Transparent author, believer, husband and dad …
From the first time I interviewed Mike, to our many e-mails and occasional phone conversations we connected on every level. Mike is far more than a writer. Devoted husband and father of four girls, he isn’t afraid to show his heart on the printed page. Links to my reviews of all of his novels as well as my audio interview with Mike at Fiction Addict are at the end of this heartfelt discussion.
Mike Dellosso writes novels of suspense for both the mind and the soul. He writes to both entertain and challenge. In addition to his novels, Mike is also an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College and a faculty member at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference. His novels include The Hunted, Scream, Darlington Woods, Darkness Follows, and soon to be published Frantic..
Mike, I’ve noticed something that really annoys me. I look back at certain characters in the stories I’ve written and I see a lot of me. Have there ever been times when you paused from writing and realized a less than positive trait you wrote into a character reflected your own spiritual or personal struggles?
Absolutely, but I do it intentionally. Okay, this is real transparency time. Every time I create a character (especially the lead characters) I feel like I’m exposing myself, my flaws and faults and struggles and weaknesses, to the world. My leading men are average guys, blue collar, working men, plodding through life trying to do the best they can with what they’ve been given, trying to make sense of this fallen world in which we live, trying to overcome their failures and mistakes. They all struggle with faith, they struggle with relationships, they question God, they question themselves. They are me.
I struggle with my faith every day. I don’t feel adequate; I’m not adequate. I think things I shouldn’t, say things I shouldn’t, have attitudes I shouldn’t have. I stick my foot in my mouth. I lose my patience. I question, I argue, I plead with God. Sometimes, I totally ignore God. At times I feel like a complete failure. Just like the protagonists in my stories. But (and here it comes) like my leading men, I always seem to find my way back to God, I discover His light new everyday, I experience His forgiveness and revival. He reaches into the darkness, takes hold of my hand, and pulls me into the light.
If you think that one was hard, try this one on for size. How about your antagonists. Have you learned anything about yourself from them as well?
The antagonists I create embody the potential in all of us, including me. I’m well aware of that. We all have the potential for incredible evil, vile stuff that lurks in the darkest recesses of man’s imagination, it’s that sin nature thing. When I create a villain I look into the eyes of what I could be, if not for the grace of God. And it’s a scary view. Why he chose me (I know I’m showing my theology), why I’ve been redeemed and set free from the bonds of sin, I’m not sure, but I’m humbled and eternally grateful. I don’t dwell on the evil in every man, I don’t glorify it, but it’s real, it’s in me (the potential, anyway), and we all wrestle with it every day. I think it’s important to show readers how sin can affect someone, it’s consequences, and much we’ve been redeemed.
How important is it for you to be transparent with yourself and your readers? I know, for example, you have said Darlington Woods was intensely personal and you have been open about that. How have your readers responded to that openness?
For me, it’s of utmost importance to be transparent and honest. In my characters, it breeds authenticity. Readers can look at these men and women and say, “Hey, that’s me. I struggle with the same stuff. I know what that’s like.” The feelings my characters wrestle with, the problems they endure, it’s all very real, the stuff of everyone’s life. For instance, you mentioned Darlington Woods. In a very symbolic way, DW is the story of my heart during my battle with cancer. The fear, questions, anxiety, depression, it was all there. But the Light was too. And in the end, I learned that no matter how dark things get, the Light is always there . . . inside me.
For myself, this transparency is critical as well. Partly because I don’t know how else to behave. I’m honest with people, sometimes to a fault. When I was going through cancer and someone at church would ask me how I was doing I’d tell them the truth. Sometimes that meant saying “Not too bad,” sometimes it meant saying “I’m doing terrible, really struggling.” I think the readers have appreciated seeing the real me. Not the name-on-the-cover-of-a-book me, but the real guy, the father, the husband, the friend. I am a real person, after all, with real fears and flaws and triumphs and victories. I just happen to write books which puts me a little closer to the front of the stage than some other folks. But being honest with my readers and putting myself out there forms a bond with them, I think. I hope. It shows we’re all in this journey together, just playing different roles.