We felt your story was an incredibly sweet love story;
was this based on your own "first love" experience?
“I wish! Unfortunately, I didn’t have
that much excitement going on in my life when I was Mason’s age, but I wish I had! I’m often asked this
question through because the book is told in a first person confessional tone. Ultimately, I thought the readers would
be able to relate and understand Mason more by being inside his head.”
Most people assume growing
up gay in the South is nightmarish. However, in A Time Before Me, it seems that this isn't the case. Could you talk a little
bit about that assumption, and how you feel your book challenges it?
“There are quite a few assumptions regarding the South
and that is one of them. It’s one of the reasons that I wrote the book. Most gay novels and movies take
place in urban areas- San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, for example. Within this story, I wanted to explore
gay life in the South and remind people that yes we as gay people are everywhere. Is there homophobia in the South?
Of course. The book explores this issue as well. But I’ve seen instances of homophobia plenty of times in
Los Angeles, too. Some parts of the South, especially New Orleans, are extremely open-minded. I was also blessed
with a very accepting family.”
We just found out a sequel is coming out, titled Falling Into Me.
Can you give us a hint of where the story goes?
“Since A Time Before Me takes place in 1992 when the lead
character, Mason, has just turned eighteen I thought it would be interesting to explore where this character is at the age
of thirty. How has he changed? How is he the same? His voice? His hopes and dreams? So, the
sequel takes place in pre-Katrina New Orleans in 2004. Plus, readers will also get to catch up with Mason’s big
crushes in the first book, Joey and Billy.”
Michael, although your story is a "gay romance" it
definitely is a "romance". Any advice you have for budding romance writers?
“It’s true that the essentials to romance are basically
the same whether you are gay or straight. Everyone wants to be loved unconditionally and to be made to feel special
in someone’s eyes. Really spend some time thinking about your characters and fleshing them out before you start
writing. Why would these two people be attracted to each other? In what ways do they fill each other’s heart?”
your typical writing day look like? Do you write daily, have a specific time of day you write, a certain goal? Tell
us a little about your everyday approach to writing.
“One thing over time that I’ve learned is
that I do my best writing when I’m not at home. I have to go to a coffeehouse, park, somewhere, anywhere that
is not my home in order to focus. If I stay home, I’ll do anything but write- vacuum, watch a bad movie, surf
the internet. But for some reason in a public place, even if there are lots of people around, I’m able to concentrate
better and focus in ways I can’t staying at home. I don’t have a “typical writing day”, but
I do try and make it a point to do something each and every day that will hopefully move me one step closer to my writing
Many fiction first-time novelists are interested in whether successful authors write from
an outline, or whether the author simply follows where the characters lead. What's your take on this?
“I always write an outline first so I have a general idea
of where the story is going, but I always allow myself to tweak it as I go along. Often I’ll start writing what
I envision to be a minor character, but the character starts to take off and they become a much bigger part of the story.
This happened with the character Kwon in my other novel, Starstruck: A Hollywood Saga. Originally, I had pictured Kwon
as a very minor character that pops in to take part in a make-over of the main character. By the time the book was finished,
he had become practically the heart of the story and a symbol of unconditional friendship and love.”
advice you can give to other fiction writers?
“My best advice is just crank out that first draft.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it can be downright awful. But then you have your start…something
to build on. Free write the first draft. Just let the characters take you anyplace they want to go even if it
drifts away from your outline.”