Michael Sprankle is a graduate of Penn State University with a BA in film. He has worked in the technology sales area for over 25 years, as well as a contracted bit-writer for screenplays in some of the largest studios in Hollywood.
Previous novels include Once Upon a Time in New York, How I Painted My Masterpiece. Mr. Sprankle currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife Galina and son Anthony. His third novel, The Killing Spring will be available from Touch Point Press later this year.
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book(s), but nobody has? Write it out here, and then answer it.
I have always wished that when someone reads my books they would be inspired to ask me how I develop the characters that I use in the story. For the most part each character is based on someone I have known throughout my life (including me)…and I like to incorporate as much as I can remember about the into the story. This includes quotes they have made, mannerisms, and even descriptions of them.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
My writing can be best described as journalistic, and I try to write every day even if it is just one paragraph. Love & Theft is the result of a daily journal that I kept over a 30 year time period. Once I begin writing, the real world disappears and I become totally immersed in the world that I am creating on paper.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
I consider myself lucky that I have never suffered from writers block. I always am able to come up with something to put down on paper. It’s not always my best work, but that just gives me an opportunity to go back to it later and expand on it and make improvements. Often, I find myself writing in my head, like when I am sitting in traffic. Once I sit down to write, often the story just flows out of me.
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
The best advice I could give someone that aspires to be an author is to do it for a love of writing. Don’t expect to get rich from writing! Write because you love to write, and focus on the academic quality of the story, the integrity of the story, the character development, and the plot.
What are your current/future projects?
With two novels behind me, my third one “The Killing Spring” comes out later this year. I am perhaps half way through with my fourth novel “The Ghost of Tom Mix”. I am also currently working on a screenplay titled “Ratland”.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I prefer to write in different genres and about different things. My first two novels have been somewhat autobiographical in nature. My third is a crime and suspense thriller and the fourth is somewhat of a horror theme. I would have to say my favorite themes are crime and horror. After that, it’s sugar and spice and everything nice.
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
I see a great future for independent authors, and due largely to technology it has become easy for almost anyone to become a published author. As a result of that, your work must be so much better and better or you will never stand out from the pack. The future is bright, but you have to be willing to work hard and to put in the countless hours.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
I am published by traditional publishers, self publishers, and film studios. The process I have gone through to get published is a difficult one. You have to never give up and you have to be able to accept rejection and criticism. You also need to be able to write a great synopsis and a great query letter. Your manuscript has to be great and you have to get it in front of your target audience.
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
So far in my writing career I have never changed a title, book cover or any content in my books after they were published. That said, Love & Theft is entered into the Pulitzer competition this year. I know that the odds of winning are slim to none, but it 2016 Pulitzer winner sure would look nice added to the cover of that one.
What opportunities have being an author presented you with and share those memories? (i.e. travel, friends, events, speaking, etc..)
The only opportunities that I am interested in as a writer are the opportunities to share stories that are living inside of my head with others, which hopefully they find insight and satisfaction from reading.
What are your marketing, advertising, promotion strategies and which one(s) have worked the best for you? If you had to share your most valuable promotion tip, what would that be?
My marketing, advertising and promotional strategies are ever being revised. I make story boards, animated gifs and even videos. I share constant blurbs about my writing on all social media platforms. I even share my reviews. I am almost at the stage in my writing career where I am going to hire a promotional agency to take care of marketing so that I can focus more on the writing aspect.
What field or genre would you classify your book(s) and what attracted you to write in that field or genre?
My novels thus far would be considered a crime genre. The reason that I wrote them is that I had a somewhat difficult time growing up which resulted in more than one brush with the law. And speaking of brushes, there are many paintings created with brushes in both books as well. Justice, when you really break it down is just ice.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
Often, an idea, quote, or storyline will pop into my head and I am like…ok drop everything! I have to grab a pen and write it down immediately. It can happen any time and any place.
