Tuesday, August 4, 2015

An Interview With Mike Orenduff

MM2: Mike, give us your backstory on why, how and when you became an author?

I think my story is typical. I’ve read a lot of author interviews on Mayhem and Magic, and one common thread is that most authors grew up with a love of reading. I spent most of my youth with my nose in a book. I didn’t think I would be an author, but the seed was being planted. Eventually, I drifted towards murder mysteries because I liked the puzzles. No surprise that I ended up getting a degree in logic and teaching it for many years.

MM2: After reading your books what do you want readers to walk away with?

Although my books are cozies, there is an important underlying message. Each human being is unique. We shouldn’t categorize people by the accidents of their birth – race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

MM2: Take us thru your writing day?

I wish I could do that, but no two are alike. Basically, I write when I can.

MM2: What comes first the setting, plot or characters?

Characters. I like to say they write the books. I’m on number eight in the series. I know them so well that all I have to do is listen then write down what they say.

MM2: What life lesson has writing taught you?

Patience. Which my wife will attest  I sorely needed.

MM2: How many books have you written?

As I mentioned, I’m working on number 8.

MM2: What would your character tell us about you?

The positive thing they would say is that I give them the freedom to be themselves. The negative thing would be that I love putting them in awkward situations. But that’s the nature of humor, isn’t it?

MM2: How much research goes into your books?

I don’t have to research setting. I probably know New Mexico better than Susannah Martinez, the Governor. But each book has a character that my protagonist is studying, and they range from Einstein to Billy the Kid. I do a lot of research on the title character. Einstein gave me a headache.

MM2: We love you as a member of our group. Do you belong to any other writing groups? Face to face or online?

I love the Cozy Armchair Group because it’s a nice mix of author and readers. And much of the content is not about books but about life. And what better basis for writing than real life? Thanks for starting the group. I do not belong to any face-to-face groups. I don’t think there are any where I live, and even if there are, I don’t have the time. Tomorrow, for example, I’ll have the grandkids for most of the afternoon.

MM2: Okay for the fun questions: What is your favorite meal? In your lifetime where have you travelled? Your favorite place to vacation? Favorite dessert? The strangest food you ever ate? Your favorite movie, song and television series?

Ooh, I love these questions. Favorite meal: miso salmon. Where have I travelled? Everywhere: Malta, Iceland, Chile, Australia, Finland, Dubai, China, Bulgaria, Argentina, Japan, Morocco, Korea, Easter Island, Turkey, the Azores, Sardinia, Romania, Nicaragua... well, a lot of others, but you get the idea. Favorite place to vacation: Cinque Terre in Italy. Favorite dessert: Mandarin Orange Cake. The strangest food I ever ate: sea slugs in China (much better than it sounds). Favorite movie: Casa Blanca. Favorite song: Hotel California. Favorite television series: Frazier.

MM2: Tell us about where you live an why you like it there? Be our tour guide?

I live in Valdosta, Georgia. It is full of wonderful people, but the thing I like about it most is it’s where my wife, daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren are. And that why I live here. It is too hot, too buggy and too closed in with vegetation. I much prefer the New Mexico desert which I visit in my mind when I write.

MM2: What advice do you have writers who want to have a career as an author?

Don’t give up your day job. Seriously, I would say that if your goal is to have a career as a writer, you will probably fail. But if your goal is simply to be the best writer you can be – if you love the process so much that the rewards and outcomes are secondary – then you might succeed. Except for the lucky one-in-a-million who writes a bestseller right out of the box, the road to a writing career is long and bumpy. As the corny saying goes, it’s more of a journey than a destination. That’s why you have to love the process. That’s what you will spend your time doing. If you don’t love the process and are more focused on signings, royalties and movie deals, you won’t enjoy the journey because you’ll keep asking yourself, Am I there yet?

It took me ten years to reach a point where I now make a living as an author. I like the royalties and the publicity and being asked to speak at events. But if that all went away, I’d still keep writing.

MM2: Do you make time to re-read some of your favorite books?

Yes. I wait until the details of the plot are fuzzy and then read them again. One of the advantages of my advanced age is that the time it takes for the details to grow fuzzy grows shorter with every passing year.

MM2: Would you like to thank some people who helped you along the way to success?

It seems to me there are two kinds of help authors need. The first is help with writing. I’ve found that writers are usually happy to help someone who is just starting out. Many writers helped me. Those whose help has been most valuable include Tim Hallinan, Anne Hillerman, Lou Allin, G. M. Malliet, and a number of others whom I never met but learned from their writing. The second sort of help an author needs is promotion. I have received that from Tom and Enid Schantz at Rue Morgue Press. Not only did they sell a lot of my books, but Enid’s writing about them in The Denver Post was a big boost. Enid passed away about 4 years ago and is still missed in the mystery community. Kate Feuille wrote great reviews in The El Paso Times which led to them doing a feature of my books with a picture of me next to their masthead on the front page of the Sunday Edition titled Man of Mystery. Lisa Airey also praised my books in The Baltimore Sun. David Steinberg reviewed my books in The Albuquerque Journal. Any writers reading this knows how difficult it is to get reviews in major newspapers these days. Most papers have stopped doing them because they don’t bring in much advertising revenue and take up valuable column inches in an era when papers are competing against the Internet. So I’m fortunate to have my books reviewed prominently and positively in these and other papers.

MM2: What would you like to say to your readers?

Thanks for being a reader. And thanks for including my books in your reading list.

MM2: What are your future writing plans?

I plan to continue the Pot Thief series so long as the publisher will take them. I also have a memoir and some other fiction projects. I enjoy writing for the theater. One of my plays had a successful run two years ago, and I’m working on other scripts.

MM2: Lastly, leave us with a humorous story about writing, a book signing or something your character would say?

My first Pot Thief book was published shortly after the Feds broke up an illegal artifact ring in Blanding, Utah. Prominent citizens were arrested for violating the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (which my protagonist does repeatedly) and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act  (which my protagonist would never do). During a signing in Gallup, New Mexico, one person in line asked me if the book was based on the events in Blanding which had happened just weeks ago. “Yes,” I said.”It’s amazing how fast a book can be written and published these days.”

MM2: Do you have a favorite writing quote? Direct us to your website, blog or favorite bookstore?
Thank you Mike for this interview. Also thank you for thinking of us at the bookstore in Oregon. You are a great person!

I have two favorite writing quotes. The first one has been credited to at least a dozen writers, so I don’t know who said it first: “There are three rules about writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”  My second favorite is from Hemmingway: “A good story is like an iceberg – ninety percent is below the surface.”

I think I have both a website and a blog, but I don’t maintain either one, so there’s no point in directing anyone to them. There are a ton of bookstores I love. The newest one is my own, due to open this fall. It’s in an old building in the heart of Valdosta’s historic downtown district. We live on the second floor. The bookstore will on the ground floor. It’s called Book and Table and is a combination bookstore/coffeeshop. We plan to host authors, Pam, so we hope to have you do a signing. We will also have a B&B behind the store and authors and their significant others can stay free when they do a signing. Look for an announcement to be posted on the Cozy Armchair site.

Thanks for interviewing me.


  1. Mike, I am so excited about your bookstore! Would love to make it down sometime!

  2. Mike, I am so excited about your bookstore! Would love to make it down sometime!

  3. MIke, I love both of your quotes. I find your interview very interesting. Thank you for giving us the pleasure of knowing you a bit better.

  4. Very interesting interview;hope your bookstore is a great success. MaryC


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