Interview with Mike Casto

What are your five favorite books, and why?
That's a tough question. I have been a voracious reader most of my life, but here goes nothing.

1) *The Magic Wagon* by Joe R. Lansdale
Few people handle coming-of-age stories as well as Lansdale. Proof of this can be found in his novel, *The Bottoms*, which won the prestigious Edgar Award in 2001. *The Magic Wagon* hooked me from its first sentence, "Wild Bill Hickok, some years after he was dead, came to Mud Creek for a shoot- out of sorts. I was there. Let me tell you about it."

2) *Kundalini Equation* by Steven Barnes
As a lifelong practitioner of martial arts, this novel resonates with me on many levels. This story of a man who gains, for lack of a better description, super powers through the practice of Kundalini Yoga could have been a dismal story, but in the hands of a craftsman like Barnes, it shines.

3) The Matador series by Steve Perry
This series has so many things going for it, I don't know where to begin.

4) Hap and Leonard series by Joe R. Lansdale
Hap and Leonard have the kind of relationship I had with my adoptive brother, Rick. We grew up together and got into--and out of--our fair share of trouble side by side.

5) *Grunt Life* by Weston Ochse
Having suffered through my own run-in with PTSD, reading a book where the heroes suffer it and, in fact, it helps them be the heroes they are, is a great experience.
What do you read for pleasure?
Anything that catches my attention. Currently, I'm rereading the *Wild Cards* series edited by George R. R. Martin and *How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend* by Linda Addison.

The genres I am most drawn to are fantasy and sci-fi, but I also read quite a bit of action/adventure and crime fiction.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
The Kindle app on my iPhone.
Describe your desk
My most frequent desk is the dinette table in my 18' travel trailer. It wobbles a bit as I type. I have an external monitor, attached to the table, that sits in front of me. On the table in front of my computer, there is a vinyl game board for the Marvel deck building game, "Legendary." My wife and I both love the game and play it frequently.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My parents owned a 25-acre farm in central Indiana, but my family didn't work the farm. A sharecropper did the work and split the profits with my parents. My dad worked at General Motors, and mom taught at a vocational college.

Dad never went to college, but mom did, and both encouraged me and my sister to read, study, and learn. Technically, my first published piece was a ghost story published in the local paper. I wrote and submitted the story at the urging of my parents.

Dad was also a storyteller. I grew up hearing stories about his childhood, his work and coworkers. He had a story for most every occasion. He was also a local legend, so I grew up hearing stories about my dad from other people, too.
When did you first start writing?
Outside of school work, the first story I remember writing was a ghost story, published in the local paper, when I was ten years old.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The book I'm currently writing is about a zombie who recovers his humanity through the practice of Tai Chi.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
At this point in my writing career, I have focused on short stories. In the traditional publishing model, short stories only have three significant markets: magazines, anthologies, and collections. While, at some point, I may put together a collection of my own stories, I have focused on magazines and anthologies. I have had some success with both, but it's difficult. Finding a magazine or anthology where a given story might fit can take a lot of time. I have quite a few stories collecting virtual dust because I haven't found a market for them yet.

I recently read an e-book that pointed out the fact that, because e-books have so much less overhead than traditional publishing and tend to cost much less, publishing a short story as a standalone e-publication is feasible and can be a good way to (a) hone your craft and (b) get your name and material into a place where people can find it.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love the planning stage. The process of character and story developing excites me. I love putting the characters into situations and working with them to overcome the problems their world throws at them.
Who are your favorite authors?
Joe R. Lansdale, Stephen King, Weston Ochse, John Ringo, Steve Perry, Steven Barnes, and David Morrell to name a few.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Teaching and training martial arts or hanging out with my lovely wife.
Published 2016-12-13.
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