Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Birthday Party for Mike Dellosso's Darlington Woods! GIVE AWAY!

Now it's time to ramp up the scare factor here in my Window! Mike Dellosso's latest novel, Darlington Woods, is celebrating its birthday debut today, so get ready for some powerful fun! This novel is certainly brings new meaning to the word fear, but it also reflects a very personal war waged recently in the author's life. Join us as we celebrate Darlington Woods with Mike Dellosso!!

Where did the inspiration of Darlington Woods begin? How did your recent battle with colon cancer intersect with this particular writing project?

Stories usually evolve as I write them. Rarely do they end up looking like the animal I began creating. Originally, Darlington Woods was to be just Darlington and it was to be about the town, not the surrounding woods. But as I wrote the story I found my characters drawn to the woods surrounding this little town in the middle of nowhere. And once in the woods and hedged in by fear, they discovered there was only one way out.

That was my battle with cancer. I was in a dark forest, held captive by fear and uncertainty, and there was only way out.

DW was definitely my most difficult book to write to date. It was the first project I tackled after my battle with cancer and I was not prepared for how emotionally spent I was. Writing is an emotional experience and after a year of cancer I had little left to give. I struggled with getting the story started, stumbling through three false starts. At one time I was 20,000 into the story, hated it, scrapped it, and started over. But once I found my emotional connection with the story, once I let go and realized that I was Rob, the endless woods was fear, and the darklings were cancer, I could write unhindered and the story unfolded in a way I didn’t expect. It was a surreal experience. DW is one of those books where I read back over it and so many times think, I wrote that? I don’t remember that part. I was in a zone I’ve never been in before.

Knowing about your illness, it was hard for me not to read a lot into the story. For instance: darklings = cancer,sleeplessness and giving up on life = trauma of diagnosis, Rob and his search for Jimmy = a

parent’s willingness to endure any amount of suffering just to live and be there for their child. You see where my mind carried me on this journey? Was I reading too much into it? Was this intentional?

No and no. Next question.

Just kidding. No, you’re not reading too much into it, there is a lot of symbolism in this story. And no, most of it was not intentional. This is where my subconscious took over. Writing is art and art is a window to the artist’s soul. Sometimes the artist opens that window voluntarily, sometimes it’s just flung open by unseen winds. I didn’t open this window voluntarily. I didn’t want to bare my soul in such a way. But I think it needed to be bared. That window needed to be tossed open. My emotions needed an outlet and writing was that release valve. The last time that happened was back in 1998 when I started writing. Then, writing was my way of dealing with the tragic accident of my brother-in-law (who survived and is fine now). In my most difficult times I find myself expressing my feelings, struggles, pain, frustration, and yes, fears, through words and storytelling. It’s therapeutic.

I put off writing a novel after cancer and I’m still not sure I was really ready to tackle such a project when I did . . but I’m glad I did, and I’m happy with the story that grew from my involuntary emotional release.

On page 216 there is a powerful quote: “This isn’t about dying in the darkness. It’s about living in the light. That’s the only way out.” What is it like to face death? What role does this particular crucible play in the building of Rob’s faith? Why does it destroy the faith of others in Darlington?

The first time I cried about my cancer was on my way to work. It was a week after my colonoscopy and just a day after the surgeon gave me the full, grim story of what to expect with surgery and

treatment. I found myself nose to nose with death (or at least the possibility of death) and the thing that scared me the most was not death itself but how my death would affect my wife and children. My first tears were shed for them. If cancer won the battle and I went home to be with my Lord my wife would be widowed and my three girls fatherless. They would be left here to grieve and go on. The thought of that tore me up.

My memories of my battle with cancer are many but spotty and I have a vivid one of driving in my car on my way to work (I remember the exact location along the road too), tears streaming down my cheeks, praying, Lord, I know this is going to be a hard journey and I’m not afraid of death or suffering. Let this be as uncomfortable as it needs to be but please, for my family’s sake, spare my life.

That’s when I decided I was going to focus on living rather than dying. Were there times when the thought of dying still overwhelmed me? Of course. Cancer does some weird things to you emotionally, takes you into some deep valleys, and there were times when I was in such despair and so afraid of dying that I couldn’t even function properly. I would sit and watch my girls play in the back yard or ride their bikes in the park and just cry and cry because I was afraid I wouldn’t be around much longer to be with them.

The only way out of that forest of fear is to live in the light, in the Light. He’s the giver of hope and the great comforter. And time and time again I had to turn to him and step into the light.

As for Rob, it wasn’t until he realized that he even had that light within him that he was able to conquer his fear. He was so afraid of the darkness, of life without his family, of loneliness, of despair, that he was a captive of fear. It wasn’t until he gave himself wholly to the Light that those shackles were loosed and he was free. There’s a surrendering that has to take place, an act of faith. The people of Darlington weren’t ready to do that. They’d grown complacent and almost comfortable in their captivity to fear. Even when hope and freedom was staring them in the face they didn’t see it. We’re surrounded by people every day, lost, hopeless, dying in sin, wandering in darkness, and they have no clue there is light and that the Light is the source of true freedom.

