Kindle Author Interview: Kevin Michaels

Kevin Michaels, author of Lost Exit, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Lost Exit?

KEVIN MICHAELS: Lost Exit is my debut novel. It is about a self-destructive college basketball player named Timmy Davenport who is trying to move beyond his past, despite scars that never quite disappear and fears that linger inside him. The book takes place during a long, hot summer in Atlantic City, which is the city he grew up and where he returns at the end of the school year.  Filled with violence and turmoil, Atlantic City is transforming from faded seaside resort to vibrant, entertainment Mecca in the late 1990s, and he feels like he doesn’t belong any more. His friends have changed, he’s unsure of where he’s going in life, and a bloody neighborhood rivalry between mob gangs has left a trail of bodies scattered throughout the town.

The book blends the pain and angst of youth with the emotional struggle of a character searching for his own identity as well as looking for love. The novel depicts Timmy’s relationships with family and friends, and tells the story about the love of a game that was once his salvation. He gets one last chance to prove himself, both on and off the court. As he prepares for the basketball tournament that can define his future, Timmy, like Atlantic City itself, has to confront the ghosts of his past before he can move forward.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

KEVIN MICHAELS: You need to create interesting characters who get the readers’ attention. It’s all about motivation. To me, character development and the things that motivate each of them are the most important aspects of any story. As an author, you need to fully understand what drives each character so you can tell a realistic story. Fear, pain, the search for love or friendship, and redemption are the factors that influence the characters in Lost Exitwithout knowing those underlying reasons behind the characters’ actions you would just have a group of guys shooting basketballs for 200 pages.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

KEVIN MICHAELS: I think Lost Exit has the most appeal to an audience between the ages of 18 to 25—that’s the segment of the market that will most identify with the characters, their issues, and the attitudes.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

KEVIN MICHAELS: Long and circuitous. I loved writing in high school and college, although it wasn’t until a few years ago after a career as a corporate warrior that I decided to pursue my dream of writing full time. I had written off and on for a few years, but never pursued it seriously. It comes down to that desire and need to write or tell a story. Writing gives me complete satisfaction and in a lot of ways, creates the kind of happiness I had always been seeking. Throughout all the years I worked in the corporate world I felt that dissatisfaction gnawing at me, and I knew I would never be happy until I pursued my dream. I can’t imagine finding happiness doing something other than writing.

My only regret is that I didn’t choose this path earlier.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

KEVIN MICHAELS: I write every day. I need that kind of discipline, and even if much of what I write gets changed, I am constantly writing. And I’m always thinking about the next story or the next book. I overhear conversations and listen to dialogue, and imagine those same words being said by characters in stories I’m working on. I still write my initial drafts by hand, and I can’t break that habit because there’s a certain comfort level in physically putting words down on paper.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

KEVIN MICHAELS: There are a world of authors I admire, starting with writers of crime fiction like Elmore Leonard, Robert Parker, Michael Connelly, Lawrence Block, and Harlan Coban who have that sparse, clean economy of words. Their descriptions are vivid and powerful, and they don’t use a lot of words to create images that are impactful (the same way Hemingway and Mailer did years ago). Some of my other favorites are Sam Shepherd, Stephen King, Poe, Michael Chabon, Jay MacInerney, Pete Dexter, and Dan Jenkins. And in terms of sheer poetry and beauty in both style and words, I love Toni Morrison, Pat Conroy, and Maya Angelou.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

KEVIN MICHAELS: I read South of Broad by Pat Conroy and remember being so envious of not only the beauty of his words, but the grace and style of the imagery in everything he wrote. There are times when you sit back as a writer, admire what someone else has written, and just say, “Damn….I wish I could write like that.” That was one of those times.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

KEVIN MICHAELS: I’ve done a combination of targeted press releases, interviews, and blog posts, and over the next few months I’ll be utilizing social media like Facebook, Myspace, and LinkedIn to focus on getting the word out. I have a website, where I also post updates on the novel as well as other stories that I’ve written.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

KEVIN MICHAELS: I think the question is, “why not?” It makes sense both financially and practically. For a long time I was so focused on pushing my book through mainstream publishing houses that I didn’t see that there are other options available to writers, and Kindle is really one of the best vehicles to do that. The flexibility, speed to market, and financial benefits are tremendous—just last week we changed the cover of Lost Exit and it was not only quick and painless, but created an instant sales increase. You can’t do that through traditional channels.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

KEVIN MICHAELS: Edit—make the book as tight and error-free as possible, and then hire someone to review everything once you’re done. You cannot underestimate the value of a good editor who can catch the mistakes you might miss, or suggest changes that will improve the quality of the book. Writing is a craft, and so is publishing. Keep working at it and never allow yourself to get complacent or careless. That means edit and revise and review what you’ve written, and don’t be afraid to make changes, even when they are drastic. If you want to write realistic dialogue you have to listen—every conversation has a certain style and flow, and as a writer you need to capture that and reflect it in the dialogue your characters use. Then create a dynamic cover—one that conveys the essence of the book.

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.


Kevin Michaels is a critically acclaimed writer from New Jersey.  His short stories and flash fiction have appeared in a number of magazines, indie zines, and anthologies. Lost Exit is his debut novel. Visit his website.

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