Author: Michel Sauret
Book: “Amidst Traffic”
Genre: Short Stories
When did you first discover that you loved writing?
In high school I had to pick an author for a book report, so I chose Stephen King, thinking he would be nice and easy since he’d already written so much. I selected his novella, “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption,” because I had watched the movie a dozen times. Heck, maybe I didn’t even need to read the story to write my report...
Except, after reading a few pages I became hooked. Reading that novella changed me. The characters, their motives and their pains all felt so alive.
Soon after that, I began writing short stories.
There was something really satisfying about writing short stories. You had to pack so much meaning, emotion and development is a short number of pages.
My early work was obviously really immature, since I was just 16, but it was a start. It propelled me forward to writing my first novel, “Breathing God” which was published by the time I was in college.
Why do you write the type of books that you do?
My first novel, “Breathing God” was an end-times type novel. Except, even though it was “Christian” I wouldn’t call it Biblical. It was total fiction from start to finish, not based on Scripture in any way.
With my second book, “Amidst Traffic” I was more interested in conveying the pain and suffering we experience in this life and present it in light of our existence in God. I wanted it to be a book about human struggles, and the real philosophical and even physical challenges we must battle in daily life.
I think that writing quality fiction should always be human first. God created people with minds, emotions and desires. That’s my drive in my fiction, to write compelling characters first, then fit the story around them like a cape.
What was your greatest obstacle in writing and how did you overcome it?
When I published the first edition of “Amidst Traffic” it actually contained a heavy amount of profanity. My original motive for keeping it in the book was to convey a real depiction of the world: a world of depravity. This was an internal battle for me for a while. The grittiness of the language certainly made the characters more believable and realistic, but were they necessary?
In the end, I decided I could convey the same sense of depravity without actually being explicit in its depiction. I scrubbed all of the stories and republished the book under a renewed edition.
The tension I felt about it has since been gone.
Has writing changed your life in any way?
Writing always forces people to be more thoughtful. I’m a terribly impatient person, and often I jump to unwarranted conclusions when I don’t understand something. Writing allows us to chew on ideas, problems or internal pains. Sometimes the experience is cathartic, while other times it’s more philosophical. Writing forces me to slow down and not jump to conclusions.
Also, it’s incredibly satisfying to create characters to battle out my thoughts in the form of a story. I write myself in a lot of my characters, then I can step back and read myself the way other people see me. I have a lot of sins and a lot of personality faults, and writing characters who are like me helps me reflect on those faults in hope to improve.
But overall, I simply enjoy the thought process that goes into writing. Writing really does make a person a better critical thinker.
What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most?
I used to sing Psalm 1 to my son when he was a young baby to put him to sleep. He turned one a few months ago and he goes to sleep much more easily now, but sometimes I still sing that psalm to him and it’s a humbling reminder of our need to remove ourselves from the way of sinners and to indulge and meditate in God’s word daily.
I’m a terrible, tone-deaf singer, but I love singing that Psalm. In the last few months it’s been a reminder in our family life that no matter how busy I feel, it’s necessary to devote time to worship God daily. So now my wife and I do family worship with our son, Phoenix, after dinner. Sometimes it’s brief, but it’s really such a joy.
Is there a book you’ve read that has been truly spectacular?
Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” blew me away. It is such a stunning glimpse of man’s depravity and our need for God. I don’t know that the book is Christian, in fact I doubt it is, but the image it presents of man is impeccable. McCarthy inspired quite a few of the stories I wrote in the last year.
The novel won the Pulitzer, and yet it’s written so plainly. There’s really nothing fancy about it. No gimmicks. No real novelties. It’s just pure, direct, quality writing. I think it’s something we need to see more often in literature.
What’s the funniest/quirkiest thing you’ve ever done?
A lot of my characters hear voices inside their heads, and although I don’t hear any voices myself, sometimes people will catch me talking with myself.
Yes, it’s true.
I talk to myself.
But only because I’m usually trying to work out characters’ dialogue before committing it to paper. Sometimes I’ll even do some exaggerated gesture, like an arm wave, or a kick, just so I can picture that motion and decide how to describe it in words.
I’ll admit it. It’s weird. My only hope is that other authors do the same thing.
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“Amidst Traffic” is a collection of short stories that are all interconnected. It’s been getting a lot of positive reviews from various critics and readers, which is an extremely rewarding feeling because short story collections don’t sell very well in the book industry.
And yet, I feel that short stories are one of the few things still right with the world of literature. Short stories force you to be precise and attentive. Every detail matters. Every word has meaning, sometimes added meaning.
Maybe that’s why short stories don’t sell, because they force the reader to think, and as of late we’ve become such an entertainment-heavy society. I’m totally guilty of that, too, of course. I love my share of action movies and a bit of mindless TV, but I really love a good story that provokes you to think. That’s how “The Road” was to me as a reader, and that was my goal for “Amidst Traffic.” I didn’t want to feed the reader the answers. I wanted the reader to search for and think about the deeper meanings implied in each story.
On the surface, these stories are about everyday people who don’t do anything extraordinary (there’s a young man who obsessively digs a hole in his back yard, and a woman who tattoos herself constantly in order to hold on to memories, for example). But as you dig deeper into each story, you discover that it’s packed with meaning and implications.
The stories battle with a lot of philosophical ideas and theological questions, such as our freedom in the presence of God’s sovereignty, the question of evil in this world and our existence.
Overall, responses to the book have been really positive. I can’t wait to see where it will take me next.
Can you please give us the first page?
The same dream kept coming for Eli, and it was terrible. The worst part about it was the faces of children who chased him through cobbled streets beneath dilapidated, stone-faced buildings of a foreign country. In the dream, he kept looking back over his shoulder as he ran. Their faces looked as if someone had taken a box cutter and carved at their lips, noses and eyelids. Tiny monstrous faces. Eyes wide and nostrils flared. Their cut-up lips revealed small, gnashing teeth.
They looked so much like his father’s drawings.
Eli couldn’t take another night of those faces. So he stood outside behind his trailer because he didn’t know what else to do. He didn’t want to go to sleep.
He stared at the dark forest for a while, but then he imagined those children hiding among the trees. So he looked up at the sky and stared a while longer at the stars. Time simply passed, but eventually even in the sky he could connect the dots and see those carved-up stares.
“Oh my God,” he said, covering his face with his hands. “Let it stop.”
Impulsively, he hurried to the shed. He needed to put his hands on something. The first thing he saw was a shovel, so he grabbed it. He walked a few hundred feet into the open stretch of land behind his trailer and stabbed the dull blade into the earth.
It felt good.
The blade went in softly. So he pulled out a chunk of dirt and stabbed the earth again. The soil was moist and easy to dig. A few more of these, he thought, and he would be okay. He just needed to work it out. He just needed to release whatever demons plagued his mind. If any alcohol had been in the house he might have washed those demons away with booze, but he rarely drank and there were no liquor stores open this late for miles. Living out in the countryside of Oklahoma relaxed him, but even out here he couldn’t hide.
Don’t think of it. Keep digging. Keep working.
He dug and flung chunks of dirt across his body and over his shoulder. He thought that after a few shovelfuls, the labor would make him exhausted. Then it would be okay to sleep. Maybe if his body ached, he would pass out from exhaustion and there would be no dreams. He didn’t know how this worked, but that seemed right.
After an hour, he had only built up momentum. Now he was consumed in his digging. Sweat formed a paste with the dirt and glued to his skin from the neck down. It wasn’t until three in the morning that the pains finally caught up to him. In a few hours he had to start his morning shift at the diner. He finally paused, looked around and realized he had dug a hole as wide as a kiddy pool four feet into the ground.
“Good,” he said, although it wasn’t.
What would he do next; fill it back up?
“No,” he said, “Leave it.” He said this as though he needed to answer the question. Maybe I’ll fill it later. It will give me something to do.
He slept for two hours that morning and dreamed nothing.
Where can readers learn more information about you?
My website is: www.msauret.com
There, you can find out more information about me, my book and my writing. I also use it as a running blog to discuss the world of self-publishing with other authors.
Michel has generously offered to giveaway a print copy of Amidst Traffic! Just leave a comment with your email address to be entered in the giveaway. Print giveaway is available to U.S. residents only. Be sure to check the sidebar (under Winner Announcement) after the giveaway is over to see if you've won. The winner must contact me by going to my "Contact Me" page and sending me an email.
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Giveaway ends on Saturday, March 23, 2013 at midnight (Eastern time). Winner will be chosen through Random.org.