Welcome, Michael. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
This is one of the things authors really need to avoid unless they are writing an autobiography. Writing a character is really an exercise in getting around the ego and trying to understand the motivations/desires/insecurities, etc. of the character in question. Poor writing is when the author butts in. The characters should stand on their own to the point where, if a character wants to do or say something and the author disagrees, the character should always win in the end.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I do not know about quirky, but I will give you this: I was once stranded on an island in the South Pacific. To get help, I had to pretend that I was not, in fact, in a body of water infested with sharks and swim out to a passing yacht. I was also almost deported from
Australia for leading a group of
students into a gorge. It did not work out as planned. The Australian version
of the National Guard had to be called out.
Sounds as though you’ve had an exciting life. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I come from humble means. For entertainment, my mother, siblings, and I would take walks through cemeteries. As we read the gravestones, we made up stories—the more colorful, the better. I suppose this was how I first trained to be a storyteller. I also used to sit in my grandparents’ kitchen while the women cleaned up and the men were in the living room watching TV. The men were silent, brooding even, as they slurped their stale coffee. The women, on the other hand, gossiped. It was at the kitchen table that I began to take notes on dialect, inflection, diction, and what really mattered to normal folk.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
My office is filled with novels, books of poetry, books on theology, philosophy, and history. The type of book I pick up depends on what I need at the time. Now, I am reading creative nonfiction. Sometimes I need a good novel. Other times, I yearn for poetry. It is really a day-to-day thing.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Jesus often took time to Himself to collect His thoughts. I have come to learn that this is not an interesting, poetic act; it is absolutely necessary. To be sure, between work and family, finding time is a challenge, but if I am to be the person God and my family want me to be, I need to, on occasion, stroll away to process what I need to process, pray the prayer I need to pray, and lick my wounds if I have them.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
When I hear an interesting name, I write it down. The beginning of the writing process, then, becomes matching some characteristics with a name I have in my notes. It’s really not that complicated. A good character name should be memorable but definitely not weird. It is up to the author (and editor) to decide.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
This is an easy one: my daughters. Degrees are nice and so are the accoutrements of a successful career in higher education, but the love and pride I have for my three little girls is beyond measure. There is no earthly transcript that can record that.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I would be a German shepherd with an affinity toward cats. I know: tall order.
What is your favorite food?
I have tried, I think, almost every place that serves chicken fajitas in
I could eat them day and night. I am also a fan of popcorn. It’s my comfort
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
When I was an undergraduate, I used to write my papers with a British accent. I had never been to
Britain, and I still haven’t set
foot on the island nation. I wrote my papers this way because I did not think
my northwestern Pennsylvanian accent sounded smart enough. So to answer your
question: My biggest roadblock was that I didn’t think I could write anything
worth reading. I have since fully embraced my heritage and now see it as a
great strength, not a weakness.
Tell us about the featured book.
Gadly Plain tells the story of a girl who comes face to face with the inexplicable and is left with her emotionally-bereft grandparents to sort it all out. Only when she makes a discovery in the pasture beyond the property line does she begin to climb out of the abyss of horrible sadness, for there, grazing unafraid in the distance, is a dusty, old donkey who has never known death, and around the corner of the barn, a dim-witted stable hand who knows the reason why.
Gadly Plain is a literary ladder I constructed to help me climb out of the abyss that was the result of my own father’s death when I was nine years old. My humble wish is that the story is able to give others hope—that my legwork can, in its own small way, give some perspective on this thing death. I suppose the whole enterprise amounts to being a one man ministry of sorts. Anyway, I hope the novel is received as I want it to be received.
Please give us the first page of the book.
There had been far worse chasms of despair throughout the history of the world—more gripping, suffocating, more inexplicably woeful—but Spring-baby Westbay couldn’t imagine any such chasm because she had fallen into one of her very own. It could hardly have been helped. She was only twelve, and her dad had been dying for so long in Spring-baby’s tiny memory that when he finally did pass away, miles from home and rebuke in a hospital for veterans in Richmond, Virginia, the gravity of no more-ness weighed upon the girl with such sudden potency that sorrow had become the sole stuff of her limited existence.
Sorrow bullied her, kept her wilted, sober. Sorrow had come with a phone call from her grandfather on a brilliant day in June when school had just let out for the summer.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Thank you, Michael, for sharing this book with us today.
Readers, here are links to the book. By using one when you order, you help support this blog.Gadly Plain : A Novel - Amazon
Gadly Plain: A Novel - Kindle
Readers, here’s a link to the book. By using it when you order, you help support this blog.
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