Michael’s love of books began with Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle when he was seven years old. Later influenced by the works of John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Stephen King, and Cormac McCarthy, Michael developed his style of storytelling. A self-proclaimed blue-collar writer, he draws on his experience and observations to bring relevant and compelling topics to life.
Michael lives in Northern California and when he’s not writing, he can usually be found wandering around the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.
His body of work includes the 2014 novel After and Again, the 2015 novel American Flowers, and the shorts In the Valley, Joe Price, and Anywhere But Here. Michael’s newest novel, In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, was released April 2017 by Sweet Candy Press, and is available now at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other book retailers.
1. When did you start writing?
I’ve been writing songs, music, and poetry since I was in my early teens. Through the years I also accumulated a binder full of half-hearted attempts at novels; most of which were only a handful of pages and not very good ones at that. Finally, in 2011 I had what you might call a life-changing experience. Shortly after that, the floodgates opened.
2. What is your inspiration?
Definitely social issues. More specifically, how human beings treat each other.
3. How did you come up with your stories?
They just appear. I have new ideas all the time. Mostly the ideas fade away after a few hours, or days, but sometimes the ideas stick, and the story will start piecing itself together while I go about my daily routine.
4. Where is your favorite place to write?
I have a nice easy-chair with my butt imprint in it. It faces a window where I can look out at our fruit trees.
5. Do you plan your stories before starting?
(Laugh) Nope. I couldn’t write an outline to save my life. I’ll chew over an idea until I’m certain it’s not going to go away, then I’ll sit down with my laptop and start telling myself the story. That’s my process. I wouldn’t have it any other way because it’s exciting not knowing how things are going to unfold until they do. Sometimes I’m every bit as surprised as a casual reader when something unexpected happens.
6. When did you first consider yourself an author?
After my second novel, American Flowers. I stopped feeling like an imposter.
7. Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. It’s the path I’ve chosen, and I don’t foresee myself doing anything else.
8. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Keeping stories fresh is always the most difficult challenge—at least for me. Pretty much every conceivable topic has already been written about. Sometimes every idea that pops into my head just makes me roll my eyes and think: Well that’s been beaten-into-the-ground a million ways already. I finally decided my quest isn’t to break new ground. It’s simply to tell a story in a unique voice and, hopefully, from a unique standpoint.
9. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Research. I feel that good fiction shouldn’t feel like fiction when you’re reading it, so I go through a lot to make sure that details are accurate.
10. Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m currently working on two novels. One is based on a post-apocalyptic short story I wrote last year. You can read the short here: http://michaelamclellan.com/short-stories/ The second is a contemporary drama about a fourteen-year-old named Sean Pennington, whose parents both die in tragic accidents, less than three years apart. Sean is sent to a group home because he has no other family except for a grandfather he’s never met, and who no one can reach. The book follows Sean from his comfortable, semi-affluent life to his troubling experiences in a broken social services system, to his desperate attempt to strike out and find his only living relative.
11. Do you have advice for other writers?
Be wary of advice from other writers;) Just write.
12. Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?
Yes. Thanks to everyone who has read my books. I’d be lying if I claimed to write strictly for myself. I’ll leave that to others. Because for me, touching someone else’s life, even for a moment, is what makes it all worth it.
Read our review of In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree by Michael A. McLellan