Monday, June 15, 2009

[Interview] Michael Jodoin

Filmmaker and author, Michael Jodoin lives in South Central Kentucky.

His first book, Holy Hell was released from sonar4 publications in March 2009.

Jodoin's work includes a screenplay adaptation of Holy Hell; a vampire story, Love Sucks; and a werewolf tale, The Wolf with the Red Rose.

In this interview, he talks about his concerns as a writer.

When did you start writing?

I suppose I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I wrote short stories as a teenager, but the realities of life and parents who thought writing made a good hobby as long as I pursued a real career first pushed me off the path. I continued to write periodically, placing each completed piece in a drawer for posterity’s sake.

My wife stumbled upon my work about five or six years ago and encouraged me to seriously pursue my dream. Time to write was still at a premium until the day my wife suggested that we were in a position financially that would allow me to stop working full time and devote myself to my writing.

I think everyone who writes wants to be published. I don’t really believe that it’s a conscious decision to be published. It just sort of comes with the territory. How to go about getting published is simple. No, strike that. It isn’t really simple, it just sounds simple. At the end of the day it comes down to getting your work out there. Ideally you’d have an agent, but getting an agent to even consider your work when you’re unpublished is difficult at best. Getting a publisher to look at your work if you’re unrepresented is even harder. It’s a lot like a dog chasing its tail. The upside is that every now and then the dog catches it.

You can’t be thin-skinned. A lot of rejection comes with this gig. I once told a writing class at my stepson’s school that the first step to becoming a writer is to hang around with people who love to criticize you. Just take it on the chin. After that, date people you know are going to dump you sooner or later. Once you can take all that rejection with a grain of salt you’re ready to be a writer.

You can greatly enhance your chances of success by writing the best work possible. My suggestion would be to write what you know about. If what you want to write isn’t something you know about then find out about it. Do all the research you can regarding the subject. Even if you want to write a far-fetched sci-fi story you can find some basis in existing science that you can extrapolate on. When I wrote Holy Hell, I kept a bible on the desk just to make certain I had the right information. I also did a lot of online research.

How would you describe your writing?

The writing I’m currently doing is pretty much the same as what I’ve always done, Horror with a twist. I like to take a standard Horror theme, be it ghosts, or vampires, or werewolves and run it around a corner no one sees coming. Of course at some point in every story I have to throw a little philosophy in.

I’d like to think that audiences of all ages can enjoy my work, but I tend to write for the 18 to 24-year-old audience. Possibly even to the 24 to 34-year-olds. I think they ‘get it’ more. Also I believe they are more willing to question what really is the ‘norm’ even in Horror.

Which authors influenced you most?

OK. This is going to sound really weird, but one of the greatest influences to my writing has been Douglas Adams. I know he didn’t write Horror, but his style is infectious. His work is fun to read, it’s funny and it definitely takes twists and turns that keep the reader off balance.

I guess it was that level of unpredictability that gave it the influence it’s had on my work.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

A writer’s personal experiences are what gives him or her that perspective to see the direction a particular piece should take. I don’t think all of my work necessarily has one direction. I’ve done a lot of different things from being a carpenter to farming to research and development for a plastic company. I’ve gone from the top of the heap to the bottom of the barrel. Your personal experiences give your writing direction, but if they’re varied enough there is no one direction for everything you write.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

I think my main concern is the aforementioned predictability. I never want my writing to become standard fare. The best way to deal with that is to know your genre. If you think hard enough you’ll find a place that no one else has ventured to.

Probably the biggest challenge I face is balancing my writing with every day life. I tend to get like a bulldog with a bone when I start writing something. Putting my work aside to deal with the things that confront all of us daily, even time with the family, is tough for me. Fortunately I have a very understanding wife who has a unique way of bringing me back to reality, even on the most intense of days.

Do you write everyday?

I do try to write every day.

Generally I start by reading the last few pages I wrote the day before. I find it helps to set the mood. I also surround my office with pictures or symbols that represent the essence of the story I’m telling.

I make an effort to end my writing day at a preset time, but if I’m on a roll I tend to keep going till I’ve reached a point that feels comfortable for me to stop. Also the sound of my wife yelling, “You don’t have to write the whole damned thing today,” will bring me to a screeching halt.

How many books have you written so far?

Holy Hell is actually the first book I’ve ever written that has been published. It was published by sonar4 publications and released in March 2009.

I wrote one other book entitled The Wolf with the Red Rose, a werewolf tale, which resides in the drawer that my wife stumbled upon.

I found that I preferred writing screenplays as opposed to books. While I am bound by a confidentiality agreement I can tell you that I have one screenplay, tentatively entitled The Curse of Bootlegger’s Marsh in pre-production at this time and soon to begin principal photography as well as two other screenplays picked up by the same production company.

This is not to say that I’ll never write another book. I fully intend to. Who knows, I may even dust off The Wolf with the Red Rose and have a go at it.

What is your latest book about?

As I said before I write screenplays, but I do have a first draft of the second installment of Holy Hell entitled Holy Hell: Aftermath. I always saw the story of Jackson and Christ as a trilogy. I can’t say how long it took to write because as far as I’m concerned a first draft is just that and the book isn’t finished until I’m completely happy with it.

As for choosing a publisher, you don’t. At least not at first. You can choose who you send it to, but who picks it up is a crap shoot. You can only hope to be as lucky as I and have someone of Shells Walter’s caliber (editor of sonar4 publications) take your work on. She is an unstoppable force of nature.

As for the advantages and disadvantages, the advantages are too numerous to list and I have yet to find a disadvantage. I can only tell you to trust your publisher’s judgment. This is what they do. You write, they publish. It’s as simple as that.

Which aspects of the work you put into the book were most difficult?

I put a lot of myself into the characters in Holy Hell. Some of that wasn’t easy to see or say. Not all of the characters started out as ‘nice guys.’ We all have inner demons we do battle with on a daily basis, but being honest about it, even in a work of fiction, is tough.

However, when it was all said and done, writing Holy Hell was cathartic.

What did you enjoy most?

Telling a story that actually had a point, that made a statement, was very cool. Holy Hell is about change, forgiveness and acceptance. The fact that people get that, judging from the response I’ve gotten, without feeling like they were being preached to is very satisfying.

What sets Holy Hell apart from other things you've written?

It isn’t Horror in the strictest sense. Holy Hell is religious fantasy/horror. It could best be described as The Da Vinci Code meets Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Nothing like anything else I’ve written.

In what way is it similar?

It has that twist to it, it has a sense of humor, albeit dark in places, and it has characters that you really do care about.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

I’d have to say that my most significant achievement as a writer is that I’ve found myself and the joy of having a job that I love waking up to every morning. That said I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the fact that I owe a great deal of that to my wife, Donna, for her faith and support.

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