An Interview with Author Michael Halfhill

Today, I have a very special guest on my blog.  And I have to admit that I’m doing a little fangirl dance here introducing him!  Michael Halfhill is a fellow Dreamspinner Press author, as well as a friend and a beta reader par excellence! 

I love all of Michael’s books.  His Jan Phillips Series is exciting and takes me to places I’ve only imagined (and does it in such a way as to make me feel as though I’m right there, too).  Jan is such a wonderfully flawed character–a good man who doubts his own goodness at every turn.  The stories in the series are at once exciting and poignant.

But of all Michael’s books, there is one that I found so incredibly beautiful, I wanted to cry (and not for lack of a HEA – there is one!).  That book is Two Hearts, Two Spirits, the story of Helki and Igashu, native American men living in a remote area of wilderness, nearly untouched by the outside world.  Not only is the love between these two men beautiful, but the story is so beautifully told.  Lyrical. You can read my review here

So without further ado, here’s Michael, answering my prying questions (yes, I wanted to know the answers, too!).  And if you’d like to read an excerpt from “Two Heart, Two Spirits,” click here and scroll down.  Enjoy! -Shira

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Tell us a little about yourself. There’s not much to tell, really. I come from a devout Catholic family. My education remained in the Catholic sphere well into my college years. My college major was journalism, however, I earned my living not by writing, but in analytical science. My life partner, Peter and I have been together for the last seventeen years. When I’m not writing, I devote my time to Peter. He and I show our borzoi aka Russian wolfhounds at AKC events.

When did you start to write and why? I began writing essays, short stories and novels in 2002. The reason is simple. I retired in 2001, and after the usual year of idleness that most retires allow themselves, I became bored, and so I started to write. What began as a lark later became a serious effort to produce a novel.

What experiences do you bring to your writing? I’ve been married. I’ve two children and I’m a grandfather. As a single man I’ve loved often, and I’ve lost love almost as often.  I’ve traveled quite a lot, in Europe, Asia, and Central America. In short, I’ve been around, but it hasn’t all been romantic rickshaw rides, or sitting at dusk on the steps of Montmartre and watching Paris begin to light up below. I once interviewed a Nicaraguan journalist who was in hiding from the Sandinistas. His fear of being killed was clear, and I felt it. I was in Costa Rica when some people who wished him ill, tried (unsuccessfully) to assassinate the former vice president. I was on Gibraltar when the IRA attempted to attack a police station. The eight terrorists got all shot up in front of an orphanage—one of them was a woman. That spreading out of emotions is fertile ground for anyone who writes fiction.

What kinds of books do you enjoy? In the fiction category I prefer spy / espionage novels. David Baldacci, Steve Berry, Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series, and The Elizabeth George Inspector Lynley series are just a few. I suppose that’s why my Jan Phillips stories are heavily weighted toward adventure.

For non-fiction I prefer biographies.

What inspired you to write “Two Hearts, Two Spirits?” That’s an easy question to answer. Ever since I was a teen, I was fascinated by the work of Karl Bodmer, one of the chief pictorial artists of the plains Indians of the late 19th century. Fast forward to 1996. The TV show, In The Life aired a special segment on the Two-Spirit tradition of the Native Americans. Bodmer’s pictures and those interviews, along with the explanation of just what a Two-Spirit person was, within the Native community, stayed with me until when, in 2009 I began work on Two Hearts Two Spirits.

How did you go about researching Native American culture for “Two Hearts?” I have to say, that if we didn’t have the Internet, Two Hearts Two Spirits would be a work in progress to this day. Much of the everyday life of the Native Americans as it was lived in the late 19th and early 20th century, is well documented. Less so is the Two-Spirit tradition. For that, I had to rely on the oral tradition of today. The In The Life program provided me much of that oral tradition. Later, I was able to augment that information through email conversations I had with a Lakota woman. Some readers complained that because the tribe in Two Hearts Two Spirits is fictional that by definition, my research had to be thin, or non-existent. Not true. It made my research all the more important because I had to make my tribe authentic and believable, and I couldn’t have done that without learning about the First Nations people. Then there was the locale. For my story, it had to be so remote as to be undiscovered by the white men of the 1920s. I thought I’d hit the proverbial wall on this score, until I watched a National Geographic TV special on Yellowstone National Park. One of the park rangers spoke of having just discovered a canyon, complete with an immense waterfall. I realized that with all our satellites and aerial surveying capabilities, we’re still finding undiscovered places in our world. Problem solved. I now had the confidence that I could write a believable locale, because I knew such a place could exist—even today.

“Two Hearts” is as much as story about self-discovery as it is a romance.  What did you discover about yourself while you were writing the book, if anything? Chiefly I suppose, would be the ability to transcend my own experience and enter a world and a society that is at one hand, as remote to me as Mars, and at the same time thoroughly accessible through my imagination. I’ve never done that before, and I confess that the idea of repeating it is daunting. It’s much easier to write the time in which one lives rather than to fall back into worlds past, or even more adventurously, to leap forward, into those yet to be experienced.

What writing projects are you working on right now? Last July I began a review blog focusing on books I’ve read, and that I believe are worth recommending. http://michaelrecommends.blogspot.com  I’m fleshing out ‘Sparkles’ the fourth book in my Jan Phillips series. I’m also co-writing a novel.

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Bio:  Michael Halfhill was born in West Virginia, just as World War II in Europe was coming to an end. After high school came college at the University of Baltimore and then a stint in the US Army.

Michael has traveled widely in the USA, Europe, Central America, and Asia.

After building a 37-year career in analytical science with the DuPont Company, Michael retired in 2001. In 2002, after a year of hectic boredom, he produced the first of three novels. What began as a distraction has become a passion.

Michael currently lives in northern Delaware. When he’s not writing, Michael, along with his longtime partner Peter, shows borzoi at local AKC dog shows.

You can reach Michael at http://www.michaelhalfhill.com

 

 

2 comments

  1. Tali Spencer - Reply

    So interesting to read the background on Two Hearts, Two Spirits. I love that book. It’s such a lovely blend of culture, history and geography… and Michael’s research pays off with rich interactions between diverse characters. The way the white men talk about the Indians reveals great understanding of the time period.

    • Shira - Reply

      I think that’s part of why the book is so lovely. It feels so genuine and true to those two hearts! -Shira

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