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Interview with Michael T. Dolan, Author of Walden

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Freelance writer Michael T. Dolan lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He attended Villanova University where he majored in English and Sociology. One of his stories, “The Angel That Couldn't Fly,” was featured in The Simple Touch of Fate (iUniverse, 2003), a collection of over 50 compelling and captivating stories which raise questions about fate, coincidence and divine intervention. His first novel, Walden has been described as a "satirical, tragic and poignant … coming-of-age story". The novel was published in 2006 by Conversari House.

In a recent interview Michael T. Dolan spoke about his writing.

What is your latest book about?

Walden is a novel about individualism, revolution and freedom. It's Catcher in the Rye with a 21st-century university setting. Young Walden is struggling to find his identity, and the resulting day detailed in the novel depicts this struggle.

How long did it take you to write it?

The novel was written off and on over the course of about two years. It was published in September 2006 by Conversari House (West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA).

Which aspects of the work that you put into the book did you find most difficult?

Nothing jumps to mind. The story germinated in my mind for a long time, and when I finally put pen to paper, it flowed pretty quickly.

Above everything, I enjoyed the journey of discovery. When I sat down to write Walden, I knew what the first page and the last page would be – the rest was all a blank slate. And so I just wrote. And as I wrote, each chapter wrote itself, creating the plot, stories and characters that it needed. When I would get to the end of a chapter, I'd look back and say to myself, "Where the hell did that come from? That's exactly what I wanted!"

The subconscious creator is a powerful thing, but it requires trust to forge ahead when the path is unknown.

What will your next book be about?

I am currently at work on a book that takes on what it means to be a "man" in today's society. Set in a nice suburban development, it will satirize the plight of the suburban man in poignant and humorous ways.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

Literally, as long as I can remember. I have a copy of a third grade biography project I did as a young child – you know, one of those "all about me" reports. Favourite colour. Favourite food. Pet's name. Next to the "what I want to be when I grow up" line is my seven-year-old chicken scratch: "A WRITER."

Who would you say has influenced you the most?

At an age when I was probably too young to be reading them, I digested Steven King books in quick succession. That was when I recommitted myself to my third-grade answer – "I can do this. . . I want to do this . . . I will do this."

King led to Ray Bradbury, and then high school opened me up to the likes of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. William Faulkner and James Joyce were soon to follow. Truth be told, I suppose anything I've read has influenced me to one degree or another.

How have your own personal experiences influenced the direction of your writing?

Personal experiences influence every writer's work. They are the source of the vignettes that dot the landscape of a manuscript. They are the source of emotions carried through the work. Not to say that all writing is autobiographical, but one's life experience acts as the starting point from which to leap into fiction.

Do you write every day?

I try to write every day, but that doesn't mean it's always at great length. Balancing a full-time job and the typical life responsibilities tends to quickly devour a day's hours, but that can never to put forward as an excuse.

What would you say are the biggest challenges that you face?

The biggest challenges I face are finding time to write, which is usually after midnight, and the energy to write at this witching hour. As I am also a publisher of my first novel, much time gets consumed with the business end of things, including marketing. This alone eats into valuable writing time.

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