I met Mike Dellosso through Writer . . . Interrupted, a social networking community of Christian writers whose mission is to offer support to fellow “parents, spouses, caregivers, and employees whose writing is interrupted by daily tasks.” Mike is certainly experiencing an interruption in his life right now, having been diagnosed with cancer two months before the release of his debut novel,The Hunted, a supernatural suspense set for release June 3. He’s had surgery, and now he’s going through a regimen of chemo. A few people at Writer . . . Interrupted banded together to help Mike promote his first book since Mike’s energy needs to be focused on getting better! So, we’ll get started, but stay tuned at the end of the interview for details on other blog tour hosts who will be talking to Mike, and learn how you can sign up for Mike’s newsletter and a chance to win an autographed cover flat of The Hunted.
Mike, I really want to thank you for this interview. Tell everyone a little bit about yourself.
I’ve been a physical therapist assistant for 10 years, and I’ve been married to my lovely and supportive wife, Jen, for 10 years. We’ve been blessed with three daughters ages 5, 6, and 8. All fun-loving, sweet-spirited, and of course always well-behaved (ahem).
Yes, I have a daughter, soon to be 21, but I do know she was always sweet spirited and well behaved. I’m sure a full-time job and a family life with three young ones has kept you on your toes juggling your writing time. But family is a positive and wonderful ”interruption.” Cancer is not. Tell me about when you were diagnosed and how it has affected your writing.
Yeah, cancer. Kind of a big thing. I was diagnosed on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. Here I was getting ready to launch into trying my hand at promoting my new book and in the middle of negotiating a contract for a second book when the doctor dropped the bomb: You have colon cancer.
Funny thing is, I don’t remember ordering colon cancer. Not part of my plans at all.
As for how it’s affected my writing, immediately, it’s halted my writing. With the exception of daily journaling on my blog, I haven’t written a lick since being diagnosed. I love to write, it’s my passion, but this cancer thing trumps it. I took this diagnosis as a nudge from God that I need to set writing aside for a little while and just concentrate on the most important things: my relationship with Him and my relationship with my family. Sometimes it takes something like cancer to refocus you, to get you to evaluate your life and do a little re-prioritizing.
In the long run, I think the experience of traveling through this valley will only enhance my writing, give it more depth, more texture, more emotion and passion. I know firsthand what it’s like to traverse that Valley of the Shadow of Death, to question Why me?, to be scared of dying, not for dying’s sake but for my family’s sake, to live with a monster inside me that wants to kill me (hey, that gives me a great story idea), to be poked, prodded, scoped, and stuck, to live a life that revolves around the next test result or the next doctor’s appointment. I’ve been there now and I can incorporate those experiences into my stories, into the life of my characters. It’ll be interesting to see how my writing changes once I get back to it.
So did you always want to write, or did you stumble into it? How did you first decide to become a writer?
My call to write was in no way gradual. It happened all at once and might as well have been God speaking directly to me. It began with a motorcycle accident that left my brother-in-law in a deep coma and a prognosis of death or, at best, persistent vegetative state. My wife, Jen, and I went to visit my sister and Darrell in the hospital and came away wrestling with emotions I couldn’t easily explain: anger, frustration, sorrow, confusion, you name it. When we got home I did the first thing that came to mind, I grabbed a pad of paper and a pen and started writing.
Now, it’s important to know at this point that I’ve always struggled with stuttering. Lots of thoughts and ideas swirled in my head but I rarely voiced them because talking was just so laborious. I often kept my emotions under lock and key because it was easier than trying to express myself in words. Well, when that pen hit paper I knew I was on to something, I felt a freedom I had not felt before. I could say what was on my mind and in my heart and say it with perfect fluency. I had found my voice! That was almost ten years ago and I haven’t stopped writing since. Oh, and by the way, Darrell pulled through and is doing just fine now.
Wow–my call to write wasn’t nearly as profound. My Dad is a writer, and honestly I didn’t want to be a writer, so I was more of a stumbler. However, I can certainly relate to the freedom writing provides because of my own difficulty in expressing my thoughts vocally. But more important than that–how wonderful that Darrell not only pulled through, but that he’s doing fine! That is a healing miracle, and I pray the same thing for you.
