Maine, New England resident, M. A. Walters is a science fiction, horror novelist and short story writer.
His work includes the collection of short stories, A Flourish of Damage and other Tales, which is available as an e-book from Sonar4 Publications.
In this interview, M. A. Walters talks about his writing:
How long did it take you to come up with A Flourish of Damage?
It took a year to knock the shorts out while working on two novels. Sonar4 is the publisher. They are small but vigorous with solid heads and work ethics behind them. They are smart. I’ve had a chance at a bigger house, but I trust these people and know they will promote me, and I think I have something to offer them also.
Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into the book?
Dealing with domestic violence and some of the darker sub-currents of our culture.
In a lot of the shorts in this collection I’m pocking around some uncomfortable patches and corners of my self. I got a little too close to the edge a couple times and pulled back. It’s hard not to become the thing we hate at least for moments, the darkness in the world.
When we rally against injustice, I discovered it’s far too easy to become that which we hate. Yet that quick recoil itself is what tells us we are different. The lead character in "Flourish" is all about that very fine line, and it was a challenge to me. How does she take back her life and maintain that humanity?
I’m something of a near pacifist by nature but there is something in me that respond vigorously to blatant abuse and injustice. It’s a deep part of my nature; it’s part of the furniture of my self. It’s not going anywhere, so I accommodate it. I just work with it.
Well, the part of me that is pacifistic and tolerant and who is really a live-and-let-live kind of personality can encounter wrath and rage in myself when the large attack the weak and those that can’t defend themselves.
I used to practice aikido and aikido is a positive paradigm in relating to this inner and outer conflict. But people there take that to one extreme or another also. It’s all peace and light or it’s brutal, either of those points of view is BS in my mind. What there is are circumstances and the response that is proper for that given time. Lock your self into either of those corners and you are in a dangerous place.
People don’t want to think, they want right and wrong answers. There are solid lines that should never be crossed, when crossed you have lost what makes you human and there’s nothing left worth fighting for at that point. Forget that and your culture or person is over, you just don’t realize that yet. I’m very serious on this point. Perhaps I’m just a moralist at heart; oh-well all good horror is moralistic in nature.
Which aspects of the work you put into the book did you enjoy most?
The writing itself, when it’s pouring through you and you don’t really feel like you are at the wheel, you are something of a watcher and there is something magical there, about that, for lack of a better word ... It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever encountered. It’s addictive.
What sets the book apart from other things you've written?
A couple of those stories are a bit too personal for my taste.
Maybe there is a little more of me in a couple stories in that collection than would normally be.
I was pushing the edge a few times there.
A Flourish of Damage and other Tales is similar to other things I have written because I returned to short story format, which was how I essentially saw myself in the past.
I went back to my roots.
Those stories were all written over the last year while I worked on the novels, they were like a breathing break for me.
The novel is an over-whelming experience for me. I like to do it but, frankly, it hurts.
What will your next book be about?
It’s either going to be finishing book two of the Minder series, tentatively titled The Culling, or I’m going to expand After the Fall the Remnant into a novel. I know where that’s going and I think its’ an interesting place. I’m excited to jump in those waters. It’s a very Lovecraft kind of tale, where something ancient and so very different from us suddenly jumps into the present.
We will also have the deal with our own dark-side there because the beings that show up look on us as simple resources, nothing more. It’s a coldness so deep it’s not coldness. That is much more frightening. It’s indifference. This is what we confront in the novel and I’m letting the human race off easily in this one. They will never be the same again, simple as that. The human race is done but evolution still proceeds from that point. Dormant things in the human also wake up; survival and chaos are also a different word for creation, right? I’m excited about this work.
What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?
How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?
Mine and those around me also. I always had a strong sense of empathy and saw a good deal of suffering and, yes, that shaped me and it’s there in the work.
I also grew up on the wrong side of the track so to speak. Which is an education in and of itself.
One of my characters from the story, A Flourish of Damage, is a writer and says something like she bleeds all over the pages she writes, because she is hidden there, but hidden well, hopefully. The writer has to step out of the way for things to work and yet still be there.
Remember, at the beginning, I said I began writing at around 10.
