Matt’s Chats with Mike Cullen: Neighbor to the North

Meet my friend Mike Cullen, a neighbor to the north in Ottawa Canada.  He’s a multi-talented go-getter with drive and pluck and a rather astonishing ability to write a new novel every year.  Seriously, every year.  If I wrote a book a year, you can believe they would be about five pages long and the biggest word would be “DOG.”  I met Mike through his blog, and we became friends over the years, sharing a love of Superman while I hide my envy of his autographed photo of Brandon Routh of “Superman Returns.”  The internet can be a wild west of incredible things (both good and bad), but it also allows us to make real connections with real people in distant lands.  I’m grateful for this, and I’m also grateful I don’t have to risk frostbite to chat with Mike.

1) Who are you and what’s your deal?

I’m an almost 32 year old man living in Ottawa, Canada. My daytime career job is as a Public Servant in the federal government doing policy administration. I also moonlight part-time as a personal trainer. I primarily train clients one on one, but also write individualized fitness programs, and teach a weekly flexibility/stretching class. I’m a bit of comic book geek (Superman being my favourite), history buff (my undergraduate degree is in history), music fanatic (everything from classic rock to new wave to modern pop), and I also write, having written my first novel as a teen, and continue to write novels each year for National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org). I’m a big traveler, my favourite city is London, UK, my favourite country is Australia. I’m afraid of heights, but do crazy things like climb Sydney Harbour Bridge or hang off the C.N. Tower observation deck in Toronto. I’m an Aquarius, and in terms of Myers-Briggs Personality Type, I’m an INTJ. Those last two things don’t seem particularly relevant, but if you ever meet me in person, it would click as to why I mention them.

2) What’s your view right now?

This is what my desk looks like. I spend a lot of time in front of this Macbook either novel writing or writing fitness programs for my personal training clients. iTunes is open because I’m always listening to music. On the desk is my Macbook, a string of USB with various files on it (personal, writing, personal training), and the open “book” is a draft copy of my first novel that I’m in the current process of editing/rewriting.

In front of me on the walls is my “Superman Wall”. I’m a lifelong fan of the Man of Steel. The top two pieces are colour guides used by the colourists for comic books. Colour guides stopped being produced in the early 2000s as computers took over. One is from the Death of Superman storyline line and pencilled by my favourite Superman artist, Canadian Tom Grummett. The other is my second favourite Superman artist, Ed McGuinness. The one that looks like a painting is a print, the sketch in orange is something I had done by a Halifax cartoonist back in 2013, and directly behind my Macbook is an autographed photo of Brandon Routh (Superman Returns). So, personal training, music, Superman and writing; the majority of my life in one snapshot.

3) Who would play you in a movie about your life?

A good friend of mine said Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and I absolutely love the idea of that. So let’s say Joe.

4) Everyone has a superpower.  What’s yours?

I can get concert tickets for anything. I’m really good at getting awesome hotels on Hotwire, and I can flag a cab in New York City with a single finger. On the more practical side, I’m told that my no-nonsense approach to evaluating people’s problems is quite accurate.

5) What movie do you watch every time it’s on?

I actually don’t have cable, but A Single Man has had an incredible impact on me. I have discovered the extraordinary literary abilities of Christopher Isherwood through this film, and it’s influenced me in how I think about myself as a writer.

6) You’ve done quite a bit of writing.  How much of you is in your characters?

Less and less as time goes on. I tend to write about situations in my life, or big questions. So a couple years ago, I was grappling with turning thirty and being single. I wrote about a guy who was dumped by his long-term partner the day after his 29th birthday, and what happens to him as he tries to piece his life back together, but there wasn’t a character in that novel that was explicitly me.

I do seem to have one character in each phase of my life that is close to being “me”, though. Jonothon from my first novel is me as a teenager. Another character named Ashton is me in my twenties. There doesn’t seem to be a character that sticks out as me in my thirties… it may be too soon.

I do maintain a slightly neglected blog on writing at rockingthemike.wordpress.com which chronicles how I think as a writer, and the projects I’m currently working on.

7) What achievement are you proudest of? 

