Short Interview with Mike Green
Question: Did you study the craft of writing or dive right into it?
Mike Green: I guess you would say I got into writing by accident. I started out working as an engineer, then moved my way through marketing into journalism (which I have been involved in for ten years now). Writing a book is very different from writing an article of course, but I just learnt the tricks of this particular trade as I went along. It probably means that with my first book I took the long way round, but the different practices that I have picked up will help me with my second one, which I am working on right now.
Question: What do you think about the future of books with all the new e-publishing technology coming out?
Mike Green: I still have mixed feelings about all this. Technology is a great thing, but sometimes you feel ‘if something ain’t broke then don’t try to fix it’. Maybe this is a symptom of the era I grew up in. Being in my mid thirties, I still prefer the idea of being able to relax on my sofa and get stuck in to a paper based book, but younger generations are probably less likely to see the appeal of that. It is already possible to make organic displays that will roll up (just like the scrolls the Romans would have read from). These will have TCP IP connections to the Internet, so that you can download the daily paper or monthly magazine you subscribe too, as well as buying new digital books. I’m sure that this will become very popular in the future, but I would hate to see the day when we have lost the traditional book format completely. One of my prize possessions is the small library of books that I have managed to amass over the years.
Question: How difficult was the publishing process for you?
Mike Green: I wouldn’t have said that I’d had a harder time of it then anyone else. I think you have to expect that it isn’t going to be easy. I did manage to get good feedback from a couple of publishers fairly early on, and ended signing with one of them. The frustration is that even once you have got your deal and the work is completed you still have quite a long wait before you see it in print, its not as fast moving a process as you would hope.
Question: How much of your own promotion do you do?
Mike Green: Quite a lot really. My publishing company do a great job, but when you have spent two and a half years working on a book project, and have put your heart and soul into it, you want to make sure that the passion you have instilled in it comes over to the audience. So I always do my bit, writing articles, doing interviews, and occasionally giving presentations. Quite recently I was asked to give a speech at the Royal Society in London, which was a huge honor for me, as some of my great scientific heroes, such as Newton and Einstein, presented there in the past. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but something I will look back on with pride.
Question: Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Mike Green: It sounds very cliché, but just be persistent. I must have approached twenty five to thirty different publishing houses before I found any that were interested, then all of a sudden I had two offers. There are plenty of authors that have been turned down maybe a hundred times or more, but gone on to make big names for themselves. Believe in what you are doing and stick at it.
Question: What made you decide to write The Nearly Men: A Chronicle of Scientific Failure?
Mike Green: The idea for ‘The Nearly Men’ came to me via my work as a journalist. I learnt from one of my colleagues about the story of Antonio Meucci, who had developed the original telephone concept some twenty years before Alexander Graham Bell. It led me to write an article about Meucci. After that I started to look into other scientific discoveries and inventions and found similar controversies. I wrote articles on some of these, and with time I decided to produce a more detailed and extensive work on this subject.
Question: How did you go about finding the examples in your book? It seems like a very involved process that takes a lot of digging.
Mike Green: Yeah it needed a lot of research – I spent a many long days at the British Library in London, the Tesla Museum in Belgrade, the Meucci Museum in New York, the Boston Science Museum, the IET library, the National History Museum in London, the Royal Society archives, and the Musee L’Histoure Naturelle in Paris. I was also able to get interviews with people involved in the more recent episodes. It was a long hard slog, but you need to have all the facts in front of you if you are going to try to make a proper analysis.
Question: How long did the process take?
Mike Green: It took about two years to write, and then another six months to secure a contact.
Question: Do you have any scientific background?
Mike Green: Basically, yes. I studied sciences at university, and have bachelor’s and master’s degrees to my name. My journalistic work also concentrates on science and technology.
Question: What makes a good inventor ?
Mike Green: Much like I said about succeeding as an author, I think what makes a great inventor is predominantly persistence. Thomas Edison is almost certainly the most famous inventor in history – and though there were some rather unsavory aspects to his character, his work ethic was truly exemplary. As he said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Question: What are your future plans?
Mike Green: I am just finishing work on my second book. It is due out at the end of this year. It will be called ‘Worlds in Collision’ and will look at the ongoing conflict between science and religion.