Today on the blog we have the pleasure to introduce writer Mjke Wood. Read on to find out more about his fascinating books.
Where are you from and what's your background?
I was born on the Isle of Man but I’ve lived most of my life on the Wirral, in the UK. I worked as a Finance Manager for a large public transport company, but last year I took an early retirement deal to concentrate on writing full time. I’m also a musician, playing alto sax and clarinet in bands around the North West. I love playing in pit orchestras for amateur shows, too. It’s a great way to see lots of hit musicals without having to pay to get in.
What a great way to attend shows! When did you realize you wanted to write and when did you start writing?
I’ve always loved reading, and about thirty years ago, after a bad commuting experience, I wrote to the local newspaper. It was a full on rant, but I injected humor into it, and when it was published as the star letter, and I began to receive feedback, it got me thinking. I decided to try writing humor pieces and sending them to magazines. They were rejected of course. They were bad. But it didn’t stop me because I’d fallen in love with the whole process of writing.
That’s great that you didn’t give up after being rejected. What genre do you write and what's your target audience?
It’s strange that while I was sending these random humor pieces out to magazines, I’d never thought to try writing science fiction. I read a lot of science fiction, and have done since I was eight or nine years old. My dad used to bring home stacks of short story anthologies from the library, and I read these because they were way better than the stuff I could get from the children’s library. So I took a break from the humor stuff and started writing science fiction short stories. I sent them to magazines, and when these rejections came back, they were different. They were rejections from America, from magazines like Analog and Asimov’s, and the editors were names that I knew, and they were writing letters to me, and sometimes they even included comments that made me realize they’d actually read some them. I’d found the thing I wanted to write. There was still humor in a lot of the stories, but also some serious stuff was coming through. So for the most part, my target audience was these editors. I wrote for them. If ever I were to sell a story it would be because I’d written something that appealed to a particular editor.
It’s quite an interesting take on your audience. And how many books have you published so
My focus stayed on short fiction for many years. I wrote occasional novels and sent them out to agents and publishers, but always my passion was for writing short fiction, and I’d begun to sell some of it. In 2007 I won the Jim Baen Memorial contest with a short story, and then a year later I won Writers of the Future, and that was cool because part of the prize was a week-long paid-for trip to Los Angeles for a workshop and for the award ceremony. I’d never been to America. I’d never even flown, and that’s a whole other story in itself. Okay, I’ve strayed from the question, so I’ll try and get back on track. Before writing any novels I had maybe two dozen short stories published in sci-fi magazines and anthologies. I put together a collection of my own short stories, called ‘Power for Two Minutes and Other Unrealities’, and indy published it on Amazon, and I have now, at last, published a novel-length science fiction story, ‘Deep Space Accountant’, which is the first of a series. Book two will be out later this year. In the meantime I followed a parallel thread, writing a humorous travel memoir called ‘Travelling in a Box’. It’s very niche, very UK focused, so I’ve been surprised at how well it’s done.
You have a lot of interesting adventures to tell, that’s for sure. And congrats on your winnings. What is your favorite quote and who wrote it?
I don’t have a quote, so much as a set of rules, coined in 1947 by the sci-fi writer, Robert Heinlein. They’re designed for short fiction writing but you can make them work for long form, too.
1 You must write
2 You must finish what you start
3 You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order.
4 You must put it on the market.
5 You must keep it on the market until sold.
Rule three seems a little strange but what it means is don’t keep going back over something you’ve finished, polished and edited. Concentrate on the next thing. So I also like to include a sixth rule that was added much later, by Robert J Sawyer:
6 Start working on something else.
This is important. It’s too easy to sit back after one story or book and decide that your work is done. It isn’t done, you have the next book to do, and then the next.
Indeed, the job of a writer is never done… Do you have a favorite author? Who? Has this author or his book(s) influenced your writing in any way?
As a sci-fi writer Arthur C Clarke is perhaps my biggest early influence. I think I’ve read every novel he wrote, and most of his short fiction, too. Clarke’s ‘A Fall of Moondust’ was the first Sci-Fi novel I ever read. The memory of reading that book, waiting for the rain to stop while on a camping holiday near Minehead in Somerset, is still vivid in my mind. I was eleven or twelve years old. ‘A Fall of Moondust’ just blew me away. If Arthur C Clarke was my gateway drug to sci-fi, then Stephen King hooked me with the full-on addiction for writing. Around about the time when I was sending off those daft little pieces to newspapers and magazines, I read Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’, and then ‘It’. I felt rocked back on my heels. I’d encountered real magic. How could a few squiggles on a page transport me, mind body and soul, into another world? I wanted more and I wanted to be able to perform that magic.
I can see why they can influence any writer! If you could be a character from any book who would you like to be, and why?
This is hard because most of the characters from my favorite books are put through hell and back. It’s something writers do, they create characters you love and then they do horrible things to them. But if I may return to Arthur C Clarke, and his 1974 Hugo-winning ‘Rendezvous with Rama’, then Jimmy Pak is my choice. He’s a crew member of the exploratory mission to Rama, a massive rotating cylindrical starship that enters our solar system en route to an unknown destination. Jimmy Pak gets to skybike along the axis of Rama, and he sees the whole of this artificial world rotating around him. Ever since reading that book I’ve been fascinated by the whole concept of generation starships built as giant cylinders with artificial gravity. What a fabulous thing to explore one and see it from such a vantage point. And Jimmy Pak gets through the whole book without getting maimed or mutilated or anything else of a discouraging nature.
Wow, that’s true. Hard to find a character that doesn’t go through a horrible experience, but the adventures are worth it! What are you working on now?
I have a first draft for the second Sphere of Influence novel all ready to start knocking into shape. It’s called ‘The Lollipop of Influence’. I envy those writers who can get a first draft that’s more or less good to go. My first drafts need a lot of work to iron out all the bugs and plot holes and clunky writing, and I have to make sure it’s consistent with the first book. I’ll only send a ‘final’ draft to my editor when I’m sure it’s clean. And then, for sure, it will come back marked up with another month’s work for me fix all the things I missed. I’ve also written a follow-up to my travel book, called ‘Two in a Box’, which is sitting in the queue waiting its turn to go through the second-draft factory. Beyond that I there’s a third travel book to come, provisionally titled ‘Flying in a Box’, and at least one more book in the Sphere of Influence series. And I’m still doing short stories at the rate of about one per month, just for the fun of it.
You’re keeping very busy, and that’s great. Where can we find out more about you and your writing?
My website is www.mjkewood.com and I have a separate website for my travel books, www.travellinginabox.com.
You can find me on Twitter as @MjkeW and my Facebook page is www.facebook.com/mjkewood/
Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
Well, just to mention that one of my short stories has been optioned for a movie. The story is ‘The Last Days of Dogger City’ which first appeared in the April 2015 edition of Analog. Right now it’s being turned into a script by the producers, First Enterprise Productions. This is a turn of events that I most definitely wouldn’t have predicted a few years ago. As I say, it was only a short story so the movie will need more plot material than in the original, so I’m dying to see what comes out of it.
That’s about it, only to say, thanks, Andrea, for the interview. I’ve very much enjoyed doing it, and I wish you every success with your own writing endeavors.
Congratulations, Mjke! That’s absolutely fantastic and I hope to be watching the movie based on your story soon. Good luck and thank you so much for your time telling us about you and your books!
To puchase Mjke's books, visit his page on Amazon: