Thanks for asking things, Morrus!
1) What did you do before you went fulltime as a freelancer? What made you take that plunge?
1) After graduating college with a degree in Film Studies I was a labor foreman for a landscaping company until I met this woman that kidnapped me from the bar and convinced me to move into the city proper a few months later.
Once I got here I waited tables for an Asian restaurant nearby (including Sunday dim sum) but after it was revealed to me that they were stealing my already pitiful wages (servers make less than $3/hour in their wage here in the US, not counting tips just the wage, so that was like a kick at an already broken leg) that came to an end.
Before getting back onto the job market generally, the same woman that kidnapped me convinced me to try to sell one of my adventures and though it hasn't been published yet (which breaks my heart) it did pay pretty okay.
Really, I got hooked. We talked about it and decided that no, menial jobs might pay today, but that I needed a career. At that point I garnered this "I'll die and burn in hell before failing at this" attitude, which has fortunately served me quite well.
2) You write under a pen name. That's common in literature, but not so much in RPGs. Why did you choose to do that?
I forget that you are a scoop man.
2) Well there's a few reasons. First off, my pen name is very close
to my real name, and it's worth noting that I'm rocking my mom's maiden name (the side of the family I've always identified the most strongly with).
Aside from giving my mom's people props, "Mike Myler" is alliterative, has an irregular vowel, is shorter than my real last name, and makes for a killer logo—you're just more likely to remember it, because science.
3) What was the biggest obstacle to getting work? What did you do to surmount it?
3) There's work out there to be had, but not many people willing to pay very much for it - given that this is how I put food on the table, that's a bit of an issue. I also compete with a sea of people, many of whom will work for free or at a recreational rate that isn't really sustainable for a fulltime freelancer.
So I write under a name that mnemonics tells me you'll remember, I work in all aspects of the field that I can, I actively pitch products and approach companies about doing work for them, and I do all of these things relentlessly. When I do get a gig, I make sure to do the best possible job (which seems to work since I've got repeat customers).
The two primary factors are networking (which includes going to conventions, which I've found is essential to succeeding) and getting your foot in the door. I write solid pitches and lay out my ideas quickly, so when somebody throws out a gig into the sphere of the gamer internet, I hook it, gut the fish, and then flash-fry it for the publisher. The second thing I do is an introductory rate - the first gig is cheap up to a certain watermark, and the next time I work for that company it's at my regular rate.
4) There aren't actually all that many people in the world who make a living full time as a game designer. In fact, I think more people have been to space. How does that make you feel?
4) When Owen Stephens told me that a few years ago I damn near shat myself in the hallway at Gen Con. It is a constant reminder that if I'm not on the top of my game I'm going to go underwater, so I'd say it's a great motivator.
5) Quick. Now. Come up with the concept for a n.e.w. N.O.W. iconic! And n.o.w. a N.E.W. iconic!
5) If I were to make another N.O.W.
iconic it'd probably have to be the cheesy gwailo martial artist, I think, or maybe an Indiana Jones-esque adventurer with a healthy mix of that to make the character distinct.
And for N.E.W.
he'd be in space, using alien martial arts. And an electrowhip. And jet boots.
6) Do you plan this to be your main career permanently? What's the end-game? A job at Paizo?
6) This is absolutely the career for me and at this point I can't imagine doing anything else. I totally want a job at Paizo, but my end game is definitely more like a Frank Mentzer kind of deal. I've had an RPG in the hopper that I've been working on for over ten years - that is the end-game, the game to end all games, and the kind of industry-changing system that you slowly develop while earning the respect required to introduce such a groundbreaking product.
Ideally I'll release that with Paizo; every one of their employees (that I've met) is awesome and they run a tight ship (a fast one and I'm not sure the waves will ever capsize).
Also, goblin mascots. Goblins are win.
7) Have you had any bad reviews? How do you handle them?
7) I've had one or two medium reviews, but I don't think anyone has outright hated anything yet (or at least, not vocally). I try not to let reviews I don't like get me down (not everyone likes my cup of tea) and I learn from my mistakes. In the case of my very first publication (The Clockwork Wonders of Brandlehill
) I went back and re-tooled it for a better rating, but there's a point you hit where going back to revise things just isn't an option. When it is however, I make sure I hit it out of the park.
Thanks again for asking me things.