Michael Bunker, bestselling author of the WICK series and The Silo Archipelago, has embraced this whole-heartedly and in the last two years has published nonfiction, fan fiction, dystopian science fiction and now has even created his very own genre; Amish Science Fiction. If your first reaction was to arch an eyebrow, you wouldn’t the first; I certainly did. But after reading his latest book, Pennsylvania, I can honestly say that he knows what he’s doing. It’s a wonder no one had thought of this before.
Pennsylvania was originally released in five parts over the past year and on April 29th all the parts will be published together in the Pennsylvania Omnibus. Release dates are always big things and Michael has decided to kick it up a notch. A few weeks ago he announced plans for a “Book Bomb” on his website and newsletter, in an effort to get his readers to convince other readers to buy the book all on the same day, April 29th.
In response to this massive release party of sorts, I contacted Michael about doing an interview along with the review of Pennsylvania that I already had planned. The response I got absolutely blew my mind. Not only did he want to do the interview but also the responses I received were more than I ever expected. In fact, they were so great that I decided to dedicate an entire blog post to our conversation.
So without further ado, Ladies and Gentleman: Michael Bunker.
Michael Bunker: Thanks for having me.
JH: You have written books in many different genres, with Wick and your Wool fan fiction and now your Sand fan fiction and you seem to have no difficulties making the transition between genres. Now, with your most recent project you have even created your own genre, how did you come up with the idea for Pennsylvania?
MB: It was actually a very natural progression for me. I live off-grid in a "plain" community in Central Texas. Yet, I have an office on my property that is powered by off-grid "alternative" energy (solar power and generators.) Every day I experience both worlds, and even in my office I have this very serious meeting of the old world and the new. As I answer this question I am typing on a laptop computer powered by solar power, but in my office I have no electric lights, no running water. My office is heated by a wood-burning stove.
Still, people see my lifestyle and then they see that I'm online and on Facebook and since they don't know anything about the "why" of how we choose to live, they see it as a contradiction (or worse, a hypocrisy.) But the truth is that every single one of us is making decisions every day about what new technologies we choose to adopt, and just how far we intend to go down that road. No person on earth accepts every technology that is out there. We all draw lines. We all experience the challenge of trying to live deliberately in this world that is changing so very fast.
As a "plain" person, I make decisions just like you do. I consider what is good for me and for my family and for my community, and I choose (very deliberately) what technologies I will use and when. No Amish person or plain person is "anti-technology." We all use technology. A frying pan is technology. A toothbrush is technology. The plain people just draw the lines in a different place than the rest of the world, and they do it deliberately and based on what they feel is best for themselves, their community, and their families. There is no hypocrisy. We all do it.
So I, probably more than most people, experience and think about these contrasts and tensions. I imagined the Amish in the 1600's and after that -- during the period of colonization -- coming to Pennsylvania from Europe. They would have gotten on massive ships that were every bit as strange and wonderful and frightening to them as a spaceship would be to us today. They partook in this space age technology in order to go to a place that advertised religious freedom, and good, cheap, and available land.
This, for all intents and purposes, was identical to our Sci-Fi concepts of planetary colonization. So this is how the idea came to be. I thought about my life, and whether I would get on a spaceship to colonize another planet if I could get the things I want for myself, my community, and my family... and I would do it!
MB: I think it is very natural for me as a creator who makes a form of art to be fascinated with how other minds experience my work. So my favorite part of interacting with fans is kind of layered. I like experiencing people almost anthropologically - watching how different people with different backgrounds and different ideas relate with my work and my career. And then it is also great to be around people who love something that I love. I love literature. I love to read, and I love to write. The people who really get into the Indie publishing movement and interact are the true book lovers out there. Probably the most intense and pure book lovers in the history of the world are at the forefront of the Indie publishing movement -- as readers and as writers -- and it is a joy to interact with them.
I would also say that we are in a very exciting time for literature. The technology, the talent, and the "system" coming together in a strange and exciting confluence of events means that for the first time in history readers have unprecedented access to their favorite authors. The authors that allow this, and encourage it, and participate in it in a very authentic way are going to find themselves in a better position to succeed in this new and dynamic market. I think that most authors (almost all of them) are getting it wrong, but that is always the way when something like this happens in the culture.
How do I find time to write AND communicate with my fan base? I make time. Of course I anger some writers when I tell the truth about the minuscule amount of time authors spend actually writing. One of the biggest myths in the history of the world is the myth of the writer pounding out words all day every day for years to write a single novel. Some writers perpetuate this myth, but it is nonsense and they are not being truthful. The Internet is finally exposing that little lie and I say that it is about time for that myth to come crashing to the ground. I try to write every day, but if I can get in a few hours of writing, that is all it takes for me to push out a LOT of books. Polished, well-crafted, professionally presented books. Actually, most of my day is spent in the business of being an author. Emails, social media, messages, interviews, signing and shipping books, working with my team to edit and format the books, etc. So communicating with my readers is a part of what I do every day. It is both my job, and a great joy. I don't see it as a hindrance or a pain or anything. I enjoy it. These are my friends and getting to spend time "at work" with your friends is more of a bonus than it is a chore.
