Saturday, March 18, 2017

#Interview - CommWealth By Michael D. Smith

By Michael D. Smith 
Interview with  Michael D. Smith:
 Crystal: I have the pleasure of hosting Michael D. Smith. Welcome Michael! I'm so happy to have you here today! Would you share a little bit about yourself with us today?
Michael: I have an odd mantra, dating back to my Rice University days, springing from being a shy introvert shrinking back from interaction with a dizzying, energy-sapping exterior world. In the middle of intense adolescent Sturm und Drang this statement popped into my head: “There’s a super colossal mess jungle going on. It’s my business to get involved with it, any way I can.”
The upshot was that I realized I needed to observe, participate in, and process everything around me for my writing and visual art. My wife Nancy refined this a bit later when she told me” Everything you do in this life is for your art.” Whenever I feel oppressed by exterior obstacles, I just have to remember that they are also fuel.
The best part of my writing is the satisfaction that comes with a solid investigation of “what’s been psychically going on recently,” and this includes even the fun, fast-paced plots of the science fiction I do. All my fiction has a psychological quality, whether it’s science fiction or literary, even in its humorous moments. When it’s coming out well it opens up new inner territories for exploration.
I very much enjoy drawing the characters, and the drawings often give me feedback into character development. Some of the CommWealth characters are on my website:
In addition, the cover of CommWealth is my painting of several of my main characters.
Crystal: Do you have a favorite scene you would like to share with us?
Michael: In CommWealth, my insufferable anti-hero Allan confronts the government inspector checking out a potential Hoarding charge:
The front door pounded. The doorbell chimed merrily, again and again.
“Jesus!” Allan cried.
That can’t be a claimant, can it? They can’t do this! Not now! Christ, I jinxed myself even to think that! I’m sick, I’m writing! Doesn’t that count for something?
The door pounded again. “CommWealth Inspector!” came the cry. “This is CommWealth!”
Oh my God!” Allan flung off the comforter and bounded for the front door. Which was worse—the claimant—or the CommWealth Inspector? He whipped the door open to a world of darkness and cold silver rain ... and to a gaunt scarecrow in glistening black, rotting flesh hanging off his skull ...
“CommWealth Inspector Hardy. You are Allan Larson of 12 Jimson Court Parkway?”
“God ... God ...” Allan gasped. No, it wasn’t a rotting skull ... it had a little wet mustache! “Christ, it—it’s you!
The same skinny twerp Allan had gotten the Porsche from this afternoon blinked back at him. “Jesus ... it’s you!
“Uh—listen—look, you know the Thirty Days Enjoyment—”
CommWealth Inspector Hardy shook rain off his black overcoat. “I trust, Mr. Larson, that you will allow a CommWealth Inspector inside your home?”
“Uh ... sure! I—I just can’t believe it’s you!
Hardy smiled tightly and held out his ID. “I’m Inspector Number Thirty. One of five Class A Inspectors for the Linstar CommWealth Jurisdiction. I trust you have no problems with an inspection of your home tonight?”
“Well ... no ... no, of course not ... it’s just that ... just that ...”
“Mr. Larson, the coincidence of our meeting like this notwithstanding, I’m certainly not here to reclaim the Porsche, or try to request anything personally from you, both of which would be illegal in any case.”
“Well ... well ... but ... you have to admit you were pretty ticked off.”
“Well, sir, I suppose I was preoccupied this afternoon. I was on my way to prosecute a major corporate Hoarding incident in North Linstar, and you happened to catch me off guard. I’m so very sorry. Now may I please enter your home?”
“Well ... well, I suppose I could understand ...” Allan stammered, eying the inspector’s thick clipboard notebook in growing dismay.
“I assure you it’s entirely a coincidence that I’ve drawn your house tonight. As you’ll note from Form G on my clipboard here, this inspection was ordered four days ago. Now it’s quite wet out here, Mr. Larson. May I please come in?”
“Oh ... yes, certainly ...” Allan said, moving aside. “I’m so sorry, sir ... I mean, I guess I always pictured CommWealth inspectors as sort of ... like these cold, calculating monsters, you know—I mean ...”
“Who is it, honeykins?” came the soft voice.
“Oh, crap! Not—not now!
