Welcome, Michael. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Being a father of three and the dad of five, it was inevitable that I would become well-acquainted with cartoons; TV shows, Disney movies, Pixar. I would love to do a voice someday for a cartoon character. It wouldn’t matter to me if it were an animated person, an animal, or even a tree. It would be fun to hear an imaginary character sound like me.
As an author, it’s also easy to find that the “people” in the stories I write not only speak with my voice, but have my sense of humor, my quirks and foibles, my body language or hand gestures. To make each fictional creation different from me, and from each other, can be a challenge.
One of the most fulfilling aspects of writing a book like All Living was to get into the minds of “people” who “lived” thousands of years before I was born- the exact opposite of branding my characters with my own personality- not sharing part of myself with them but allowing parts of who they might have been to influence me. Half the time I spent writing this novel wasn’t writing at all, but sitting and daydreaming about what they must have daydreamed about.
In the twenty-first century we have millions of pieces of recorded history from which to glean answers or advice- books, magazines, essays, news reports, songs, poetry, stories...the internet; but to have lived in a time before there was any human history - before anyone had planted, or hunted, or flown- how exciting and scary that must have sometimes been.
I have written stories where the main character has been distinctly me, but not this book. The main character in this book, Kole, was an opportunity for me to learn; not so much to form him from the dust of my imagination but to have my imagination deeply stamped with his ancient footprints.
I will confess though that there is one character in this book modeled after a real person. The only way that I could possibly write the love story of Kole and Keziah was to draw from the “fairytale” that is my life and the example of inner and outer beauty that my wife possesses. Granted, the intensity of the romance is only hinted at in this story and will come to fruition in the next book, but I could not imagine a perfect partner without picturing mine. In Job 42:15 it says that, “In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers.” A woman with mere physical beauty will quickly turn ugly if her character is ugly. The beauty of Job’s daughters, I imagine, was full and comprehensive. Their flawless outward appearance must have paled in comparison to the radiance of their souls.
Since my wife then is the template I used to attempt to create the archetypical “perfect woman,” I must insist then that the character of Kole is representative of me. No way would I let it be anybody else.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I once had a job that I loved: being an on-air deejay at a local radio station on Sunday mornings.
Landing that job was amazing.
I had been deejaying dance tunes at a night club for several years. Part of my “homework” was to listen to the radio and “discover” new music that I could introduce to the club’s patrons. One day I heard an announcement for an on-air news reporter. I presented myself at the radio station’s offices the next day only to be told that the position had been filled. I asked for an application anyway. The secretary was reluctant to give me one. She informed me that the station rarely ever had openings and that their usual standard was to hire in-house. I was determined, persistent. I finally persuaded her and submitted my application.
The next day, a Friday, the station manager called me in “just to put a face with a name.” After a brief interview, he informed me that I would be the new 6am to noon, Sunday morning deejay. He showed me a monsterous mixing board and walked me through my duties and responsibilities, the station’s programming, and the operation of the equipment. All in about six seconds. My head was swimming.
I arrived on Sunday morning and quietly entered the studio. The other deejay looked relieved that I had showed up, told me what was scheduled for the next six hours and left. Needless to say, that first morning was extremely nerve-wracking.
But I stuck it out. For a year’s worth of Sundays I worked there. But the radio station was my second job. I still worked the night club because it offered more hours and better pay. I’d work from 4:00 pm Saturday night until 4:00 am Sunday morning. Then I’d find a restaurant to grab breakfast, and go to work at the station.
My first responsibility at WKHY was to play a one-hour reel-to-reel preprogrammed farm report, which I have to confess was extremely dull. The next two hours were a preprogrammed segment entitled All That Jazz. You can imagine it was an incredibly relaxing couple of hours. My last three hours of the morning I got to play classic rock. My favorite.
However, one Sunday I didn’t quite make it to the rock and roll portion of the day in my usual manner. Whether from being up all night, a bellyful of breakfast, the monotony of the farm report, or the mellifluous melodies of the jazz…I rested my head on my arms. Only for a minute.
The next thing I knew, the jazz reel was flap-flap-flapping with the last of its tape and the studio was quiet. 9:10 am. I had slept through the two-hour program and woken up to ten minutes of studio silence. Yikes! I jumped into action, slammed on some Billy Idol and made sure to squeeze in all my commercials. You could say I derailed but it was not a complete train-wreck.
I was called in the next day by the station manager though for a chat, and given the ultimatum of “club deejay” or “radio deejay.”
That ended my on-air experience but as I walked out of the front door for the final time, the thought occurred to me, “that might make a decent chapter in a book someday.”
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I have dozens of notebooks of poetry from when I was a kid. I think some of the oldest are from when I was eight-years-old. I believe I was eleven when I first realized that I wanted to be a writer. (not an author, mind you, or a published anything…just a writer.)
My sixth grade teacher wanted to have us compete in a citywide writing competition. We were to each write a poem, any length, and turn it in the next Monday. It would then be judged by the teachers and two students would be selected to represent the school at a lunch with the mayor.
I worked all weekend on that poem. It was awesome. I cannot now remember what it said but it was a masterpiece. Take my word for it. Sublime!
Monday morning arrived and we all settled into our desks to begin another week. The teacher asked us to pass our poems forward. I smiled as I pulled my book bag out from under my desk with a flourish, unzipped the zipper with gusto, pulled out my folder with a flair for the dramatic and then stared dumbfounded with my mouth hanging open when I discovered the folder was empty. Nothing. I closed it and opened it again. Nothing. I searched my backpack; opened all the zippers, knelt down and looked under my desk. Nothing.
My perfectly crafted work of art was gone.
Not one to give up, I ripped out a lined-piece of notebook paper, with all its fringe still intact, and scribbled out four lines, handing it in just as the pile of papers from the back of my row made their way forward to me. Imagine my surprise the next day when my name and that of another student were announced over the PA as the winners of the contest.
Two weeks later, as I ate my lunch with Mayor James Reihle, and listened to my poem read aloud from the stage, I knew then that I was born to write. Not just to write, but to write well-enough that I could win some more free lunches. Oh yeah, I had it bad.
When there’s a home
It’s built with love and care
And when there are people
There’s loving everywhere.
By Michael Humphrey, age 11
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
More than writing, I love to read. Writing a book is like baking a bite-sized piece of chocolate cake. You can slave in the kitchen for hours, selecting all the best ingredients, blending them to perfection, cooking the confection to the precise consistency, frosting it with an artistic flourish, and setting it on the counter to cool. Along comes a hungry relative, pops the cake in his mouth and swallows without hardly chewing. All you can do is stand there in disbelief as he looks at you, shrugs, mumbles something that sounds like “good” and walks off.
Yep, I’d much rather eat the book than bake the book. So much less effort and nearly all the reward.
What books do I like r-eating? Well, I don’t read a lot of nonfiction. I mostly read for pleasure, escapism, distraction. When I’m writing I want to grow. I want to expand my mind and reach out for those cosmic concepts and grab them. When I read I want to shrink. I want to get right down into that story and live there. (Yes, books can broaden your horizons, open your heart, enlighten your mind…but they are also safe, little dark places where anything can happen.)
Am I avoiding the question? I suppose so. Sorry. I read mysteries, westerns, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, classical, modern, steam punk, Adult/YA/Juvenile, hardback, paperback…really anything that I stumble across that appeals to me. A lot of times I choose a book based initially by how eye-catching the spine of the book is, then by how intriguing the back flap sounds. I would have to say that my current favorite is dystopian lit. I have been mesmerized by the genre since Mad Max and The Stand. I won’t bother listing here the dozens and dozens of excellent post-apocalyptic stories I’ve discovered, but suffice it to say, I’m looking for more. My recent favorites…just to give you some idea of what I’m talking about…Maze Runner by James Dashner and Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I just keep saying to myself, “I will not go insane. I will not go insane.” Then sometimes I wonder if I’ve already lost the battle and what you see when you look at me IS my version of insanity. It’s just that it looks so much like the norm these days that it doesn’t stand out. Oh well.
In all seriousness though, this IS an insane world, run by insane leaders, influenced by unseen, insane spirits. The only real way to stay sane is with a steady diet of God’s written Word. Ephesians 6:12- “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Insanity is an enemy of a sound mind, and the only way to combat that is found in the very next verse. (:13) “Therefore take up the whole armor of God…” Defending my sanity with God’s Word is the only sure way to not let the world’s maddening rush overwhelm me.
How do you choose your characters’ names?There is a passage of scripture in Genesis 3:20 that says, "And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living." It was not until the next chapter, Genesis 4:1, that I read, "Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, 'I have gotten a man from the LORD." Reading this late one night, ten years ago, it occurred to me: Why would Adam name his wife "the mother of all living" before she had the son that most people assume was the first born. There are many such ambiguous passages of scripture in the Bible and I began to speculate.
What if Adam and Eve had other children before Cain and Abel? What if there were a first born son named All Living. I went to the concordance and looked up the English words "all" and "living" in the original Hebrew. The word for "all" was translated from the word "Kole" and the word for "living" in Hebrew was "Chay." Kole Chay. There was my main character, living in obscurity right in front of me. From there the idea for this unknown older brother of Cain and Abel began to take form.
Lester also had a face. I stumbled across a mask at a yard sale one day; an old man's face with a short white beard. Needless to say I bought the mask. After a few laughs it found a home on a hook at the bottom of the basement stairs. Occasionally my roommates would have company over and inevitably someone would put on the mask. I rarely knew who it was, but for a brief moment, they became Lester. Sometimes Lester would be funny, goofy, witty. Sometimes serious or philosophical. I know this is a weird story to share, but I picture my novel's supporting character as this old man, a bit younger perhaps, but being shaped into the character that may someday resurface, after this series is finished, as a mentor and guide to those directionless young adults in a different type of story. One final note...the mask has long since disappeared. I imagine Lester is out there mingling in the world, creating more stories without me.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Besides finishing my first book? I would have to say being a good dad and husband. Nothing matters more to me than family. If I can raise my children to have character, to be well-grounded, polite, respectful, hard-working, kind to others, and to have a personal relationship with God, then I will feel successful. If I can treat my wife so that she feels like the most important and amazing person in my life, then I will be content. Anything less than this would mean that I am incomplete.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I’ve thought long and hard about this question and have yet to come up with a good response. I am not sure which particular animal I would be but I have come up with a category. I believe I would be an amphibian, able to live both in the water and upon dry land. I believe that human beings are amphibious creatures, swimming half in a spiritual world and half in a physical one. Most of us have not recognized this about ourselves yet. Unfortunately, most amphibious creatures are reptilian, which is not a very enticing analogy to make about ourselves.
