Interview with Author Michael J. Stiehl


Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

When I was a kid I fell in love with writing through comic books. I loved stories by Peter David, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman and so many others – the 80’s were golden years for writing in comics. Later I was drawn to George R. R. Martin’s Wildcards books, which ultimately led me to Isaac Asimov and classic Sci-Fi.

As a kid I would daydream about superheroes and science fiction, occasionally trying to put those dreams on paper but never finishing anything. In college I migrated from creative writing to journalism before becoming pragmatic and abandoning the idea of writing for a living altogether to pursue other interests.

I still thought about writing after college though, even starting a book or short story from time to time but never finishing it. Finally, a few years ago, after giving a friend of mine feedback on his third novel, he suggested I give writing another try.

I’m glad I did.

Since then I’ve been writing as much regular life allows, creating characters, stories and worlds. It’s the most fun I’ve had doing something in a long time. Recently I re-watched the movie Stand By Me – which I loved as a kid – and was struck by the scene where Chris tells Gordie he could be a real writer if he tried and that the stories he can make up are a gift he shouldn’t lose. 

It reminded me that creativity is a gift and that I should make the most of what talent I have. I’m happy to say that my novella Sanctuary is my reward for doing just that.

What inspired you to write your book?

I wrote a novella a few years ago that didn’t work but that had a character in it named Theobard that I liked. I couldn’t shake wanting to know more about him, who he was and where he came from. Sanctuary started as my attempt to answer those questions.

Once I started writing I got interested in the idea of how sometimes people we meet, and fall in love with, change our lives forever. From there Dellia came into view and I could tell right away the interactions between Dellia and Theobard were exciting. The story took off from there, driven by Theobard’s past and present but altered by his feelings for Dellia.

What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I’d like readers to consider that sometimes you have to be who you are, no matter what. However, choosing that truth can come with a price but, even if it’s a huge price, being who you are is worth it. It’s like Shakespeare said “This above all: to thine own self be true…”

What drew you into this particular genre?

This particular story started out as a straight romance but quickly changed as I began writing. In the back of my head I kept thinking about old gothic mysteries like Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I love how that book makes you think it’s going to be one thing, a Victorian drama, and then turns into a sort of ghost / horror story. I wanted a story with a compelling set of characters that lead you through an unfamiliar place to uncover a mystery. I’m not sure what genre I’ve landed on, but it certainly has bits of fantasy, romance, horror and mystery in it.


If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I would sit down with Mansell, owner of Mansell’s Marvels in the Mantori Bazaar. As a merchant of the most unique items available, I would ask him which was his favorite object, how he found it and why it was his favorite. Mansell, being a good salesman, would no doubt have a great story to tell, one that would leave me convinced the object was of immense value and interest. I would probably by it from him at too high a price and then be left wondering if it really was his favorite object or just the one he thought he could sell me.

What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I am terrible at social media. I have a Facebook page that I neglect and I’m on Reddit but that’s about it. I do have author’s pages on both Amazon and Goodreads but beyond that I don’t spend a lot of time on social media. I will say that I have found things like Submission Grinder invaluable for finding new open calls and writing opportunities.

What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

  1. The following three things are true:
    1. The old quote by Hemingway, “the only kind of writing is rewriting.” 
    2. The advice Stephen King gives in his book “On Writing” that the second draft should always be ten percent shorter than the first
    3. Neil Gaiman’s advice from his Master Class to always finish your story.

What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I have a couple of submissions out there I’m waiting to hear back about, both of which are exciting. One is a short story I like a lot for a very cool music themed anthology. The other is another novella I completed earlier this year set in the same world as Sanctuary but with completely different characters. I’ve got my fingers crossed that both will see print. Other than that, I’m still fooling around with a story about Houdini in World War 1 that I hope to finish one of these days.


About the Author

Michael J. Stiehl has had a lifelong passion for fiction, in particular horror, comics, adventure and science fiction, and is thrilled to finally be writing some of his own.  Michael lives in the Chicago suburbs with his wife, two kids and his very silly poodle Jack. When not writing fiction, Michael spends his time riding bikes, camping, reading books, obsessively listening to music and playing D&D with his friends. In short, he hasn’t changed a bit since junior high.




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