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
When I begin a project, I never know where the writing will take me. I mean, I have a general idea of the storyline and everything but I never sit down and say…like…this book is going to be 80,000 words. I know when the book is finished when I feel that I have told the story that I wanted to tell the best way that I could.
How do you think you have evolved as a person/author because of your writing and do you believe your writing has helped others, how/why?
Writing has always been a form of therapy for me. It’s also an outlet as it is a place to escape to. People pay thousands of dollars for vacations, and I can go on vacation with a keyboard.
As for how my writing has helped others, I can’t really elaborate on that. I can only hope that my readers are entertained by my writing and that they learn to look at things from different angles. I like to incorporate many twists into my stories.
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
I think book covers and titles are extremely important to potential buyers. We are, after all a very visual society and people tend to buy things based on how they look. The title has to be catchy too. It’s your first attempt to draw the customer in, and so it had better be a good one.
The content, now that’s what is important. The first chapter must entice them to want to keep reading, and the last chapter has to leave them wanting more. As for page numbers, I never found them to be very interesting at all.
Do you believe there is value in a Press Release, have you used any press release service, and what have your experiences been?
I have used press releases in the past and you can see them on various social media sites that I use. I think a press release is a great tool to get the word out about your book, but it also has to be directed at the right audience at the right time with the right message for the right price.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
The value of a review to me as a writer is that this gives me the best glimpse of what my readers think about my book. I learn from them, am inspired from them, and really enjoy reading them. Keep them coming! I think the other power reviews have is that they let other readers know if they should waste their valuable time reading YOUR book over someone else’s book.
What are your thoughts on authors doing review swaps, paying for reviews, or reviews that just don’t seem right for the book?
Paid reviews and review swaps, in my mind anyway are a waste of time. They simply don’t give a true glimpse behind the curtain of what your book really is.
Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?
I strongly believe that there are competitors out there that are trying to sabotage authors. This is the business side of writing. That capitalist side of sales and more sales and then more sales. Face it, the business world is a competitive one and many companies will do whatever it takes for market share. That is why I always say “In a world of saints and sinners, I am an artist!” …Laughs
Have you ever had an interesting, funny, or even bad experience during a live interview, reading, event, or autograph session?
During a discussion of my recent book Love & Theft at a University, a fire alarm went off. I never got to finish what I had to say. That’s why, I guess as a writer…every word is important!
With self publishing being so easy these days, do you believe there is an over abundance of books out there and how do you sort through all the hype or copycats?
Personally I don’t believe there is an over abundance of books out there. I think everyone’s life is a story waiting to be told. I just feel lucky that I am able to tell my stories and hope that people like them.
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
I don’t really have any fear about having a book published. I look at it like this I have spent all this time developing this thing, planning it and all. Then I have toiled over it for months and/or years. Finally I get it to the point where I like it and feel that it is worthy to share. Publishing is then just the icing on the cake.
If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?
Although I do have multiple books published, my greatest work is still ahead of me. My dream is to write that one book that everyone likes and talks about. Other than that, my greatest work is my wife and son.
What is the intended audience for you book?
Although my books are intended for somewhat of a mature audience, I truly believe that there is something for anyone in there…something that they can relate to and say, like “wow!”
Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
Love & Theft is based in part on a true story. The rest is fiction, and people tend to think the fictional parts are true, and that the true parts are fictional. I get a big kick out of that, and therefore have done my job in crafting a great story.
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
The one message that the world needs more than any other is peace and love. Life is short, and we should all enjoy every precious minute. Then again, I might just cop out and say something stupid like “buy my book.” … Laughs
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
Social media does make it easy to connect to my readers. I prefer large sites like Facebook and LinkedIn over smaller players like Twitter. I just feel it’s easier for me to reach who I want to reach with the larger platforms.
What makes a good story, why?
