(Michael's NEW Book available now)

How did you start out your writing career? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always been compelled to create, that’s for sure. I made up stuff as a kid. I played in rock bands and composed music for years—always with a high premium on creativity and originality. Eventually I graduated from Belmont University with a degree in Music Composition and Arranging.

In a sense, I think I did always want to be a writer. But I never really sat down and attempted anything until 2002. We were in the minivan, driving home from somewhere when I told my wife I thought I’d like to try my hand at writing. The enthusiasm in her reaction actually surprised me (and the only time it ever wavers is when I have deadlines!). I started writing not long after and haven’t stopped since.

How did you come up with the idea for this book "My Name is Russell Fink"? What was the working title for this book?

Interesting questions…the working title was always My Name Is Russell Fink. The original idea—if you could call that—was simply two guys sitting around a kitchen table arguing over a bowl of cereal. The novel itself grew out of a trio of (seemingly!) unconnected short stories I’d written. I’m not sure when it actually dawned on me that the three stories were loosely based on the same character.

Is being an author everything that you thought it would be? If not, what has been surprising to you?

It’s exactly what I thought it would be like, frankly. And that’s a good thing. I knew it would be a lot of work, but work that I love to do. I realized early on that some people would ‘get it’ and that many more wouldn’t. Signing a publishing contract does not make me a better writer, only writing will. It doesn’t make more likable, and definitely not any richer (not yet, anyway!). It’s simply a great way to spend time and scratch that creative itch.

Can you tell me of Two "Wow" moments you have had so far in your writing career? What made them so special?

Any time I hear of someone spending time reading something I’ve written there’s a bit of a wow factor. I’m still amazed that people choose to spend time in world’s I create.

The wow moment was the first time my own writing made me cry (the funeral scene in Russell Fink).

At a book signing in Michigan, a nice lady took the time to tell me that, because of my book, her mostly grown son is now a reader. That is amazingly cool.

Is there a question you wish someone would have asked you but didn't? If so, what was that question? What is your answer to that question?

Yes, and it’s this: “Why are you going into the ladies’ room?”

My answer. would be a silent about-face maneuver.

Another helpful question would have been: “Don’t you realize that peculiar feeling in your gut is actually a slow-leak in your ruptured appendix, and that if you don’t get some immediate medical attention, you’re going to spend a week in the hospital, only to be sent home so you can have surgery four months later?”

Of course, had someone actually asked the question, I probably still would have ignored it.

When do you do your best creative work? What time of day?

I do most of my writing at night after everyone else is asleep. So I’m guessing that makes me a night owl. But I have to admit I’d like to try and climb out of bed and into my writing chair, since I have a sneaking suspicion I’d be more creative in the morning. I’ll get back to you on this suspicion after I sell a few hundred thousand copies of my books!

Is your spouse a hands-on or hands-off partner with your writing? How much does she have to do with your fiction writing?

My wife is my ‘first reader’…and a darn good one. Her instincts are amazing (as is her enthusiasm). And she’s not afraid to tell me when something’s not working. My editor now says I’m not allowed to send him anything until after my wife has taken a crack at it. Not only that, she’s really pretty too! (My wife, not my editor, who is a man, and although I suppose he’s good-looking enough, I’m not sure how much he’d appreciate being called ‘pretty.’)

What is your favorite part of the writing process? What is your least favorite part of the writing process?

I love the blank page, then watching it fill up. I love getting to know my characters and seeing what they’re up to. I love editing and rewriting and the give-and-take between myself and my editors. I love finishing novels. I love seeing them on the shelf and riffling their pages and smelling that new book smell. I love opening up and blank document and just typing whatever flies into my head, then trying to make a story out of it. So I guess I love all the writing parts, the creativity-in-action and the payoff of holding my work in my hands. I love it when people say nice stuff about my words. I could go on…

If there’s a least favorite part, I suppose it would have to do with deadlines or writer’s block or some other writerly frustration. But those are all necessary and organic parts of the process. They’re the black that makes white, the night that makes day, the yin that makes yang, the Laverne that makes Shirley, etc. So I suppose I really don’t have a least favorite part.

What part of your daily routine do you love the most? Why?

That one is easy…it’s the chance to exercise my spiritual gift of napping. I absolutely adore falling asleep. And I usually get to do it twice a day!

How hard is it for you to come up with names for your characters? Please describe how you go about deciding on the final name of your characters? You had kind of a fun time with Nancy Clancy's name in the book. I just had to ask this question.

Thanks…I’m still pretty fond of that name. I really take a lot of time coming up with character names. For some reason, I’m drawn to old-fashioned names for both males and females. I chose the name Russell because it sounded best to my ears, not because that’s the name of my brother, father, paternal grandfather, and one of my best childhood friends. My second novel includes a primary character named Ozena, which is the name of my maternal grandmother. As far as choosing names, I just keep trying things out until it just fits.

