You might know me as “MNR” depending on when and where we’ve met. MNR is short for “Mark Niemann-Ross.” This drives the IT folks crazy when I ask for a corporate email address like “email@example.com.” They prefer firstname.lastname@example.org, but seriously, who can remember how to spell that?
My latest written work is a contribution to Crooked V.2 – “Do-Ye0n Performs a Cost-Benefit Analysis on a Career Based on Questionable Activities.” I’ve released “Stupid Machine” – A (science fiction) murder mystery solved by a refrigerator. I’m currently prepping to write “Vicious Machine – A murder mystery caused by a refrigerator.”
From Planning to Published
When did you start writing and why?
Author: I’ve always scratched out stories. My mom was an interrupted journalist but continued to write stories for friends and family. She mourned her missed opportunity to write full time. I’d like to think I’m fulfilling her dream?
How long did it take you to finish your first book?
Author: Way too long but just long enough. I rewrote Stupid Machine three times and threw out more words than the length of the final book. It was a cheap way to learn to write – cheaper than an MFA. There’s no better way to learn about writing than to crash your way through it.
I’ve stopped worrying about how long it takes finish a project. The finished idea only comes around as fast as it can – I need to be patient.
Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?
Author: Nope. It won’t. I’ll finish it when it’s ready.
Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?
Author: My short stories have appeared in Analog Magazine of Science Fiction and Fact, so in that way I’m traditionally published. Stupid Machine is self-published and I’m happy with that. I’m open to working with an agent/publisher, but until that happens, I’ll proceed with confidence.
How did you determine your target audience?
Author: I didn’t. I wrote what I know. The audience will have to sort themselves out. I’ve found two demographics reading Stupid Machine: coders and murder fans. Sometimes they’re the same. I understand coders. Maybe someday I’ll understand murder fans better.
What is your publishing process?
Author: Write the damn story. Publish the damn story.
What platforms do you use to publish your works?
Author: I’m published at Amazon in both print and kindle. I’ve been pleased with Smashwords for everywhere else. The amount of time I have to fool around with publishing services is growing thin, so I watch numbers and economize. There’s lots of ways to get a book published; I assume if someone really wants to read what I write, they’ll find a way to buy the story.
How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?
Author: I have a group of trusted readers. It’s difficult to get good critiques, especially since I’m working somewhere between technology and fiction. I cherish the folks who are able to bridge those two disciplines.
What is your launch plan for your works?
Author: Start with the low-hanging fruit and work outwards. Friends and family, then industry associates, then recognized experts, then general public. My time is limited, so I select activities I can support, complete those activities, then move on to the next. It’s really easy to lose focus with all of the companies who want to offer marketing opportunities.
How do you get reviews for your books?
Author: I pester readers until they submit to my will.
How do you promote your content?
Author: My next story is the best promotion for my current story. It’s endless. It’s tiring. I wish there was a magic formula. Sometimes people get lucky and famous.
What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?
Author: Be famous, then your books will sell. Success is a subjective pursuit.
How do you define success as an author?
Author: If I learned something from the creation of a book, then I’m successful. I have the luxury of having an income from other sources, so the financial return on a book isn’t the primary indicator.
About Your Work
What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?
Author: Yep…I write Science Fiction.
What genres and subgenres do you write in?
Author: Sub Genre: Hard. Sub-Sub Genre: Technology-gone-wrong.
I teach programming languages and small computers (Raspberry Pi) so I constantly trip over bugs and unintended machine behaviors. Those are no big deal until we trust our well-being to predictable technology.
I worry about what happens in the unplanned gaps between technologies. One company tests lawn mowers to make sure they’re safe. Another tests to make sure microwaves are safe. But what happens if you plug a lawn mower into a microwave? Nobody tested that.
What could possibly go wrong?
If you think that sounds just stupid, you ought to educate yourself on what’s going on inside your car at 65 miles per hour.
What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?
Author: Just me. I teach technology. I write about technology. I write fiction about technology. It’s all related to the singular me.
How many works have you published?
Author: Lots of shorts. One long.
Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?
Author: Sure. “Do-Ye0n Performs a Cost-Benefit Analysis on a Career Based on Questionable Activities” is part of Crooked V.2. It’s a background exploration of Do-Ye0n, an inept fuck-up. Everyone assumes criminals are masterminds. If they ARE masterminds, they fix the system so they aren’t criminals. At least, that’s what happens today. Criminals are the folks just short of manipulating society to believe they are doing the right thing. Do-Ye0n just doesn’t work hard enough. So he continues to fall off the edge of competency.
This is important to my writing. Masterminds are a fiction. Everyone is just trying to get it right. Criminals don’t aspire to be criminal – they aspire to survive and maybe a bit more.
Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.
Author: A common element? The gap between technologies. Quality assurance does their best to make things work right, but there’s always an edge case between THIS thing and THAT thing.
What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?
Author: Someone needed to write this thing. I’m the only person (I know of) with this combination of skills. So I was chosen to write it. I wish I had a better grasp of the medium, but I am what I am.
What do you want your readers to get out of your works?
Author: Enjoy the story. Oh please…enjoy what I write.
What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?
Author: Stop using cliches. Use semi-colons, colons, dashes, and em-dashes correctly. Learn more about the stupid english language.
Seriously – programming languages are so much easier than english. Punctuation is predictable, spelling is absolute, the syntax makes sense. That leaves me to fixing bugs – but that’s just logical errors. Why can’t english be that simple?
What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?
Author: I love when characters reveal themselves. I know they are fictional, but they develop personalities. That’s also somewhat of a pain in the ass – some characters decided they didn’t want to cooperate with the overall story when it was too late to write them out. So I need to accommodate their needs. What a bunch of complainers.
Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?
Author: I admire Andy Weir. He works hard to make sure his stories exist within the bounds of physics.
Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?
Author: Oh gawd no. Read outside your genre. I’m fortunate to be married to someone who doesn’t like science fiction. As a result, I watch all sorts of movies and read books I would never have considered otherwise.
What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?
Author: I scratch out an idea, then write, then fix the outline, then write, then plot. Characters tell me things about the story I didn’t know when I started. Pantser vs Plotter is an unnecessary bifurcation. Writing is an interactive process. You suggest a situation, then ask the characters what they are going to do. Sometimes they tell you the situation is wrong and you have to start over.
Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?
Author: Face to face. Beers. Social media is a cesspool.
Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?
Author: I write when the story demands to be written. There’s lots of gaps in my writing while the story sorts itself out. I write as fast as I can, but I’m not in control.
What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?
Author: Interesting question, but this really doesn’t apply to my writing. I’m an author because I write. Stories need to be written. I’ve expressed an interest in writing them, so they show up at my doorstep.
A journey has a beginning and an end. The stories I write never really started – they always were waiting for me to get my shit together. They never end – they just pause until the next chapter starts. I’m kind of just an innocent bystander with a keyboard.
How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?
Author: I hate killing off characters. I spend so much time learning about them, then they die. Dammit. But that’s the deal. If you’re going to write, you need to be emotional about these fictional characters. It doesn’t get any easier, but it does prepare you for when “real” people die.
Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?
Author: Nobody “becomes” an author. You are, or you are not. There isn’t a merit badge you can earn. You can only write. Even if nobody publishes your writing, if you’re writing, you’re an author. That’s a relationship between you and the story.
What do you listen to while you write?
Author: coffee shop music and chatter. I can’t write without background noise.
What book are you reading at the moment?
Author: 1Q84. Before that, A Gentleman in Moscow.
What is your favorite literary trope?
Author: Chekhov’s gun.
I splatter news everywhere, but the most current is my website at http://niemannross.com