Christal Ann Rice Cooper

Christal Ann Rice Cooper
May Flowers 2017

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Scripted Interview on Novelist J. Michael Dew


Christal Cooper – 1,585 Words
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Scripted Interview:
J. Michael Dew on Gadly Plain.

J. Michael Dew (www.jmichaeldew.com) was born and raised in Warren County, Pennsylvania.  He earned a BA in English from Lock Haven University and an MA and PhD in Literature and Criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  He is an Associate Professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College where he is also the Honors Coordinator for the Dunwoody campus.  He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and three daughters. In his spare time he enjoys being a husband and a dad. And fishing. He loves a glinty, trouty stream.
He’s written two novels:  All The Bad Things, published by Lucky Press, LLC on September 1, 2011;

and his newest novel, Gadly Plain, illustrated by Ross Bloom (www.rawspoon.com), and published by Cladach Publishing (www.cladach.com) on August 1, 2013. 
        



         Spurge allowed himself to smile some with the two other men. “No kid wants to hear about God and His mysterious ways.   They haven’t the patience nor the ability.  My friend, Albert, was seven like I was.  He died in his mother’s arms on the way to the hospital.  Aneurysm, I think it was.  Poor child.  Poor mother.
         “’Where did he go?’ I asked.
         “’Gadly Plain,’ I was told.
         “’Where’s that?’
         “’Away.’
         “’Away where?’
         “’To that great big bigness between when you go to bed and when you wake up.’
Gadly Plain excerpt page 127.


What made you decide to begin this novel by doing the outline?  In other words how was this idea first birthed in you to actually compel you to start even thinking of doing an outline?
The outline was necessary in that I had to match the natural flow of the story with the appearances of a donkey in scripture.  It was a kind of tango between the two.  I'll let readers judge if the dancers move well together.

How much of the novel is biographical?  How much of the novel is auto-biographical (excluding the Bible portions because it’s understood that is true)? 
The book is a patchwork of many of my experiences, so I suppose it's all biographical.  It's just not in the same order as my life.


What made you decide to have the main character be a girl instead of a boy?
I think the main character had to be a young girl so that I could keep some distance between me and the content of the story.  I think a writer needs to be a little clinical.  Sentimentalism would only make the story mushy and, quite frankly, not a good read.

Can you talk about when your father died when you were nine?  Were there any similarities of how the character’s father died and your father died?  Are there any similarities between your reaction to your father’s death and her reaction to her father’s death?
The death of Spring-baby's father and the death of mine are the same.  And I think our reactions are the same, too.

You mention in the interview at the end of the book that the German maid was real in your experience.  Can you tell me about your experience that happened with the maid?
Yes, the German maid was real.  In fact, she actually came to the funeral home and to the graveyard on the day we buried my father.  I sincerely believe she was an angel.

In my opinion, I felt that Lorelei received two angels or messages from God – the maid and Spurge.  Do you agree?
Yes, the maid and Spurge were two messengers.  Spurge was not meant to be an angel, but I believe God recruits us to do ad hoc angel work every now and then.


You say in the introduction that the book is dedicated to your girls?  Is this book in essence written for them?
Yes, the story is written for my girls.  The loss of my father was cause for some pretty heavy emotional and spiritual struggle in my life.  I arrived at some fairly solid conclusions, I think.  I wanted to pass that wisdom onto my girls.

I’m a born-again Christian and I’m assuming that you are as well.  It was a pleasant surprise to read this novel.  What is your intention of writing this kind of novel:  Was it the Holy Spirit leading you to write this novel, simply the muse speaking to you, or a way to proselytize?
Yes , I am a Christian.  My intention in writing this novel was to provide in my own small way another message to readers that involved the supernatural but did not include vampires, werewolves, and such.  The market is inundated with those kinds of works.  I guess I wanted to add some correction to how the supernatural can be perceived.

What do you tell readers or critics who might say this novel is didactic?
All books are didactic, and all writers want to communicate some truth, even if their method are ironic.  Yes, I have something to say in this book, and, yes, that message is fully couched in my faith.  I would never claim otherwise.

I felt like another great title would be Everything Is Brief But God – did you consider other titles?  Where did you get this saying from?
The publisher and I considered other titles, but Gadly Plain just works best.  With regards to the sentence "Everything is brief but
God," I believe I am paraphrasing scripture.

Were there any surprises in this novel that even surprised you as a writer?
No, I don't think I was surprised by anything in the writing of the novel.  It was a nice way to meditate on my Christian faith, though.

How did you write this novel?  On computer, pencil or pen in hand, in a specific room?
I used both: computer and pen.  I got the story down any way I could.


During the writing of this novel – what was your daily routine – how many hours did you write?  Did you have to have a certain drink, certain music playing, et.
I wrote when I could: at home, at school while my students worked on some project, in my office, whenever and whereever.  I did have a card table I used, though.  I was the same I used when I wrote my dissertation and my first novel.

You say it took you a year to get a first draft – how much more time did it take to get from first draft to present printed book?
I started the book in 2006.  It'll be released in 2013.  Writing a book is an investment of time and energy.  And with regards to editing: it is a back and forth with your editor until the day it goes to print.  I believe the novel went through about 20 drafts.  All of the cuts were necessary, and I don't regret making them.

Can you tell me your experience the first time you had someone read this book for the first time?  Who was it and what did they think?
Many folks read the drafts, and my feeling then was that the book was a works-in-progress.  I think I'm looking forward to when people read the finished project, and that won't be until its release.

What is your favorite excerpt from this novel?
I don't know if I have a favorite excerpt -- at least one I'm willing to share in an interview.  I wouldn't want to give anything away.

I would describe this book as young adult fiction?  Do you agree?
Folks have called Gadly Plain YA while others call it literary fiction.  For me, it's a toss up.

When I look at the young girl – I remember when I was a girl and how books were my escape.  Were there any books that “rescued” you during the time you lost your father at the age of 9?
I don't know if books rescued me so much as listening to the stories told around my grandparents' kitchen table.  It wasn't just me and a story (book).  It was me and a group of storytellers.

Are there any books that have “rescued” you throughout your adult life?
I have always been a fan of The Grapes of Wrath.  Steinbeck writes about hope in that book -- hope that springs from impossible situations.

If you could choose one book that influenced you to write Gadly Plain what would it or they be?
Gadly Plain is similar to Daniel Quinn's Ishmael and My Ishmael in approach.

Can you tell me about an experience you had that was so emotional for you as you write the book?  What passage was it, and why was it so emotional for you?  What time of day was it?  Where were you at?  Etc.
The whole experience of writing the book was emotional.  I didn't weep throughout its composition or anything, but I had to sustain the intensity of what was going on in the story while adhering to the narrative.  A writer should feel as if he or she just had a good cry after every writing session even if no tear was ever shed.


What projects are you working on now?
I have had two false starts with a project I'm working on now.  I'm presently trying to recalculate my approach.

I wanted to know more about the other characters – especially Grandma who was actually Betty Jean, Lorelei, and especially Kevin.    Do you have a sequel or short stories in the works to explain what happens?
Thank you for the nice words.  There is no sequel planned yet.


 Photo Description and Copyright Information.

1.  J. Michael Dew.  Copyright by J. Michael Dew.

2.  All The Bad Things jacket cover.

3.  Gadly Plain jacket cover.

4.  Ross Bloom.  Copyright by Ross Bloom.

5.  Gadly Plain jacket cover.

6.  J. Michael Dew.  Copyright by J. Michael Dew.

7.  J. Michael Dew.  Copyright by J. Michael Dew. 



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