I’m pleased to welcome prolific author, Mike Kechula, to my blog today. Mike's stories have been published by 128 magazines and 35 anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, Indian, Scotland and the U.S. Wow! He’s won first place in 10 contests and placed in 8 others. He’s also won the Editor’s Choice award 4 times, and one of his flash fiction tales was nominated for a Push Cart Prize. He has authored three books of flash fiction and short stories. Today, we are spotlighting Mike’s romance writing.
Welcome, Mike. Can you please give us a brief synopsis of your book, “I Never Kissed Judy Garland and Other Tales of Romance?”
Mike: This is not a simple thing to do, because it contains a wide range of romance tales, mostly told from a male POV. Actually this collection contains 31 stories. Twenty-one were previously published in magazines in Canada, England, and the US. Twenty-four are flash fiction works, which consist of 1,000 words or less. The remaining 7 are short stories. One is 13,500 words long, and another is 10,000 words.
A number of the stories are huggy-kissy romantic tales. However, some are dark, and in fact a British magazine published one of the dark ones because they said it was so intense. And they typically didn’t publish anything of a romantic nature. I’m referring to the tale, “The Malediction of Love.” Sounds bad, doesn’t it? Well, it is. Not all love is rewarding, as we all know. Sometimes it can drive the one who loves to near-insanity. This 585-word piece gets right to the point that you can’t make somebody love you and though a man knows this, he tries to do it anyway. Much to his regret.
On the other hand, you’ll find one that’s been described by a professional reviewer of romance tales, as a Cinderella-type tale. In that one, a very nerdy young woman blossoms into a beauty and wins the heart of a man who ridiculed her and nearly reduced her to rubble. But she had an inner beauty that kicked his rump, turned him inside out and upside down, and damn near tore his heart out.
My publisher wrote this summary:
A stunt double never gets over his crush on Judy Garland. A man spots a sign on the side of the road--and it changes his life. A musician discovers a beautiful doll who makes him a star...and more. A middle-aged man decides to help a desperate young woman...and wonders if the good guy ever can win. A girl wishes for an Air Force fighter plane for her 12th birthday and discovers what true love can do.
This book focuses on romance and relationships, both gone right and gone horribly wrong. Each story has its own little zing, that frisson of awareness that reminds us of a larger truth. Many have happy endings, but be warned, not all romance works out as we planned.
Katie: Many of us are familiar with your flash fiction tales. Please share how you managed to branch out into adult romantic fiction.
Mike: You’re familiar with my bizarre and quirky speculative fiction tales of which I’ve had over 400 published. But before I ever wrote my first speculative fiction tale, which happened only six years ago, I was a writer of romance.
I chose that route when I started writing fiction a little over 8 years ago. I began writing romance, but found there was little call for short romantic pieces. After surveying what most magazines were seeking when it came to flash fiction and short stories, I discovered hundreds of them wanted speculative fiction. By that I mean sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. So, I tried to write that stuff and succeeded. My goal was to get published as quickly as possible and as often as possible, and speculative fiction was the royal road to that end.
Katie: What do you find most enjoyable about writing romance stories?
Mike: Frankly, I never thought about that. And I don’t have an answer for you. Maybe the question should be what led me into writing romance in the first place. Why not macho adventure tales?
Well, I suppose it’s because of my life experiences, in which I often ending up losing in the romance game. I felt as if I wanted to say something significant about that. So, it’s not so hard to take real events, wrap some fiction around them, and turn out stories that might impact readers.
Many of my story ideas came from my clinical psychology studies. When other students found out about my major, they tended to use me as a sounding board, as I was 30 when I started college. Because I was a good listener, women and men told me their romantic problems, detailing them to the nth degree. So, when I began to write fiction, it seemed I should write about romantic relationships, because I had a lot to go on.
Katie: Do you plan on writing a full length romance novel? Why or why not?
Mike: No. I’m not a novelist. I think I can put lots of punch in a flash fiction story instead of dragging it out a hundred and fifty pages. I gotta tell you that some folks who have reviewed my romance flash fiction tales have told me some made them weep. And one woman in a flash fiction writing site said I was her favorite writer of romance tales. I never expected to hear that. Well, if I can do that in short works, why bother expending time writing a novel-length romance that might not have the same impact? Also I could write a hundred flash fiction tales or more in the time it would take me to craft a single novel.
Katie: When you were looking for a traditional publisher for this book, who steps did you take to find one?
Mike: I already had a publisher for my two books, which are collections of speculative fiction tales. The publisher is Rob Preece of Books For A Buck. I told him about my romance stories, which I thought were unique, because all except one were from a male POV. Rob read the manuscript and gave me a contract immediately.
Katie: How did you decide which stories to publish in your anthology?
Mike: It was easy, because it was the total number of romance tales I had written, many of which had already been published in magazines.
Katie: Once you signed a contract, how much editing did you have to do to satisfy the publisher?
Mike: Very little. Reason is that 21 of the 31 tales had already been published by magazines in Canada, England, and US, so they were highly polished. Consequently, they were ready to go in a collection.
Katie: Please share with us three things you have learned about writing short romance fiction, and creating an anthology specifically.
Mike: Frankly, I’m not schooled in writing romance. And I haven’t even read any of the romance formulas. I write from the heart. And I’m told I’m a pretty good storyteller, which I think is more important than being a fancy wordsmith. In this collection, you’ll find things that I experienced, or heard when college students cried their hearts out to me. I fictionalized situations, but there’s quite a bit of truth underlying my fiction. However some of the tales are complete flights of fancy, like the story about the eleven year old orphan girl who wanted an Air Force P-38 for her twelfth birthday in 1939. And how her eleven year old “boyfriend” would have done anything to get it for her---even give up his life. Listen, I’m the boy in that story. I met girls when I was eleven that I would have gotten them the Empire State Building if they asked. I know what it is to be a hopeless romantic at 11 years old, and lie awake at night fantasizing about saving girls, for which I had a terrible crush, from invading monsters, armies, and bad guys. Maybe that’s what I mean about writing from the heart. If you have a story that has impact, you don’t need formulas and fancy prose. The story will tell itself. And it might make readers weep. When the editor of Long Story Short told me she was enthralled by my story about the girl who wanted an Air Force P-38 for her birthday, I understood what she meant. I too was enthralled with the idea.
Well, you asked for three things about what I have learned about writing romantic stories. I guess I said them above in a round-about way. (1) Write from the heart. (2) Write that which will hit your readers in the gut. (3) Take real heart-wrenching tales, ensure they aren’t mundane, and wrap a web of fiction around them. Do that enough times in short works of fiction, and you’ll end up with enough for an anthology.
Katie: Thanks for being a guest on my blog today, Mike.
You can learn more about Mike’s book, “I Never Kissed Judy Garland and Other Tales of Romance,” in e-version at www.BooksForABuck.com and www.fictionwise.com. The paperback version is available at www.amazon.com.