Independent writers are a diverse bunch. More than diverse. Every one is so different from all the others, so particular, so bewildering …
To understand what makes writers tick, we need to learn more about them. I’m attempting that, one writer at a time. This week, let’s get to know
First, tell us about your books.
What I’m known best for is my “unputdownable” thriller and suspense books. My flagship series is Lust, Money & Murder, which is an international thriller series with fourteen (and counting) books in it. I’ve also published novels in several other genres, including romantic suspense, young adult, science fiction adventure, romantic comedy, etc.
At what stage in your life did you first publish a book?
I was in my early forties (mid-1990s) and self-published Wild Child, a YA sci-fi book.
Did you send it to agents and/or publishers, or did you publish independently?
There’s a strange story associated with that, Scott. I did land an agent for Wild Child, but the book was ultimately rejected by the big publishers because they couldn’t decide how to classify it, genre-wise. I got mad and published three thousand paperbacks (this was long before ebooks were a thing). I ended up throwing almost all of them in the trash when I found out how difficult it was to actually get them into bookstores and sell them. Well, a few years later, a friend told me they saw Wild Child being sold on Amazon, and that it was getting great reviews! Turned out that some insightful soul retrieved the books from the trash, sold them at garage sales and flea markets all over the country, and eventually some resellers listed them on Amazon.
How do you think your writing and your books have changed since then?
Not much, actually. This is because I had already written five other books before Wild Child, which was my breakthrough book, the first one where I really learned to trust my muse. I wrote exactly the story I wanted to write, both for myself and for readers, without thinking about markets or pleasing publishers or anything else. I’ve written that way ever since and all my books have a solid readership and good reviews. That said, I do have awesome editors who help me a lot—I couldn’t do it without them.
Tell us about your work in progress.
Right now, I’m about to release the fifteenth book of the Lust, Money & Murder series. They are written in trilogies, and this one is the last of the three books in The Japanese Trilogy. I’m also about to put the rest of that series in paperback. I’ve noticed that the pandemic has moved people back towards paper books, to some extent, probably because we aren’t as mobile as we used to be.
What impacts, if any, has the pandemic had on your writing?
Normally it takes me no more than six months to write a full-length novel, at least the first draft. My last book, which I started in March, 2020, took me eighteen months to write! Unexpected child-care and other side-effects set me back, plus lots of interruptions for weeks at a time when new restrictions were put in place.
Is there anything about your first book that you wish you had written, or done differently?
Yes: I should have thrown it in the trash. Nobody would have dragged that one out and tried to sell it, believe me! It was a mess. I didn’t know how to structure a novel and had to learn a lot of other things about the craft of writing a good, engaging novel. With writing, you have to learn by doing, as I’m sure you would agree.
What are some things about others’ books that you love?
I love authors who know how to keep their cast of characters down to a minimum and their plots simple enough to follow without resorting to a pen and paper to keep it all straight. I also love plot twists, believable character motivation, and writers who have the courage to delete their “darlings,” so their stories are not littered with irrelevant or boring material. I have a brilliant wife who helps me do this with my own writing.
What are some things about others’ books that you detest?
Well, you can guess some of that that from my answer to the previous question. I suppose my pet peeve is for books where readers say, “You have to stick with it—it gets better.” To me, if this is what most readers say about a book, then the author has failed them, at least until the part where it gets better. To me, a good novel must be good from Page 1 all the way to the end.
What advice do you have for new or aspiring authors today?
I would say it’s much the same advice successful people would give to a newbie in any field. It’s probably going to be much harder and take you much longer to be successful than you think, but if you work diligently at it, persist, and learn from your mistakes, you can definitely make it happen.
Thanks so much for the interview, Scott. Very good questions—I enjoyed answering them!
Thank you, Mike.
Mike Wells is an American bestselling author of more than thirty “unputdownable” thriller and suspense novels, including Lust, Money & Murder and Passion, Power and Sin. He is also known for his young adult books, such as The Mysterious Disappearance of Kurt Kramer, The Wrong Side of the Tracks, and Wild Child, which are used by English teachers in high schools and colleges worldwide.
Formerly a screenwriter, Wells has a fast-paced, cinematic writing style. His work is often compared to that of the late Sidney Sheldon, with strong and inspiring female heroes, tightly written scenes, engaging action and dialogue, and numerous plot twists.
He currently lives in Europe and has taught in the Creative Writing program at the University of Oxford.
Visit his website to learn more about Mike and his books.