Mike Dellosso’s interview

» Posted on May 31, 2008 in Blog | Comments Off on Mike Dellosso’s interview

I met Mike through the Writers Interrupted group I participate in. He has a book coming out called The Hunted. Here is his story…

Mike’s bio:

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. He writes a monthly column for Writer . . .Interrupted, was a newspaper correspondent/columnist for over three years, has published several articles for The Candle of Prayer inspirational booklets, and has edited and contributed to numerous Christian-themed Web sites and e-newsletters. Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer’s Network, and International Thriller Writers. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master’s Graduate School of Divinity. To read more about Mike’s journey into writing, visit his web site. (You can read his first chapter at his web site.)

Mike’s interview:
What do you do to pay the bills?

I’ve been a physical therapist assistant for 10 years.

Will you share a little bit about your family?

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).

What do you like to do when you’re not working, writing (which is work!), churching, or familysizing?

Read and fool around with my website. Oh, I also mow the lawn, trim the hedges, paint the porch, replace rotted boards, and all that other fun stuff homeowners do to pass the time away. Actually, I’m pretty boring (except when Toby Mac is in the CD player).

A full-time job, church involvement, family life, writing books: How do you do it all?

Very carefully. Seriously. God’s blessed me with time management skills and I make use of my time wisely. Of course, there’s the tendency to get over involved and that’s when I need to take a step back and re-evaluate what I’m doing. But careful management of time is key. Make the most of every minute.

Tell me about when you were diagnosed with cancer.

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.

How has that diagnosis affected your writing? How has it affected my writing?
Well, 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.

What is one thing your diagnosis has taught you?

One other thing I’ve learned is to fully rely on God, to willingly submit myself and put my life in His hands. And of course, this carries over into my writing as well. We writers never know where the next contract is coming from or how much the next royalty check will be for, or even how the next story will unfold, if there is a next story. We are constantly at His mercy, and I’m learning that’s a good place to be.

Where do you get your ideas for stories?

My ideas for stories. There’s a box in my basement called the Idea Box. I wave my hand over it a couple times, chant some pretty cool things, and somehow (I’m not sure how it works) but an idea just appears in my head, fully formed, like a newborn baby. Of course, I wish it was that easy, but the fact is, I just told a fib. There’s no magic box, no hand-waving, no chanting, just an overactive imagination and a lot of mulling.
My ideas are usually born either by searching the internet for unique stories, by reading or hearing something in the news, or just by letting the leash out for my imagination to run a little wild. From there I toss around some scenarios. The challenge is taking a simple idea—a what if question or a single character—and developing it into a story that can support 80,000 to 100,000 words. It’s not always easy, in fact, it’s rarely easy. Once I find something I think I can run with I start writing and the story can change several times before everything falls in place. Ask any author, there’s no simple way to come up with an intriguing idea and grow it into a full-fledged novel-length story.

Are you a plotter or seat-of-the-pants writer?

Seat-of-the-pantser all the way. I love being surprised by my own stories. When I start a story I know where I want to start—usually the first few chapters—and most of the time where I want to end. Everything in-between is making it up as I go. I figure if I don’t know where the story is going and how it’s unfolding, there’s a good chance the readers won’t either.
That being said, I typically work a chapter or two ahead in my mind. I’m always thinking about what’s going to come next, turning scenarios around, changing them, fiddling here, tinkering there, trying to find something that grabs my fancy and has potential to build the rest of the story off of. By working several steps ahead (like a chess player, I suppose) I avoid writing myself into a corner.

Talk about your “call” to write.

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.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

My favorite aspect is the first draft when everything is new and fresh and the story is unfolding. Sometimes I feel like it’s just spilling out of me and I can’t type fast enough to keep up with it. During that process I’m constantly thinking about the story, molding it like a piece of clay, trying this, trying that, seeing if something makes sense, if it fits. I love getting to know the characters, watching them develop and take on personalities of their own. Creating them.

What is one thing being a writer teach you about God?

I think part of being made in the image of God is our desire to create. I experience great joy by bringing people to life, forming a world for them to live in and things for them to do. Putting them in a situation where there is no easy out and watching how they react. I can only imagine the fun God must have had creating this world. What a wonderful thought, the Creator at play.

What do you hope to accomplish in your writing?

God’s done so much for me. He loves me while I am so unlovable. Lifted me up out of that miry clay, wrapped His arms around me, and set my feet on solid ground. Made me a new creation and gave me a new life. I’m so undeserving of His love, and yet He so willingly and freely gives it. Why wouldn’t I want to give all of me back to Him? And that includes my writing. God’s given me a gift and I want to give it back to Him to be used for His service, His Kingdom. I hope and pray my writing and my stories impact people on a spiritual level, if they don’t then I will feel like I’ve somehow failed. Really, when life is all said and done, when we get rid of all the materialism and ambition and rat race stuff, isn’t our sole purpose to glorify God? Isn’t that what it’s all about? Really? That’s what I want to accomplish with my writing . . . to just glorify God and let Him take care of the rest.

Describe the journey to your first contract.

Well, it was a nine-year journey and I’d like to say I did it “by the book.” I made some mistakes along the way but learned from them and made sure not to do them again.
I started writing non-fiction just for fun and freedom and the sheer love of putting words on paper and making sense out of what was inside me. After about a year of doing that I began writing a monthly article for my church’s newsletter. At the same time I was submitting articles and short pieces to various websites and getting some of them “published.” There was no pay, of course, but the satisfaction of seeing my creations on the screen and knowing somebody was reading them was well worth it. Heck, it’s still worth it. Gradually, I began expanding my horizons a little. I wrote a few inspirational articles for The Candle of Prayer Company and began writing a weekly column for my local newspaper, both paying jobs (yeah!).
In 2004 I saw the Christian Writer’s Guild was holding a first-novel contest. I had an idea so I decided to try my hand at writing fiction. It was harder than I thought but I was able to finish a book before the contest deadline. As much as I hoped I would, I didn’t win (I don’t even think I came close) but the experience was priceless and sparked in me a love for writing fiction.
I still thought I had a good story but knew next to nothing about the publishing industry. I sent out some proposals and got a mailbox full of rejections before a letter from a “traditional publisher” came showing interest. I put that in quotes because at the time, in my ignorance, I thought they were a real publisher and only found out later that they, indeed, were not. Anyway, I published that first book through this POD publisher, was terribly disappointed in everything about the experience, and vowed to never, ever, EVER do that again. To each his own, right?
Shortly after that frustrating ordeal I began work on another manuscript, calling it The Hunted. A year later I toted it along with me to my first writer’s conference where I met suspense author Kathryn Mackel who critiqued it, liked it, and said she’d not only endorse it but help me find an agent. A few weeks later she referred me to an agent friend of hers, Les Stobbe. Les liked my proposal and chapters, agreed to represent me, and circulated the project to various publishers. Four months later we got an email from Realms Fiction (Strang Book Group) saying they were interested in the full manuscript and a few long, endless months after that they were offering me a contract.

If you are interested in purchasing The Hunted, click here.