He has also published a collection of short stories titled Puppet Shows. A kindly organ grinder and his performing monkey adopt a young boy after his father spontaneously combusts; a barber living inside a whiskey bottle confronts the neighborhood nuisance who wields a dead squirrel like a pair of nunchucks; and an unruly gang of sock puppets are born in a basement dojo. Welcome to Puppet Shows, thirteen outlandish stories from a writer Tucson Weekly called "a very funny weirdo."
“Puppet Shows is absurdism at its best.” – Bradley Sands, author of Sorry I Ruined Your Orgy
Mariah: Where does your love of storytelling come from?
Michael: I think it was just growing up as a consumer of stories. I enjoyed reading as a kid, but it didn't matter where the stories came from. I was an avid watcher of professional wrestling and Days of Our Lives for years, and I have the returned love letters I wrote to Melissa Reeves to prove it. Soaps and wrestling, however much people might knock them, are really good for storytelling. As children, we take that love of storytelling and make our own stories. I watch my son play with his action figures and he creates his own stories. It's kind of like fan fiction, really. So I never grew out of that. No writer does.
Mariah: Do you have any unique hobbies or talents?
Michael: None. Well, one. I'm a Power Ranger. Don't tell my son. He doesn't know I fight Nylocks and Moogers. I'm also pretty good at spotting an opportunity for a "That's what she said" joke. I don't know whether that's unique though.
Mariah: What do you like to read in your spare time?
Michael: Right now I'm reading The Medical Staff Services Handbook: Second Edition, on my way to one day being certified as a Credentialing Specialist. Exciting, right? I do have two books on request at my local library and they represent what I enjoy reading pretty well. One is Jeff Guinn's biography of Charles Manson. I loved his book about Bonnie and Clyde. It was amazingly researched and I'm excited to see what he does with Manson. The second one is retired pro wrestler Lex Luger's autobiography Wrestling with the Devil.
Okay, so it ain't Finnegan's Wake. Cut me some slack. I’m trying to get certified here.
Mariah: You published your book, Puppet Shows through Writers Amuse Me Publishing? What is the best thing about going with a small publisher?
Michael: It's kind of like a family. Everyone's very supportive and helpful to each other. I don't imagine you would get that from a larger publisher. So it’s great
Mariah: Your book, Puppet Shows, is a collection of thirteen outlandish stories--where did the inspiration for that book come from?
Michael: A few years ago an editor rejected a couple of my stories, writing, "You're hilarious, but you treat your characters like puppets." It didn't offend me because he was right and I kind if owned that at the time. I said then that if I ever have a collection of stories published, I'm calling it "Puppet Shows." I used the word "outlandish" in the description and I took that from the description of the W.C. Fields film Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. In that film he has an "outlandish" script that he pitches to a dumbfounded studio executive. I feel like that was what editors were like when reading my stories.
Mariah: Tell me about your favorite story from Puppet Shows
Michael: My favorite is "Heckle," which was born out of two shorter pieces. In the first part a boy sees his father literally explode, then in the second part he's adopted by an Italian organ grinder and his performing monkey. I spent 20-30 minutes on the organ grinding Wikipedia page researching for that story. I was so proud of myself.
Mariah: Were there any stories that didn't make the final cut?
Michael: One of the first stories I had published was called "Calista Flockhart and the MySpace Hoax." It was either that story or "The Lookist" that was going to get the last spot. I like both stories, but the characters in them are by far the least puppet-like and the most real. So the question was did they fit. "Calista" is also kind of a creepy story and MySpace is so irrelevant now. I thought about changing Flockhart to Zooey Deschanel and MySpace to Facebook or Twitter and calling the story "Catfishing," which is what the story's about. But I still like it as is.
Mariah: What was the hardest scene you've ever written?
Michael: I'm working on a novel now and I'm finding that the scenes that have delayed my writing of the story always focus on the characters traveling. It's set just outside of Boston, but there's quite a bit of travel involved. So I'm Google Mapping specific areas around the country. I spent a week looking up neighborhoods in and around Dallas. It sounds simple, but nothing I’ve written has required research before other than the wonderful organ grinding bit.
Mariah: What can your readers look forward to seeing from you in the future?
Michael: Well, I've mentioned this novel I'm writing, and I've mentioned pro wrestling, which is what the novel's about. I'm hoping it will appeal to wrestling fans, but also have enough else within the story to appeal to the average reader as well. I'm actually quite optimistic about that.
Good Luck with your novel writing, Michael, and thank you for stopping by. It was a pleasure having you.