It's the fifth day of the Indie Author Spring Festival hosted by Hayley Anderton, and today we're spotlighting Marvellous Michael Anson, whose suspense thriller, His Dark Reflection, is free for five days!
In this interview, we chat about how Anson wove together the perfectly unputdownable thriller, delving into inspirations, the writing process, and plans for the future.
What made you decide to self-publish rather than follow more traditional routes?
I’m working towards being a hybrid author and what that means is that, I while I have started out as an indie author and will continue to publish under my imprint Anson Press, I am also querying agents with plans of getting traditionally published for my fantasy books.
Your debut release, His Dark Reflection, is out now. Tell us about the book and what inspired you to write it.
His Dark Reflection was inspired by a mix of personal events and strings of random thoughts. One of the main characters and I share a traumatic experience which for me led to loads of therapy and for her led to a crazy thrilling revenge story.
What do you enjoy most about writing suspense/thriller? When and why did you decide it was the genre for you?
I’m very much a mix genre writer. I love thrillers because I love the surprises, the plot twists, the insane rides that I can take the reader on. In this book, there’s a reveal in every chapter which makes it very difficult to put down. My first 4-star review was a complaint that the book kept the reader on edge, and they were upset that they’d spent all day reading it and doing nothing else. Now THAT is worth more than a 5-star rating. That’s the goal! I also love to explore other genres. I’m writing a YA fantasy that I’m totally obsessed with, and I have ideas for one sci-fi and a romance series. The great thing about exploring genres is that no knowledge or skill is lost. Imagine a thriller vibes fantasy novel, with a strong romantic subplot. That’s the kind of book you can expect to see me writing.
There are lots of twists and turns in the plot and characters. What was your process in the early stages of planning? Did you find anything difficult to plan or write?
I’m a discovery writer so a lot of my plotting comes after the fact, or at the earliest, during the drafting stage. The first five chapters are already in my head so pouring that out is easy. The middle bit changes a lot cause I often create new characters and problems for my cast that didn’t exist in the beginning. My rule is "make it bad, then make it worse and when it can’t get any worse, keep going". When I get stuck, I write one-line sentences about what the next five chapters would be about. I keep doing that until I get to the end where I plot out all I’ve written, edit and rearrange if necessary. Another rule is flexibility. Until the book is published I allow myself to change anything that doesn’t work for the story even if it was once the greatest idea I ever had.
Which of the characters did you feel closest to when writing and why? Was it enjoyable and/or difficult to write characters with so many secrets and motives?
I enjoy the process of writing and creating characters. Giving them life. Goals, ambitions and most of all, secrets. Secrets worth killing for. I felt closest to Ara and Victoria. Can’t say any more without spoilers but I’m a big fan of writing fully fleshed-out and very believable characters. All my characters, even the side characters, are interesting enough to have their own books. I don’t create accessory characters who are just there to serve the protagonist, and very often I find myself having to make the main character more interesting just to keep up. I started this book with Ara. But her parents' story kept calling out to me so I went back in time to start with Jack and Mote. Jack’s secret was always known to me, Mote’s secret, I had to create when I realised a woman like her would have something worth hiding. Something to make her question everything if it got out. Page by page the story reveals itself to me, and I simply have the privilege of writing it.
Do you have any advice for other debut and/or indie authors? What were your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
The easiest part of being an indie author is writing the book. Once your draft is complete, the real work starts. Which sounds crazy cause drafting is already incredibly difficult. As an indie publisher, you’re managing so many things, like social media, newsletters, blogs, etc. You’re also managing many stakeholders like editors, cover designers, graphic artists, ARC teams, influencers, etc. You're also managing the budget of the project and deciding between ads, campaigns, writing and editing softwares, paid programs and so much more. I highly recommend recognising when you’re overwhelmed and taking a break. Give yourself enough time to publish your book. Ideally twelve months from the end of the draft date.
You also write poetry, short stories, and plays. Do you have a favourite format and why? Did any of these mediums filter into His Dark Reflection somehow?
Poetry plays the most significant role in my fiction writing. It influences my prose which often comes off as lyrical and easy to read. The similes and metaphors and all the tricks that make poetry work help me get my ideas across in a way that is both simple and well-composed.
I started a self-imposed challenge of writing a thousand poems in a thousand days. I burned out at three hundred and shifted the goalpost. I recognised after writing a poem every day for nearly a year that I couldn’t keep up and simply made it a thousand days - I’ll finish when I finish. This is what I meant when I said, you need to avoid burnout and let the writing work for you, not the other way around. My poetry series is on my Instagram, website and YouTube (where I read them out). It’s titled POETRY FOR A THOUSAND DAYS.
Do you have a favourite movie, show, and/or book and has it influenced your own work at all?
I love movies! I watch anything and everything that’s not horror. Titanic has a special place in my heart. I cry every time. I love The Sound of Music. I generally love old movies. I’m a black-and-white TV kinda gal. Those movies that show the glamour of old Hollywood are always a hit. For books, I lean heavily towards thrillers, romance and fantasy novels. My recent faves are: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Bone Shard Daughter, The Final Strife, and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.
Our podcast focuses on media we’re currently loving. Are there any books, shows, or movies
you’re enjoying at the moment? Any recommendations for our audience?
I’ve mentioned a few earlier but thinking of a few more, I loved Interview with a Vampire - Brilliant stuff! Also watching Abbott Elementary. The Young Sheldon show wasn’t something I expected to like. The silliness of it or perhaps the nostalgia from Big Bang Theory keeps me going. Oh oh! - Marvelous Mrs Maisel is absolutely brilliant. Also, Severance is another great one! Foundation is awesome too! Honestly, I could keep going forever on this haha… Oh and there is a show, Forever, which is great too!
Marvellous Michael Anson, the best-selling author of Birthmarked, is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes stories that explore the multi-faceted human condition. She has been writing poems and short stories for over a decade, as well as directing short plays and being a writer’s favourite soundboard.
Marve is not limited to the art of stringing words together; she wrote and produced her award-winning short film in 2016. She is a recipient of the 2017 AFRIFF Film School Scholarship Program.
Marve works as a technology consultant during the day and a storyteller at night. She is a member of the Society of Authors, Alliance of Independent Authors and Abuja Literary Society. She hosts an online writing group called Writers Connect on Facebook (All are welcome!)
Her website is https://www.justmarve.org/
Facebook: Marve Micheal
This was certainly a wild ride from start to finish with tonnes of both unpredictable and expected twists and turns that left me shocked and invested throughout. The author certainly knows how to keep us on our toes in this suspense thriller that questions morality and highlights the inherent complexity of every human being. I especially loved the way that we were given the chance to understand every mistake and violent action; that even the most innocent characters were given the opportunity to feel anger and hatred. I did feel rushed through the story and some of the plot lines needed more time to be fleshed out, as they seemed a little far-fetched, but overall I was on the edge of my seat from beginning to end and enjoyed the way these complicated lives were woven together to make a story of murder, betrayal, secrets, darkness, and intrigue.