The Independent Author

Writing Gets Personal

March 03, 2021 Tom Kranz Season 2 Episode 2
The Independent Author
Writing Gets Personal
Show Notes Transcript

Author Mike Archer talks about revealing personal secrets in his new collection of short stories, Living With Humans: Stories of Each Other. A lifelong TV journalist, Mike also talks about the challenge of learning to write expansively after decades of writing news stories that are only a few sentences long.  

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Tom Kranz  0:10  
Hello, everybody, welcome back to the independent author podcast. I'm Tom Kranz. And I really appreciate you downloading this episode as I have appreciated all the people who have listened to my past episodes. And I hope you'll keep doing that. This time, instead of hearing me yammer on, I've invited a good friend of mine who was also an independent author, who just published his second book. Mike Archer is a career journalist he worked for, I guess 30, 35 years in TV news in the Philadelphia market, with a small detour in the clothing industry. And then back to that, to that career, like me, I was in the TV news business for 25, 30 years. And then I also took a detour into the assisted living industry where I actually stayed for 12 years Mike has just released his second book of short stories, it's called Living with Humans stories of each other. And this follows his first short story book publishe a year ago or 2019, right, the Road of Life. And Mike's take is basically looking at, you know, human emotions, human, you know, the things that humans do. And he explores kind of like the consequences of that. What I like about this book is that the characters in these stories, and I'm, I'm guessing some, if not all of them are based on your own experiences, they are at a certain point in their life, where they look back at what they did, and try to judge, you know, whether it was good or bad, and how things turned out. First of all, Mike, before we do that, to tell me a little bit about, you know, just give us kind of a thumbnail sketch of where you were before, before your retirement before you started writing for real?

Mike Archer  2:00  
Well, the last, I guess, 14 years, I worked at KYW-TV in Philadelphia as the managing editor. And I left there in 2015. You know, having spent my whole career in TV news in New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia. And then when I retired, the challenge is, okay, what are you going to do now? To keep yourself occupied? And really, to keep your brain sharp? And I had been writing, you know, for TV news, my whole career, and I thought, well, that's something I know how to do, at least a certain style and know how to do it. And I thought, well, this may be a way to kind of expand my horizons and take my take a shot at trying to write fiction. And, you know, I thought about a novel. And no, it'll take forever to write a novel. And so I thought, Well, why don't I just start writing some short stories, and some of those are based on real life experiences. And some of them, you're just kind of made up, but kind of based on, you know, stories I've covered over the years. You know, you get ideas from every place. And so, you know, took a couple years to do it. But it gives you great satisfaction, and it kind of forces you to do something, you kind of give yourself a deadline, which we're all used to. And even in the TV news business, so you know, that's what got me into it. And I had plenty of time to do it. And I didn't want to sit around and do nothing.

Tom Kranz  3:51  
Did you ever I mean, while you were coming up in the business, did you ever have kind of a dream to write things other than, you know, 20-second, voiceovers and whatnot, was that always in the back of your mind? Or didn't it really gel until after you left the business?

Mike Archer  4:07  
I can't say I was actively thinking about it while I was working, but I was always an avid reader, and simply of nonfiction books. And you know, I never thought about it. I think, you know, you're so busy working and doing your, what you're supposed to be doing every day, you kind of don't think that far in advance. So I guess I really got the urge to do it. You know, once I retired and had the time to do it.

Tom Kranz  4:38  
I gotcha. And you also write a blog, The Archer Journal, right?

Mike Archer  4:43  
Yes. 

Tom Kranz  4:44  
And you do that just when the mood strikes you or are you on a schedule with that or do you wait till somebody pisses you off enough to write about it.

Mike Archer  4:51  
I actually started doing that first. I really started that just a couple of weeks after I retired and that's more topical. It's about journalism, politics, the use of language, and then even what I call life stories just feature stories based on experiences I have or stuff that I observe. And so I started doing that. And I was, I guess, in the beginning, I was churning out probably three or four pieces a month. And I guess now I average probably about two, maybe three pieces a month. And it's generated a pretty good following. You know, there's probably close to 200 pieces on there now. Well, and, you know, I've had months where I've had, you know, anywhere from 800 or 900, visits to 1300 or 1400 visits in a month.

