Michael Fisher, Fish to his friends and family, has worn many hats in his long life including US Navy Hospital Corpsman, club DJ, security specialist, psychiatric technician, painter, and currently, father, Mason, author and tattooer, not necessarily in that order. He has a love of hats and ugly Hawaian shirts. He also bears a passing resemblance to Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski. His work has been previously published in The Tall Book of Zombie Shorts from S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Anthologies as well as winning Honorable Mention for Short Story of the Year 2013 for The Return of the Devil Fly in the Midnight Remains anthology from J. Ellington Ashton Press. His first novel, DCs Dead will be coming out from JEA Press in 2014. He is also an editor with JEA Press
1) DCs Dead started out as a story you hit a block on, has it become more of a nostalgia trip now that you’ve been able to complete it or a learning tool that helped you get back into writing? Both?
DCs Dead was the beginning to a long road that, I hope, will continue stretching into my old age.
I would definitely say that it qualifies as both. It is very much a nostalgia trip because the people in it are not only friends that I have not seen in over a decade, but also a time and place that I hold very dear. This was before that world change for America as it was pre-9/11, an era when we still had our illusion of safety. A time when people were more trusting and accepting, when soon after, the entire populace became paranoid of strangers while, simultaneously, welcoming of those that were like them.
It was also a learning tool. When I started writing it, I knew very little about writing and story structure outside what we were taught in school. For this reason, the version of DCs Dead that appeared in the Tall Book of Zombie Shorts is quite different from the final version. That ten year block was quite frustrating. I think part of the reason that I gave up for so long was I felt that no one would ever see it and that I really had no reason to continue it. It started as a way to fill time during very slow days when I wasn’t making much money. It turns out that all it took was someone reading it and seeing potential, however rough it was. When I was told that it was good and needed to be finished, it spurred my imagination into action and now, a year or so later, it won’t stop.
2) Do you think the many hats you’ve worn over the years have better prepared you for being an author, artist and editor now than you were when you first started writing?
I think my varied experiences have helped my writing all around. I have seen many different areas of this nation and encountered so many different types of people in all walks of life. These experiences have given me seeds from which my story elements can sprout. Most of those experiences happened in my twenties. Now that I am well into my forties, it can look back on them both fondly as well as giving them a critical appraisal. There are so many things I have done that I look back on them and ask myself, “Were you an idiot or something?” They say that hindsight is 20/20, but it can also be hilarious.
In my almost twenty year career as a tattoo artist, I have seen more than my share of odd people and heard their stories. Add that on top of eight years working as a psychiatric tech, I am never surprised by the colorful eccentricities this world contains.
3) All of your current and upcoming releases have been in the horror genre, do you think you might write in other genres later on or is horror your primary interest as a writer?
I have a deep love of the horror genre that goes all the way back to my earliest memories. I have vague recollections of watching the Bela Lugosi Dracula with my mother when I was four years old, then running around the playground at Montessori the next day, pretending to be Dracula. Needless to say, the nuns that ran the school were not happy about a tiny blond boy chasing the girls, screaming “I vant to suck your blood!” My parents were not restrictive at all when it came to scary movies. I saw Dawn of the Dead in ’78when I was eight years old, only a year after falling in love with Star Wars, and Phantasm and Alien in ’79, which were the last two movies to give me nightmares as a child. So, back to the main question, yes, I do plan to work in other genres. A novel I am currently working on has more in common with shows like CSI and all the other alphabet shows (CSI, SVU, NCIS, XYZ) than they do with Nightmare on Elm Street. While they are genres ones that may have some aspect of fear, I will always return to my old lover, the scary story.
4) Has becoming an editor changed the way you look at your own work and the work of others?
Sadly, I think I was invited to become and editor because I was already spotting issue with other author’s writing. Sometimes, it would be simple things like typos that made it past other editors. Other times, I would find error where the original author did not do thorough enough research. I sincerely hope that when author’s get my recommendations, they do not get offended by them. I try to make suggestions without changing the author’s voice.
I am my worst critic when I am editing my own works. I have had many occasions where I found something that flowed well in a later part of the story, but realized it hadn’t been mentioned or explored earlier in the story so I would have to go back and figure out where it belonged and expound upon it.
There was a case where I found a consistent misspelling of a creature from the Cthulhu Mythos in a story. As an HP Lovecraft nut, I knew the spelling, while not a proper English word, looked wrong. So I went back and consulted the original author’s spelling and saw it was something as simple as an E replacing an O. Most of the readers likely would not have noticed, but I felt that it should be changed, both out of respect to the original writer as well to make the story fit well into the established Mythos, something the die-hard fans would immediately recognize.
5) Feral Hearts was a collaborative effort; do you think you’ll pursue more projects like it in the future?
I had a hell of a lot of fun with Feral Hearts, just letting go and running with the character of Barry the Needle. I think I will wait to see how it is received before diving headfirst into another one though, as I have quite a few other projects I am working on. Of course, that is what I say now but I have a hard time saying, “No.” You can ask my wife.
6) The novel length version of DC’s Dead and Feral Hearts are due to come out later this year, do you have any other works in progress?
I am working on a story that is currently titled It Always Bites You in the End which is the police procedural/murder mystery with a supernatural element. It should easily be my second novel. I have a short story I am writing to submit to the upcoming heavy metal horror anthology Axes of Evil II. I hope it will be accepted as well. I also have another zombie story in the very early stages, this one set on a cargo freighter en route to South America from Miami. As it passes through the Caribbean, it gets more than it could want. I also have a short story that I wrote for a specific anthology, and was passed on, which I am currently reworking in hopes it can get released later this year or early next year. Finally, I have my ongoing editing work for J. Ellington Ashton Press, just trying to help us release the best stories we can.