I also saw a lot of symbolism in Juli and Mary Jane’s characters…the prayer warriors cutting through the darkness with faith and agonizing prayer. Who inspired their roles? (and OH MY GOODNESS at the twist of who they turn out to be!!! – this is just my interruptive thinking)

Again, this wasn’t a conscious thing so I can’t take credit for it, but their roles were definitely inspired by the many, many family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and total strangers who showered us with prayer during our battle with cancer. We had prayer warriors from all over the world, literally, interceding for us.

Just a side note, Juli’s character was so much fun to write. Her quirkiness and sarcastic humor is a side of me that few get to see. If I was a single female waitress, I would be just like Juli. Okay, that’s a really weird thought.

Jimmy had some pretty agonizing moments of his own in the story, and at one point he really had to wonder if reuniting with his parents was even possible? Was Jimmy’s role a way for your mind to sort through the fear your own children had to face when they had to be told that dad had cancer? Or am I reading too much into this again?

Okay, now you’re reading into things a little too much . . . but it works. I know my girls had fears of their own, of course they did. I remember on more than one occasion overhearing one of them ask Jen, “Is Daddy gonna die?” I could see the shadow of fear in their eyes every time I’d come home from chemo treatments wiped out and irritable and not Daddy at all. I could see the confusion on their faces when I’d break into tears for no reason. It was hard on them in many ways and they each expressed their fear differently. Even after I had finished my chemo treatments the fear stayed with them. A month later I was back in the hospital for my ostomy reversal surgery, then two months later I was back in for a small bowel obstruction. Things were pretty wild for a while there and our girls took it hard. We all took it hard.

Fear really does rob Christians of hope, joy and even life itself when allowed free reign in our lives. Why is fear such a powerful tool of the enemy? How can believers combat this fear and learn to say with confidence as Juli did on page 160: “Faith is my answer now. Just letting God be God and trusting Him to know what’s best.

Fear is so powerful because it cripples and enslaves. The person given to fear is useless because fear calls the shots, it controls. Take something as simple as fear of public speaking, something the vast majority of people struggle with. Now give someone the perfect opportunity to stand before a group of people and share what God has done in his life, but he doesn’t because of fear. He misses out on the blessing of sharing and others in the room miss out on the blessing of hearing. It’s a lose-lose situation. Fear is always a loser. It quenches the Spirit and handcuffs the Christian.

Imagine if we were not afraid, if we truly lived fearless and bold. Imagine what we could accomplish, how we could change the world around us. Fear is such an enemy, such a crippler. But, praise God, someday fear will be no more. It will be banished and we will live in the Light forevermore. Amen!

What’s next? That teaser at the end hints at something new and different!

Yes, new and different. My next book, Darkness Follows, is about a guy haunted by a mysterious soldier from the past, from the Civil War. Through cryptic journal entries this soldier—or something much darker—coaxes the man to do something heinous, and the life of his daughter is at stake if he doesn’t. This is my first novel with historical themes and I’m finding there’s a lot more research involved than I thought there would be!

What exciting thing is God doing in your life right now? Words of encouragement you’d like to share with your readers?

Well, I recently signed another contract for four more books. It will keep me writing through 2013. That’s pretty big. But daily, God gives me the grace and strength to carry on. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and every day is a struggle to live a life of holiness. Some days I do better than others. Some days I really struggle. But God is faithful and oh so patient. I’m so glad. He’s patient with me.

Back in March I celebrated two years as a cancer survivor too. That was huge. It brought back all kinds of memories and emotions as I’m sure every year anniversary will. And it caused me to thank God for another year of life. I didn’t used to do that. Like most, I took life for granted. Not anymore, though. Every year, every month, week and day is a gift. Nothing is guaranteed.

Okay folks! It's time to start reading! Mike has come bearing gifts for one reader who leaves a comment on this post! You will receive an autographed copy of Darlington Woods and a Maglight (just one!) to read by! Leave a comment with your contact information to be entered to win!!


Mark said...

Great interview. I read a galley copy, and loved it! I'd like to enter, thanks

Mocha with Linda said...

Oooh, I'm not sure I'm brave enough but I'd love to read it!

Jon Hetzel said...

Loved the book. Thanks for entering me in the contest!

w.juhnke said...

I loved the other two books and I'd like to enter the contest.

Unknown said...

Mike, that was a wonderful interview. I was able to get my hands on "Scream" and loved it. I would love to be entered in this contest so that I can read Darlington Woods!! Thank you and God bless

Rachel Kate said...

awesome interview. keep up the great work!

Linda Henderson said...

I enjoyed your interview very much. I'm very interested in reading your book, it sounds very intriguing.

seriousreader at live dot com

Unknown said...

great interview. always love to read the "backround" story behind your books. It makes the book that much better. cant wait to read it!

Rachel said...

Please enter Ashley...this sounds like a book she would LOVE!

Unknown said...

Please enter me.

ebeandebe at gmail dot com

karenk said...

would enjoy reading this novel of suspense :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Kim said...

Rachel entering for Ashley....Your name was drawn for this great party prize!! Look for my email!!

Thanks for all who entered! There will be more give aways and parties to come!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Great interview. Sounds like one that will keep me up at night and my kids would love the flashlight for exploring.