Author Interview with Michael Raff

Dragon Soul Press took a moment to interview Michael Raff, an author in Haunt and Beautiful Darkness: Volume One.


1. What inspired you to start writing?

When I was in the seventh grade, an acquaintance of mine, shared a short story that
he wrote. I took it home, read it and thought, Hey that’s cool! I can do this, and
proceeded to write several short stories and a full-length western. I’ve never
stopped since.

2. What comes first, the plot or characters?

With me it’s the plot. An idea pops into my head and when I start working on the
details, the characters form.

3. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Other than marketing, sitting down and getting started, which takes me only a
minute or two, then the enjoyment kicks in and I’m off and running.

4. When you’re writing an emotionally draining (or sexy, or sad, etc.) scene, how
do you get in the mood?

The mood materializes as I work. It comes naturally. Since I’m primarily a horror
writer, I’m just about always in the mood. Getting out of the mood is another
matter. While writing Skeleton Man, my first horror novel, I worked quite a while
on the main villain’s death scene, my mind roaming in a dark and dangerous world.
After I quit for the day, it took me hours to get my mind back into reality.

5. Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?

Occasionally, giving me compliments about my writing, but most of their feedback
are from reviews. Here are some samples:
“Author Michael Raff knows how to send chills up your spine. He is a talented writer with a wild
imagination.”
“Michael Raff has a sick mind, which is perfect for writing horror stories!!”  
“Mr. Raff consistently develops strong characters that are totally believable yet continue to
surprise you with their actions. His plots are always multi-dimensional and full of twists and
turns you don’t see coming.”

6. What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing
journey?

My favorite part is receiving my completed book. It’s a tangible gratification that’s
beyond description. My second favorite part, is finishing the first draft. It’s also
satisfying, but I’m always eager to start tackling the second draft. The least
favorite? Has to be the rejection notices. I’ve had my share of them.

7. Do you find it more challenging to write the first book in a series or to write the
subsequent novels?

As of now, I haven’t written a book series. I have an idea for one, but it may be
years before I start.

8. Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.

For a hero, a published writer or a school teacher with more than a few quirks and
flaws and at least one skeleton in his closet. A person who despites his drawbacks,
embarks on a challenging and quite often, dangerous journey, all the while
struggling to redeem himself.

For a heroine, a strong, resourceful, and independent woman, who struggles against
mind-boggling odds stacked against her.

9. Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your
readers about?

I’m working on my third horror novel, The Seventh Stranger, a ghost story that
takes place in the nineties, about a family who move into a haunted house, thinking
they can utilize it as a bed and breakfast. Little do they know that one of the ghosts
is a homicidal manic. I initially wrote it back in the late eighties on an old writing
program that no longer exists, and incompatible with Word, (talk about ghosts!)
Fortunately, I kept a hardcopy. It’s a great story and by scanning it into my
computer, I’ve been able to convert it into Word. I hope to have it published on
amazon.com by June, 2023.

10. Who is your favorite author and why?

Stephen King. The first book I read of his was Salem’s Lot, back in 1976. I thought
I died and went to heaven. There was a scene where two guys were delivering a
crate containing a coffin in the middle of the night in a cellar. I was reading it at
night, in bed, hoping to relax and go to sleep. As things unfolded, my cat lying at
my feet, suddenly arched her back and began snarling and spitting at the hallway,
her way of telling me something was there. I found the incident quite unnerving and
it sent my heart into a tailspin. As it turned out, another cat had entered the house
through an opened window. It’s something I’ll never forget. But why is King my
favorite author? With his creativeness, his imagination, and his productivity, there’s
just no stopping him.

11. What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

Since I’ve read King’s On Writing, which is a terrific read and extremely
informative, I consider him my honorary mentor.

12. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I read every day. To me, reading and writing go hand in hand. I also exercise but I
don’t actually care for it. I love movies, especially horror, comedy, action, and
adventure. Most of all, I love traveling, mainly to tropical locations where I can
snorkel and mingle with the denizens of the sea. My wife and I take cruises as often
as possible and I enjoy everything about the ocean. I adore animals. We own a small
ranch and have a family of five dogs, two cats, two goats, and a cantankerous horse
named, Freckles.

13. Where can readers learn more about you?

On my main website and my secondary website.

5 Tips to Renew the Joy of Writing

Sometimes, writing can feel more like a job or a burden, especially when the creativity won’t flow. Here are some tips to get in the zone to meet those writing goals.

Dabble in Something New

Write from the Point of View of a different character. Stretch your limits and try a new genre. Swap a romantic relationship to a spiteful one and see where it takes you. Do your ‘good guys’ always win? Let the ‘bad guys’ have this one. Create a “what if” alternate ending to a current project. More often than not, these will alleviate any writers’ block you may be experiencing as new ideas bloom.

Change of Scenery

Stir the pot and change your surroundings. If you normally write at home, try relocating to a coffee shop, library, or somewhere with people milling around in the background. You’ll get in some “people watching,” which provides natural inspiration for characters. 

