Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed author Michael Dault about his writing and his novel Cold Run, the debut installment in the action thriller series, featuring Cy Ford. (Read the review here.) After a short stint in professional baseball Michael began his media career working for television and radio stations and later started his own film and television production company TipToe Productions.
Michael was born in the state of Virginia and raised in the beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After a short stint in professional baseball, he began his media career working for television and radio stations. Later, he transitioned into online and print sports journalism. In 2006, he founded his own film and television production company TipToe Productions, which he presently owns and operates. This has led to collaborating on award-winning projects and various producing, directing, screenwriting, and acting roles.
The Sons of Summer was his debut novel.
Author Website: www.michaeldault.com
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I’ve suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for much of my life. Still do. But when I was in my mid-teens, I had a teacher who taught me that written words can move mountains. It can inspire. It can make someone feel something and they can always go back to it to feel that way again whenever they want. It was like a time machine. I harnessed that like it was a superpower and wanted to join, what I felt, was an exclusive club. I wanted to become a writer. With this, I was able to help harness my attacks and write without any limits. The therapy of it all was and still is an incredible feeling.
How often do you base your characters on real people?
Oh, very often. I’ll use their characteristics or personalities, or little idiosyncrasies and create a character out of them to use in my works. And it could be anyone. Even if I just met that person really quick and something interests me about them, I’ll use that to help mold my character. For my latest book, Cold Run, and for my next books in the series, I used my dogs to form the personalities of the sled dogs in the story. From their little twitches to their habits to even some physical traits, it’s been a blast.
What does literary success look like to you?
To be honest, and this might sound a little cliché, but literary success to me isn’t about money, it’s having as many people as possible read and enjoy my stories. I’m a storyteller. I work very hard to tell stories. The satisfaction I get from someone viewing my work and liking it is a high I keep going after like an addict. Sometimes that high is short-lived. Sometimes it’s not. But I’ll keep putting myself through the ringer if it means someone reads and enjoys my work.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing a novel?
The loneliness. Sometimes it really gets to me. I wouldn’t do it any other way, still though, there are times when I feel so isolated with my thoughts and ideas, and so engulfed in the world I’m creating, that I need to take a break.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Have some fun with it. Don’t take everything so seriously all the time. And don’t shut people out because I’m going through writer’s block.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I learned how to work better with editors. My first published book I butt heads with the editor a lot because I didn’t want certain things cut or changed, but I realized after it was all done this process was all about making the work the best it can be. Editors want to see your book succeed as much as you do. I learned that sometimes it’s a real gift to have someone (new eyes) look at your work with an unbiased view. After a while, you’ll learn what critiques make sense and which ones don’t. When you realize that, you will become a true writer.
Do you read your book reviews? Do they please you or annoy you? Do you think you can learn a lot from reading criticism about your work?
Yes. Even the not so good ones please me. Know why? Because they took the time to read the whole story and form an opinion. That’s all it is. It’s their opinion and there are going to be ones who love my work and ones who are on the fence and ones who don’t like my work. That’s an earned thing to me. And to be even at that stage in my writing career, where people give their opinions of my work is truly a blessing. So, yes, I do read some of the reviews and am thankful I’m even getting them.
What is your favorite childhood book?
Choose Your Own Adventure books. Man, I love those! So much so that I started to collect them recently. Early on, they helped me develop how I would build my own stories and I didn’t even know it!
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Maintaining inspiration. I’m someone who often needs to be inspired to write. Yes, I’ll usually truck through it most times and force the inspiration to come through, but I find that method usually leads to exhaustion when I’m done for the day. When I’m inspired and have that adrenaline and creative pistons firing, nothing can stop me. I can write and write and write for 12-18 hours if I wanted to.
How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing?
Like any career it definitely has its tough times. If you’re trying to make a career in fiction writing as a main gig, you’ll have to find ways to reach more people— plain and simple. Well, not so simple. The more people read your work, good or bad, the more people know about you. That’s what generates sales. Nonfiction seems to sell better than fiction in most cases, but still, fiction sells. So, if you go headfirst in this career, you must go all the way. When you do, like a movie, you must build your audience then.
What in particular attracted you to this genre?
Action-Adventure has always been an easy genre for me to write. I’m a screenplay writer as well, so it just flows naturally. I’m not one for leaving fat and meaningless storylines, so I make sure to keep my pace moving. If there is a lull in the story, it’s a part of the build up so the crescendo of the arc pays off. I love constructing scenes that build intensity, making it hard for readers to put the book down or stop reading.
How do you begin a book?
Like I do with screenplay writing, I create an outline. I list things I want in my story, whether that’s certain characters I want to create, or certain plot points or scenes, or how I want it to begin or end, and then the rest starts to come to life, and I fill in that story’s blanks. For me it’s an obsessive and exhaustive process at times. I’ll keep notes of certain words or sentences I want to use, down to a miniscule detail I might want in there. Once I’m satisfied with the outline where I feel it’s ready to go on the page, I start to write the actual book.
What is your greatest failure? What did you learn from that failure?
I’ve had many, but my greatest was not becoming a pro baseball player. I worked my way up, farther than anyone in my family, but still fell short of becoming one. I realized maybe I should’ve worked harder. Maybe I should’ve wanted it more. At that time, I was just tired and young and wanted instant gratification from the work I put in. I was tired of fighting. That was the mistake I made and to this day I think about it. I think that’s what keeps me swinging now with writing. Because I know if I work harder than anyone else, I won’t fail.
What inspired the premise of your book?
My dogs. Dogs in general. I’m someone who likes to explore interesting relationships. A relationship between a dog and its person is pretty unique and sometimes complicated, when you think about it. I wanted to explore a dog sled musher and his team. I’ve read Jack London’s White Fang and Call of the Wild and they were great influences for me. With this series I’m creating, I wanted to take it a step further and give the dogs personalities, rather than being background, that will make the reader attach to them. With Cold Run I give them a taste and the next books just build on those relationships.
How does your faith life/ethical outlook inform your writing?
I never really thought faith would be involved in my writing, but I found in my last two published novels that it’s found a way to seep in. It’s probably subconsciously. I think that’s because my faith does really play a factor. While my books are not of the Christian genre, they do bring up interesting questions about faith. The characters’ faith is challenged. There seems to always be a higher calling, which I play on, and then there is theodicy, which I’ve seemed to have really dove in on lately. Why do people do certain things? Why does evil happen? How can you find light in the dark? It’s a very interesting study and one I play with here and there in my books, without getting too heavy-handed on the subject.
What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
Failure. Things I’ve failed at. How I picked myself up from failure. I’m obsessed with that subject, you could say. Because I’ve always felt someone learns more from failure than they do from success. We find out just who we are when we fail, too. How do we handle it? This might sound weird, but when my back is against the wall is when I feel most comfortable. It’s when I’m comfortable and everything is going right, and I have nothing to worry about is when I feel most uneasy. That’s what has shaped my writing the most. I always feel like I’ve got to fight. It’s not healthy, and maybe that’s something I should work on, but I’ve always known to fight for everything.
What’s next for you?
Currently, I’m continuing the Cold Run series with the next books. I’m also spending a little time, here and there, on a historical fiction about the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Aside from writing, I’m currently shooting a documentary and planning for a couple feature films. It sounds like a lot, but the joy of knowing all of this is on my clock, and will get done on my time, really puts things into perspective. It helps me breathe easier.
Categories: BookView Review Interview