It was at the tender age of 7 that an interconnection of cells and organs called Mike Robinson (then Mikey) penned, or pencilled, his first story. Called Aliens In My Backyard!, it went on to become a runaway bestseller, topping international charts (or maybe that just happened in his imagination, too).
Although he has since worked as an independent videogame producer and cinematographer, writing has always been the focal point of his creative life, although to him the phrase "creative life" sounds a tad redundant. His first professional sale, a short story entitled "The Hand of Spudd", appeared in Storyteller Magazine when he was 19. Since then, his work has appeared in a dozen magazines, anthologies and podcasts. In 2006, he was one of five guys comprising GLAWS, the Greater L.A. Writers Society, which has since become the second largest writers' group in Southern California. He's the editor of "Literary Landscapes", the society's publication. See more at: www.glaws.org
"Skunk Ape Semester", his debut novel, was released early 2012 by Solstice Publishing and was a Finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. His follow-up, the supernatural mystery novel "The Green-Eyed Monster", debuted October 2012 from Curiosity Quills Press. His existential horror novel "The Prince of Earth" is also available.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’ve been writing since I was about 6 or 7. Originally, I wanted to be a baseball player, and so writing was a way -- when I wasn’t actually playing ball -- to indulge my fantasies of kicking up dust on a major league diamond. Eventually, I ingested Mark Twain, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, etc., and just wanted to become a writer. I published my first story when I was 12. My scattered professional career kicked off when I was 19 and began selling work to magazines and other publications. Every year of my twenties I wrote a novel, just to get better. Along the way, I joined GLAWS, the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society, for which I’m managing editor of Literary Landscapes, their official magazine.
My first novel, Skunk Ape Semester, was released by Solstice Publishing, and was a Finalist in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Curiosity Quills Press published my next few novels: The Green-Eyed Monster, The Prince of Earth and Negative Space. The Green-Eyed Monster was, to my delight, noted in Stephen Jones' annual The Mammoth Book of the Best New Horror. My collaborative novel, Hurakan's Chalice, the third in Aiden James’ bestselling “Talisman Chronicles” series, came out September 2013.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I actually like them all, and tend to broadly distinguish them, although one story or novel could easily embody all three. I see Horror as aiming to get under your skin, either in a visceral or psychological way, or both. I see Weird Fiction as more quirky and philosophical -- the criminal in “Twilight Zone” realizing he’s actually in Hell, for instance, or the man who can hear the voices of trees and plants in Road Dahl’s adult story “The Sound Machine”. Dark fiction can maybe be more literary in treatment, meaning it might not possess elements of the supernatural -- my first thought is of L. Ron Hubbard’s “Fear”. But then again, Horror doesn’t require the supernatural, either. A long way of saying I embrace all categories.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
Yikes. There are a lot of them. I get something out of many authors, including: Clive Barker, Ray Bradbury, John Steinbeck, Yann Martel, Italo Calvino, James Joyce, Herman Melville, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Cormac McCarthy, Neil Gaiman, Hermann Hesse, Doris Lessing, Virginia Woolf, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Kurt Vonnegut, Nathanael West, Anton Chekhov, Stanislaw Lem, Jack London, Mark Twain, Harlan Ellison, Saul Bellow, Robert J. Sawyer, Cervantes, Edgar Allen Poe, Richard Matheson, on and on. Non-fiction, I like Paul Davies, Joseph Campbell, Neale Donald Walsch, Harold Bloom, the Dalai Lama, Christopher Hitchens. I do enjoy and read new, lesser-known authors, but the aforementioned are those I tend to re-re-re-read. It’s good to devour masters, of all genres.
What are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading Libra by Don DeLillo, and re-reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. I’m also dipping in and out John Cheever’s mammoth collection of stories.
How would you describe your writing style?
