Today we’re joined by Michael Sliter, author of the Pandemonium Rising series. Keep scrolling to read more about his inspirations, his thoughts on self-publishing, and his writing process. Also be sure to enter the giveaway to win yourself a Pandemonium Rising book bundle!

About the Author

Mike Sliter is a father, husband, author, psychologist, racquetball player, and gamer with a handful of pets lurking around his house.  He is trapped in the Midwest, never able to get more than 300 miles from his birthplace and current residence near Cleveland, Ohio.  Working for a stint as a professor, he found his way into the consulting world and moonlights as a self-published author.  He is working through one massive, four-book grimdark fantasy series, Pandemonium Rising, which currently consists of two novels, SOLACE LOST and WISDOM LOST, as well as a novella called VALLEY OF THE FREE.  FAITH LOST is written and being edited at the moment, assuming Mike didn’t get distracted by something shiny in the corner.  He owns three swords, two daggers, a mace, and a variety of other medieval armaments.  You know, just in case.
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We already have your official bio, now we want to challenge you to describe yourself in ten words or less…Go!

Just your neighborhood weirdo.

Who or what are your inspirations when it comes to writing? Is it a particular author or authors, art, history, culture, current events, something else? How have they influenced your work?

My love of fantasy books started when I found an oft-neglected Dragonlance novel in the back of my fifth-grade classroom.  I devour Dragonlance books and any other fantasy books I could get my hands on, so I supposed those would be early inspirations.  Joe Abercrombie and his First Law trilogy really got me into the darker side of fantasy.  He is, after all Lord Grimdark, and people often describe my books as being in that genre.  A host of other authors inspire me, too, including Glenn Cook, Sebastien De Castell, Brian Stavely are some of the more recent that I think of fondly.  Then, there are a host of all-around good self-pub authors, like Rob Hayes, Josiah Bancroft, and Ben Galley, that I look to with admiration and respect. 

Other than that, I’d say video games play some role in how I write, or how I think.  The Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior (Quest) games were huge when I was a kid and pushed me down the fantasy path.  Newer games, like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Divinity: Original Sin are inspirations to create darker, gritty worlds.

What do you love about self-publishing and on the flipside what drives you nuts about it? What aspects of self-publishing do you excel at and in what ways do you struggle?

No deadlines.  The second I put a deadline on something, it becomes a stressor.  I am very good at intrinsically motivating myself and moving toward a goal.  But, if I knew I had to have a book written by, say, the end of November, it would literally murder all of the fun I’d derive from writing it.  Now, if that goal was just in my mind rather than imposed by someone else, I’d still hit it but have a hell of a time doing it.  

I’d also say I love (now that I’ve figured it out) working with artists.  My cover artist, Rene Aigner, is fantastic, and it’s extremely exciting to see what he will come up with.  I love seeing my input turned into art, which is a skill I completely lack.  My four year old draws better than me.  

Like nearly every other self-pubbed author, I hate the marketing.  I have a limited time to devote to all things writing, and during that time, I’d rather be writing.  So, figuring out ads, self-promoting, etc., deenergizes me.  Although, I think with the shift in traditional publishing, you have to do that regardless of your chosen path.

What does your daily writing process look like? What do you do to get in the writing zone?  How many hours do you write or do you go for a word count? Tell us everything!

Wait, you should have a writing process?  I kid, but I’m actually pretty decent about this.  My goal is 500 words per weekday, with 1000 for the weekend days.  Because of work and children and a thousand more demands, I usually have 45 minutes to write between 9:15 and 10:00 PM.  I’ve also taken to doing some additional writing on my phone (that doesn’t count toward the wordcount) in the quiet minutes before bed time, sitting at the drive-through, etc.  Usually, it’ll be a different project or a very different part of the main series.  I wrote 50% of VALLEY OF THE FREE on my phone, and the sequel A BLACK LIE will be 100% phone written.

In terms of getting into the zone, I’ve stumbled into that from time to time.  Usually it’s just quiet, a rare thing around here, coupled with writing a part that I’ve very excited about, or a section that is particularly emotional.  When I’m actually in the characters’ heads, that’s when the words just tend to flow.  

What do you think makes a good story?

For me, it’s the characters.  You could have the coolest, most original and intense world ever created, but if the characters are bland and boring, that world is wasted.  Alternatively, characters can stand out so clearly that the world—even if bland—matters very little.

Is there one particular platform you find is most beneficial as a self-published author?

I used to think Twitter was silly and rolled my eyes about it. These days, I’ve found that I’ve largely shelved Facebook in favor of the Twitterbox.  I’ve met some really cool people—authors and bloggers—who I chat with pretty frequently.  Heck, it’s how I got involved with Self Published Fantasy Month! 

Name an under-appreciated novel that you love. Let us know why we should check it out.

Given that it is Self Published Fantasy Month, let’s stick with that.  I’m going to suffer from recency effect and talk about Vultures by Luke Tarzian.  I first read a short story prequel of the book and thought the writing was just beautiful.  Haunting.  Dreamlike.  This is the type of story that wouldn’t be published traditionally because of its complexity, but you are doing yourself a disservice by not reading it.  

What comes first, the characters or the plot?

From the above, you can probably guess that I will say characters. Characters drive the plot, at least they do for me.  I’ve had to drastically change my plan for future books because one of the damned characters decided to behave in a way consistent with their personality or situation more than what I’d planned for the plot.  I’m sure you could start with plot, but blind adherence to the plot as opposed to character development, you’ll end up with the final tv season of Game of Thrones.  

Has writing and publishing a book changed the way you see yourself?

I think I’ve more fully embraced my “inner nerd.” Growing up, I wanted to read my Dragonlance novels and be left in peace, but my friend group was more into finding appliance boxes, cutting holes for the arms, and then wailing on each other with baseball bats and tennis racquets.  Not much room for talking fantasy, then.  So I grew up a bit of a closet fantasy lover, and never talked about my desire to write.

Now, I’ve embraced it.  It’s not all I talk about, but I don’t shy away from either, either.  I think it just helps me be more comfortable in my skin, in a way I never was growing up. 

What do the words “literary success” mean to you? 

I’m certainly glad it isn’t “make money!”  Success, for me, is to write stories that some number of people read and love.  That’s really it; I love to see reviews and I love that I have a handful of “fans.”  Not everyone will like my stories, and that’s fine, too.  


Enter to win a Pandemonium Rising prize package, which includes paperback copies of Solace Lost, Wisdom Lost, and Valley of the Free!
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