Today I’d like to welcome Michael Stern, Science Fiction author of Storm Portal, Sand Storm, and the newly released Shadow Storm.
Can you give us your quickest description of your books?
I am writing a series about a high school history teacher who discovers his classroom door is the entry to a time portal. He is able to travel back in time, as well as travel to other points in present time. In the first book, he walks into the Oval Office, sets off a storm of security issues, and begins a relationship with the president. The first three books are available now, with a hopeful release of Book 4 by end of summer.
What event in history would YOU most like to go back and see? What historical figure would you want most to meet?
As a student of history, there have been so many events and people who have crossed my path that the imagination wanders in many directions. To see only one, to meet just one person, what a difficult choice! And for so many reasons.
I’m going to give you two for each and tell you why. First, events. The single most important speech ever given by an American is in my opinion the Gettysburg Address. The most important event in our history was the 2nd Continental Congress which led to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. They would give me access to historical figures I would like to meet, so I’m cheating a bit.
As to people I would like to see, I would love to visit Shakespeare and Company in Paris in the 1920s, when a young Hemingway was surrounded by the literary and artistic world including Joyce, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dali. How cool would that have been?
The second person I would choose is a man almost no one will have heard of. His name is Russell Fritz. He was my creative writing teacher in Junior High School. I would love to be able to share with him the fruits of his labor–my writing.
That’s a great, sweet idea. What are you working on currently?
I am currently working on two books, the sixth in my time travel series, and a fantasy/adventure titled, “Sara and the Dragons.”
Fantasy, huh? Anything with dragons from you seems like quite a change. What gave you that idea?
It is quite a change, but I have read fantasy for more than a little while. I also consider myself to be a new writer in spite of my decrepitude. Trying new things, taking risks makes this journey exciting. The idea for “Sara and the Dragons” came from To Kill A Mockingbird. As writers, I believe we have both the ability and obligation to challenge the human condition, while entertaining at the same time. “Sara and the Dragons” portrays the various ways we treat our differences, our similarities, our fears, and our triumphs. It sounds like a kid’s book, but I hope that it will deliver a message to adults as well. No spoilers, however.
What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?
You need to keep writing because you’ll get better. You need to keep reading, so you can learn what works. Expect to feel the worst you’ve ever felt in your life, and exult when you feel more successful than you have ever felt. That’s the world we choose.
What do you like to read that helps you as a writer?
I’ve found three specific areas that help. One is obvious, the multitude of how-to books, many of which provide “light-bulb moments” that make more sense the more I write. The second is books that have received accolades. Those I read to see how the plot and characters are structured. As often as not, the well-written story by critics standards are lessons in how not to write a book I want to read. The third is new writers. Although I would not routinely read much of what is new today—vampires and zombies, dystopian society, romance and erotica, I do read some of these because they offer a fresh voice in storytelling. And give me a good story, well-written, suspenseful (note here: I hate bad spelling and careless punctuation), with a few twists and fun characters, and I’ll be reading more of your stuff.
(Ha! Thanks!) Who inspires you to write?
My inspiration comes from a variety of sources. First, my readers. When I get a good review, especially from someone I don’t know, I want to repeat that formula. Other authors inspire me. There are a great many fine writers who make me feel I can always improve what I write. And my friends and family who has supported my efforts. I want to succeed to justify their faith in me.
Do you feel like you put a lot of pressure on yourself to get better and better?
Pressure, not really. I have always been competitive, and demanding that I do the best I can. I never thought that writing a story would be as challenging as it is. So rather than put pressure on myself, I study the craft. There are a great many good writers, some even successful financially. My goal is to be a great writer, and even more, to be a great story teller. Whether that happens or not, well the jury is still waiting for all the evidence.
In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?
In a perfect world, meaning I can choose time and age, I would pick actors from various points in their careers to meet the age requirements. Fritz and Ashley would be Damon and Affleck when they were in their mid-30s. Linda would be Amy Adams. Jane would be an earlier Angelina Jolie. George would be Kevin Spacey, and Lois would be played Meryl Streep, which guarantees that it will have an Academy Award nomination.
Again, having read your books, I can picture these actors in these roles. PERFECT casting, in my opinion. Do you like the Damon and Affleck pairing because of their buddy/brother-like relationship (that seems to mirror Fitz and Ashely well)?
I had trouble choosing Fritz. I considered Brad Pitt and George Clooney for Ashley, again in age fitting times of their careers. But Damon and Affleck fit together so well, better even than Newman and Redford (and they were great together). I think both have quality performances individually, but were great in Dogma and Good Will Hunting, playing off each other. And as my series moves forward, good individual roles will be needed to put the whole story together.
Thanks, Michael, for sharing!