Micheal James Bradley is an award-winning ex-journalist and feature writer (BBC, Birmingham Mail, Mirror Group), and is currently a full-time therapist and occasional audiobook narrator.
He has been writing fiction most of his life, and has recently moved back into the world of publishing stories, after spending a very long time boring an awful lot of people by talking how about he really ought to move back into the world of publishing stories.
His current book, Six Stories of Love, Hate, and Other Weirdness, is a collection of some of his recent short stories, which have mostly been published previously (both online and in magazine format), and are presented here with a couple of new ones, too.
He is currently working on a second collection of short stories, along with what he believes is technically called “the last few fiddly bits” of three novels.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
I’m not sure. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing, to some extent or another. I had poetry and various things published when I was young, then I just wrote for myself for the longest time. But I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing in some way or another.
I see myself as a writer much more than a reader. A lot of writers get annoyed when I say that. Authors I go back to a lot include Salinger, Kafka, Rilke, and Orwell. That’s about as contemporary as I get! Salinger blew my mind the first time I read him, though. Reading him was like hearing Hendrix for the first time. Or seeing Bill Hicks do comedy. I’m not deliberately influenced by anyone, but I’d be surprised if I wasn’t influenced by Salinger. And Hicks, actually. I think music influences me more than writers do, overall. Music and life. And like life, music is everywhere. But not everything is inspiration. I mean, there’s some terrible music out there and some terrible people too haha
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
I’ve been fortunate enough to do some pretty interesting things. Journalism, music, therapy. I’ve been unlucky enough to work in some really awful professions too, but I tend not to shout about those too much. I think something that my readers wouldn’t know about me, is that I was in therapy for a while on and off with depression. I don’t know if that influences my writing in any way. It maybe influences my humor, the darkness to it, and that pops up a lot in my stories. Other than that, they might not know that I collect vinyl records. Although they probably do know that. I talk about that whenever I can, to be honest.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
Well, the title of my book is “Six Stories of Love, Hate, and Other Weirdness,” and as with the six stories themselves, the title sort of suggested itself as soon as the book was written. I sort of have fun with the titles. I enjoy that part. I don’t worry about the titles meaning anything to anybody else, or even being relatable to the story, really. The title of the book just seems to sum up what the stories contain; love, hate, and a whole lot of weirdness.
How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?
It felt…well, anticlimactic is too strong a word, but there was definitely a lack of an “oh wow!” moment when I held it for the first time. Maybe it will still hit me, like a delayed shock or something! I hope so. That would be nice. I know it’s something to be proud of. But again, that never really registers with me. It’s more of an: “Ok, what story is next? What’s the next cover going to be like?” moment. It’s like that though, isn’t it? You complete something, and you just want to get on to the next thing. I don’t keep the book on my shelf. I have friends who do. That feels weird, and undeserving, really. I’ve signed a couple. That took a lot of persuading and still feels weird to think about, and I’m sure I probably blushed.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
Oh I think there’d be a good mix on there. You’d definitely need a bit of Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen throughout, I think. But there’d be a bit of 50s rock n’ roll, a bit of John Coltrane and a lot of Robert Johnson. The Doors would pop up, and a healthy dose of Angelo Badalamenti.
I can’t really separate music from writing in my mind.
It would have to be a Spotify playlist. I’ve got a writing soundtrack that is exactly 71 hours long at the moment, so maybe the book’s soundtrack could be 90 minutes of that? And just the sound of tumbleweed for the bits that freak people out. That happens a lot, apparently.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
My perfect reader? Oh I’m not fussy! I accept all types! Seriously don’t worry about that. Just buy the book. You look lovely. I like what you’ve done with your hair, dear reader. Or, if you’re bald, I think you have a beautiful scalp.
Seriously though, I don’t have any idea of what my readers might look like, or do for a living, or any of it. The only thing I hope people ever take from my stories is that in some way, whether through love or laughter or sadness or madness, they find something relatable to their own private world, and just don’t feel so alone for a little bit. I hope my stories help remind them who they are, and give them a break from the daily, rather horrible, world for a bit.
What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?
It’s when people, particularly people I don’t know, write to say the book meant something to them. That’s literally all it’s about as a writer, isn’t it? Like with music again, really; I think the point, if there really has to be one, is to strike a common but personal chord that resonates in someone, and maybe makes them feel less alone or misunderstood on some level, for a while. Books can make people feel less alone, make people challenge thoughts or feel less alone with their thoughts, and make people laugh. And if you’re doing that for someone, even for a short time, that’s as rewarding and meaningful as anything can be, I think. And while you can’t expect to do that, you can’t really ask for more than that when it happens.
On another level, it’s the satisfaction of getting a story out of your head and gone. It’s hard to focus on much else when I’m writing without the story getting in the way, and that can be disruptive to the rest of my life, or my thoughts. It’s hard to switch the characters and the story off until it’s done. So that feeling when the story is finished, the writing is over and the cover is done and all of that, it feels like a relief, and a release.
What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?
I never really stop writing. I’ve got a backlog of short stories ready to go, along with three novels in various stages of completion. One is complete, one is 90% there—the painting is finished, just need to touch a few bits up etc. The third is one I started when I was sixteen, with 13 chapters completed back then. It’s only now that I feel ready to finish it, or capable of finishing it. Writing is weird like that. Stories can hang around for years until they’re ready. I’ve got a few years’ worth of stories ready to go there, but there’s always new ones on the way, too.
Projects beyond that? There’s quite a lot with work and hobbies. Music, being a therapist, narrating things. It all sounds terribly insular, doesn’t it, but it doesn’t feel that way and it keeps me happy. I would love to say I’m into some energetic sport and paint a statuesque picture of myself at this point, but that would be an absolute lie. I should’ve said I climb mountains and rescue kittens from trees.
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