Tom Kranz  5:50  
Well, that's pretty good. Um, have you found when--so one thing that I find and struggle with pretty much every time I write is, you spent your entire life learning how to write like complex stories in four sentences, basically, right? You've learned you had to discipline yourself to write things in terms of, you know, how long does it take to read this 20 seconds 15, 30 and writing even reporter stories down to like, a minute or a minute and a half. And now, you have the option, you know, you have the actually the necessity of writing more expansively more descriptively. More from the heart, maybe Did you find that hard to do? Or talk about that a little bit.

Unknown Speaker  6:30  
I found that to be a challenge, because you're right, we were trained to think, economically, you know, short sentences, get to the point, just put in the important stuff. So when you're writing, as you know, when you're writing fiction, it's okay, how do I develop the plot? How do I develop these characters? You know, how much does the reader want to know about this character? And so that, you know, becomes a real challenge to almost lay out in advance, what's the story going to be some idea of what the plot is going to be? And then, you know, figuring out the characters, and how much you're going to reveal about the characters. And then I think the next challenge after that is, okay, once you've got this character in your head, then you got to bring them to life. You know, how, how do they speak? How do they express themselves? So that becomes, you know, a real challenge, which I think I've gotten better at. Although sometimes when I show the stories to my wife, she says, I need I need more emotion in here. 

Tom Kranz  7:40  
Yeah. So well, that's the hardest part, right? I mean, revealing yourself is difficult, you know, under any circumstances, really.

Mike Archer  7:50  
Yes. And particularly when you're writing some of the stories I've written, you know, autobiographical, in that they're based on real events, you know, in my family, or in my life. And yes, you, you find yourself thinking, well, how much of this do I really want to put out there? Right?

Tom Kranz  8:10  
Right. So, in Living with Humans, those stories are in or what stories, how many, if any of those stories are autobiographical, how many did you take from real life?

Mike Archer  8:23  
Well, two based on real life, the story called Lonely Monday, which is about the death of my father and the effect that had on my mother. And my relationship with my mother, during that. My father died 14 years before she died. So it's a story about what I went through dealing with her. And you know, what that did to our relationship. So that was based on my own experience, and pretty closely at the end of the story. I made up a bit to make a point. So that was a little tough to write. But it was, you know, you kind of get it out of your system and feel better about it. Even though, you know, the experience was not great.

Tom Kranz  9:20  
Yeah. And for the record, your father was Nick Archer, correct?

Mike Archer  9:25  
Yes. 

Tom Kranz  9:25  
And that was he was he was a fairly well known journalist in New York City during his day, correct?

Mike Archer  9:32  
Yeah, he was a vice president of ABC News. Okay. And you know, the story started, he died very suddenly. When he was 74 years old, you know, at home, and, you know, my mother's life was basically built around him. They did everything together. So the impact on her was was very serious as you can imagine. So the story is about my relationship with her. And all those years after he died and what happened to her, what happened to our relationship. And the other story that's kind of biographical is called Mick and Mary, which is based on my grandparents. My my mother's parents who are immigrants from Ireland. And the reason I wrote that is that my mother and my grandfather was a, basically an alcoholic. And my mother never really came totally clean with me about him. And he died when I was about five years old. So I had no memory of him other than what she told me. And I found out years later, you know, more about what kind of a guy he is and the impact he had on my mother and her siblings.

Tom Kranz  11:03  
A reminder to everybody, Living with Humans: Stories of Each Other, is available right now on Amazon.com as both a paperback and an a download, and Mike's first book, Road of Life, also available in both formats. Mike, we'll be talking again, I'm sure. I wish you a lot of luck with both these books. And, you know, I'll see you down the road. 

Mike Archer  11:27  
Thanks, Tom.

Tom Kranz  11:27  
Take care.