Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Michael Mandrake – Michael Mandrake pens complex characters already comfortable with their sexuality. Through these, he builds worlds not centered on romance but rather the mainstream and/or obscure plots we might encounter in everyday life and beyond.
Giveaway: Michael is giving away an eBook copy of “Taken and Crowned” with this post – comment below for a chance to win.
Thanks so much, Michael, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Michael Mandrake: I knew I wanted to write around 19 years of age. I’d written poetry and bad fan fiction when I was younger, but then I’d begun writing shorts and submitting them to contests. I wasn’t very good until much later after I went back to writing slash fanfiction. People gave me compliments and I decided to write professionally.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
MM: I’m the longwinded, more formal muse. Although the last book I wrote wasn’t my typical forte. I prefer paranormals, but occasionally I’ll slip in a contemporary if the mood strikes. *grins
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
MM: My first book was called True Meaning of Love. It was an opposites attract story of a starving artist falling for a rich older businessman. A rags to riches story. It was published under a now defunct company called XOXO publishing.
JSC: What do you do when you get writer’s block?
MM: I usually read or free write without a deadline, which means write fanfiction or a short story. Usually reading helps though because I can get out of my own head.
JSC: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?
MM: Michael Mandrake is my pseudonym. Sharita is my legal name. When I started writing, I wanted to take on a sort of different persona. I felt my real name was too boring. Also, I’d heard that women writing gay romance were better suited with a male penname. Now I know that to be false but writing under Michael has been fun.
JSC: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
MM: As Sharita I would answer stick to one name and establish the one pen first. It’s been hard juggling three of them at once. I’m disabling one name (Rawiya) this year, but I’ll still have Michael, BL, and Veronica MF as well as my sub-pens RM Durand and Brooklyn Roberts FF.
JSC: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
MM: Usually a month or two depending on subject matter. My latest completed book took three because of how in depth it was. I also multi-write so it might take a lot longer due to trying to finishing several at once.
JSC: What do you do if you get a brilliant idea at a bad time?
MM: I actually have a great memory so I’m able to store it away. I usually get the best ones while driving, so the minute I can stop I might use my phone or write things down on a scrap of paper.
JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? If so, discuss them.
MM: Plotster. A combination of both. If the book calls for it, I’ll plot some of it out by writing details or full scenes, but most of the time I let the characters guide me.
JSC: What is the most heartfelt thing a reader has said to you?
MM: I’ve been praised by several about writing black queer men. Black people are underrepresented in romance and if they are written, unfortunately they fill the stereotypes. I’ve been told by readers of color they appreciate that I don’t do that. I write my men respectfully without “white washing.”
JSC: Tell us something we don’t know about your heroes. What makes them tick?
MM: With this book, The Resignation, I’ve written a young man named Braxton who’s looking to move on to a different position because he’s unhappy in his current job. The other MC, my vampire Cashel is looking to finally settle down and he sees something in Braxton. Cashel is unlike my other vampire Ryland, who was a lot more kind and feeling towards humans. Cashel is the opposite. He relishes in killing people for his own survival.
JSC: Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?
MM: My cover was designed by Fantasia Frog. She’s a joy to work with. She sent me a cover form and asked what I’d like for the cover. She went through several of my model changes before finding the right one.
JSC: What inspired you to write this particular story? What were the challenges in bringing it to life?
MM: Wanting to write a gay vampire story where the vamp falls for a black man. There are very little black men featured in paranormal stories as a whole and I wanted to feature that kind of interracial story in this one.
There weren’t really any challenges other than staying in a certain word count because it was supposed to be for an anthology. That anthology didn’t happen so I was able to expound on the story later on.
JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write and why?
MM: I enjoyed having to write a different vampire for once. I’ve only written three to date, most notably, Ryland. Cashel was fun because he wasn’t like the vamp I’d written before. He’s colder and sinister.
JSC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
MM: (Sharita) I didn’t make any claims for what I wanted to be until high school. I wanted to work in computers, but that never came to pass. Then I wanted to be a retail manager/merchandiser. I got tired of that too, eventually.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
MM: (Sharita) I read a good amount of the classics and a few of grandma’s Harlequins and Barbara Cortland novels.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
MM: (Sharita) Gathering research about the idea and writing character traits down. I might write a few details about the story or just start writing.
JSC: What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.
MM: (Sharita) I’m a vendor who stocks books at major retail stores like Walmart. By doing this I get a good look at what sells in mainstream publishing and or mass market romance. It hasn’t impacted my writing as much since I only work part time.
