Welcome to Jersey Girl Book Reviews Michael! Before we get to the interview, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I am a fifth generation Floridian who now lives in Alabama. In all of my writing, I return back to Florida, especially the Panhandle area of the state that is not commercialized.
How long have you been a writer?
I started writing when I was 31 - I reached a point where I wanted to go back and explore some issues in my family.
Do you have a "day job," or is being an author your career?
I have worked in the pharmaceutical industry and currently I am consulting for the industry in a public affairs type of role.
What inspired you to become a writer? Describe your journey as a writer.
Like many writers, I had a teacher who inspired me to write. But I lived in a small paper mill town. In my world, writers lived in New York or Paris, not from a small Florida town. It wasn't until I discovered writers like Lee smith who wrote about ordinary people - people I knew in the small town south that I began thinking of telling my own stories.
Please give a brief description/storyline about Man in the Blue Moon. What was the inspiration for this story?
During my early years, I lived next door to my maternal grandparents. I spent a lot of my childhood in their home. Every evening my grandmother's widowed sister would join us for supper. While the meal simmered on the stove, the two sisters would sit at the table and talk about local news that never seemed to make the newspaper. Most of the time I'd sit in the hallway, eavesdropping on their tales about the townspeople I knew and picturing the scenes I heard as a movie in my mind.
My grandfather was also a "talker" and whenever he'd enter the room, he'd share in the conversation, disputing some of the women's stories or adding details to others. He was the best story-teller I have known.
On story from my grandfather's childhood has long fascinated and haunted me. In 1920 when my grandfather was ten, he and his older brother were sent to pick up a delivery that was arriving from Bainbridge, Georgia by steamboat down the Apalachicola River to their home in Florida. Since their father owned a mercantile in a crossroads community, such a request was not unusual. The boys were always being sent to Apalachicola, the county seat, for deliveries.
After the dockworkers in Apalachicola had loaded a crudely constructed box onto their wagon, my grandfather and his brother traveled back home guessing what was inside. My grandfather bet his brother that it was a grandfather clock.
Back at the family store with the box now unloaded from the wagon, my great-grandfather used a crowbar to pop the lid open. As a boy, my grandfather was so scared at the sight he saw that he stumbled and fell backwards, tearing the seat in his britches. A man, soiled with filth and caked with mud, climbed out of the box.
The man who had been nailed shut inside the box was shipped during the night to his cousin, my great-grandfather, for safe keeping. The man was on the run for supposedly killing his wife. Even though the court had exonerated him, the wife's family sought vengeance. They had made it known that they would hunt him down and kill him.
My grandfather and his brothers were instructed not to ask any questions and if they were asked by the people in the village, they were told to simply say that the visitor was a worker their father had hired. After about four months, my grandfather awoke one morning and the man was gone. They never heard from him again.
How did it feel to have your first book published?
I was thrilled and scared at the same time. I wasn't sure anyone other than my family would read it and then of course the questions becomes, what will they think?
Do you write books for a specific genre?
As a Southerner, I write stories about the places I know but I think the concept of the human spirit is universal. Wherever we live, we have the same hopes, hurts and desires.
What genres are your favorite(s)? What are some of your favorite books that you have read and why?
I love novels that are thought provoking and make me see an issue from a different perspective. I tend to like character driven novels and ones that have humor in them too.
Do you have a special "spot/area" where you like to do your writing?
The library is my go-to-place - especially a corner table.
How do you come up with the ideas that become the storyline for your books?
The ideas come to me in pieces. Maybe I'll read an article in the newspaper that fuels an idea and then I sort of tuck it away. Often another idea will come to mind and I'll go back and combine it with the first idea.
When you write, do you adhere to a strict work schedule, or do you work whenever the inspiration strikes?
I try to write everyday but the truth is it does not always work that way for me. Mornings tend to be the best time for me to focus.
What aspects of storytelling do you like the best, and what aspects do you struggle with the most?
I really work at plotting and try to outline the story before I begin. I might not stick to the outline but it helps me to build conflict within the story. I really enjoy creating the characters and building them, watching them develop within the pages.
What are your favorite things to do when you are not writing?
I grew up showing quarter horses and still love to ride. Working out is my other hobby.
What is/was the best piece of writing advice that you have received?
The best advice I've received is to start a story and crank it out - don't worry about grammar or punctuation, don't worry that it is not perfect. Simply get the story on paper and then revise, revise, revise. But the story has to come first.
What is the most gratifying thing you feel or get as a writer?
I love it when readers tell me that the characters in my novels stayed with them long after the last page was read.
How do you usually communicate with your readers/fans?
Book clubs reach out to me and I'll participate in the discussions by telephone. I enjoy those visits and hearing what the readers think and get their insights on the story.
What authors have been your inspiration or influenced you to become a writer?
Lee Smith and Pat Conroy - those are two writers whose work spoke to me on a personal level and made me consider telling my own story.
