Southern Writer Spotlight: Mike Nemeth
Updated: Jun 6
Name: Mike Nemeth
Book(s): “Defiled,” “The Undiscovered Country” and “Parker’s Choice”
Hometown: Appleton, Wisconsin, home of Willem Dafoe and Greta Van Susteren.
Gives us a brief description of your book(s). Feel free to list as many as you like.
“Defiled” (2016) A divorce gone wrong becomes violent.
“The Undiscovered Country” (2018) Someone is trying to kill Randle’s elderly mother. Winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award for Southern Fiction: “A precise, elaborate tale that shows just how menacing a family’s history can be” (Kirkus Reviews).
“Parker’s Choice” (2021) How many times can Parker go to prison for his wife?
What brought you to write these stories? For instance, was it a personal experience that inspired you, your “day job” or perhaps an overactive imagination?
Someone said, “There’s no such thing as fiction.” We writers all draw on personal experience to some degree, and then we take liberties for dramatic effect. I’ve just finished drafting a fourth novel – “The Man with Two Names.” Taken together, the four novels are my autobiography.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I start with a theme: What do I want to say? Each novel highlights an issue about which I care, but the issue is packaged within an entertaining murder mystery. Then comes the plot. How does the story move along to a murder mystery solution? Characters tend to be composites of people I know or have met, but they have to fit the roles in the plotline. It’s like casting actors for a movie. All the settings are from personal experience and typically allow me to pay homage to my favorite places.
Where does the story(stories) take place?
“Defiled” was set in St. Petersburg, Florida. Love that place.
“The Undiscovered Country” is primarily set in Augusta, Georgia, with a side trip to Columbia, South Carolina.
“Parker’s Choice” starts in Atlanta and moves through Columbia, St. Petersburg and finally to New Orleans, my favorite place.
“The Man with Two Names” (out soon) alternates between Vietnam and Tybee Island, Georgia.
How does setting play in the telling of the story?
If you want a boat chase, Tampa Bay is a good spot. Need a terrifying cemetery? Look no further than New Orleans. Want to be scared 100 percent of the time? Vietnam was that place.
What do you think makes a good story/book?
The protagonist should be sympathetic, but I don’t need to wallow in his or her neuroses. I’m a plot guy for whom story is everything. Give me twists and turns, surprises and fake-outs, and clever resolutions.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Always wanted to be a writer but needed money to support my family. The myth of the starving artist is real. I began writing on the homestretch to retirement. I had read that Stephen King wrote his first novels on the clothes washer in his laundry room because it was the only uncluttered flat surface in the house. If he could do it, so could I. My first novel was written on international airplane flights and in hotel rooms. Now I have a big home office with a Belgian Shepherd at my feet.
When did you write your first book? And how was that experience?
I began writing “Defiled” in 2013. The first draft took a year. Then a kindly editor told me everything that was wrong with it. The rewrite took another year, but I can’t thank that woman enough. Another year passed before I bumped into an acquisition editor at a writing conference and finally found a publisher. In this business, you have to really, really, want it.
Is it writing your primary job or do you have another career?
As a retiree, my primary jobs are as husband, father and dog-owner but I write nearly every day.
What does your family think of your writing?
My wife encourages my craft. Keeps me out of her hair. She actually likes what I write. As for the rest it’s more like, “Oh, yeah, my dad (or my brother or my friend) has a hobby.”
What was the most surprising thing you learned writing your stories?
How cathartic it can be to give a bad guy his due or kill off some character you hate. A writer can act out any fantasy.
Did writing your book(s) lead you to other things?
I’d like to revolutionize the publishing industry. It’s terribly inefficient and fraught with judgment errors.
What suggestions do you have for aspiring writers?
Have something to say. Then write to please yourself.
How can readers find and purchase your books? (Please list all outlets and links.)
All my novels are “in the system,” distributed by Ingram, so if they aren’t on the shelf, any bookstore can order them with standard pricing and return terms.
To purchase books on Amazon, visit Mike's Author Page.