Michael Cervin – Santa Barbara & The Central Coast

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

My latest book is a travel guide called Santa Barbara & the Central Coast, and published by Moon. This is a comprehensive guide to visiting Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles and Ventura and includes the best things to see and do, where to say and eat and features the wineries of the region.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’m from a small town called La Canada in California and even as a boy I was always creating stories to go along with playing with my GI Joe, Matchbox cars, and army men. I was an actor for a while (Grace Under Fire, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Young and the Restless) but have always been writing. Four of my plays were produced when I lived in Los Angeles and several of my poems have been read on National Public Radio, and have appeared in a variety of journals and magazines. And of course I have written hundreds of articles for over 70 publications.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

The biggest obstacle was that I lost a significant portion of my book when my flash drive failed, and I had no back-ups. This happened three days before my first deadline! If you take anything away from this, back up everything and have redundant copies! I had to work 15 hour days seven days a week to re-create what I had lost and it was a miserable experience. A writer friend of mine told me, “It’s not if, but when,” and she’s right because computers will fail. Stop reading this and back up your work now!

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

My very first poem was published, and I was paid, when I was 15 years old. But going back even further, I still have school journals and stories from when I was in the second grade. Occasionally I look at these and it reminds me that telling stories has always been part of my DNA. I didn’t get serious though until 10 years ago. Now I have a body of work that stands on its own, including a book of poetry called Generous Fiction” and a book of short stories and a novel.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Mornings are most productive for me. I aim to be at my desk by 6 AM. After a few hours, I’ll workout (run, cycle or power-walk). Then it’s back to my desk until noon. As the restaurant critic for the Santa Barbara News Press, I’m out to restaurants to review them often and lunch times are set aside for that. Then it’s back to work until around dinner time, where I take a much needed break and make dinner for my wife. It also provides a nice creative outlet as well. My wife works evenings, so it’s usually back to the desk until 9 p.m. or so. Throughout the day I take breaks where I get outside and walk and stretch, play with the cats and try not to think about work.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

I don’t believe in “favorites,” but the one work I consistently turn to is Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. It’s something I read aloud to feel the cadence and rhythm of language. I have to confess that I don’t often have time to read. As busy as I am, the luxury of reading a book happens maybe once a year. But I love Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer and American writer William Langewiesche; their skill with language makes me want to be a better writer.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

My next book is also a travel book, slated to be released nationwide in May, 2011, called “Moon California Wine Country” featuring wine destinations in California including Monterey, Santa Barbara, Napa and the Sierra Foothills, among others.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Have a plan. Without a roadmap, even the most talented writers won’t get anywhere. Know what you want to accomplish. It’s a myth that if you’re good you will rise to the top like the proverbial cream. Writing is a lonely profession, and it takes focus and a belief in yourself and you must promote your work vigorously. Compromise as little as possible.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

I am at www.MichaelCervin.com. My travel books are available at bookstores nationwide and their on-line outlets. Signed copies of my books are available on my website.