This is an interview with Michael R. Fletcher, author of the Manifest Delusions series and Ghosts of Tomorrow. This interview took place via a sophisticated chat platform (Twitter DMs) on August 9th, 2018.
Hiu: Alright, so I hate all the typical “tell me about yourself and your book” questions that most interviews start off with. But admittedly they are useful for introducing you to new readers. So… Middle ground, we’ll try jazz it up a bit.
Michael: I like it! I’m a wandering watermelon with delusions of grandeur!
Hiu: You’ve been flung in a cell. Fuck knows how you got there. They’ve got the wrong guy. How do you explain who you are and what you do to the prison guards?
Michael: Oh Jeez. I would not do well in prison. I am waaaaay too cute. I’d probably go into great detail on my life and who I really am and hope they felt pity and just cut me loose. If things got ugly I’d let one of the Doppels take over. Rage is more than capable of breaking out of a prison. The body count would be fantastic.
Hiu: Oh man, doppels really make this mistaken identity thing complicated.
Michael: Yeah. I probably committed the crime. Or some nasty part of me. Or Dyrk Ashton.
Hiu: Like I’ve got a body here. And it’s like… It’s an old woman, Michael. Someone’s granny. Someone needs to take the fall.
Michael: Oh. Whoah. That wasn’t me. I blame Ben Galley. That’s one shifty looking dude. Why did he flee to Canada anyway?
Hiu: Wait you’re asking me the question?
Michael: I need answers!
Hiu: I assume so he could visit Michael Sullivan’s house more easily.
Michael: Oh. Yeah. That makes sense.
Hiu: You know Michael, they call him self-pub Mike. Or sometimes hybrid Mike. He’s one of a kind.
Michael: He’s the font of all self-pub knowledge. Most of what he tells me I can’t even understand. It’s all TLAs.
Hiu: Michael is seriously such a nice guy though, such a gent. Always willing to help folks
Michael: He is. It’s kinda amazing. Me, I try and stalk and murder other writers to eliminate the competition. Frankly my way makes more sense.
Hiu: I’d have to agree there. Though travel costs must be a bitch. Too many Australian authors these days.
Michael: I’m working my way south. So far I made it to Brampton, Ontario. Though apparently I’ll have to double back to get that Nick Eames bastard. He snuck through somehow.
Hiu: In the interest of getting this back on track though, this does tie into another question.
Editor’s Note: This is where the serious interview stuff actually starts
Hiu: So you were traditionally published initially, before you went selfpub, yeah? Do you mind telling us (me. It’s only me. Your whole doppels schtick is infectious) a little about that?
Michael: Sure. My first novel was published by a Canadian micropress to little fanfare. Assuming that would be the norm for me I wrote another book, a mad little novel called BEYOND REDEMPTION. I figured it would never sell because it was too crazy. I sent it out to a handful of agents, assuming they’d ignore it like the millions of agents I hounded with the first book did. To my surprise I landed an agent! She went on to land me a publishing deal with Harper Voyager. Though I’d written the novel intending it to be a trilogy, they bought it as a standalone. Well, the book received amazing reviews and I took that to mean it was selling well. I trundled off to write the sequel, THE MIRROR’S TRUTH, which I was confident the publisher would want. Well, it turned out sales were ‘disappointing’ and they weren’t interested. Since I’d already written the damned book I went off and self-published it. It’s since won an r/Fantasy Stabby award and been translated into Russian, Czech, and Polish. I can’t remember what the question was.
Hiu: Oh hey, I have one of those Stabby things too! Man, this interview is prestigious.
Michael: We rock!
Hiu: So from what I’ve seen, the Manifest Delusions series has done really quite well, even considering publishing difficulties. Would you say that’s the case on your end? And how much of a mindfuck was the whole stumbling-into-a-hybrid-model thing?
Michael: You know, I don’t really know how to judge success. On the one hand, I never thought I’d get published. So I’ve been successful beyond my wildest dreams. On the other hand, I still have a day job. The response to the series has been amazing. No matter what happens, it’s all been an unbelievable experience. And I get to rub shoulders with actual for realsies writers and pretend I’m one of them! (they’ve yet to see through my disguise!)