There are so many different things that make a good story. The characters and the setting are as important as the theme and the plot. Then you have the story structure and the style and the tone. You don’t have to write fancy to write well. It almost never hurts to use simple words and simple sentences. That way, your writing is easy to read and understand.
I always try to use the best possible word—the one that is closest to your meaning, sounds best, and creates the clearest image. If you can’t think of the right one, use a thesaurus.
Carefully check each word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph. Is it the best you can write? Is it in the right place? Do you need it at all? If not, take it out!
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
Names are very important in a story. They are like the title for your character. What does she look like? This may be the least important ingredient to make your character a person to the reader, but you should still know it in your own mind. Not every character needs to be drop-dead gorgeous, by the way. Most people aren’t. But they need to have a name that somewhat corresponds to the way they look. You wouldn’t want to call a sexy siren Bertha. I think about the character’s thoughts and then develop a name for them. What kind of internal dialogue does your character have? How does she think through her problems and dilemmas? Is her internal voice the same as her external? If not, does this create internal conflict for her? In real life we don’t have the benefit of knowing someone’s innermost thoughts, but a novel allows us to do just that, so use it to your advantage.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I mentioned earlier that I do like to read my reviews, even though I shouldn’t. Any artist knows that reading reviews of his book/play/movie/art gallery opening is bound to lead to pain and frustration. Why? Because even if the majority of the reviews are stellar, it’s the poor reviews we will end up focusing on, and doing so can paralyze us with doubt. I guess I just brush off the doubt and learn from it. Reviews are very subjective and you can have two different readers with two completely different takes. One reader thinks my novel is too much of a potboiler, while the other believes there is too much emphasis on character and emotions, slowing down the plot. What’s true, and what’s not? Who knows. That’s why I don’t take any of it that seriously. I would rather get a bad review than no review. That way, at least the book inspired a response from the reader.
What are some events you have attended or participated in that has been a positive experience/influence on/for your writing?
I like writers conferences and workshops because they offer me enlightening and informative lectures with hands-on writing sessions. These sessions give me a chance to write alone and with the group as well as a chance to share my work, and interact with other writers during structured gatherings designed to enhance the creative process. I enjoy learning about how to become a better and better writer.
What is the easiest/hardest scene for you to write, why? (Love, action, fight, death, racy, controversial, etc…)
Death scenes are the hardest for me to write because I have become so attached to the character. I am their creator and their father. Laughs.
I often cry real tears when I have to kill of a character. I guess one day I will need a straight jacket.
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
I have always had a fascination with the weird, the creepy and the unknown and no doubt want to write something that incorporates all of these elements.
Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What did you do about it afterwards?
Night dreams present an array of characters. Like actors in a movie, the characters in dreams are developed, reflecting qualities and characteristics that make them unique and important to the storyline. Some are in color and some are in black and white. Some represent reflections of yourself, some are reflections of others close to you and some are complete strangers. Parts of your personality often emerge—the child, the adult, the wise self, the coward, the hero, members of your family, an invisible self and a cast of characters who all have some role to play in the dream. The characters demonstrate that there are different parts of your personality seeking expression, so I sometimes use these different parts tocreate new characters.
Do you have any characters you would like to introduce in other books or a combination of characters from multiple books you would like to write about in one book?
I have two characters from multiple books that I use over and over. They are Michael Malone and Dick Cherry. The both are…the most interesting men in the world. Laughs.
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
I first realize that my character must exist somewhere, even if that somewhere is virtual nothingness. It may be an apartment in New York City, or a parking lot in Phoenix, Arizona. This not only sets the stage for your character, but will help define him or her, as well. But for the most part, my characters are based on real people and real events, but the story I put them into may be completely different.
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
Where, who, what, when, why and how…these are the elements that I like to explore in my writing. Again, I take a somewhat journalistic approach.
You’ll likely want a protagonist (hero) and antagonist (villain) in your story as conflict is the basis of plot. Maybe you need a secondary character such as a henchman, a best friend, a romantic interest, a sidekick, or a significant other.
As for tools, the ones that work the best for me are a tablet and pen, a charged laptop, a dark room, quiet, and a glass of Scotch.
What book(s), author(s), or significant life event(s) have had a positive or negative influence in your life that inspired you to begin writing?
My teen years were spent going to rock concerts and festivals. I remember drinking and dancing the nights away with my friends. I remember just partying and having a good time which in turn led to some run ins with law enforcement. When I look at it and try to granulize it, I think that the feeling that I have had a very unusual life and have not live up to my potential is the single driving force behind my passion to write. My writing is inspired by Hemmingway, Dante, Dan Brown, and Hunter Thompson just to name a few.
What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?
eBooks are convenient for some I guess. To me a book will always be something you hold in your hand and turn the pages. Plus, I love smelling them when they get old.
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-five I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was just to wasted to write and that sooner or later I would have to settle down and write books. I don’t think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development. In writing I had a desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the posterity. Writing to me is a labor of love for sure and I hope to one day soon turn it into my career.
Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) in bringing your book to life?
Writing, just like anything else in life requires a great deal of confidence, and you have to build your confidence as you go. You need to conquer feelings of being overwhelmed, and enjoy the process of writing instead of writing just to get done. But the biggest challenge to me is time. I will probably go to my grave wishing I had more time to write.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
It takes blood, sweat, and many tears to write a book. Finding the right editor for your book is mandatory. I always re-read my work twice, fixing problems as I go. Then the manuscript gets sent to the publishing company’s editor, where they usually find about one thousand mistakes that I never saw. A good editor will be astute, comprehensive, and ultimately make your book shine. A good book has to click!
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
Both self and traditional publishing have their pluses and minuses I guess. Both types are easy and reliable. Having clear expectations of timing as well as content in every step of the process is key regardless which way you publish. Obviously, when you self publish you can pretty damn well say what you please, where as with a traditional publisher they tend to be a little more…well…traditional.
Do you have a subject/genre you would never write about, why?
Well here’s the thing. There isn’t a magic story everybody wants to hear. The readers are interested in the writer’s voice, and the writers experiences. Or they are interested in the writer’s characters. Because of that, I don’t think it’s a question of what subject or genre the writer is writing about. It’s how they write about it. I think there is a story to be told anywhere and with anything.
What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?
Many writers have certain habits and rituals in preparation for the task at hand. Benjamin Franklin soaked in the bathtub. Truman Capote wrote lying down. Maya Angelou has a preference for legal pads and sherry while lounging in a hotel room. Shakespeare picked up his pen, turned around, rolled his pen between his hands, and spat over his shoulder before sitting to write. Yeats’ process involved simply putting the pen to paper and letting the words ooze out. I’m like Yeats, the words come and I let them. The inspiration is slouching towards Bethlehem to be born. The motivation is internal and comes in waves.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
No one else has had my past experiences. In many ways, my life started at the top and I worked my way down. My stories, insights, and ideas are uniquely mine and cannot be copied by anyone else. I find areas where I disagree with what’s written by other authors or I have additional information that has not been written in their books.
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
I enjoy designing my own covers. In the end the publisher uses a designer for the cover, but so far it has always been based on my vision and my idea, and with artwork that I have provided.
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
Brainstorming is my favorite part of the writing process. is a lot like spilling out a box of puzzle pieces and putting a puzzle together. First you are finding the edges, and then hunting for a few particular colors and shapes. All the parts are there, and I am working on the framework and key elements, but the main picture is still a big blank.
I love watching an idea begin to emerge. I find joy in the initial bursts of inspiration and creativity, knowing I can sort it all out and organize it all later.
Often I will call and text friends to toss out ideas—all kinds of ideas! Some will end up sticking while others will fall by the wayside. There’s nothing like a new project and coming up with different ideas and angles when it’s time to write.
Books by Michael Sprankle
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