JSC: We know what you like to write, but what do you like to read in your free time, and why?
MM: (Sharita) I like reading romance, but I do want to start reading more mainstream books. I love mystery suspense and I plan on trying to read more of it this year.
Romance stories make me happiest. I love reading about people connecting and building a bond.
JSC: If I were a Hollywood producer about to put your book on the big screen, who would you want me to cast as the leads? Why? And can we have pictures to drool over?
MM: For this book I’d put Jonathan Rhys Meyers as my vampire because he is the muse for this book. For Braxton, probably Chadwick Boseman. (pictures attached)
JSC: If you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only three things, what would they be?
MM: Other than the essentials, pen and paper as well as something to play music.
JSC: Which of your own characters would you Kill? Fuck? Marry? And why?
MM: Kill? Hmm, none I can think of yet. Fuck? I’d have to say my oldest character Kajika Fortier because he’s a doll and a hottie. *laughs* Marry? Ryland Durand because he’s sexy, sweet, and charming.
JSC: What’s your drink of choice?
MM: Jack Daniels and Coke
JSC: What’s in your fridge right now?
MM: Not a lot because I haven’t gone shopping yet. Some Valentine’s Day candy is left though. *laughs*
And now for Michael’s new book: The Resignation:
Cashel’s indecent proposal could push Braxton to take his last breath…
Braxton has had it with his dead-end job.
After four years of long hours with dismal pay, he hands in his resignation. When he finds out the new company pays more and offers tuition assistance, he jumps at the chance.
CEO Cashel needs a lover and Braxton is the one he must have.
Cashel has hungered to approach his mailroom employee, but his insecurities held him back. When he discovers his desired is leaving, he knows this would be the last chance to ask Braxton to be his lover for all eternity.
Braxton might have to give up everything to be Cashel’s lover, by why work when all his needs would be met by a sexy immortal?
Today is the day!
Braxton Morris slapped his alarm clock to shut it off and rose from the bed. He stretched out his arms and inhaled deep, feeling refreshed, rejuvenated.
For once, Braxton didn’t dread going into work. Unlike other mornings, Braxton would be leaving his home with a pep in his step. He’d shower, shave, and put on his best suit, ready to walk into his boss’s office to hand in his resignation.
Though Braxton was grateful to Donahue and Lister for giving him his first job out of high school, he was ready for a change.
With all the money he’d saved and aid from the new company, he’d be able to return to school to finish his marketing degree.
Unfortunately, his mother and father weren’t around to assist. Braxton had practically raised himself after his grandmother passed when he was fourteen. None of his relatives wanted the burden of raising a young black child, so Braxton stayed in his grandmother’s apartment, paying the bills as an adult. No question, he’d been lucky. He was a whiz kid with computer skills and did side gigs until he was old enough to work at Donahue.
Being so young, the position was everything he needed. Steady hours, decent pay for a seventeen-year-old, but no benefits. Thankfully, he’d stayed healthy. Other than deep paper cuts, he never needed to see a doctor.
Now, at the age of twenty-two, he was ready for this change of scenery to his new position at Donahue’s rival, Weston Marketing Corp. They’d promised him a position as an apprentice with better pay and benefits. If he did well, he’d be promoted within one to two years. No way could he pass that up. Braxton had to jump on it now before he lost the opportunity of a life time.
After he picked out his outfit for the day, Braxton ambled to his bathroom. Once he relived himself, he turned the valves and the water rained down into the bathtub. Braxton shoved his boxers down to his ankles and stepped into the shower, allowing the droplets to cascade over his entire body. He sighed contentedly and placed his head under the water to wake himself up.
“Gonna make you proud of me, Mom, Dad, and Gram.” Braxton talked to himself as he grabbed his shower gel. “It’s been a tough go with none of you here, but I was determined to be somebody.”
Braxton grabbed his loofah and squeezed an ample amount on the sponge. He ran it over his chest and abs, building up the suds on his skin. Braxton blew out a breath and continued doing the same to his shoulders and backside.
After he did the same to his arms, Braxton stepped directly under the showerhead so the droplets would pelt his face. “Today is the day.” Braxton spit out the excess water and moved away, rubbing his eyes.
“Goodbye, Donahue, and helloWeston Marketing.”
Michael Mandrake pens complex characters already comfortable with their sexuality. Through these, he builds worlds not centered on romance but rather the mainstream and/or obscure plots we might encounter in everyday life and beyond.
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