Completing university. I’m the only one in my immediate family with a degree, as well as one side of my family. I would also include completing that first novel. It took nearly four years to write.

8) Best way to travel:  planes, trains or automobiles?

Planes, without a doubt.

9) You can form a band with anyone in the world, living or dead.  Who do you choose?

I don’t really pay attention to who’s the best guitarist, the best drummer or anything like that, or even have favourites for that matter. However, whoever is in that band, Ian Curtis of Joy Division fame would be my frontman.

10) What’s the question you wish I had asked? 

I’m actually really surprised our mutual love of Superman never came up directly in a question!

Matt Grigsby was born and raised in Redding but has often felt he should have been born in Italy. By day he’s a computer analyst toiling for the public good and by night he searches airline websites for great travel deals. His interests include books, movies, prowling thrift shops for treasure and tricking his friends into cooking for him. One day he hopes to complete his quest in finding the best gelato shop in Italy.

Matt Grigsby
Matt Grigsby was born and raised in Redding but has often felt he should have been born in Italy. By day he's a computer analyst toiling for the public good and by night he searches airline websites for great travel deals. His interests include books, movies, prowling thrift shops for treasure and tricking his friends into cooking for him. One day he hopes to complete his quest in finding the best gelato shop in Italy.
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22 Responses

  1. Avatar Shannon says:

    great interview! What an interesting guy. I love reading your interviews Matt.

  2. Avatar Janet says:

    Thank you Matt, what an interesting read to enjoy with my non-rushed, no work morning coffee. It’s going to be a great day.

  3. Avatar Hal Johnson says:

    What a fruitful idea it is to interview folks you’ve come to know online. This was another fun interview, and I enjoyed it despite my better half rushing me to take out the trash. Thanks, Matt.

  4. Avatar Dawn Grigsby says:

    Well, Matt another spot on interview. What an interesting person. I love to read what some of the people out in the world do. Thanks again for giving us an interesting interview.

  5. Deb Deb says:

    Another great article, another interesting friend! Thanks, Matt, and hi, Mike! Well done with NaNoWriMo, I have yet to try it even one time, so your long run is impressive!

  6. Gunnevi Humphries Gunnevi Humphries says:

    Love this stuff, Matt . . . . you find the most interesting people . . . . or do you just write about the interesting ones? Nope, I bettcha that you bring out the interesting in everyone!!

    • Avatar Matt Grigsby says:

      I think everyone has an interesting story but I’ve certainly been lucky in making friends with some fascinating lives.

  7. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    Matt . . . that response above is me, AJ . . . don’t know how my friend, Gunnevi got her name in there. Maybe because she was the last comment on my blog about Pet Peeves. I dunno. These computers have gremlins living in them, did you know that?

  8. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    Ahhhh . . well, if it weren’t for those gremlins, I bet your work life would be boring!!

  9. Avatar Shelley Ridgley says:

    Matt another great interview. I have realised by being one of those you have interviewed, that everyone has an interesting story. Until I wrote my own answers to your questions, I wouldn’t have thought I would have qualified for an interview like this. In my mind I was just a retired mum of two, with nothing much to contribute. Now I realise that no matter what your story is, it is interesting and unique.

    Well done my friend

    • Avatar Matt Grigsby says:

      I think it’s easy sometimes to overlook our own unique qualities that make us special and interesting and there are endless stories out there just waiting to be told.

  10. Avatar Jon Wilson says:

    Yes, Mr. Grigsby, I too wanted you to talk about Superman–especially about meeting Brandon Routh! But a fun interview all the same. Thank you for introducing us to Mr. Cullen.

    (And, as someone who’s flirted with NaNoWriMo, I have nothing but respect for those who can see it through.)

    • Avatar Matt Grigsby says:

      I can barely summon the focus to read an entire chapter of a book in one sitting, so writing an entire book in a month? Sorcery.

    • Avatar Mike Cullen says:

      i highly recommend taking part in nanowrimo jon! even if you don’t manage to complete the required word count in time, you still have a great start to what could be an amazing novel!

  11. A. Jacoby A. Jacoby says:

    Matt, I have an idea for you. E-mail me and we’ll talk.