Michael Bracken (www.CrimeFictionWriter.com) is the Edgar Award and Shamus Award nominated, Derringer-winning author of more than 1,200 short stories, including crime fiction published in The Best American Mystery Stories, The Best Mystery Stories of the Year, and many other publications. Additionally, Bracken is the editor of Black Cat Mystery Magazine and several anthologies, including the Anthony Award-nominated The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods. He lives, writes, and edits in Texas.
My mother taught me to read before I entered school, and each time we moved—and we moved frequently—the first thing she did was find the nearest library and get us library cards. We didn’t have a television until I was in third grade, and reading allowed me to be anyone, go anywhere, and do anything.
When I was in eighth grade, I wrote my first short story, showed it to my mother, and told her I wanted to be a writer. For the next several years, while other boys were throwing footballs and shooting baskets, I was pounding the keys on my typewriter and collecting rejection slips from editors.
I wrote my first professionally published short story when I was 17, though it wasn’t published until I was 21, and I’ve been writing professionally ever since. At last count, I’ve sold more than 1,200 short stories in a variety of genres.
In high school, my best friend and I planned to become the next great science fiction and fantasy writers, and my first professional sale was a fantasy. Though I’ve sold a handful of SF/F stories over the years and have had something published in genres as diverse as confessions and horror, most of what I write these days is crime fiction. I lean toward hardboiled and noir, but I’ve written in most of the other crime fiction subgenres as well.
I had a few novels published early on, but I primarily write short fiction.
Ideas come from everywhere, so I’m hard-pressed to say where they all come from. On the other hand, I am often invited to contribute to anthologies, and the editors provide story parameters—theme, length, etc.—and then I try to brainstorm (often with my wife, Temple) ideas that fit the theme.
Most stories, though, start with an opening scene. I have an idea for the first scene, write it, and ponder what should happen next. At that point I create a rough outline and then write the rest of the story.
Seeing my work published or produced.
If writing (or practicing any other art form) is what you really want to do, don’t let anyone stop you.
Realize that determination is more important than talent and realize there are only two people in the entire world who must like your work. You must like your work well enough to submit it and keep submitting it until it’s accepted. And one editor must like your work well enough to publish it. If anyone else likes it, that’s frosting on the cake.
I’ve never experienced writer’s block. I have more ideas than I will live long enough to write. If I have a fallow period, I just read through my idea file until something catches my eye.
At the same time, realize that life throws us curveballs. There are times in life when writing maybe shouldn’t be your priority—illness, death of a loved one, and the like—so set writing aside for a bit and return to it after you’ve overcome or worked through those curveballs.
Another writer—Josh Pachter—told me about Storiaverse, and I had a handful of stories I thought might be sufficiently visual to fit within the parameters. Storiaverse accepted the first one I submitted, and I’m hoping some of the others I’ve submitted will also be appropriate.
“Bumf*ck, Egypt” began with the slang term I used for the title—which means a place in the middle of nowhere. It’s a fish-out-of-water story, where a city criminal travels far outside his comfort zone and experiences things he did not anticipate.
I read and collected comic books throughout my childhood, so I’ve always appreciated how art and text could merge to create an experience that is not entirely one or the other. Animation takes the reading experience to the next level, and I’ve been wonderfully surprised at how well the animator of “Bumf*ck, Egypt” took my work and created compelling animation.