BookView Interview with Author Merrilee Beckman

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we talked to Merrilee Beckman, about her writing and her debut, The Iron Labyrinth, an outstanding science fiction tale (read the review here). Merrilee has worked as Lutheran chaplain’s assistant in Fort Wayne, Indiana and has taught at the state school for the mentally disadvantaged.

Times past:  

>Lutheran chaplain’s assistant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, visiting the state TB sanatorium, nursing homes, teaching at the state school for the mentally disadvantaged

>BA degree in religion at the University of Iowa and then assistant chaplain at the University Hospitals, graduate work in New Testament studies at the U. of Iowa

>two summers on a remote lookout tower for the US Forest Service in the Salmon River country of Idaho

>taught in public schools in Iowa and South Dakota

>two years at Clark Air Force Base, Philippines during the Vietnam conflict, where my first child was born.  Raised two children in Iowa City, Iowa

>discovered the works of Carl Jung and became a dream analyst

>all the while writing and revisioning my “story”

Advice:  if you want writing time, marry an anesthesiologist

WHAT INSPIRED THE PREMISE OF YOUR BOOK?

THE IRON LABYRINTH was inspired by a series of dreams I had over the years, consisting of a recurring image of an underground iron labyrinth with men forging iron.  This is the first book of a trilogy.  

WHAT SORT OF RELATIONSHIP EXISTS BETWEEN YOU AND THE CHARACTERS YOU CREATED?

When I first sit down with the story in mind the relationship is more of a stand apart one.  The first drafts are usually the hardest, but as I re-write the scenes the characters become more autonomous and the writing begins to flow.  Lines of dialogue may appear, or a surprising new scene flashes, which take the story in a direction I never meant for it to go.  I might fight against the new direction at first, but inevitably I realize it’s better than what I originally wrote.  This doesn’t happen often, but when it does it can be unsettling, exhilarating, and often crucial.   For me the characters are friends I care about, and, therefore, more important than the plot.

HOW DOES YOUR ETHICAL OUTLOOK INFORM YOUR WRITING?

The Jungian concept of an archetypal SHADOW is part of my ethical outlook.  For me the shadow holds the things we don’t know about ourselves, and, for various reasons, aren’t ready or willing to take on yet.  Colum, the main character in the book, continually embraces his shadow.  He does this involuntarily when confronted by  “Do this or die!” imperatives.  But, more and more, he trusts himself to do it voluntarily. 

ARE YOU A FEELER OR THINKER?

According to the Myers/Briggs psychological personality assessment all writers of fiction are Intuitive Feelers, with the exception of science fiction writers who tend to test as Thinkers.  I am a Feeler by their definition.

WHAT DOES LITERARY SUCCESS LOOK LIKE TO YOU?

To write well enough for the reader to find themselves within the flow of the story and characters and hopefully be inspired.

HOW DID PUBLISHING YOUR FIRST BOOK CHANGE YOUR PROCESS OF WRITING?

It taught me about editing and its importance.

HOW OFTEN DO YOU READ?

Every day.  I have two or three books I’m reading on any given day, usually nonfiction,  Right now I’m reading: Bill McKibben’s FALTER; Ed Yong’s I CONTAIN MULTITUDES (the microbes within us); and Deepak Chopra’s YOU ARE THE UNIVERSE.

WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW?

I feel its importance rests in the questions it may evoke in the reader: Who are we?  How do we connect with the potential of our own deeper parts?  How do we navigate the labyrinth of our mind and heart, discover our true loyalties, our greatest responsibilities? 

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