If you were allowed to give one argument as to why the world should read your work, what would that argument be?
There’s absolutely no reason the world should read my work. However, I think my best stories offer an emotional impact and the worst are, at least, entertaining.
What compelled you to become a writer in the first place?
My parents divorced shortly after I was born, and my mother and I moved frequently. One of the first things my mother did each time after we moved was find the nearest library and get us library cards. Though we didn’t own many books, thanks to those library cards I was constantly surrounded by books.
Additionally, we didn’t have a television until I was in the third grade. Instead, on weekend nights my mother and I would listen to rebroadcasts of old radio dramas.
Between the library books and the radio dramas, I was, in a sense, raised on stories. Through these stories I could go anywhere, see anything, do anything, and be anybody.
At some point I realized that people wrote all those stories—people like me—and I wanted to tell my stories. So, I wrote my first story when I was in the eighth grade, showed it to my mother, and told her I wanted to be a writer. The story was likely quite bad, but she encouraged me, and a year or so later I had a poem published in my junior high school literary magazine.
That’s why and how my writing career began, and I was writing professionally before the end of my teens. Unfortunately, my mother died when I was seventeen, and I was unable to share even my initial accomplishments with her.
Who are some writers every new/beginning writer should read and why?
Short-story writer John M. Floyd is a master of plotting. Just when I think one of his stories has reached the end, there’s yet another twist, another turn in the plot that propels the story forward.
Short-story writer Art Taylor is a master of subtext. His best stories aren’t necessarily about the words on the page, they are about the things left unsaid.
What are some writing tips you would offer new/beginning writers?
The single most important thing a writer needs is determination. A successful writing career consists of a stream of rejections occasionally punctuated by an acceptance. So, the ability to keep going in the face of rejection is what separates regularly published writers from rarely or never-published writers.
The second most important thing a writer needs is a willingness to learn. Read constantly. Read great work to learn from the masters. Read terrible work to learn how bad something can be and still get published. Read style guides and dictionaries and anything else that will teach you about grammar and spelling and punctuation and story structure. Read instruction manuals to learn how to properly use your word processing software. Then apply what you learn to your work.
The third is professionalism. Strive to be professional in interactions with editors and with your fellow writers.
And, finally, writers must find their own way. There are many ways to go from a blank page to a finished manuscript. Try them all. Find the method that works best for you.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
I have stories forthcoming in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Close to the Bone, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical, Mystery Tribune, P.I. Tales, Pulp Modern Flash, Tough, and The Best Mystery Stories of the Year.
I’m also an anthology editor, so this year look for Jukes & Tonks (co-edited with Gary Phillips), season three of Guns + Tacos (a serial novella anthology series co-edited with Trey R. Barker), and Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir, vol. 2. Scheduled for 2022 are Groovy Gumshoes: Private Eyes in the Psychedelic Sixties, season four of Guns + Tacos, and Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir, vol. 3. And I’m the editor of Black Cat Mystery Magazine, so look for every issue of this quarterly publication.
Michael Bracken is the author of several books, including the private eye novel All White Girls, and approximately 1,300 short stories. His crime fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Best American Mystery Stories, and many other publications. A recipient of the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement, Bracken has won two Derringer Awards and been shortlisted for two others. Additionally, Bracken is editor of Black Cat Mystery Magazine and has edited several anthologies, including the Anthony Award-nominated The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods.