Mike agreed to an interview after I won his book online and was swept into the story.
The inspiring cover is a fitting introduction to what’s inside. Thanks, Mike, for a wonderful interview and an enlightening read.
What personal experiences led you to write Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness?
Much of the book is autobiographical. I recalled my emotions while watching my mother die terribly from cancer at the age of 47, trying to comprehend my difficult relationship with my father, and reflecting on why my relationship with certain members of the church felt fake. So, a great deal of the material is based upon my own childhood and my struggles in my early adult life.
How long did it take you to write it?
I call this the long journey of Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness. I started writing the book back in December of 1983. I finally focused on it after several attempts to find a final storyline. I found it in May of 2007 when I had a dream – I was at Palm Sunday, chasing a man on a donkey, asking him if my mother was okay. Was she free from pain? Would I ever see her again?
What was your faith growing up?
As as child, I had a very strong faith. I enjoyed attending services and found the holidays quite joyful. As I grew up, and encountered emotional struggles with those associated with the church, my faith felt challenged.
Have you had a conversion experience similar to your book character?
I have. It has come with researching and understanding the characters in the book. The main character, Michael Stewart, is me. And like the character, it’s been a journey of understanding my faith and what it should truly mean to me.
Were you homeless in the 80’s? I think I read this in another interview.
I was homeless for about three weeks. The flashback in the story of how it came about is true. I also started writing what are now some of the flashbacks in Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness while I was homeless and riding the subway. By writing some of these childhood and early adulthood experiences, I kept myself awake at night and safe while on the train.
Tell us how you went from homeless to a book with Simon & Schuster. I love a story with a happy ending and yours sounds kind of like the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness.
It was a long journey, compiling notes from the December 1983/January 1984 timeframe when I was homeless. I shuttled around through several jobs in journalism, met my wife in 1990, married in 1991, and we are blessed with two daughters. I focused my priorities on raising my children. Now that they are teenagers, I feel more comfortable approaching the novel. But I really couldn’t find a storyline I was excited about until I had my dream (May 2007). I knew then I wanted to take my characters back in time to Christianity’s most important week.
Did you self-publish Necessary Heartbreak?
I did self-publish, mainly out of desperation. I had a core of a story that I was excited about and I wanted to see what the response would be to such a subject. But I had very ambitious goals. I knew once my story was out there, I would attempt to find a book/movie agent, and then pursue a big publisher with a revised edition. I did land an agent, Irene Webb (http://www.irenewebb.com/), and we got a call in August of 2009 from Simon & Schuster. Now my agent is reaching out to movie producers about a big screen project.
Would you do the same if you had it to do over?
I’m not sure I would. I guess the experience of going through the process gave me so much more knowledge in how to reach out to the proper people. I have mixed feelings about self-publishing.
How did the book land in Simon & Schuster’s hands?
VP Anthony Ziccardi told me there was a recommendation to him from a top executive in the book industry. He read up on the storyline and the promotion and marketing I had done. He reached out to me through an email and I signed with Simon & Schuster a year ago this month.
Do you have a daughter, like in your book?
I have two daughters, both teenagers. You can see a sampling of their personalities in the character, Elizabeth. Both are very confident and self-assured but very different.
What do they think about you being a writer?
They find it’s interesting. But to them, I am “dad.” Dad with a wallet, dad who can drive them around, and hopefully a dad who they can talk to about any subject.
Who reads your books/manuscripts to give feedback?
I usually call upon my wife to read my manuscripts since she is the English major. 🙂
Advice for new writers?
Keep your voice. Always stay confident in your storyline. Do not get overwhelmed with rejection. It’s a major part of the business. And you’ll get so many different opinions about your work. You know your material the best. Reading is a subjective experience. What one reader or editor or agent might find not worthy, another will. Keep the faith.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Sometimes heartbreak is necessary for one to truly appreciate God’s gift of time….” My main character, Michael Stewart, was told this by Jesus as they knelt on the ground before the crucifixion.
What does a well-written day look like in your life look like?
First, it has to require some research. Second, I spend about four to five hours scribbling in a notebook. Then I spend the remaining part of the day typing the material into a computer file. It’s a great day when I complete a chapter.