Is there something that you do every time you begin a project that really helps you in the writing process? Habit – Ritual?

Yes, I procrastinate. And it works every time!

Questions you were afraid to ask Michael so I did!!

If you found a magic lamp and there was a genie inside that would grant you three wishes – what would those wishes be?

I’m assuming, of course, that I can’t ask for more wishes. And it would feel like a cop out to go with the “peace on earth and good will toward men” sort of thing (although ending world hunger really would be at the top of the list), same with piles and piles of cash. So in keeping with the spirit of the question, here goes…

-A helicopter, a real one (I’ve always wanted one of those)

-To get back two of the guitars I moronically got rid of years ago (a sunburst Les Paul Deluxe and a ‘Dot’ Gibson 335)

-A better memory

If you had $200.00 in your pocket, and you MUST spend it right away. What would you buy? Why?

I’d drive immediately to a bookstore with a coffee shop. After a rather large latte of some sort (likely a chai), I would then browse until I hit my fiscal limit. Okay, that’s not entirely true, if I $200 bucks to spend, I’d somehow find a way to go over my allowance by $30 or more. It’s difficult to be more specific than that because I already own most of the books that I know I love. So for me, the fun of blowing through the free cash would be the thrill of the hunt of finding new and interesting stuff.

If you had a time machine and could visit any past event,what would it be? Why? This could apply to a historic event or a time in your own life…

Creation would be cool, but technically speaking, that would make me Adam (or possibly Eve)…and despite my fondness for Fig Newtons, I’d rather not have my name associated with original sin. Plus, I’d rather not be dead right now. So…I’m going to go with either, a) the birth of Jesus, or b) an eyewitness to the empty tomb (specifically, the tomb of Jesus, not that Geraldo fiasco with King Tut).

If you could be a super hero for a while , which one would you be?

I was never a big fan of superheroes, so there’s a good chance I’m about to say something (else?) ignorant.

Let’s see, I don’t think Little Debbie was a super hero, so she’s out. So I’d have to go with Captain Olfactory Guy, whose primary power is to search the world for racists (and other stupid mean people) and make them smell really horrible until they saw the error of their ways, repented, and did something nice to make amends.

If you had all the time in the world (and just as much money); to do ANYTHING you wanted, what would you do?

Very likely the same stuff I do now, only with less bills and more time with my family. Truth be told, if I had too much more time it would probably translate to more time procrastinating.

IF you HAD to be on a "Reality" TV show what one would you be on and why?

Either the Bachelor or the Bachelorette…whereupon I would go around to each of the nutty contestants and remind them that the Object Of Their Desire is routinely making out with every other contestant on the show, then make them all watch a Power Point presentation on germs and hygiene and whatnot. I’m sure I’d be really popular on the set! Then I’d coerce them all into signing up for some sort of self-esteem boot camp.

What was the first film you remember seeing as a child? What impact did it have on you?
I’m sure it wasn’t the first ever, but I do remember seeing Jaws the same summer my family moved to Virginia Beach. The impact was a mostly dry bathing suit.

What TV shows were you most passionate about as a child? Why?

I was never very passionate about TV. But I do remember wanting to be Starsky (not Hutch) so I could date Charlie’s Angels.

If you could interview or hang out with two people in the history of the world, who would they be? What would you do?

I would love to take a bus ride with Rosa Parks, trade blues licks with Miles Davis, or play a game of H-O-R-S-E with Michael Jordan.

On a more negative note, I’d like to go back and meet the guy who thought up slavery. Then I’d introduce him to a trio of Dickensian ghosts to try and dissuade him from his heinous endeavor. If that didn’t work, I’d enlist Tommy (the deaf, dumb, and blind pinball-playing protagonist from the aptly titled musical, Tommy) to perform an impromptu lobotomy with a couple of dull steak knives.

Given our current gas price and shortage situation and the fact we are getting less mileage for our $$ - what alternative resource would you rather use in the future?

It might be nice if cars ran on good will and kindness. And of course, the opposite too…like if you intentionally cut someone off in traffic, the tires on your car turn to pudding. But if you think nice thoughts and treat people well, your car glides around like a puck on an air hockey table.

Thanks so much Michael for hanging out with us today you have made us laugh and have given us an insite into the man behind the book. It's been great fun.


Just this…thank you for having me here!

Blessings on your writing – we all need a good laugh and a good message. All the best on your new book. Remember if you are ever in Atlanta, you'll have to stop by.


Nora :D


  1. Great interview. I love your sense of humor Michael. If your books have any of it in them, then I know that I would love them. Loved the interview Nora. See ya Thursday!!!

    Gail Mundy

  2. Thanks again, so much, for having me on your blog. I can honestly say that was one of the most fun interviews I've ever done.


    (He sent me this comment via e-mail) I wanted to share it with you. :D