This week’s interview is with former Corrections Officer turned crime and horror writer Michael Kelso. He didn’t send me a picture, so I typed his name into Google and this is what came up. Pretty sure it’s him!
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?
I was a Corrections Officer at a local prison for 20 years. I started writing during the time I worked there. Being in that type of environment definitely shaped the tone of many of my works.
How do you capitalise on being named after a character in That 70s Show, and if you don’t then why not?
I can’t say that I capitalize on it, but I don’t shy away from it either. It’s the name I was born with. The fact that a fictional character shares my name doesn’t change my writing for the most part. I did add a line in one of my stories to poke fun at my namesake. The fact that I write crime fiction and horror most of the time make it difficult to capitalize on that character.
What is your background in writing and how did you get in to writing crime fiction?
I’m self-taught; or, at least, I determined to learn how to write on my own. I read many books on the subject, the most helpful being, Write great fiction: dialogue by Gloria Kempton. I also learned a lot from some amazing writing mentors on Fanstory.com. The time I was on that site formed me into the author I am today. Unfortunately, two of my mentors passed away last year. Crime fiction came from the story as it developed.
Talk me through One on One. How has the book been received by readers so far and why?
It started out as a 3,000-word short story. When I first wrote it, I focused on the more brutal parts of the story. It was fully intended to be a horror story about a fictional prison. Once the story was complete I realized that there was much more that I could do with it. I took scenes and extended them. I added characters.
As the story grew I knew it could no longer classify it as horror. The longer it got the more I realized it was turning into a crime story with less focus on the brutality and more focus on the main character and how easy it is to step from the role of hero to that of villain. So far I’ve heard nothing but good things from readers. Many of them are asking for more, which I take as a sign of approval.
Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?
When writing my crime fiction novel I took a lot of inspiration from my Corrections Officer career: the background, the duties of an officer, dealing with the inmates on a general level. The criminal part of the story was entirely my imagination. I have been asked numerous times if any part of that story was true and the answer is no. None of the events in One on One happened at the prison I worked at.
I don’t really have any rituals. Perhaps if I did I’d have more books written by now. I do like to listen to music when I write. Metallica is my main band if I’m writing horror. Creed if I’m writing something of a more general or spiritual nature.
What style of writing do you enjoy reading yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?
My main reading has changed over the years. I love Lord of the Rings, lots of Star Wars books, especially the Heir to the Empire series. Frankenstein is my favorite book hands down. It has such an amazing depth to it that lots of people miss because they equate with the movie but the book is so much better than that.
My favorite writers are Tolkien, Timothy Zahn, Mary Shelly, Mike Battaglia, Stephen King (when he’s not writing long winded garbage like It), Poe and Lovecraft for their short stories along with Ray Bradbury.
If you could collaborate with any person, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
Mary Shelly, because Frankenstein was such a masterpiece. She created modern horror with her first book. One of the most poignant moments was when the creature, looking only for acceptance, revealed himself to the cottagers only to be cast out. It was then that he became the monster Victor feared him to be.
Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?
I just released a collection of short horror stories based in a bed and breakfast called Mr. Smiley (think along the lines of the cryptkeeper type character). I have another collection of short horror in my Fragments of Fear series that I hope to release by next month. I also have my first YA novel in second draft. It’s about the darker side of football seen from the eyes of a 12-year-old boy. After all that, I have my next three sequels to One on One in the works.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to in the future?
I know a lot of people say that to write you need to read, but lately I really don’t have the time with all of my writing in the works. There’s nothing I’m looking forward to like I did when the Harry Potter series came out and I went to the store at midnight to get the latest offering. However, I will find time for the latest Timothy Zahn Star Wars book. Thrawn is my favorite character since Darth Vader.
Thank you to Michael for answering my questions, you can read more about him and his work HERE.