Wow! That is a very good, interesting, and difficult question and will require a vague and rambling answer! I have been writing in one form or another all of my life. I wrote a full 350 page novel when I was 22 years old. I was writing that novel when I first met my wife. But I never really tried to get it published. The whole system of submitting and querying in the mainstream system seemed very daunting and dehumanizing to me. It still does. I wanted to write, and I would have liked to have been read, but I wasn't willing to prostrate myself at the feet of the system in order to be successful, so I never really tried. That novel went into a drawer (actually a filing cabinet,) and never saw the light of day (thank goodness!).
Frankly, that is one of the only good things I can say about the long history of the mainstream publishing industry. A lot of really embarrassingly bad first-books—written by good writers—never got published. Clearly, a lot of really good first-books didn't get published too, and that is a shame, but as for me... I'll always be thankful I never self-published my early writings.
Anyway, when the Internet really got going and the blog revolution took place in the very late 90's, I started writing a blog that got really popular. By 2009 I was writing every day, and in 2011 I wrote and published my first big non-fiction book on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) which proved to me that I could make money writing books. That non-fiction book was a smash hit and went to #39 in all of Amazon.
So after that, I was starting to think that I might be able to write for a living full-time someday. I wrote my first fiction novel (in the modern era!) in 2011 and published it in March of 2012. So that was my first experience actually writing fiction for publication. That book (The Last Pilgrims) did well, but I learned that writing fiction is MUCH harder than writing non-fiction, and fiction is harder to sell. It took me awhile to research and study the business, and learn how to do it in a way that could possibly be successful. I learned about Hugh Howey and WOOL that summer of 2012 and began studying his process and his thoughts on publishing. That is what really drove me to seek to be an author as a career. I worked with an old high school friend (Chris Awalt) on the WICK series, the first of which was published in the very end of December of 2012. In reality, my "career" started on December 26th, 2012 because that is when we hit "publish" on WICK 1. That was probably the most pivotal moment for me, when I was casting off all of the ropes and tethers, and that was when I decided I would be an author full-time. All-in-all, I haven't been doing this very long!
JH: When it comes to the process of actually writing there are seemingly infinite was to work on a project. I think the battleground for Linear and Non-linear writers would be a fierce contest. What is your preferred method? Do you write from start to finish (from A to B) or do you jump around from scene to scene?
I'm not sure if anyone can do a pure A to B writing of a book, but for the most part I do it that way. Of course, within that process I do jump around a little when necessary. Maybe later in the book I'll think "this will be understood better if there is an earlier scene where Dawn and Amos talk about this topic," or "wouldn't it be cool if this item appeared or this situation happened way back then so that it would make this later situation mean more." That sort of thing. But for the most part, I write from the beginning to the end. During editing, the book is fleshed out -- expanding like an accordion. Maybe this is why I like the concept of time-travel so much. Because writing a book is very much like traveling back and forth in time.
JH: Does the finished product resemble the original story you had in your head when you started writing?
MB: Almost always. Completely. Although there may be a few surprises here and there, and the details are usually unknown to me until they happen, the overall "bones"... the structure of the story... ends up like I first imagined it.
MB: Thanks for asking! I have a lot on my plate right now... I'm writing a serialized, seasonal fiction novel entitled DIGGER with the man who is probably my favorite living fiction author right now... Nick Cole. Nick wrote the fabulous Wasteland Saga which started with The Old Man and the Wasteland. I'm very excited about that project. I'm also co-writing a few books in the Bombo Dawson Adventure series with some friends. Kevin G. Summers and I wrote LEGENDARIUM, the first Bombo adventure (after Hugh Howey Must Die!) this past month, and we are currently at work on LEGENDARIUM II. I am also working on two non-fiction titles. I am working with the very talented Tim Grahl on a top-secret non-fiction book, and I am working with my talented daughter Tracy Bunker on the first in a series of Beyond Off-Grid Living "how to" books. On top of that, there are two of my fiction series, which are still on-going. Cold Harbor will be the sequel to The Last Pilgrims, and Oklahoma will be the sequel to Pennsylvania. So, I think I have plenty to do!
JH: Well, I won’t keep you from it then! Michael, I had a fantastic time chatting with you, thanks for taking time out of your schedule to talk with me. I look forward to reading more of your work and wish you all the best!
MB: Thanks, Josh! I enjoyed it.
Check out my review of Pennsylvania and be sure to share this post and review with your friends! Let’s make Michael’s “Book Bomb” go nuclear!
You can pick up copies of all of Michael’s books here: Michael Bunker’s Amazon Author Page
For more information on Michael Bunker and his books, check out his website www.journal.michaelbunker.com and his new blog at http://michaelbunker.thirdscribe.com/.
His Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelBunker and Twitter: @mbunker.