“Well—hello there!” Lisa gushed, entering the foyer in her light blue teddy, with every square inch of everything a man could possibly want transparently on display.
“Uh … good … uh … evening …” Hardy gasped.
Without looking at him Allan could feel Hardy’s eyes bulging. “Lisa, why don’t you go back and watch more TV or something? I’ve got serious business here.”
“Oh, it’s all so boring,” Lisa said. “There’s nothing on I want to see! Did I understand this gentleman is actually a CommWealth inspector? I’m so pleased to meet you, sir!”
Hardy continued to gape.
“Uh … now … now just go back to your TV—or something …” Allan said.
“You’ve made a big mistake interrupting Mr. Allan at his writing!” Lisa smiled up at Hardy. “He banished me to the TV room so he could write his play! That’s how dedicated he is to his craft! He’s a famous playwright here in Linstar!”
“Is—is that so?” Hardy stammered.
“But he can banish me wherever he wants because he owns me! I’m just his little slave now! I have to do whatever he says! How about that? So I guess I’ll watch some more boring TV all by myself! So, bye now! Maybe I’ll see you later?” She undulated a hundred eighty degrees and flounced back to the TV room.
“It’s … uh … my … uh … girlfriend … ”Allan grunted. “She … she’s a little—”
“Yes ... I ... I see ...” Hardy muttered as the TV room door clicked shut.
“I mean, I really don’t know why I got her ... I mean, she’s little touched … or … or something—I don’t know—but she sure can wear a guy out!”
“Well ... yes ... I suppose ...” Hardy cleared his throat. “Well, then, back to business, Mr. Larson.” He draped his wet overcoat and umbrella on the gold railing by the carpeted stairs. “First of all, again, I’m sorry I seemed irritable over your completely understandable CommWealth request this afternoon.”
“Oh! That! No problem! No problem at all, sir!”
“Of course, my main concern was the time spent in procuring new transportation to my official appointment, but I suppose we all have to remind ourselves that objects like Porsches, whether they’re used for pleasure or for CommWealth business, have no real value in themselves. It’s the sharing that matters, after all.”
“Yeah! Of course! You sure got that right! I mean, everything in this house is—is open to sharing!” Allan gave the slightest nod towards the TV room. “Uh, sir ...”
Crystal: Where did you come up with the idea for your latest release?
Michael: CommWealth came from a long three-part dream; the novel is a fleshing out of the first part, in which anti-hero Allan demonstrates his easy adaptation to the new property-less society as he requests every object that strikes his fancy and hauls it all back to the mansion he booted someone else out of. The dream’s second part, in which Allan is requested to work in Australia and becomes part of a murder mystery, and the third, where he returns to America shattered and in need of spiritual regeneration, weren’t used, but I’ve always considered that their energy is present in the novel, adding depth to the characters’ motivations. The dream was so complete and compelling that the first draft of CommWealth seemed to roll out effortlessly.
I have a blog post about the origin of the novel. In fact this is the entire dream written down shortly after I had it, and forms my first outline for the novel:
Crystal: What are you currently working on?
Michael: I just sent the final edits of the fifth book in my science fiction series, to the publisher, and am almost finished with Book Six. I also just finished an intriguing and perhaps silly project that I self-published: I took my childhood manuscript of Trip to Mars, and turned it into a picture book. Despite its making only marginal sixth grade kid sense, this is really an adult work, the images taking precedence over the 2600-word child story. I also have fresh respect for anyone trying to publish a children’s book; making a publishable manuscript out of these images has been an arduous though rewarding chore.
Crystal: Do you have any special routine that you follow when you are writing?
Michael: If I have a morning free, that’s the best time for rough draft fiction, as I seem to be at my freshest then. But I wind up doing most of my writing in the evening, after work. I always have something cooking and I navigate each writing session by what project appeals to me, which has the most energy resonance.
I do almost all my writing on my laptop, though sometimes I cut up printouts and tape notes to notecards which I can physically sort across a table. I have a 1940’s Royal manual typewriter I sometimes use to bang out early notes. If any prove useful I’ve found I can scan and OCR the results.