I think a lot of us can’t always solve our problems with the world but we become god-like with the pen, don’t we? Some of the injustice and sand traps of the world get solved or at least framed in a different light on paper. It’s a way to deal, to more than deal, to transform something in our selves. At the same time, remember, it’s hopefully just a good story. You have to entertain, never forget that, or, you are doomed. You also can’t make everyone happy, so don’t try. That’s related to what I said above. Be inclusive but don’t try and please all. That’s a foolish venture. I’m young in the business of writing but that seems pretty apparent.
Do you write everyday?
I try to write something, maybe just a blog, even correspondence.
Health does not always allow this. There are many days I simply can’t, but it’s always there, the mind is constantly spinning stories even if I’m sick in bed. In fact, that’s when I tend to crash through difficult parts of a story or character, in that quiet dreamy realm when sick or exhausted. I’ve had crummy health my entire life, in the last few years it’s been much worse. I don’t venture far these days. Which is odd for me as I used to love to travel, to throw myself into strange places and sink or swim.
I ‘think’ it was Proust who also was like this. I read where he said if he had been born healthy he would never have been a writer. I think that might be true for me, I would probably be out hiking and expending energy physically. So, again, there is a positive even to this. I came back to writing from illness. So, I accept this.
I try and make up for it during a good spell. Some days I can’t work. Some I will be here for 12 hours straight. When I can I’m here and I work hard and long. When I can’t, I can’t. As soon as I sit here, it happens, the world recedes around me.
There is something shamanistic about writing. I don’t know what it is, but it’s there. I’m not a TV watcher. This is what I do when I can. I take a nap in the middle of the day then find myself here again if health permits. Ends with some reading and sleep. Yes, reading, my eyes take a beating.
I’ve been away from publishing for many years and am only now seriously thrusting myself into that arena in the last couple years.
Early on, I had a bad agent and bad publishing house miss-adventure. I got very busy afterward and I just walked away from the business until just recently.
I had three books optioned by a medium-sized west coast publishing house. About the time my work was suppose to be coming out the house split and not remotely nicely. Many writers were caught in the middle of all this.
Aside from that, small bits here and there back then. Point is, I’m here now, and I’m seriously here looking at this as a profession. I take the work seriously. Myself as a writer, I hope, less seriously than back in those days.
I’m not often one for quoting my ex-wife, but she said most writers can’t really enter this profession until they hit 40. I think that is pretty accurate. Experience shaped my work and I think at 40 you can look back and see that and throw all that into your work. You have to go through the agony of those early years to do that. You can’t spare people from that, I don’t think.
What are your main concerns as a writer?
Easy, I’m dyslexic, and not mildly so. This is why I was not a good reader until college, not that I’m good now. I was un-diagnosed before this. I read, and edit profoundly slowly but I write quickly, thankfully! It is a painful process for me, editing.
My early experience marked me throughout my school days. After I got my diagnosis after near 12 hours of testing with a wonderful college psychologist, I flourished as a student. I discovered, in fact, I had a very high IQ, I was not slow (I knew there was something very wrong), my brain was just wired differently and did not see words and such as most did. Most people don’t realize those glitches are not just for words. The thoughts twist and turn and I lose those also. I’m horrible with names, I never remember dates, and my sense of time is horrible. I’m not good in certain venues and formats due to this.
Reading is painfully slow still, editing. There are days I can’t get my words pointed in the right direction, days I simply cannot spell. It’s funny, however, when some people read my work they say it sounds effortless. They don’t hear the huge roar of laughter inside. Effortless, no, painful yes! Thanks to the literature gods for technology.
Some days are okay. I have a prism in my glasses that helps me see the words better. Before that I had horrid migraines. Still do at times. But the problem is in the brain ultimately. I’ve learned to compensate for it. I choose to look at it in a positive light now. Maybe the gift of writing might not be there save for this disability? Who knows?
But it impacts edits, and as a writer and I don’t do public readings of my work. Signings I will happily do. Reading out loud is a painful childhood memory for me. I’m an adult now and can just say no. I will write for you, I do my job and yours is to read.
My generation did not know these things and I would get tossed up front and feel like a sideshow freak. Yet everyone knew I was quite intelligent, which was a strangeness to live with. Often times our weak points become our strongest points however. There is a certain irony in my becoming or being a writer you see. This irony is certainly not missed on me.
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