Posted by: Thomas Drinkard | January 5, 2011

Interview with Mik Wilkens, Author of The Silver Cage

Today, I’m delighted to present an interview with Mik Wilkens.  I think you’ll enjoy both the interview and the book.
Name of book and genre:
The Silver Cage, fantasy
What is it about?
The Silver Cage is about David Conner, a down-to-earth guy who has everything going for him: he’s got a great job, he has plenty of money, and he’s just met Jennasara, quite literally the woman of his dreams. But David’s world is turned upside-down when he finds himself on Lucasia, a world where magic is a force of nature and creatures of myth are real. To save Jennasara, David must learn the ways of this strange new world, master its magic forces, and decide who is his friend and who is his enemy.
Where will it be available?
The Silver Cage will be available on December 1 as an e-book from LazyDay Publishing. You’ll be able to buy it from all of the major digital distributors: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc.
What inspired you to write this book?
My muse handed me the idea, and I ran with it. A lot of the creatures and characters and things that happen in the story were inspired by my idea of making this book different from similar fantasy books. By “different,” I mean skewed from what a reader would normally expect. I wanted everything to feel familiar but have some sort of twist or something a little bit (or a lot) unique about it.
How did you choose the title?
The title actually has at least three different meanings in the story. I don’t want to say what they are; I’d rather let the reader figure it out.
Who is your favorite character in your novel, and why?
Overall, my favorite character would have to be Riak. The funny thing is, he wasn’t in my first rough ideas for the book or even in the first part of the first draft. I was several chapters into the novel when he walked into my head and said, “Hey, I’m supposed to be in this story.” So I had to go back and add him in several places. Good thing I did, too, because he became a really important part of the story. The reason I like him so much is because of how little I knew about him when I started writing the book and how much I found out about him. Plus he’s an emotionally complex character, and he’s pretty darn sexy.
From a writer’s perspective, my favorite character would have to be either Emerald or Karel, mostly because writing dialogue for them is so much fun, although in rather different ways since Emerald tends to be rather talkative and Karel not so much.
Who is the ideal reader for your book?
Anyone who enjoys fantasy should like the book, but it’s also been read by several people who don’t normally like fantasy, and they really enjoyed it. I think anyone who wants to read a fun escape story with a lot of great characters and some really interesting and funny situations will enjoy the book.
What are the publicity plans you have coming up?
I have a website for the book, TheSilverCage.com, and I’ve created a book trailer. I’ve also set up a Facebook fan page, and I have a Twitter account that I’ve been using to get the word out. I’m working on getting more interviews, and I have my own blog that I’m using to talk about the book and my other writing. I plan to write a press release about the book, too.
Where can readers learn more about your book?
TheSilverCage.com has all of the information any reader should need, including the book trailer, the prologue and first two chapters, and where you can buy it.
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I’m working on several books right now. I’m almost finished with the sequel to The Silver Cage. It’s called The Golden Drake, and it pretty much starts right where The Silver Cage ends. Actually, the first chapter starts a little bit before The Silver Cage ends. I’m also almost done writing another fantasy novel called The Greyhounds of Aeravon, which is the first book in a series of novels I plan to use to raise money to support the adoption of retired racing greyhounds. I’m also working on a science fiction trilogy. All three of the books in the trilogy are finished in rough draft form. I’m doing the final edits on the first book, and then I’ll start on the other two. Finally, I’m finishing the edits on a science fiction novella called Esora, which is a follow-up story to another science fiction novella I have coming out in 2011 called The Price of Conquest.
Tell us something about yourself. (Where are you from, what is your background, how long have you been writing and anything else we might find interesting about you.)
I started writing when I was about 11 or 12 years old. At the time, all I read were stories about animals, either fiction or nonfiction. So that was what I wrote: stories about animals, told from the animals’ point of view. I read a lot, too, so it only took me a couple of years to read all of the animal books in our local library (we lived in a very small town). After that, I needed to find a new type of book to read. That’s when I discovered science fiction and fantasy. I started writing science fiction and fantasy stories soon after that, which is what I’ve been writing for the past several decades.
What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Favorite book? Why?

