Michael Mammay is a science fiction writer, retired army officer, and until recently taught high school English. He is now a full time writer. He’s represented by Lisa Rodgers of JABberwocky Literary, and he lives with his wife in Georgia.
List of Books:
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
One trap for writers at all levels is comparing yourself to other writers. If I tried to compare myself to someone like NK Jemisin, I’d never write, because I’d be sitting in a corner crying, knowing that I’ll never be that good. Because nobody will. It’s a trite saying, but don’t try to be the next so and so. Try to be the first you.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
I tend to read in streaks. I’ll read every day for a few weeks, then take a couple of weeks where I don’t read at all.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I could sit here and name drop a dozen authors you’ve heard of and several dozen you haven’t. Once you’re published, the number of authors you know goes up exponentially. Who they are isn’t really important. But having a group of authors that you can talk to in private is valuable. Publishing is hard. Doing it without support is harder. As a developing writer, other writers are the way that you get better. Everyone is better than you at something, and you’re better than everyone at something. Sharing those strengths among a group of writers helps everyone level up. That’s why you often see cohorts of critique partners all “make it” at around the same time. One of my long-time critique partners and I both signed with our agents the same week.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I had to learn to outline. I wrote PLANETSIDE as a total pantser. Then I got a two-book deal, and the publisher wanted an outline for book 2 (Which became SPACESIDE). I’d never outlined. So I wrote an entire draft of SPACESIDE just so I could outline it. Then it came time to sell more books, and I needed outlines. I sold COLONYSIDE based on an outline, as well as another book I’m working on. Bottom line, now I outline everything.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
$5.99 for The Emotion Thesaurus.
What did you do with your first advance?
My first advance wasn’t significant enough to change my life in any way.
What are the most important resources for writers to subscribe to?
I don’t think there’s anything you *need* to subscribe to. There are 20 ways to do anything.
What does literary success look like to you?
Having someone continue to pay me to write books. When I got my second book deal (based on the success of PLANETSIDE) to me, that was success.
What’s the best way to market your books?
If you figure this out, please tell me.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite gender?
Nothing? They’re people. Every character has to have a motivation…they have to want something. For me, if it’s a woman, I think “What does she want in this scene?” It’s literally no different than how I think about men.
How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
I started writing seriously in 2014. I became a full-time writer in 2020.
How many hours a day do you write?
Depends on where I am in the process and how well the day goes. Ideally, 3 to 4 hours at the desk.
What did you edit out of your book?
Dear Lord. What *didn’t* I edit out? In the edit for COLONYSIDE that I just did, I rewrote probably 60 to 70 percent of it.
How do you select the names of your characters?
I make them up on the spot.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I was teaching American Literature at an all-boys high school. I liked it a lot, but doing that *and* meeting deadlines was getting to be too much.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I read them all, but only when I’m in a good place mentally. I don’t do anything with them. Maybe laugh, if they’re funny. If it’s a bad review, I might get upset for 5 or 10 seconds, but then I get over it.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
Nothing, because the only way to become a better writer is to read and to write.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
This is impossible to answer. I tend to write the draft in about 9 weeks. About 10,000 words a week. But then I do many, many revisions. At least one on my own, then two rounds of beta readers/critique partners, rewriting after each one. So I’ve probably written it 4 times before it goes to my agent, who is editorial. Then I write it again with her notes. Then it goes to my editor, who gets as many rounds as he wants. Usually one or two.
Are you a plotter, planster, or pantser?
I started as a pantser, but now I’m a plotter. I’ll get some flack for this, but I think to get better, you’ve got to become a plotter. Plus, the industry kind of demands it at my level.