I’ve experimented much over my decade of serious writing, testing the waters of numerous styles. All of it, I think, has culminated in an approach blending Lovecraft’s “horrific cosmic reverence”, James Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness, Cormac McCarthy’s thunderous atmospherics, Ray Bradbury’s celebratory cadence, Stephen King’s inner-monologues and Clive Barker’s undercurrent of grime and dread. By no means am I saying I’m somehow the ideal composite of these authors, or that I match them on any of what I’ve described. But in technique they are premiere among my influences and aspirations.
Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Coffee steaming beside me, I usually start writing long-hand in my notebook in the late morning or early afternoon. I write for maybe 2-3 hours, a period often broken by quick reading respites. Then, later that night, booze glass beside me, I type it up. This allows me to play in the editor’s sandbox, and produces a much-cleaner first draft than if I simply vomited it all out.
What’s your favourite food?
Wow. No idea. Living in Los Angeles, I’m prone to many cravings, and am fortunate that the city offers easy ways to sate them. I love sushi. I love burgers. I love Mexican. I love Korean BBQ. I love New York-style pizza and Cajun-Creole and seafood like lobster and shrimp. I will try anything -- I don’t shy away from anything that looks strange or slimy. Unless it moves.
What’s your favourite album?
Time to make a confession: I have no favorites in this area. Another confession: I never personally bought a single music CD growing up. This is not out of some Taliban-like contempt of music, just how it happened -- I was busy buying books and videogames. I’m rather eclectic and will crank up bluegrass one moment and Beethoven or the Stones the next. One of my favorite groups is Simon & Garfunkel.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing?
It’s never as good as you first think. Always go back to it, and revise, cut, trim, polish. You’re also always going to improve. Writing every day, you will be much better in a year than you are right now. However, also keep in mind that, more often than not, a discarded project you detest is never as bad as you might imagine.
Fame and fortune, or respect?
Respect. If I can be greedy, I’d say respect and fortune. Fame is not a big concern -- I’m more of an introvert, anyway. And fame for writers is nowadays almost impossible to achieve, unless you count “fame” within certain appreciative circles. Sadly, books and their authors have been pushed toward the fringe of general popular attention and discourse.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I know it’s a trite, but I do love different things about all my work. My personal favorite of the ones I’ve published, though, would probably be The Prince of Earth. It’s the one that came out closest to how I envisioned it, and chronicles both the “outward” and “inward” journeys of a person, my interest in psychology, metaphysics, horror, and its story, while layered, is actually pretty simple, but still up for interpretation. I sometimes say it could be the lovechild of David Lynch and H.P. Lovecraft.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My last book, Negative Space, released August 2013, is a surreal and mysterious journey into the life and soul of a Los Angeles-based painter who collects Missing Person flyers, in order to incorporate their faces into his canvases. Ultimately, the novel addresses our evolution as a species, and how art has, can, and may play a role in it. While self-contained, Negative Space is also the second in two loose trilogies that include The Green-Eyed Monster and Skunk Ape Semester. Like King, I enjoy meshing universes, painting a Macroverse.
Right now, I’m working on a fantasy-adventure, a sort of Jules Verne or Ray Harryhausen homage with a strong meta twist. In terms of publishing, my collection of weird fiction, Too Much Dark Matter, Too Little Gray, will release Spring 2014 from Curiosity Quills Press. My more mainstream novel, The Atheist, about a celebrity pundit who wrestles with profound questions after a near-death experience, will be published by Muse Harbor Publishing in 2014, as well.
It had come back. It had come back and it was stronger. It's been twenty years. Not again. Not now. Not anytime. In 1988, young American traveler Quincy Redding is trekking across the misty terrain of the Scottish Highlands. She is destined for the infamous peak Ben MacDui, the summit of which soon finds her inexplicably debilitated and at the mercy of a malevolent entity. The book spans twenty years, alternately following Quincy in her 1988 ordeal in Scotland as well as Quincy in 2008, when, as an adult, she begins experiencing abnormalities that threaten her family and her life - phenomena that may be related to what happened all those years ago. As both older and younger Quincy learn more of their situation, and as their worlds further entwine, she becomes increasingly uncertain of the perceived temporality or reality of each period