Unsurprisingly, I mostly like to read science fiction and fantasy. I also read a lot of nonfiction, especially books about different types of science: biology, quantum mechanics, neuroscience, stuff like that. If I had to choose a favorite author, I’d have to say Douglas Adams. His Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books are so much fun to read. They also have a lot to say about life, the universe, and everything, no pun intended. Richard Dawkins is my favorite nonfiction author. He’s really good at making biology, genetics, and other complex subjects easy to understand.
What is your guilty pleasure read you turn to for sheer entertainment value (book, particular author)?
Besides Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker books, I’d have to say that Anne Rice’s vampire books are my favorite guilty pleasure. I read Interview with the Vampire in 1976 when it first came out, long before the rest of her vampire books were written and before vampires became such a popular subject. I absolutely adored that book, and I read each of the other books in The Vampire Chronicles series as they came out. Since then, I’ve read them all way more times than I can remember.
Who is your literary idol?
Katherine Kurtz. Her Deryni books inspired me to try writing books of my own. Her stories also taught me the importance of having a logical magic system in a fantasy story. Rather than just having some intangible force called “magic,” there needs to be a source of the power and some kind of rules that the characters have to follow to use that power. That idea was one of the driving forces behind The Silver Cage.
I saw Ms. Kurtz on a writing panel at Dragon*Con a couple of years ago; it was great to hear her talk about her writing and about writing in general, but I also learned that the first of her Deryni books is being made into a movie, which was very heartening to hear since it suggests that the type of fantasy stories I enjoy are starting to be recognized by Hollywood.
Name one fun/weird/frightening fact about you that we don’t already know.
I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in the 1970s, even before the books were published. My friend was attending Cornell University, and he came home for the summer with all of the charts and tables for the game printed off the university’s mainframe computer. I was instantly hooked. I’ve actually mastered a lot more games than I’ve ever played, but that’s helped with my writing because I have to come up with stories to base my campaigns on.
My one fun/weird/frightening writing fact is that I write all of my first drafts by hand.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?
I fell in love with writing in the sixth grade. We had a sort of free period once a week during which we could choose from several different activities. One of the activities was to write a story based on a couple of sentences printed on an index card that was drawn randomly out of a box. I always chose that activity. Once I started doing that, I realized how much I loved to write.
What sorts of things inspire you as a writer?
Pretty much anything and everything. It could be something I see, something I read, just some passing thought. Sometimes my muse will just toss a scene out at me and I have to figure out what to do with it. That’s how my current novel, The Silver Cage, started. My muse showed me a scene of a young boy sitting by a spring in a forest. I knew the spring was magic and could be used to access other worlds. Based on that, I wrote the entire novel.
How do you approach a story? Do you start with outlines or something else? Planner or pantster?
I’ve tried using outlines, but they don’t work for me because they’re too limiting; I never stick to them. A large part of the fun in writing is discovering the story as I write it. When I start a story, I have a beginning, a possible ending, and usually some ideas about scenes in the middle. Then I just start writing. Sometimes I write myself into a corner, and then I have to do a bit of planning, but I never plan very far ahead. I’ve found that the ending ideas I start out with generally tend to change quite a bit by the time I get there, so even the endings are a surprise to me.
Where do you work when writing? What is your ideal creative environment?
I can write anywhere. When I’m in a writing mood, I carry around a pad of paper everywhere I go and write every chance I get. Fortunately, I have a very tolerant husband who doesn’t mind me writing when we go out to dinner or go for a drive. So I guess I don’t have anything that could be called an ideal creative environment; it’s really the mood that matters. When the writing mood strikes, I write. It doesn’t matter where I am.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I don’t have any rituals per se, but I write most of my first drafts by hand. I have favorite pads and favorite pens, but anything will do in a pinch. I’m currently experimenting with speech-to-text software to see if I can give my hands a break from all that writing. If I can’t get the first drafts of my stories to go straight from my imagination to my mouth, at least I’ll be able to enter the handwritten first draft into the computer simply by talking.
How do you come up with the names for your characters?
Usually the names just come to me, but if I’m having trouble coming up with an idea for a name (usually for minor characters), there are few name sites online that I’ll use.
Is writing your main creative outlet, or do you have other talents/creative pursuits?
I’m also an artist, illustrator, and web designer, and I occasionally design and sew Renaissance costumes.
Do you ever get writers’ block? How do you tackle it?
I don’t get writers block very often. Instead, I get out of a writing mood. When that happens, I haven’t found much that I can do about it. Until my muse decides to come back, I usually just pursue other creative outlets.
What’s the most personally challenging aspect of writing?
I’m horribly anal about everything being perfect, so my editing sessions can get a little crazy. I’m rarely happy unless I’m 100% positive that every comma is in the correct place, every word I’ve used is absolutely perfect for what I’m trying to say, and every sentence is structured impeccably. Because of that, deciding that a piece is finished and ready for submission can take a ridiculously long time.
What is the best advice you can give other writers about writing?
Never give up. Keep writing. Study writing. Write some more. Get help from fellow writers if you need it. Trust yourself.
What genres do you write in?
I mostly write science fiction and fantasy. I guess you could expand that to “speculative fiction” since some of my stories aren’t clearly in one category or another.
Can you tell us about any themes you have running through your stories?
I’m a storyteller, so I never think about themes when I’m writing; I’m just telling a story. Until I sat down and thought about it, I didn’t realize my stories had themes. But there are a few ideas that run through most of the things I’ve written: freedom, thinking for yourself, free thought. None of it’s intentional, it just ends up in the stories. Being something of a free thinker myself, I guess it makes sense.
Tell us your “story of getting published.”
I started writing in the early 1970s, but it wasn’t until the late 1980s that I decided to try to get published. My first rejection letter was dated December 7, 1990. I was lucky in that it wasn’t a form rejection letter; it was actually typewritten on letterhead, addressed me by name, referenced my manuscript by the title, and was signed by a real person. For a rejection letter, that was pretty heartening. I kept writing and submitting novels (I’m terrible at writing short stories) for 20 years before I made a significant sale.
What was your first reaction when LazyDay Publishing offered you a contract?
I was thrilled! My novella The Price of Conquest had been accepted by WolfSinger Publications earlier in the year, so the LazyDay contract meant I had two major works accepted within just a few months, and I’d have a novel coming out in 2010 and a novella being released the following year. It feels like 2010 is the year I’ve been discovered. 🙂

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Responses

  1. Thanks for interviewing me, Tom! Looks good.

  2. […] Interview with Mik Wilkens, Author of The Silver Cage […]


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