Saturday, November 15, 2014

39 Questions with Mikhail Lerma

 1. Tell us a little about yourself. Just who the hell are you, anyway?

Just how far back should I go with this? I was spawned inside my father’s testicles, and was evicted from my mother’s womb like some kind of glorified jellyfish. On that day they named me Mikhail Lerma. I hail from the great plains of North America, which is now just a massive flat cornfield. Fast forward, my marketing VP/wife and I have spawned three little females of our own. The first time I ever wrote a story was in third grade. It wasn’t good. The next time was as a sophomore in high school. Again, it wasn’t any good. Then, one day in Iraq the muses graced me with their divine intervention and I attempted to write a third time. It was rough, but was good enough to get picked up by Permuted Press. That little gem is titled Z Plan: Blood on the Sand. It was followed by Z Plan: Red Tides, which was also picked up by PP.

2. Do you have any strange writing habits?

I write in the nude. And talk to my self. Sometimes argue with my self. I don’t always win.

3. What book do you wish you could have written?

The Bible. That thing sells like crazy! I don’t know who God’s agent is, but he’s good.

4. Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?

Can’t really say it was an author that inspired me to write. It was more of a, do I sit and stare at a wall or play more halo? So boredom inspired me. But I can say that I was influenced. Agatha Christie is one. In my opinion, she had some of the most clever plot twists I’ve ever read. And she was smoking hot. Stephen King, who is also smoking hot. He just proves that anything can be scary. A haunted hotel, a clown, a possessed truck, some fog, and ominous dome. Hell, even a writer can be scary. Max Brooks (his book, not the awful movie), J.L. Bourne. Really the list goes on.

5. If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

My wife and I play this game all the time!

Cale: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kickass, Godzilla, Savages)
Zach: Nicholas Holt (Warm Bodies, X-Men: First Class)or Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spiderman)
Lauren: Jenna Malone (Donnie Darko, Hunger Games: Catching Fire)
Naeem: Jimmy-Jean Louis (Heroes, Arrow, Tears of the Sun, Bourne Identity)
Ben: Seth Gabel (Fringe, Arrow)
Blair: Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead) *I’m sort of type casting this guy. Ginger in the zombie apocalypse

6. 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?

Sometimes I dwell on names. Other times I feel like George R.R. Martin and I name a character Bob or Kevin. For the most part, a lot of my characters are combinations of people I actually know. So I use similar names or combine their names. There is a group of five men in my current work-in-progress that I spent DAYS getting their names right. But for the rest I recommend the Google machine.

7. What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?

Just finishing the first book. It’s easy (sometimes) to start writing, but to sit down and see something through like that with no writing experience/training is pretty amazing.

8. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

My magic eight ball says try again over and over. Is that good? I’d like to see my self writing full time. Maybe dabbling in other genres and possibly another series.

9. Were you already a writer, and have you always liked to write?

No. The two times before Z Plan were homework assignments. Writing was more my sister’s thing than mine. But since book one I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy writing.

10. What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

At the sake of sounding like everyone else I recommend you write what you know. If you want to do something realistic like an ambulance paramedic who can see ghosts but you’re a bank accountant, you better learn yourself some of the jargon and actual practices a paramedic would use. Don’t just make it up. Most readers can see right through that. But if it’s straight up fiction, a world you create from scratch, feel free to fill your books with the ramblings of your inner voices. No matter how ridiculous.

11. If you didn't like writing books, what would you do for a living?

I’m a spontaneous person. I’d probably just do whatever. And if I like it, great. If not, at least it pays the bills.

12. 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 read them almost as soon as they’re posted. I’m just excited to see if someone enjoyed it or not. I've only ever responded to one. It was my first and only one star review. It was by no means one of those messages. In fact, we were both very civil. I thrive on feedback, and in my opinion nothing is one hundred percent. There’s always room for improvement. We exchanged a few messages and parted on honest and kind words. Nice guy. My characters just weren’t what he was looking for. Advice? Don’t take it personally. Never respond while you’re angry or upset. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Stay true to yourself and your writing, but take the negative they found and work on it. Not for them. For yourself. Reviews help you become a better writer.

13. What is your best marketing tip?

Don’t sell your books, sell yourself. Wow, that sounded dirty. I don’t mean prostitute yourself. But on second thought that would be good money…

14. What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?

Deadlines. I’m not a full time writer. I’d like to be, however, I’m not. So I have all sorts of things going on. Between family and work there are only a few hours left in the day. I try to fill them with writing, but some days I just want to play a videogame or take the kids to a movie.

15. Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

Gay vampire porn. I’ve heard there is a demand for it right now, and writers who can do it are selling well. But I don’t think that’d be something I could write. I’m not against homosexuality, but it goes back to writing what you know. And as a heterosexual male, I’d have no idea where to even begin there. Haha.

16. Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others?

Ones where my main character is by himself. There is no dialogue, just narration. The paragraphs are filled with; “He did this”, “He looked here”, “He thought about this”. It can get repetitive even with a diverse vocabulary.

17. Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)

I’m working on the third book in my series, Z Plan: Homecoming. Once it’s finished that’ll be three notches on my belt. I hope to add a lot more. I’ll probably need more than one belt…or I just need a bigger gut.

18. What are you working on now? What is your next project?

I was kind of keeping my next project hush-hush, but Michael Wilson and Anthony Ziccardi got me to share it with them when I was in Nashville. So I suppose I could give you a bit of a sample. It’ll be like Water World meets, Hunger Games meets, Under the Dome meets, the Little Mermaid. Lol.

19. Do you write naked?

See question number two.

20. What is your biggest failure?

I don’t want to sound pompous, but I can’t really say I've had a ‘failure’. I like to say I’ve had learning opportunities. I've just been really lucky is all.

21. What is the biggest lie you've ever told?

Where are you getting these questions!? You should blackmail me via private message. Lol. Let’s see…I once told my first grade teacher my throat hurt too bad to be called on in class.

22. Have you ever gotten into a bar fight?

Once. A dirty pirate spilled his drink on a ninja that was sitting next to me. I saw the whole thing go down. They stared at each other for what seemed like hours. Then I yelled, “Beat down!” And all hell broke loose. There were like fifteen ninjas (I couldn’t count them all because…well, they’re ninjas), but there was definitely only twelve pirates. The bar we were in had a capacity of twenty-eight people so it was cramped. Kuni were thrown and left ‘hooks’ were given. Get it? Left hooks? Ya know, because they’re pirates? No. Never been in a bar fight.

23. Characters often find themselves in situations they aren't sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?

Just last week. My wife left a ‘honey-do’ list and on it was dishes. It was pretty hairy for a second, but I managed to pawn it off on my seven and five year olds. Relax, there are no child labor laws violated here. I checked. Besides, it qualifies as a chore.

24. Do you drink? Smoke? And if so, what’s your favorite libation?

I don’t smoke, but I do drink on occasion. I get a lot of writing done when I drink so that’d be my favorite. I just have to be careful because sometimes I feel like Jack Torrance or Mort Rainey. But man, those guys could write!

25. What is your biggest fear?

Lord Voldermort. Next question.

26. What do you want your tombstone to say?

Because I don’t want to come back from the dead like in Return of the Living Dead, I will be cremated. But I could put a tombstone on a plot that read “Vacancy”.

27. If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Telekinesis. I could use it as super strength and flight. Not to mention its applications for defense. Just watch Chronicle. That’d be me with super powers. Matt, not Andrew.

28. If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?

Well, Captain Planet is already taken…but my costume would be like Michael Shannon’s in the Man of Steel. After Zod throws off all the unnecessary armor and takes flight.

29. What literary character is most like you?

Tom Sawyer. Mischievous and adventurous.

30. What secret talents do you have?

I can’t tell you, it’s personal. But it’s why my wife married me.

31. Where is one place you want to visit that you haven't been before?

The surface of Mars. Call me crazy, but I’d totally sign up for a one-way trip there if I didn’t have kids. Who cares if I’d die there one day? I could not go and die here anyway? At least there I’d be among the first to see another planet in person.

32. What is something you want to accomplish before you die?

Number thirty-one. Seriously.

33. If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?

На работе они называют бы Горбачева из-за моего имени. Поэтому я использую довольно забавный русский акцент , когда я пользоваться домофоном. But I’ll say Irish. From around Portlaoise.

34. Do you have any scars? What are they from?

A few. One on my forehead. Ran, and I do mean ran, head first into a wall playing tag. My left hand is covered in them from a rollover I was in about a year and a half ago. I’m sporting symmetrical burn scars on both wrists. Hazards of working in a steel mill. Oh, and one on my knee from work also.

35. What were you like as a child?

Smaller. With less body hair.

36. Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?

Yes. Actually my first book has one of them in it. It’s the same as my main character’s recurring dream. Then my character’s entire life is essentially a recurring nightmare I have.

37. You’re being attacked by a hoard of brain eating zombies at this very moment, and all you have is a butter knife, a week-old lemon and a cheese grater. How would you extract yourself from the situation?

First, when life gives you a week-old lemon, I’d make lemonade. Then I’d use the butter knife and cheese grater to stab and grate my way out. Those zombies would think they were the cheese at Olive Garden, and I never tell the waiter “when”.

38. Do you have any regrets? (Besides volunteering for this interview)

I wrote the first book on my deployment in 2007, but published it in 2012 because I didn't think it was any good. I wish I’d have jumped on it sooner.

39. And last, but certainly not least, do you have any books you’d like to recommend/ shout-outs?

I don’t read much now that I’m writing (I’m selfish like that). It’s mostly so I don’t subconsciously borrow aspects of their stories. So I avoid the zombie genre right now. But I did pick up Deep Black Sea by David M. Salkin. He has extensive knowledge on aquatic reefs and equipment. Something I want to educate myself further on. The book is great. And I had the chance to actually meet him in person! I’ve heard good things about Time of Death: Induction by Shana Festa and March of the Damned by Jeremiah Israel. I personally spoke to Jeremiah about his Flying Zombies Trilogy and it’s at the top of my list when Z Plan is all finished.
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