HaperVoyager passing on the sequel was a massive blow. I spent several months after that quite drunk. One one point I was killing a 26oz bottle of whiskey every week. That went on for months before I pulled out of it and gone on with writing more books. I guess we all deal with shit in different ways. I turtle up and get stinky. The trick though is finding your way out. And there’s just so many damned stories I want to tell! The hybrid thing turned out to be a lot easier than I thought. I had no idea how well the self-publishing business was set up. I mean if a clod like me can do it, anyone can. Just hire an editor, and a great artist.
I think I have a small but psychotic fanbase and I love ’em. Someone recently sent me picture of their MIRROR’S TRUTH tattoo. How fucking cool is that?!
Hiu: That seriously must be the coolest and craziest fucking thing to see as an author.
Michael: Dude. I can’t even. That’s like leveling up right there.
Hiu: LEVEL UP! +1 CONFIDENCE! +3 SEQUEL ANXIETY! +5 ALCOHOLISM!
Michael: Exactly! I’ve been working on the last book of the Manifest delusions series, A WAR TO END ALL, and quite frankly the pressure is freaking me out. If this book isn’t amazing and yet different than the first two, people will be pissed. And so +5 Alcoholism. I wrote three other books while thinking about the third MD book. Seriously.
I could have an entire career just avoiding that last book.
But it’s finally started. Late 2019 for release. Unless I crack.
Hiu: It’s always kinda bemused me how the pressure that you guys are under always gets kinda… Brushed under the carpet. I mean, this has been a half hour chat and we’ve already kinda touched on imposter syndrome, sequel pressure, dealing with setbacks. It’s crazy. This isn’t even really a question, just mad props to you guys for dealing with all that shit.
Michael: I know it hits a lot of writers more than any of them are willing to talk about. No one wants readers thinking they won’t finish a series. I do my best to turn off my brain, don’t think, and bludgeon my way through. That’s my writing mantra: Thinking Bad!
Hiu: If we can talk about your writing for a bit… Honestly, the entire concept for your Manifest Delusions series is just the coolest fucking thing. The concept of “enforced will” magic systems taken to the surprisingly logical conclusion that the magic users must go insane on some level, and then exploring that… It’s just awesome. How did this idea come to you, and how much research did you have to do into existing mental conditions to flesh it all out?
Michael: The roots of the idea are a little vague, even to me. I used to work as an audio engineer, recording albums for local Toronto bands and doing sound at live shows. I was recording an album for a band called Dirty Penny. They had a song about the interaction between the Incan Emperor, Atahualpa, and the Spanish Conquistador, Francisco Pizarro. They spun it like it was a battle or world views rather than muskets and spears. That planted an idea. It grew from there. I started with: what if reality was shaped by belief (not a new idea) and then pushed it to what seemed like its logical conclusion. If belief defines reality, then people capable of believing impossible, insane things become like wizards. Then I realized that the more insane you are, the more powerful you become. The thing is, embracing insanity isn’t healthy. At some point you’re going to spiral out of control. So it’s this race between power, and being devoured by your delusions. I ended up delving into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as research. Fascinating stuff! It was a lot of fun trying to figure out how various delusions might manifest.
Hiu: Talking about your audio engineer work, am I right in saying you have quite a background in metal music?
Michael: Total metalhead. I played in a goth metal band called Sex Without Souls for about 15 years. We used to blow things up and play fetish clubs. These days I write and record music for fun. I’ve done intro music for The Grim Tidings Podcast, The Scribbler’s Rest, and Professor Grimdark’s VLOG.
Here’s a SoundCloud link to some recent tunes. All just me and my Doppels playing music together.
Hiu: It’s really cool that you’ve managed to tie fantasy and metal together in that way. I’m listening to your Ghosts of Tomorrow audiobook at the minute, actually, and it was pretty cool to hear it start off with a metal instrumental. And talking about that audiobook, how was it just to go through that entire process of seeing something you wrote transformed into a different format?