So tell me a little bit about The Hunted. Writers are always asked where they get their ideas, so that seems like a good place to start.
The idea for The Hunted came from the internet. I was surfing one day just looking for ideas or something to spark my imagination and get the wheel churning when I came across this story of a small town in Indiana that reported lion sightings back in the 1920’s. Several of the townsfolk said they saw an African lion in the fields surrounding the town. A couple cows were mauled and eaten. Then the sightings just stopped. No one knows where the lion came from or where it went. I thought it was a pretty neat idea and ran with it. Story born. Happy birthday!
One thing I know I struggle with as a writer is theme. What would you say the theme is for The Hunted?
Themes are something else, aren’t they? An author can write a story expecting to convey one message and then, when the book’s done, look back and find he’s actually conveyed several messages and none are the one he intended. And then someone can read the book and get something out of it totally different from what the author thought he conveyed.
So, here’s what I think the themes are, what I wanted the themes to be when I wrote the book (whether anyone actually finds these themes is another story entirely, and I’m okay with that, really I am, as long as they get something meaningful out of it). One theme is the idea of not putting God in a box, of letting Him be God, letting Him work in your life and do some miraculous things. I think too often we put a leash on God and tell Him what He’s allowed and not allowed to do. That’s not our place. God can do anything He wants to do. He’s the one in charge, remember?
Okay, enough of that. The second theme is the danger of a vengeful heart. Vengeance is a powerful thing; I think that’s why God said He’d take care of it. In the hands of mere mortals, it’s a deadly poison, able to consume a man and turn him into a monster. Revenge is not something we should try to harness. We have no business playing with that fire. In The Hunted we see the end result of a vengeful heart unbound.
Lastly, there’s the theme of forgiveness and acceptance and redemption. Beautiful things we experience from the heart our Heavenly Father and pass on to others.
Sounds like I’m going to have to buy this book! So what is it that draws you to write supernatural suspense?
Because I’m weird. No, not really . . . well, maybe. Plenty of people think I am weird after reading my stories. It was a natural gravitation for me. I grew up loving The Twilight Zone and The X-files and any kind of monster movie. I’ve always been intrigued by legends like Big Foot and the Loch Ness monster. The unexplained has always fascinated me. I honestly can’t see myself writing anything else.
Sounds like we have a lot in common there. Last question before I tell the readers how to find you and your books for themselves. Of all the characters in The Hunted, which one did you identify with most?
Boy, that’s a tough question. I think each of my characters have a bit of me in them; I’m a composite of each of their personalities. Yes, that means there’s even a little of me in the psychopath bent on revenge—and that really scares my wife. I think the character with whom I identify the most, though, is Joe Saunders, the protagonist. Joe is complex and real in that he struggles on a daily basis with his faith and how God works. He’s got God in a box and has set neat little boundaries and guidelines for what God can and can’t do and how He can and can’t work. And if I’m not careful I can fall into that same trap. When I put God in a box I miss out on witnessing those strange and mysterious ways He works. During his journey, Joe has to learn to let God loose and trust Him to take care of things in His way, not ours. That’s a lesson I need to review every day. Now, that’s not to say I identify with Joe in every way. He’s much braver than me. There’s no way you’d get me to go hunting a man-eater in a fog-blinded woods. I’m too much of a fraidy-cat.
Well, you may think you’re a “fraidy-cat,” but I’d say you’re doing a great job of battling your own “man-eater.” But then that’s were Philippians 4:13 comes in, doesn’t it? My prayers will be with you during your recovery. Thanks so much for the interview, Mike!
If you want to read the first chapter of The Hunted and sign up for Mike’s newsletter, you can do both at Mike’s website. Also, if you’re among the first twenty people to sign up for his newsletter, you will receive an autographed cover flat of The Hunted. But even if you don’t win that, for signing up you will receive his short story, The Last Hunt, written exclusively for his newsletter subscribers.