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In Conversation With Michael K. Smith Author of In the Shadow of Gold
From:
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal , QC
Friday, November 13, 2020

 

Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Michael K. Smith author of In the Shadow of Gold.

Norm: Good day Michael andthanks for participating in our interview.

Norm: Pleasetell our readers a little bit about your personal and professionalbackground.


Michael: I’ve beentrained as a mechanical engineer and started an auto parts businessin 1980. The business was sold in 2000 and I retired at age 60. ThenI pursued life’s pleasures: hunting, fishing, flying, traveling.But after a few years, I needed something else…some new kind ofchallenge.

I thought back to my college years and as an engineeringstudent, I didn’t take elective courses. However, a young lady Iwas dating at the time signed up for a creative writing course so Idid too.

The first assignment was a short story which I wrote aboutthe Civil War. Three days later the professor read the story to theclass…creative writing may have been the only ‘A’ I received infour years!  So, as I was thinking of something new to do, Ithought of that old short story and started to write a book. Thatshort story became the last chapter of my first novel: HomeAgain. Writing has become a passion and In the Shadow ofGold is my fifth novel.

Norm: How long have youbeen writing? What keeps you going and why do you write? Do you havea theme, message, or goal for your books?  

Michael:  I’vebeen writing for seven years and all of them are historical novelseither about the American Civil War or World War2. My idea is toentertain a reader with a good story and also to leave that readerwith historical knowledge and understanding of the time that he/shemay not have had before.

Norm: Whyhave you been drawn to historical fiction? As a follow up, arethere aesthetic advantages and disadvantages peculiar to historicalfiction? Does it have a particular form?  

Michael: I guess I’mcomfortable in an either Civil War or WW2 setting, so envisioning astory in those environments comes easy. The advantage is the timeline. All my novels march to the beat of a known time and thatframework allows my characters to evolve as they experience differentaspects of the events at the time. Almost all of my research, then,is via non-fictional sources. They say that a non-fictional historybook will tell you what happened and when, but a historical novelwill tell you how it felt and what people had to deal with.

Norm:In fiction as well as in non-fiction, writers very often takeliberties with their material to tell a good story or make a point.But how much is too much?  

Michael: This is a goodquestion because it differentiates some differences between somehistorical novel authors. I would never want to bend the actualhistory to make a story better. My characters work inside thetimeline and possibly interface with actual historical characters butthe actual historical characters have to have been in the exact sameplace and same time. For this reason, my novels tend to be wellreceived by staunch history buffs.

Norm; Do you writeorganically or are you a planner?

Michael: Maybe a blend ofboth. I usually know where the novel starts and ends, but my scenestend to be organic. When a scene is established, I like to let thecharacters play the scene out. Many times I do not know where thescene is going. The characters just keep acting and interfacing untilit’s over. What’s really fun is to read it after the scene isover and wondering where it all came from.

Norm: Youwrite with a very vivid and descriptive style. Do you use anyparticular techniques to help with your writing or to help flesh outdescriptive imagery? Are there any writers you admire or look to forinspiration? 

Michael: Descriptiveimagery is all powerful tool. Not only does it ground the reader in ascene, but it can be used as pregnant pause. Say there is a dialoguebetween two characters who are having a heated discussion and onecharacter issues an ultimatum to the other. The other character istaken aback and doesn’t know immediately what to say. Instead ofsaying it, a descriptive piece of imagery lets the reader know he istaking some time to respond. I especially like Ian McEwan’ methods.

Norm: What did you knowgoing in about your theme in your recent novel, In the Shadow ofGoldHow did you become involved with thesubject or theme of your book?  

Michael: The lostConfederate treasure has been a mystery ever since the war ended.Nobody knows. Even today theories of what happened to it are beingpursued. Just last year The History Channel did an episode about atreasure hunter who found evidence the gold was at the bottom of LakeMichigan. Any story of lost gold has a certain amount of gravitas.

Norm: Whatwere your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feelyou achieved them? 

Michael: In Shadow of theGold, I saw an opportunity to paint the picture of slavery at thetime they were officially freed from bondage. When slavery ended, theplight of Blacks took a different turn.

Sure they were free, but theyhad no skills, no jobs, no place to live and no hope. Our governmentfailed to establish avenues for the Blacks to climb out of the holethey were dumped into.

I’m not sure an old white man can describehow the Blacks felt at the time, but I think it’s an honest try.

Itried to give each Black character a bit of skill and in the refugeecamp where they lived, they were able to survive by pooling thoseskills. Did I achieve the goal? You’ll have to read the book andmake your own judgement, buy personally, I feel good about theeffort.

Norm: It is said thatwriters should write what they know. Were there any elements of thebook that forced you to step out of your comfort zone, and if so, howdid you approach this part of the writing?  

Michael: Yes, that’sjust what we’re talking about with the plight of Blacks. I was wayout of my comfort zone, but it felt good to get into the charactersand grind it out using a lot of empathy. Also, in the book the maincharacter contracts malaria. I needed a lot of professional medicaladvice on how the character would react while suffering from thedisease.

Norm: Can you share somestories about people you met while researching this book?  Whatare some of the references that you used while researching this book? 
 

Michael: Many small townsin the south have historical societies. So as my characters in thebook visited these towns, especially those that were on the path ofthe Davis train, I talked to representatives of those societies whowere anxious to share their knowledge. These societies represent  atreasure trove of useful historical information that may not be foundin books. And the information might be at odds with commonknowledge. 

Norm: Do you agree that tohave good drama there must be an emotional charge that usually comesfrom the individual squaring off against antagonists either out inthe world or within himself or herself? If so, please elaborate andhow does it fit into you novel?  

Michael: Good stories areabout characters who change as he/she finds their way. That changecan create intense dramatic scenes sometimes as the character fightschange. In Shadow of Gold, the main character, Yancey, wants to getrich and do with those riches as he wishes: mostly material things.But as he changes, he realizes there are higher causes.

Norm: What did you enjoymost about writing this book? 

Michael: There are two,almost three, romances in Gold. I really like to write about theearly onset of a romance. An organic progression. Boy meets girl andhas no idea he might fall in love with her sometime in the future.

Norm: What was the mostdifficult part of writing your book?   Did you learn anythingfrom writing your book and what was it? 

Michael: There is amystery in this book wherein a character in present time is searchingback in history to determine where his wealth came from. Theswitching from present to past back and forth as the presentcharacter discovers what the historical characters did presentedunique issues.

Norm: Where can ourreaders find out more about you and In the Shadow of Gold?

Michael:On my WEBSITE

or AMAZON orjust Google my full name.

Norm: What is next forMichael Kenneth Smith?

Michael: A WW2 novel of aPolish pilot who heroically fights in the Battle of Britain only tobe sent back to war-torn Poland after the war to be imprisoned by theRussians. At the same time, a Russian Night Witch, also a pilot,fights for her homeland only to be captured by Germans. The two meetnear the end both desiring to escape to the west.

Norm: As this interviewcomes to an end, if you could invite three writers, dead or aliveinto your living room, who would they be and why?

Michael: Lynne Olson whois a resource for my WW2 novels. Michael Sharra who wrote KillerAngels, one of the best historical novels ever written.

Norm: Thanks once againand good luck with all of your future endeavors

Follow Here To Read Norm's Review of In the Shadow of Gold

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 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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