What is your definition of success as a writer?
As writers, we first have to write for ourselves. We have to tell the story that only we can tell and to have it on paper is a success in my opinion.
Are you currently writing a new book? If yes, would you care to share a bit of it with us?
My new novel is about the longest serving sheriff in Alabama who at eighty years old loses reelection and then loses his driver's license in an accident that is not his fault. This man, who is as healthy and active as a sixty year old, sees his life spiral out of control and it causes him to revisit his past, including an unsolved murder that happened forty years ago.
Thank you Michael for stopping by and sharing a little bit about yourself and your writing career with us!
About The Author
Upon graduating from Auburn University, Michael worked for a US senator and as a sales representative for pharmaceutical companies. It was then that he decided to follow a lifelong desire and began writing in the evenings. The screenplay he penned is still someplace in the bottom of a desk drawer.
It was when Michael accepted a position in government affairs and moved to North Carolina that he began to take writing more seriously. While studying under author Tim McLaurin, Michael started the story that would eventually become his first novel, A Place Called Wiregrass. His debut won a Christy Award for Best First Novel and was named an Indie Next List Great Read by booksellers across the country. Michael’s second novel, Slow Way Home, was compared to the work of Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor and Mark Twain by the Washington Post. It was nationally ranked as one of the top three recommended books by the American Booksellers Association and named one of the best novels of the year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Birmingham News.
Michael is also the author of a novella based on the Grammy-nominated song “Live Like You Were Dying,” which became a finalist for the esteemed Southern Book Critics Circle Award. In addition, his work has appeared in Sonny Brewer’s Stories from the Blue Moon Cafe II and in Not Safe, but Good II, an anthology edit by Bret Lott.
Michael and his wife, Melanie, live in Alabama.
Michael Morris' Man in the Blue Moon Virtual Book Tour Page On JKSCommunications
Man in the Blue Moon Trailer
Man in the Blue Moon by Michael Morris
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Publication Date: August 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover & Paperback - 400 pages / Kindle - 594 KB / Nook - 710 KB
Genre: Christian Fiction / Historical Fiction / Southern Fiction
BUY THE BOOK: Man in the Blue Moon
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by JKSCommunications.
While the world is embroiled in World War I, Ella fights her own personal battle to keep the mystical Florida land that has been in her family for generations from the hands of an unscrupulous banker. When a mysterious man arrives at Ella’s door in an unconventional way, he convinces her he can help her avoid foreclosure, and a tenuous trust begins.
But as the fight for Ella’s land intensifies, it becomes evident that things are not as they appear. Hypocrisy and murder soon shake the coastal town of Apalachicola and jeopardize Ella’s family.
My Book Review:
Ella Wallace's opium addicted husband Harlan has left her to raise their three children on her own in the small Florida Panhandle town of Dead Lakes, outside of Apalachicola. Harlan has also left Ella deep in debt, and she struggles to run a country store and pay the mortgage before the bank forecloses on the family's property. The property has a valuable spring filled with cypress and pine, and local banker Clive Gillespie, a greedy and unscrupulous man, teams up with a shady evangelist to hatch a deceptive scheme to take the property away from Ella. Just when it looks like Ella is about to lose her family's property, a mysterious man named Lanier Stillis, who has a gift of healing powers, shows up and offers to help Ella save her property. When the townsfolk learn of Lanier's special healing powers and his living with Ella, his past catches up with him, and sends the town into an uproar with events that will change their lives forever.
Man in the Blue Moon is an intriguing Southern Fiction story that has a mystical quality that is guaranteed to hold you captive. Written in the third person narrative, the author masterfully weaves a tale of a family's struggle to survive heartbreak, betrayal, and deception while finding redemption. Set in the 1918 Florida Panhandle, this riveting story has enough drama, suspense, betrayal and mystical ingredients to keep you guessing as you turn the pages. Rich in details and vivid descriptions, the author easily transports the reader to the turn of the century Florida, engaging the reader to experience the mystical springs, the pull of the cypress trees growing in the swamps, and the sway of the Spanish moss that hangs from the trees.
The author has created a cast of quirky characters that leap off the pages. He brings them to life with interesting personalities and complexities that draws the reader into their lives. I admired Ella's strength, willpower and determination to survive, especially in a time period when women were not dominant figures. I would be remiss if I didn't mention my favorite character, Lanier. This mysterious man with the mystical gift completely fascinated me, I loved following his story and was touched by his sensitivity, faith and love for Ella. I really enjoyed how the author included a nice lighthearted romance into the storyline, it provided a balanced to the emotional family drama, and made the story that much more of a powerful and compelling read.
Man in the Blue Moon is a fascinating tale that will resonate with you long after the last page has been read. The story is based loosely on a 1920 story that was told to the author told by his grandfather. Author Michael Morris has woven a tale that is classic southern storytelling at its best!
RATING: 5 STARS *****