Ask the Author: Michael Mammay
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’m a veteran who served a full career in the army before becoming a writer, which is extremely useful, mostly because it’s hard to find health care as a writer. The VA has me covered. I also incorporate a lot from my service into my books. I grew up in New Hampshire but left for the army and never really went back, and now I’ve settled down in Georgia, which is where my wife was raised. I figured that since I drug her around with the army for a couple decades, it was only fair that I got her back home. These days I’m a full-time writer.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
Planetside is about an almost-retired Colonel who gets called upon to do one last mission: find the missing son of a high-ranking politician who has gone AWOL in a war zone on a distant planet. It seems straight forward enough. Until he gets there and finds a coverup. Witnesses go missing, the command stonewalls him, and people who should be helping him…aren’t. He travels to the planet’s surface—planetside—to find answers, but people (and aliens) there aren’t glad to see him. The truth is down there, but before he can find it, he has to survive.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
I had the idea for the setting of Planetside while I was serving in Afghanistan. At the time, I didn’t do anything with it. I just jotted it down. I had a kernel of a story in my head, but I was working on something else, and I didn’t really have a plan for it. It was just one of those ideas in a notebook that most writers have. I was between projects, taking a break from writing, and I was reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I was about one chapter in, and if you’ve read it, it has this amazing first-person voice, and that was it. I immediately knew that’s how I had to write this story—in first person. I’d been writing in third person until then, but I knew. I wrote a chapter and sent it off to a few trusted readers and they loved it. Nine weeks later I had the first draft done.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
This is a tough question, because the book changed a lot from the first draft to the final version. I rewrote the entire third act, which added in most of the twists which I can’t tell you about because of spoilers. But I would say that was my favorite part. I had a complete book that was pretty good, but the ending was lacking a little something. And I blew the whole thing up and wrote basically six or eight completely new chapters, and it made it so much better. And really, that’s always my favorite part about writing. Figuring it out. Getting the story on the page and then revising it. Breaking it apart to figure out what’s working and what isn’t and putting the puzzle together into its best form.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
Elizabeth Moon. Specifically, The Deed of Paksennarion series (starting with The Sheep Farmer’s Daughter). It was the first time that I saw realistic military fiction merged with fantasy. I didn’t know it at the time, but Moon, like me, is a veteran, and it comes through in her work. And while I’d thought about writing before that, tt was the first time I really knew what it was that I wanted to write. There have been other influences. I mentioned Gillian Flynn, and there have been other non-sci-fi writers, such as Nelson DeMille from whom I draw inspiration. In genre, I think I owe a debt to Joe Halderman and Robert Heinlen, though I don’t think you’d see much of them specifically in my work. It’s more how they thought about the future of warfare.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
Can I give two pieces of advice? I’m going to give two pieces of advice. First, you’ve got to work at it, and if you want to be good at it, work means more than just writing. It means studying and learning the craft. You can do that a lot of ways, but a big way is by reading other modern authors and really looking at what they’re doing. The other way is via online resources or craft books that give you the building blocks you need to express your story in a way that people will enjoy. The second piece of advice is to find your crew. Writing is a very solitary pursuit, but very few people can do it alone. You need feedback from other writers to help you figure out if what you meant is what made it onto the page. And I’m not talking about having your family and friends read it. Because they’re going to tell you it’s great. Other writers are going to be more honest with you, which…that can be painful…but it’s also how you learn and get better. The feedback I got on my early work helped me develop as a writer, and even now, while writing my fourth novel that will be published, I still get feedback from a lot of writers before I even send the manuscript to my editor.
My preferred bookseller is E Shaver, my local independent book store. They are currently doing free shipping. You can also find it at the following locations: