junk shops and thrift stories. I love reading and playing my guitar and doodling. With my kid…hell, doing whatever a five-year-old girl who likes to pretend she’s a “vampire princess pony with FROZEN powers, Daddy” decides to do.
8. Any traditions you do when you finish a book?
Not really; I wrote, in the introduction to BONES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN, that writing is a job to me—not much different from when I was a landscaper or waiter or reporter. I mean, there’s sentiment in what I do and if I’m not feeling anything about a scene or a conflict, then I can’t expect a reader to, so I’m emotionally invested in the writing. But, at the same time, it’s a job and, when I finish, I save, I print, I shut down the computer, and go back to my life as a parent and husband. I have routines—I always have coffee on-hand when writing; I always listen to a certain mix of music—but I try not to be overly superstitious about the whole thing because, to me, that makes it all mystical and hokey and, really, it’s me using a muscle—a muscle with some talent (I hope) but it’s still me at the controls and, ultimately, me responsible for something good or bad.
9. Where do you write? Quiet or music?
When I was fucking around with writing—liking the idea of being a writer but not putting in the hard work of doing the writing—I had an office, but, not long before I found out my wife was pregnant, I chucked it in favor of writing in more populated areas of the house—the bedroom, the kitchen, etc. I didn’t want to put myself away from others because it’s others that I was writing about. Consequently—this was in mid-2010—I began selling a metric shit-tonne (to accurately measure in Canadian terms) of work.
Currently, I write in my kitchen, after my daughter goes to bed and while my wife surfs Netflix or prepares for the next day. I set my laptop up on the table, get my coffee, have a cigarette (outside), and get to work. I have a mix of two Foo Fighters’s albums—WASTING LIGHT and their ST. CECILIA ep, totaling about 70 minutes of hard rock—that I listen to with headphones. It’s pretty low-tech. If I’m revising, I have a physical marked copy on a stand that I refer to, but I’m pretty minimalist and mobile. I can write pretty much anywhere as long as I have headphones, music, and a computer. And coffee, too.
10. Anything you would change about your writing?
Sure. Of course. Writers, like any creative type, can be neurotic, self-doubting mental cases, and I’m no exception. When I’m reviewing the previous day’s work—some call it “fractal editing” but I have no idea if that’s the right term, and couldn’t care less—I’ll find myself wishing, goddammit, why couldn’t I put down exactly what I saw in my head? How could I miss this detail? Why didn’t I know this word?
But then I simply delete and revise and try again.
I wish I wrote faster, I guess. I, when on a hot streak, can lay down between 2k-3k, but that’s on a hot streak. I have writer’s laze, I guess; I might be working on something but, at 9:45, when my daughter’s finally asleep, I’ll find myself thinking, “Man, I just want to zone on Facebook, or watch this movie with my wife, or—shit—I have to get these dishes washed,” and I have to fight that. I don’t always win that battle, which is annoying.
11. What is your dream? Famous writer?
In a business-sense, I dream of making enough to sustain myself and not put publishers in the red; I already mostly do that, so, y’know, achievement unlocked and all that. I dream of making a reader react on a deep level to some situation I write about—make a parent cry at the end of “All That You Leave Behind” or a sibling gasp at the situation in “The Agonizing Guilt of Relief (Last Days of a Ready-Made Victim)”—but make them unable to stop reading. I can manage that, sometimes.
I don’t worry about fame, and I don’t say this in a hipster-sort-of-way. I want to make a living and, right now, writing’s a nice supplement (my income this year is paying for Christmas and some light house remodeling, for example). If I get “known” for it, cool, but that wouldn’t stop me. I’d write and tell stories even if no one was listening. At the end of the day, you want to make a reader pick up your story, but, at the beginning of that day, that hypothetical reader shouldn’t mean shit to you. At the beginning of the day, you write for yourself because it makes you feel good and you want to follow the thread of whatever popped into your head. If you keep true to that concept at the beginning of the day, that hypothetical reader will stay with you at the end of the day.
12. Where do you live?
Northern Virginia, currently, but I’ve lived all over the Eastern Seaboard. I’m a city kid, but have been hiding out in the small towns of the Shenandoah Valley.
Two dogs, three cats, and one turtle. All rescues. The dogs and one of the cats came from the local Humane Society, while the other two cats were strays and the turtle was a very-late hatching my daughter found in the front garden. They’re all neurotic as hell.
14. What’s your favorite thing about writing?
In the moment of actually telling a story, I love that frisson when the words and the concepts and the action come together beautifully and I knew I couldn’t have put something better and that’s okay because what you put down was good enough. There’s a moment, in the title novella for my collection (I wrote the novella specifically for the book; it’s one of two original pieces) that pops into my head. The novella isn’t supernatural and the horror comes, for me, at the idea of things spiraling out of control. It takes place in the fall of 1991 and concerns itself with a single mother trying to make ends meet in the city. She hides how she feels from her son and her ex-husband, whom she sees when they do the pick-up/drop-off of custody visits, and takes to cutting. She hides the marks, out of shame, but there’s a moment, where she slips up, and this stranger sees it, and looks at the mother differently. The moment pauses, elongates, becomes torturous. This moment reverberates throughout the entire story.
I think that’s neat.
15. What is coming next for you?
I have a handful of stories coming out in various places over the next year or so. I wrote an essay for StephenKingRevisited.com about one of the books whenever Richard Chizmar gets around to finishing said book. My author bio says I’m working on my first novel and that’s true-ish; I’m working on a psychological horror novel tentatively titled BETTER PEOPLE and we’ll see where that goes.
My bio: Paul Michael Anderson is a short story writer and editor. A teacher and sometime-journalist, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and daughter. You can visit him at his website The Nothing-Space (paulmichaelanderson.wordpress.com) or follow him on Twitter, where he posts under the inspired handle of @p_m_anderson.
You can connect with Paul Michael Anderson here:
BONES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN: http://www.darkregions.com/books/new-releases/bones-are-made-to-be-broken-by-paul-michael-anderson
Some of Paul Michael Anderson’s books: