Give us the skinny on who you are?
First and foremost (in order of importance): husband, father, son, and brother.
I also tell stories. In that regard, I’m one of the top indie genre writers in the US. I’m best known for horror, but have also written international bestsellers in thriller, suspense, sci-fi, fantasy, humor, mystery – even Western romance (under a pen name). I’m the only person who was ever a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award, Dragon Award, and RONE Award. I’ve also written movies and stuff.
And perhaps most important of all: I make awesome chocolate chip cookies.
How did you get into writing?
My dad was the head of the creative writing program at a major university, and THE world expert on Stephen King for several decades.
I was doomed from the start.
Describe your writing style as if it were the demonic love child of 2 or more of your favourite authors, genetically spliced together in a lab and growing in a vat of green goo.
If Michael R. Collings (my dad) had one of those weird vacations where you “bump into” (i.e. “meet up at a pre-arranged time”) some friends at a “dinner party” (aka “orgy”), then no one knew who the baby was at the end. And the other people would be Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Orson Scott Card, and JM Barrie. The last one would be there to class up the joint.
Who are your writing heroes and why?
Amazing authors are such a treasure. Their writing has the power to transcend our world and create unique communities that are born not of geography, ethnicity, or creed… but of the wonderful idiosyncrasies of the human mind.
If you could co-author a book with another author, alive or dead? Who would it be and what would it be about?
Honestly? Since I’m a husband and father first of all (and I wasn’t just kidding about that), it would be with whoever gave me the best monetary deal and wasn’t someone awful. Like, I wouldn’t write a book with Hitler. Or the person who designed the drive-through speakers that sound like someone beat a radio half to death with a crowbar, threw it underwater, then added tinnitus for fun.
Tell us about your biggest achievement or proudest writing moment to date?
Whichever one happened most recently.
Seriously, I don’t have one “big” moment I look back on as the ultimate in satisfaction. Every day I am happy I got through the writing, and every time I finish a book or short story, that’s the best moment so far.
Now tell us about your lowest moment and how you overcame it? Go on, be a hero…
Probably being let go of my job as a lawyer… on a day when my kids and wife had come to visit me at work and go to lunch with me. I had to go out and tell them my lunch break would be much longer than we’d anticipated.
I tell people that I’m a full-time writer because I failed to find gainful employment in any other field, and I’m not joking. Sigh.
As for how I overcame it… I’m not sure I did, really. We just get past most things. If I think about the difficult times, the terrible failures and lows that are a part of every life, they still hurt. But every day that passes is another day of distance between that moment and this one. Every minute I survive is a minute that I gain in strength.
Time isn’t a healer. But it does put things far enough in the rearview mirror that we don’t have to focus on them so much. The road ahead occupies our time, and the road behind dwindles in importance.
You are a prolific writer. I know you don’t just work in horror but you also right great thrillers (which I’ve read) and romance (which as yet I haven’t got around to:). What does your writing routine look like?
I don’t have one.
I have a couple of serious mental and physical health issues, so every day is going to be different. Some days I get out of bed at five am, put butt in seat, and crank out twenty thousand words (my record is 28,000 in an eighteen-hour marathon typing session). Others I get out of bed at five pm, put butt on toilet, then back to bed. (TMI?)
The only routine I have is this: doing as much as I can with the time I have. I think that’s the best most folks can hope for.
What draws you to working in different genres?
I am ever, gleefully, infected by the highly contagious joys of different kinds of stories.
If you could give an inspiring independent author one piece of advice about marketing, what would it be (I’m asking for a friend?
Write. A lot.
Marketing is all well and good, but there has to be a quality product TO market. Additionally, writing isn’t magic. If someone wants it to be a full-time career, it has to be treated like any other business. How many people would go to Wal-Mart if all they had was a single product on every shelf? Even if it was the BEST [insert product name here] in the world, no one would go.
You want to be an indie? Write. Have a backlist. Then tell everyone you can about it in every way you can think of that won’t be a) annoying, b) disrespectful, or c) a sociopathic disregard for others’ wellbeing and boundaries.
What’s your all-time favourite horror movie and why?
That varies day by day. I do love finding little gems, though. I recently saw His House and thought it was marvelous.
Who’s an indie author everyone should be reading?
No, seriously, there are so many. But I’d say start with JF Penn’s Mapwalkers books. I love them, they’re high quality, and the author is amazing as a human. Lots of folks know her as Joanna Penn – host of one of THE best writing podcasts in the world – and she actually saved my career. I was thinking about hanging up the towel a couple years back, announced my retirement, and she emailed and said, “Nope. Not okay. Here’s what we’ll do to get you where you need to be.” So you want to support someone who’s a great writer and a great person? Her.
A few others: TW Piperbrook, Iain Rob Wright, Scott Nicholson, DJ Butler (hybrid), Mark Dawson.
What’s the first horror novel you remember reading? What impression did it make on you?
I’m really not sure. Unlike most people who were introduced to horror with “the” book at some point, horror – like I said before – was just always… there. I remember reading The Shining while going to the bathroom when I was nine (don’t judge, we’ve all done that kind of reading), and just as I got to the part about the topiary garden moving, just as I had that shiver go down my spine… an earthquake hit. So I was faced with the sudden question of whether I should run to stand under the doorframe (that’s what the prevailing wisdom was back then), naked and with a dirty toosh; or stay on the pot clutching the King book and perhaps die but at least maintain my dignity and also people would know I was a very smart nine-year-old.
I remained on the toilet. Dignity, people. Always… dignity.
What are you currently reading?
I plead the fifth. Sooooo many books are always on my pile. I flit back and forth constantly, and am at any one point halfway into a dozen or more books.
Which monster from fiction – books, TV or film – would you most like to be and why?
Ummmm… Terminator. Dude was swole.
Dan: I’m with you there, and he gets the Harley.
Which one of your books would be best adapted into a movie? And who would you cast in the lead roles? I think Terminal or The Deep, but that’s just me… Oh, wait, The Colony series would be awesome as a Netflix series – pukey-acid zombies, what’s not to love?
Yeah, Terminal would be a lot of fun. I’d love to see The Deep, but underwater movies are notoriously difficult. I’d say, overall, it’s a toss-up between Terminal, Strangers, and Not All Cowboys Are Cruel (told you I write romance!). The Colony could be fun as a limited series, but I’d way rather see that one adapted into a video game. It’s a seven-book series, each book of which basically revolves around one big set piece and/or baddie, so it’s pretty much got the boss levels and settings of a video game built into it.
What’s your spookiest life experience?
There are a lot of spooky ones, but the one I’ll share is when I was a missionary in South America. And yeah, now you’re like, “Horror, romance, and a MISSIONARY? This dude is all over the place!”
Yeah. But I’m fun at parties!
Anywho, my missionary companion and I were out late in a very underdeveloped area – meaning, no electricity, no plumbing, etc. – and this woman kind of floats into view. Not literally, but the moon was bright and she was wearing a light, gauzy kind of dress (not at all the norm for the area), and it had that otherworldly quality of many a movie specter. She asked if we’d come into her yard to talk about God, which was basically our gig, so we said sure.
In her yard, she had a fire going – sticks in a pit, blazing just high enough to cause high-level creep-factor shadows – and she sat down and that was when we first saw that her face was covered in tattoos that looked like tiny words. The kind of writing you see in movies where the detectives find the serial killer’s journal. We couldn’t see what they said, but it was creeeeeeepy. We asked her about them, trying to make conversation, and she said she’d given them to herself, and they were part of her spells.
“What?” we said (we were both very witty conversationalists).
She pulled out a regular ol’ sewing needle, then a little bottle of what I pray to this day was ink, then dipped the needle and started JABBING HERSELF IN THE FRICKING FACE AND THEN JABBING THE NEEDLE INTO HER EAR.
We left. Quickly. I’m not saying that I was worried she was going to cast some bad juju our way (though I’m not saying I wasn’t, either), but c’mon. There’s a reason no one has ever seen an “As Seen On TV” face tattooing set, and the jabbing in the ear… [shiver]
Dan: literally speechless… :0
What was the genesis of your most recent stand-alone book The Forest?
I can’t tell you. I know what the genesis is, but telling that would be giving away a few of the really gut-punch twists.
First line throw down. I give a first line; you complete the opening paragraph. Here we go: ‘Thomas sat on exactly the same bench at the Museum of Modern Art, but the picture had changed, not changed altogether, just one small detail of the same picture that was there every day wasn’t right.’
“The problem was, that Thomas couldn’t decide what the detail was. Just a sense that something was off. He sat there for the rest of the afternoon, trying to figure out what the difference was, and it was only when he gave up and stopped in the bathroom on the way out that he realized it: he had been looking at the painting through someone else’s eyes.”
Dan: Love it…
What does the next year of writing and publishing look like for you?
More of the same: lots of writing, lots of marketing. Hopefully, with the new vaccines, we’ll see cons and symposiums start up again. I miss interacting with the fans face to face.
What book of yours should people start with?
AUGH! The problem with that question, given that I’m all over the place on genre, is that it depends what they’re looking for! Even when I’m going to cons and the like, when someone asks what book of mine they should read, I have kind of a question-tree that leads them to the right book in the right genre. Best I can do is…
Twist ending: Terminal or The Ridealong (though most of my books have HUGE surprises built into them)
Serial Killers: Strangers
Action: This Darkness Light
Ghosts: The Haunted
YA: Lost Girl
MG: Billy: Seeker of Powers
Fantasy: The Sword Chronicles
Sci-fi: The Darklights
Romance: For Love of the Brave
Urban Fantasy: The Longest Con
Humor: Tired (So Very Tired)
And there’s more, but… yeah.
Dan: now, you’re just showing off…
Have you got a newsletter/reader magnet?
Yup! Just go to http://bit.ly/mbcfree
It’s a cool newsletter, ‘cause you get free books on sign-up, then I send weekly lists of free and bargain books, and I also do a drawing for some giveaway (signed books, Kindles, etc.) every month. Bonus is that people who are the most active on the list are invited to join the Collings Cult. That’s the name of my street team, and they get advance copies of books, special merch, and other kewl perks.
Where can people stalk you online like a serial killer?
MbC merch store:
http://teespring.com/michaelbrent-collings (and 20% of every dollar I get there goes to charity)
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Really quick, I would urge folks to check out the Patreon page. Partly because you get a free MbC ebook; a free, EXCLUSIVE MbC short story; exclusive merch; and extra chances to win prizes, but because it’s a way I finance one of my big projects. At the beginning of the coronavirus situation, my family and I put all my books on steep sale, and we’ve managed to keep them going that way for over a year now. The books have ranged from 40% to 80% off their normal prices this whole time. The Patreon page is one way that we keep that possible, because those sales are a financial hit for us.
We’re GLAD to do it (privileged and honored, actually), but we do rely on the help of others to make up the shortfalls so that we can continue offering quality entertainment at a low price when so many folks desperately need both those things.
And the last thing: thanks. It’s been a pleasure!