Michael: The process was so strange. I don’t listen to audiobooks so I had nothing to compare it to. It sounded great to me, but what the hell do I know? In the end I got a bunch of folks to listen to samples from half a dozen different narrators and they all agreed RB Watkinson was The Voice. She’s got mad acting chops too. Listening to it made me want to rewrite the whole book with an eye to narration. But people seem to love it, so… I dunno.
Hiu: That’s interesting, do you think hearing your book narrated has had an effect on how you’ll write in the future?
Michael: I’m not sure. It’s such an unconscious process for me. I don’t really think. I’m too busy trying to put the scene I see in my head into words. I might try and reading the next book out loud, but that seems like effort. And people seem to like my prose, so maybe I’m doing something right. I think I would like to try writing one specifically for audio. What I really want to do is write a radioplay/book and have a cast of actors do the parts. Just gotta find folks willing to work for belly button lint and prestige bucks.
Hiu: So you mentioned that you wrote 3 books while A WAR TO END ALL was on the backburner. Are these books that are currently available to buy, or upcoming releases?
Michael: These are all upcoming releases, though how they’ll be released I have no idea. Everything got kinda sidetracked when I parted ways with my agent. I’m a day or two away from signing with an absolutely amazing agency (can’t talk about it until things are signed) and then we’ll look into selling some or all of the books. Two are dark fantasy, and one is a real world thriller, which was a step out of my comfort zone but a lot of fun.
Hiu: Oh, that sounds awesome! Hope everything goes smoothly with that for you, it sounds like some pretty exciting stuff. Am I right in saying that Ghosts of Tomorrow is real-world too? And did you actually have that written before Mirror’s Truth?
Michael: Ghosts is near-future SF with hints of cyberpunk. It was the first thing I ever wrote. Before any short stories even. It found a home with a Canadian micropress and was originally published as 88. A few years later they kindly reverted the rights to me. I added a couple of chapters, changed the ending, edited it a bit, and hired an amazing artist (John Anthony di Giovanni) to do the cover. Shawn King did the typography. Those guys are my Dream Team. Some day I’d love to go back and write a sequel to it. It’s a standalone novel, but there’s definitely room for more.
Hiu: The Dream Team! Love those guys. They’ve made some incredible covers over the past couple of years. It’s cool to hear that you went back to edit your first novel, too. From what I gather, don’t most folks just pretend that they never existed?
Michael: Ha! Yeah, I certainly understand the temptation. But I loved that book too much to let it die. And it’s been getting amazing reviews, which is nice. I really always wanted to be a science fiction AND fantasy writer. I love both genres equally.
Hiu: I’m reading and enjoying it just now, so I can tentatively agree with those reviewers! Just as we’re coming to the end of this interview now though… I reached out to a friend of yours to ask if they had any questions for me to put to you. And, well… they gave me a list of subjects to touch on. So I’m gonna try and touch on all of these in one question.
Michael: CHAOS QUESTIONS!!!!
Hiu: What would be your exact reaction if you found a Nazi wearing Dyrk Ashton’s pants in a fetish club, post anal sex, and eating turkey soup?
Michael: I think that’s the first time I’ve been momentarily stunned by an interview question. I’m a peaceful guy, but Nazis can go fucking die. Also, for him to be wearing Dyrk’s pants, he’d have to have stolen them from me! So I’d get the damned pants back, avoid the highly suspicious soup, and send Dyrk the cleaning bill. The rest I’m fine with. I’ve spent enough time in fetish clubs to know better than to judge, and people’s sexual proclivities are their own damned business. But white supremacists can seriously go fuck themselves. I have no time for that shit. AND HOW DARE HE STEAL DYRK’S PANTS!!!!!
Hiu: Ahhh, so you have Dyrk’s pants. Honestly, everyone seems to be confused about where those are.
Well it’s a blast talking to you, mate! Anything you wanna say to the readers to close off?
Michael: Thanks, dude! It’s been fun! All you lovely readers out there stay safe, be excellent to one another, and rock on! \m/ \m/
Michael R. Fletcher is a science fiction and fantasy author who lives with his wife and daughter in the endless soulless suburban sprawl north of Toronto, Canada. His hobbies include… uh… he gave up all his hobbies to make time to write.
You can buy Michael’s books at the following links: