Interview with NP author Mike Church
Mike Church’s book - he will tell you all about it himself in this interview – is scheduled to come with Night Publishing in the Autumn of 2011. Mike combines verbosity with a great sense of humour and some original layout. He writes about the world he knows like the back of his hand: teaching. I can assure you that – when embarking on a trip through Mike’s writing – you’re in for an unusual ride. Enjoy!
The person behind the writing:
Where do you live (town, country)? Were you born and bred there?
- I live in Aretxabaleta, a small town in the Basque Country in northern Spain.
- No. I’m from High Wycombe (not far from Speen). Yes, I was. Mostly white bred.
What kind of food do you like? Are you a good cook? How important is food to you?
- I love all kinds of food. The only thing I have never been able to eat is liquorice.
- No, I’m not a good cook, but I do love cooking and I’m getting better. I make a great Anglo-Basque Spanish omelette. My cottage pie takes some beating, too.
- Very. Are there any greater pleasures in life than having a dinner with your closest friends? Also, if I didn’t eat, I think I’d die eventually.
Do you do any sports? How often? What does exercise mean to you? Any other hobbies?
- No I don’t. Too busy working or writing. So, just the occasional 10-mile mountain hike.
- Once or twice a month maybe. (cue Fawlty Towers: “How often can you manage it? If you don’t mind my asking? My wife couldn’t see how you could manage it at all.” . . . “Well, since you ask, two or three times a week, actually”)
- Not getting enough exercise means I feel very frustrated most of the time. Fortunately, my job – which basically consists of running up and down stairs all day – helps to keep me more or less in shape.
- Reading (of course) and, though I no longer play, I still love chess and solving chess puzzles in the paper. Aren’t I boring!
Do you have kids/grandkids? If so, please tell us a little about them?
- I have two lovely teenage kids. My daughter, Lorea, is preparing for her university entrance exams (she may go into teaching), and my son, Joseba, has just started the sixth-form. They are both talented in many ways, but especially musically (imo).
Do you like travelling? Where do you go then?
- Love it. Now our kids are growing up, we’re just beginning to get out and about again. We love visiting the European capitals – Rome, Lisbon, Amsterdam . . . there are so many places to see. Favourite places to date are definitely Amsterdam and Rome. We hope to make it to Istanbul this summer.
Do you have another job apart from writing? For how many hours? How do you feel about the ‘other’ job?
- I’m an English teacher and director of studies at a very large language school. On a “good” day I work just 8 hours; on a bad day 12+. The job took over my life many years ago. I work to pay my bills. I still love teaching, fortunately, but if I could afford to write full-time, I would.
How do your family/friends react to you being a writer? Have their opinions changed since you became a published author? Which remark from your surroundings has stuck most with you?
- They’re mainly happy for me, and encouraging. They say I write well, which is what you want to hear, I suppose. Of course, they’ll say that even if what I write is complete rubbish.
- I’m not a published writer yet. We’ll see.
- My brother (who is a published writer) said, “You have the X-factor”. We’ll see.
Would you call yourself a social human being? Do you have time for going out and spending time away from the writing desk?
- Not really. I’m terribly antisocial in the little free time that I have. I think it could be to do with having to spend so many hours with people at work. I can’t even have a coffee and read the paper without somebody interrupting me to tell me their life story. At home, there’s nothing that upsets me more than the phone ringing, somebody knocking at the door, etc. (I took the phone off the hook before I started writing these answers).
- No. I don’t get out nearly enough though, when I do, I love it e.g. travelling, commented above. Dinner with friends on Friday evening is also a must.
Which character trait do you like best about yourself and why? Which trait would you rather do without?
- I suppose my redeeming features are 1) I listen to people, 2) I motivate my students (and they motivate me), and 3) I’m anything but lazy.
- There is very little I like about myself. Chapter 5 of dayrealing contains a fairly autobiographical list of all my hang-ups – far too long to reproduce here! – but I suppose I wish, in brief, that I wasn’t so damned British. The lovely Basques are doing their best to unbrit me.
Can you describe the place where you write + the view?
- I’m in my favourite armchair in our living-room, tapping away on a laptop. View is very boring: TV, piano, ironing board . . . (My poor wife was ironing last night).
Is there something you always need to have near you when you work (beverage, cigarette, mascot, music, quote, etc)?
- My glasses, pendrive and notebook with all my work, ideas, etc. As I usually start early in the morning, a strong coffee is a must. If it’s a cold winter’s night, I prefer a whisky. Never with ice.
What genre(s) do you write in? How did that develop?
- General, but especially comedy. All my life we’ve been watching comedies at home, so Dad’s to blame, I suppose. I’ve actually invented a new genre, which I call “romp antic comedy”. That said, I’d like to try my hand at a serious genre one of these days.
When was your first book released and how did that make you feel?
- It hasn’t been released yet. We’re aiming for autumn 2011 sometime.
- Naturally, I feel very excited about the whole affair.
Can you tell us some background information on the book? (How did you get the idea, how long did it take you to write and edit it, is it part of a sequel, how does the published book make you feel now?)
- dayrealing (small d) is a comic novel of 113000 words. It tells “the trials and tribulations of a stressed-out teacher in a spaced-out world”, and is “a tale of desperation and respiration in 50 simple lessons”. “Simple” is definitely the word. I’m no James Joyce.
- I knew I could write ok – certainly better than most published authors (“most” = 75%) – and I knew I could make some people laugh. Having worked so intensely for so many years both at work and at home, I had a wealth of experience to draw upon – classes, meetings, colleagues, students, bosses, family, kids, neighbours, shopkeepers . . . and lots and lots and lots of stress – ideal for creating a tortured protagonist.
- I created the story itself by taking 50 of my favourite songs with suggestive titles (to me), 25 “slowies” and 25 “upbeat”, then mixing them up to create a kind of rollercoaster effect while the plot formed in my head at the same time. I created a CD (Colin’s Daily Inspirational CD; Colin’s DIC, for short) and listened to it every time I got into my car or went for a walk. Add a very fertile imagination – I wrote the movie as I listened, walked or drove – and dayrealing virtually wrote itself.
- It took me 10 months to write, from January to October 2009, writing 3-4 hours every day. Except August. Weekdays: 3-6am. Weekends: 4-8am. Absolutely exhausting.
- No it’s a free-standing book, with no plans for a sequel. I feel great to have found the best home for it at last in Night.
What are your writing habits? (every day, number of words, etc.?)
- I tend to get up early to write (these days at 5), though recently I’m writing very little. When I wrote dayrealing, I took it very seriously and was always up by 3 or 4 in the morning. I wrote an average of just 125 words an hour, I calculated. I have this all documented in “Mike’s Milestones”, in which I record my main writing and reading experiences. Here’s a copy and paste from one of my entries:
First draft (Jan – Oct 2009)
9 months (August = holiday = no writing)
39 weeks, 3 hrs/day on weekdays, 4 hrs/day on Saturday + Sunday
23 hrs/wk = 900 hrs
125 words/hr = 2900 words/wk x 39 weeks = 113000 words total
125 words/hr = 375 words on weekdays, 500 words on Saturday + Sunday
275 days = 275 pages in MS Word, Times NR Font 12, 1 page / day!
Typical 3-hour session:
1 hour reviewing / reediting previous day’s writing
1 hour researching / planning today’s writing
1 hour writing
- Against all the experts’ advice, I prefer to edit as I go. I can’t stand leaving spelling or punctuation mistakes uncorrected, for example. This is definitely the English teacher in me: all those years correcting mistakes automatically.
Who’s been your biggest inspiration and why? Since when?
- On the one hand, my younger brother, Brian. He’s been a reasonably successful author for the past 10 years or so – he still collects royalties for his light-hearted look on expat life in Athens (Learn Greek in 25 Years), he has had wonderful reviews on Amazon, he still gets fan mail, and, bless him, he has always said I am more talented than him. That’s not remotely true, of course, but if I could only be as good . . .
- Other than that, I’m inspired by my favourite novelists, of course – Tom Sharpe, Nick Hornby, Joseph Heller, Frank McCourt . . . – but also by great TV and film characters – Basil Fawlty, Reginald Perrin, Victor Meldrew, Alan Partridge, Andy Dufresne (Shawshank Redemption), Phil Connors (Groundhog Day) . . .
What does Night Publishing mean to you?
- Night what? Just kidding. Night Publishing means everything to me. I’m immensely proud to be one of their authors, among such amazing talent, and I think Tim Roux has created a monster – in the good sense of the word. I hope it will be my home forever. It’s really a very very special place, and everybody without exception is so nice. Everybody rowing in the same direction; this has to be the right way forward. And anybody who disagrees with me can sod off.
Where do you see yourself in 5-years’ time?
- Hopefully, still on earth for starters. OK, I’ll tell you where I see myself, but that doesn’t mean I’ll actually be there, so please take what follows with a huge pinch of pepper . . . In five years’ time, I see myself locked away in my modest Devon studio, hard at work on my forthcoming best-seller, The Butcher of Beaconsfield or whatever. After the phenomenal success of dayrealing and its successor Mikiatures, many agencies who told me they wouldn’t “feel comfortable” trying to place my manuscripts have since decided they would now feel very comfortable indeed. I have told them to get stuffed – not in those words – because Night took a gamble with me back in 2011 and there’s no way I’m switching allegiances now. After dinner, I am taking a nice romantic walk along the shore with my wonderful wife, when suddenly it starts pissing down and we have to run for shelter. This is England, after all. Well, I could go on and on here, so I think I’d better stop.
Final fun question. If you had to choose: are you a Houdini or an Edison? This is for the official NP tally. J
- Definitely Houdini. I love misleading and tricking people. And, like poor old Harry, I hate being tied down. Shame he had such a messy end.
THANK YOU SO MUCH!!
- And thank you, Hannah, for giving us this wonderful opportunity to make complete fools of ourselves
Mike’s website: http://theothermikechurch.yolasite.com/
Mike’s podcasts: http://dayrealing.podOmatic.com
Mike’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org