Time constraints bother me; I often subsist on short writing sessions before and after work, but I figure I have no choice but to press on anyway. I’ve noticed an odd thing, though: as I near the time to leave for night work I often come up with unexpectedly concise chapter endings. With ten minutes left I might be confronting three pages of notes that normally would call for ten pages of fiction, yet somehow it now occurs to me that these notes are superfluous, that my Character X would perform this or that action in the next few seconds and before I know it I have a perfect concise ending for that chapter. This has happened so often that I wonder if I haven’t unconsciously set this up.
Crystal: Did you have to do a lot of research for this book or any other? If so do you have a fascinating fact that you have learned you would like to share with us?
Michael: When working on my early notes for CommWealth I read a book from the library about the nature of property rights, but it had only tangential meaning for the novel and I sure can’t remember the title. I normally make up my fictional worlds without benefit of much exterior research, though I make rigorous fact sheets to make sure my worlds are consistent. For instance, the facts file for my science fiction series is 110 pages single-spaced and growing. The facts file for the standalone CommWealth is about a tenth that, though again I want to make sure that this novel’s world, crazy as it is, has internal consistency. The main thing I'm looking for in any novel is a psychological solidity no matter how bizarre the plot may get. I also drew on my less than stellar playwriting and acting stints at Rice University as background for the amateur theatrical troupe in CommWealth.
Crystal: Who are some of your favorite authors that you like to read?
Michael: Franz Kafka is a favorite of mine. The Trial is almost a perfect book. I think I’ve read 99% of everything Robert Heinlein published, and though it may not look like it, I learned almost everything I know about writing science fiction from him. I also read a great deal of nonfiction on almost any subject. The ongoing Robert Caro biographies of Lyndon Johnson, for instance, are masterpieces.
Crystal:  Is there a genre you haven't written that you would like to try?
Michael: I write both literary novels and “literary science fiction.” Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between these; the dystopian aspect of CommWealth is an amalgamation of the two. Historical fiction intrigues me, but it would be a real stretch to write it--getting all the research down, feeling unable to veer into the possible weird directions the novel might take me. A mystery novel would be another challenge, but I imagine it would be an exercise in extremely clever structuring. I threw in a murder mystery into an earlier literary novel, but it really didn’t add much.
I’m in awe of excellent nonfiction writers who’ve truly mastered their subject. I'm not sure I’d be capable of that depth of research myself. But writing nonfiction doesn’t seem to be my function, though I enjoy reading it and making use of it.

The CommWealth system, introduced just six months previously, has created a society in which there is no legal claim to any kind of private property. Any object from your house to the clothes you’re wearing can be demanded by anyone, to be enjoyed for thirty days before anyone else can request it. As actors in the Forensic Squad theatrical troupe adapt to this giddy chaos, CommWealth probes their breaking of the Four Rules sustaining the system, and several members navigate betrayals, double agents, and murder to find themselves leading a suicidal revolution.
CommWealth is available at:

About the Author:

Michael D. Smith was raised in the Northeast and the Chicago area, before moving to Texas to attend Rice University, where he began developing as a writer and visual artist.  In addition to exhibiting and selling paintings and drawings, he’s completed fifteen novels.

Smith’s writing in both mainstream and science fiction genres uses humor to investigate psychological themes.  On his blog, he explores art and writing processes, and his web site contains further examples of his writing and art. He is currently Technology Librarian for McKinney Public Library in McKinney, Texas.

CommWealth is his first novel published by Class Act Books.

Find out more about Michael at:


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