Perhaps I am more like a gorilla…able to live on the ground or in the trees. I would not want to be at the top of the food chain, killing other creatures for my food, nor would I care to be at the bottom, constantly hunted. I want to roam the forests, using tools to create and swinging from branches for the sheer delight of it. I want to live in a family structure, caring for the old and young alike. I desire to be patient and peaceful and gentle as much as possible and bold enough to defend those who cannot defend themselves, when the situation demands it. And sometimes, just sometimes, I have an overwhelming urge to fling my feces at the brazen faces taunting me through the bars of my cage.
However, a gorilla rarely makes a good follower and that is a definite part who I am striving to be. I am a bit undecided about my answer to this. When I put the question to my wife she said perhaps a ram would be a better comparison, a gentle creature with a protective nature, willing to adopt a stray into the fold or charge a wolf head-on; a leader of his flock yet willingly submissive to a good shepherd.
What is your favorite food?
An amazing salad would probably be my second choice. Several types of greens, iceberg, romaine, spinach, dozens of different toppings, including but not limited to: peeled carrots, onions, peppers, broccoli heads, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, cranberries, glazed almonds, diced egg, raisins, croutons, sunflower seeds, shredded cheese, cottage cheese, some kind of dressing, a bit of salt, some olives…oh, the list just goes on and on.
And what would be my first favorite? Is there any combination of foods as tasty and convenient as pizza? Not in my book. Oh wait…yes, there is in my book. But not in my opinion.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I could tell you that self-motivation was a problem for me, but I’m just not feeling up to it.
Tell us about the featured book.
Originally I had in mind to write a character into scripture, someone who could give a secondary account of all the pivotal moments in biblical history. He was to be placed into position by God, to witness the important events in human spiritual evolution. (…you don’t see those words together very often.) He was to be the ship captain that found Jonah, the slave master of the caravan that purchased Joseph from his brothers and drove him down to Eygpt, a passing shepherd that encounters a young king David, a wise man from
presents a gift to the infant King of Kings. My initial teaser went something
like this: Parthia
Journey through the pages of history with Kole, the unknown older brother of Cain and Abel. Witness firsthand the rest of the story as he shares his memories of meeting Noah, Jonah, David, Joseph and a young Jesus. Be astounded by the lost wisdom of the ancients that only one man can share because only one man was there who is still alive. Living in a town not too far away is the world’s oldest man. He has a story to tell and now he has God’s permission to tell it.
However, in this first book, I did not even make it to the flood. There was just so much story that needed telling. So these stories will be for subsequent books. The back matter for this book is as follows:
The first born son of Adam and Eve...is still alive!
He has one week to reveal his secrets to his best friend, Lester, before he moves to the
In order to succeed he is going to need Lester's help. But first, Lester needs a history lesson. With God's permission, Al finally tells of his life as it is and once was.
As Al recounts his story to his only confidant, Lester not only learns the secrets of his mysterious best friend, but the story behind the world's beginning - and in the process, he may even find faith for himself.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Al was old but not quite six thousand years old. He sat in the corner booth of a little bar only three blocks from his large Victorian- Midwest house. Next week, when he moved to the
he’d have to live in a much more utilitarian manner but, all things considered,
he was looking forward to it. He had not been to Jerusalem in over 150 years and he missed the
old neighborhood, although news reports showed the area had changed
He sat and stirred his drink, watching the red and white straw push the crushed ice cubes around in a clockwise direction. So much has happened, he thought, so many memories to carryaround. It was time to tell his story.
He looked at his watch, 7:32. Lester was running late.
Lester was a fifty-something-year-old “kid” he had befriended over thirty years ago, his oldest living friend. During the last few centuries, Al had become a bit reclusive, content with being more of an observer than a participant. When his personal life periodically flourished he tended to neglect witnessing the rest of the world’s activities. He loved so intensely that he could get carried away and forget his real job. What he was actually preparing himself to do.
With the entire human race as his family, Al had had many friendships during his life, many loves, so many lost to him now. Dead. Al had buried every one he had ever cared for. He thought about his wife, Keziah. Time for reminiscing later, he knew, even though he remained acutely aware that time was running short for this current existence. Not just for him though, for everyone.
Interesting. How can readers find you on the Internet?
My publisher-provided website link is http://michaelhumphrey.tateauthor.com .
I am on facebook as Michael Humphrey
I am on twitter: @novelmethod
and I have two emails that I can be contacted through: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
The book will be searchable on Amazon.com and through the Tate Publishing main page http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781618622259
Thank you, Michael, for sharing your life and book with us.
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