Sunday Surprise

d40388e226a77c7ce70c8ceee77644540f223979_resizeAnd it’s a fellow Wyrd Worlder who joined the gang for volume 2! Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Michael Puttonen!

Where do you live and write from?

I live in rural northern Minnesota, about a hundred miles from the Canadian border. I do all my writing from my home, on a laptop in an upstairs room. Nearby lakes and woodlands provide surroundings soothing to both mind and spirit and helpful to my creativity. For a relaxing walk in the woods, I simply step out my front door. Over the years, I have heard the howls of wolves at night, and from my window witnessed the occasional black bear or moose passing through.

When did you start writing?

I had not entertained the notion of being a writer until 1980, when I not only became interested in writing, but also in possible publication. I took a course in children’s writing and discovered I enjoyed the process and the satisfaction that came from putting my creative thoughts to paper.

 What genre(s) do you write?

The main genre I write in is action/adventure with a fantasy element, though I began as a children’s writer. For my children’s stories, I would write the text, then make a picture book dummy to get a sense of how the artwork (which I had to imagine) might fit, and then send publishers the text-only manuscript in hopes they would show interest. Children’s picture books are difficult to write, especially for a non-artist, as the writer has to keep in mind how well his words translate into pictures. These books have a defined structure. Your story has to fit within page guidelines, while at the same time matching art to text in a seamless manner. Word choice is also a factor, as there are different reading levels that require age appropriate text. To my disappointment, my stories found little interest among traditional publishers. Still, I have managed to incorporate a few of my favorite stories into a self-published e-book called Seven and One Tales for Young Readers.

The genre for my Sanyel novels is adventure/fantasy, for lack of a better description. My main character is a teenage girl born into a tribal society, who at a young age has already begun to impact her male-dominated culture (and the world beyond) with her unusual skills, intelligence, and fearlessness. The pulp fantasy of Edgar Rice Burroughs has influenced my writing, and though our styles differ, I endeavor to write exciting adventure stories in a vein similar to his, but with a female protagonist rather than Burroughs’ traditional male hero. My books in this series carry a young adult label, though I have never been comfortable with that designation, as I feel these novels would appeal to a broad range of readers, as did those of Burroughs.

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?

What prompts ideas to come into my head is often hard to pinpoint. I’m sure small or large incidents that left an impact on me, whether recent or from the past, inspire some stories, and others evolve from random thoughts that strike a chord, that seem interesting enough to write down and pursue. My story for Wyrd Worlds II came to me as the words “never was, never were.” I had nothing else, but felt compelled to write a story based on just that. I started writing, not knowing what I was going to end up with, which turned out to be a rather odd little tale.

I could not see myself as a character in my stories, but my thoughts on a variety of subjects find their way into my tales, mainly through those characters I force to express them. They have no choice.

Do you have a specific writing routine?

I write in the mornings, and I try to write something each day. That rarely works out. When not distracted by other things, I try to write as many words as the flow on that day allows. Sometimes I can manage only a few paragraphs, and on other days words stream across my computer screen, filling page after page. I let my writing come to me. If I’m not feeling it, I don’t try to force it. I might not write anything on a particular story for days, with the time away often serving as a refresher for ideas and direction. I come back to the keyboard and find I have acquired new inspiration. I don’t feel the anxiety of deadlines, so I am able to write at a pace comfortable to me.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?

I never outline anything in any detail. I make a few plot notes on a story that I might want to incorporate into it at some point, but I let my stories take me in any direction they desire to go. I usually have a general sense where I am headed, but how I get there is the exciting part. As I proceed, characters pop up as necessary to advance the plot, and often offer opportunities to add extra elements I hadn’t considered. So many times these minor characters provide important links that bind the story into a coherent whole. At times I make wrong turns and have to backtrack, but I have never encountered serious problems in letting a story lead me.

In answer to the fast or slow question, I am a rather deliberate writer, so fast is not a word I recognize.

Tell us about your latest book (add link if published)

I am presently working on a book called Circles and Stones. It is the third novel in my Sanyel series, featuring a teenage female shaman who is a kick-ass force for change in a male-dominated world. Threads of continuing story lines run through all the Sanyel books, but each contains a separate main story that concludes within each novel. Circles and Stones returns to a story line introduced in the second book, one never followed through by our heroes, as another adventure took them on an unexpected detour. Now, Sanyel and her trusted friends will again try to fulfill the mission she promised to the priest, Borsar—to rescue his son from a scheming madwoman. As always happens with a Sanyel adventure, however, these things never go as planned and curious side attractions intrude. The title refers to formations of grass circles with a single stone at their edge that Sanyel first encountered in Disrupter. The purpose and origin of the circles figure into this story and provide another connection to ongoing revelations of an advanced culture long vanished from the planet.

Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?

If traditional publishers had shown any interest in me, I would have gone that route without hesitation. However, that did not happen with my children’s stories, as I spent many frustrating years attempting to attract notice. When I began writing novels, I again planned to try the traditional route, but the lure of self-publishing pushed me to abandon that long-odds approach and aim for a degree of certainty. The prospect of lengthy response times from publishers and rejection form letters made the decision a no-brainer, as I didn’t want to go through that process again. I am happy with the results, even if I have to control every aspect, such as marketing and promotion, areas in which I know I need to improve to find greater success.

Any other projects in the pipeline?

I am working on nothing other than Circles and Stones right now, which is halfway to completion as of this writing. I had thoughts of putting together another collection of my children’s stories, but that is on the back burner for now.

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

My initial goal as a writer was simply to see my work in print, and to learn if anyone found my writing interesting. I have been encouraged by the response so far, but there is still much to accomplish. I will continue to write and hope to make inroads with readers by putting myself out there to a greater degree than I have in the past, so people can get to know me.

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