Writing Mashup

What if robots went on a rampage in Victorian England? What if a human wants to be where the mermaids are? Let the creativity flow by using an online generator to give random combinations to write about. Making this a daily habit seems to successfully help many authors stay in the writing flow.

Free Write

Sometimes you just need to get words on paper to feel productive. Set a timer and write whatever thoughts flit into your mind until the end. It can be about what you did today, how you feel about your current work in progress, what you hope to achieve, random bits of dialogue between characters, etc. There doesn’t need to be any rhyme or reason to it nor does the grammar need to be perfect.

Reward System

Is everything going well with your writing, but you’re feeling a bit underappreciated? Set up a reward system for yourself. Say your writing goal for the day is 2,000 words and you’ll get to eat a cookie if you meet it. If you finish your goal for the week, you go to the movies. Be as creative and personalized as you want with choosing rewards.

First Five Pages Checklist

The first five pages of your book are so important. As aspiring authors, we are well aware of their significance. And we place so much time and emphasis on getting them right. While we probably have a fair idea of what to do and not do in our first five pages, here is a quick recap of things to keep in mind when looking at the start of your novel.

Important questions to ask yourself:

Does the first line engage your reader?

Is your main character properly introduced?

Has the POV and narration style been made clear to the reader?

Does your reader get a good feel for the world – i.e. have you set the status quo?

Have you established your main character’s deepest desire?

Is there an inciting incident?

The most important thing to avoid at the beginning of your novel:

The information dump. 

Your reader is only starting to get to know your main character and within these pages, so you don’t want to overwhelm them with backstory or world building information so early on. Remember, you’ve got a minimum of 80,000 words to work with, you can take your time introducing the important background information. 

To Prologue or Not to Prologue?

As with many of the topics we have already discussed, the decision of having a prologue or not is entirely up to you. Whether it is necessary for your story or not is sometimes another matter entirely. Let’s look at the definition of prologue before we continue.

Prologue (Noun): a separate introductory section of a literary or musical work.

There you have it. A prologue is an introduction to the story.

So, if your story begins in the middle of action or events set into motion by a previous incident (especially if it is years prior), you definitely should provide a prologue. The equivalent of this is running up and hugging someone without an introduction. You’ll either get shoved away or punched in the face, normally. In terms of your story, this is the reader putting the book down and moving along. They lose interest as soon as confusion sets in. To avoid that confusion altogether, you can have a brief introduction before the reader gets immersed into the story.

For a sequel. I believe all sequels should have a mandatory prologue in the beginning to recap the main events of the previous book. The reason for this is because I’m one of those people to go buy a bunch of books, get them home, and realize I have the second book in a series. Sure, I could spend time hunting down the first book while letting the second book collect dust. Or I can read the prologue provided, have a good idea of what’s happening, and thoroughly enjoy the book I selected regardless.

In these situations, just like in customer service, the reader is always right because they are who you want to read this product. You have to tailor it to their expectations, to a certain extent. Which brings up another topic we will discuss at a later date.

Personally when writing, I always include a prologue and an epilogue to my novels because it allows me to show how much time has passed between books, important events that occurred, and gives the reader clarity about what to expect and what is to come. I wouldn’t recommend prologues for shorter stories because it can appear to be a little silly.

Once again, the decision is entirely up to you. Whether you decide to prologue or not to prologue, get back to writing.

How Many Characters Are Too Many?

You’ve started writing your book. When writing our stories, we can sometimes get carried away with ourselves. We overcompensate in some areas and completely skimp over others. This is something that can be fixed with lots of practice and constructive criticism.

You have the main character set in your mind, you’ve added in their cohorts, you have a set enemy and their cohorts. Before you know it, you end up having too many people to keep track of. If you look closely, most of them are either hollow shells or the exact replica of another character. These are the characters you need to remove from the story altogether. If they are absolutely necessary, make them a fleetingly passing nobody character and move on without them.

Here are some things to look at when deciding whether you need the character or not.

  1. Do they have a personality? Are they around enough for their personality to shine out to the readers through their actions? Or do you find yourself calling them “noble, vindictive, or cruel” in the text?
  2. Are they the one who always magically comes to save the day for the other characters, but then continues their way out of the story?
  3. Are they truly necessary? Do they have a purpose besides coming in for a one-liner or lurking around a group of important characters?

These are just a few ways to tell if you have too many characters lingering around. If they don’t accelerate the story, your supporting cast doesn’t need them. If you can delete them without feeling like you’re cutting off an arm, you don’t need them. Point blank. Don’t fool yourself into thinking they’ll be extremely important in one more scene in Book Four when Book One isn’t even finished. Trust me, the reader will forget they ever even existed by the time that character appears again.

For those who came to this article perhaps looking for an exact number to abide by like a bible, there is no perfect number of characters to have within your cast. There is no precise limit either. As long as you only keep in the characters necessary to write the story, you’ll not only have an easier time writing it, but your readers will have a better time reading it as well.

Do not restrict yourself or your characters on the fairytale ideals of the perfect amount of characters to have in a story. Sit down at the keyboard and just write.