For the chance to win a free print copy of Angels, Delirium, Liberty by Finley J. MacDonald, please leave a comment on this post with your email address included in the body of the comment. This giveaway will close at 3 PM (EST) on September 12, and is open worldwide.
Finley J. MacDonald was born in SunRiver, MT, one of eight children. He began writing with the encouragement of John Medicine Wolf author Michael Moon. At eighteen, MacDonald rode a coal train from Montana to Minnesota. Afterwards, he attended sheep-shearing school in Butte, MT and subsequently travelled with a shearing crew about the northwest—besides working in feedlots, stockyards, farms, ranches, homes for the disabled and for troubled youth, construction outfits, a book store, coffee shops, butcher blocks, and various others. He studied English and education at Montana State University-Northern. He has toured France and Luxembourg on several occasions and once been expelled from Britain. Since 2006, he has been teaching at Northeast Normal University in Changchun, China.
To see my review of MacDonald’s book, Angels, Delirium, Liberty, click here.
Hello! What’s your name?
My name is Finley J. MacDonald. It’s a name that has been mangled in a myriad of ways. When I sheared sheep, I was called “fingers” because I kept cutting off the tips of my fingers and because I was too enthusiastic at the dinner table.
What do you write and why?
Let me answer this circuitously. Though each child of the gods harbors an inner, creative self, that being tends to get squashed under an overburden of rationalism, judgment, apathy, etc. The process of creating to me is one of tunneling to the bedrock of self. Besides breaking through false images of self, a writer is driven to take a club to language, since it offers ready clichés for everything. Therefore, writing is asking not only, “What is the real emotion here?” but also, “Can I touch real meaning and not the cliché?”
Even the narrative form itself, I feel, is a kind of a cliché. I recall my English 101 teacher declaring that, since Adam and Eve, every work of fiction has been written according to an identical format; he drew a peak and labeled the parts crisis, rising action, and resolution. Someday, I thought, I would like to break that mold! Later, I found that Native American stories emphasize cycles rather than a rising line of action. I would like to imagine that I borrowed mythic power from them when I tried to write my novel by means of interrelated vignettes.
Do you read the same genre that you write? Why or why not?
For some reason or other, I recently made a list of some of the books I have read, and it’s pretty eclectic. I used to devour European and Russian novels. Now I read globalism studies, history, ecology, Zen, and politics. Aren’t we here to raise our consciousness? I read French symbolist poetry and have an obsession with the Chinese poet Haizi. I also like to peruse new age and occult. Right now, I’m reading The Red and the Black by Stendhal.
What is the title you are promoting right now?
Angels, Delirium, Liberty, my first novel.
What is it about?
That question is always tough for me to answer—in part because I don’t want to spoil it for the reader. It’s about C., also called “Clerk”. Though I don’t want to spill too many details, I’ll mention his mother. Certain aspects of the relationship between C. and his mother are almost a secret, both in the story and from the inattentive reader. If you pick them up, I hope you feel enthralled! All of the flashbacks, misfortunes, asides, and hallucinations are meant to float down layer by layer to produce a deepening image. The world in which C. exists is quite like ours in terms of its objects. However, the mood is deflated, post-revolutionary, découragé. Instances border on emotional horror. The journey is meant to be an Orphic one, a descent into a land of shadows, but by the end, you should see the light beginning to shine through. That’s a healing process, by the way, not a pessimistic one.
What makes this book different from others in your genre?
Everything. For starters, it isn’t chronological. The narrative voice is unusual, like a camera taking in one object at time. You’ve got to ask yourself, why? The book doesn’t lead you. You’ve got to figure out for yourself what the story is whispering to you.
What’s the story behind the story?
I had finished writing The House of Violence, which took me about six years to complete, in Missoula Montana. I was creatively depleted, working at a butcher block, getting the last pieces into place before moving to Changchun, China. I would get up and write for a couple of hours before my ten hours at the meat department. Out of those poems, I developed a character called “Clerk”. When I first started teaching in China, my flat was about fifteen stories up. I looked out upon that scene, and I began writing the chapter about C. and his wife. The winters here are wicked, which helped me in describing the frigid, urban landscape.
What is your goal as an author?
That’s a great question! Although I believe that design follows intention, I don’t think I’ve ever articulated my goals. I am tempted to prevaricate here, as I have lost some of my idealism. Let me put it this way. Years ago, after college, when I was working in a coffee shop, I knew a visual artist named Michael. Michael would spend a week fretting with his muse and then another week drawing an eye. He was visionary and sincere. However, I’ll wager that he is still drawing those painstaking eyes, mainly for himself. That doesn’t satisfy me. The artistic life is a Darwinian landscape, a narrow trail across the Kalahari, with bones showing in the grass. Let’s say my goal right now is to finish that eye today, start on the nose tomorrow, and show you the whole body by the end of the week.
Are you working on anything new? Give us a preview of what’s to come!
I just finished my rough draft yesterday! It only took me four months this time. This post-apocalyptic story takes place in the future, on an island off the coast of the former China. Flower-Skin Island grew out of expanding communes, with reinvented forms of religion and customs within a larger epoch of re-industrialization. The island nation is a strict matriarchy, against whose tenets our protagonist runs afoul. In captivity, he earns micro-points, saving them up for a furlough. Everything changes when he goes to see the oracle.
Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?
Too many! I admire Antoine de Saint Exupery who took a pen and paper into his cockpit, and while flying, described clouds! For poetry, I love every burning line of The Duino Elegies, by Rainer Maria Rilke. For nonfiction, I like Small is Beautiful and Man’s Search for Meaning.
Where can readers find you and your work?
Angels, Delirium, Liberty is available in print and Kindle at Amazon and also as an ebook at Smashwords. I’m waiting on cover art for the new issue of The House of Violence. If you haven’t tried indiebound.org, you might use this as a tool for supporting independent bookstores and independent authors of your choice. My blog is at deliriumliberty.wordpress.com
What’s your view on the self-publishing/traditional publishing thing? Ideally, which one would you prefer and why?
Self-publishing is a great deal of work—but a more ethical choice. I wouldn’t mind supporting a small press, but I try not to support corporate persons. My friend from the Book of Faces, Marcus Speh, says online writing is “Occupy literature before anyone thought of occupying anything anywhere.” The same can of course be said of self publishing. It’s also refreshing to have readers more directly involved in the choice of what is to be read. That being said, the path is a bit intimidating, because it is so unpredictable, and there is so much to learn.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“Follow your bliss.”—Joseph Campbell
What is the most important advice you have for aspiring authors?
I was blocked for years. Writing Down the Bones taught me to still my critical voice. You can say, “I’m just going to allow myself to write anything.” You put the pen to paper and do three or five hundred words. If you write a sentence fragment, keep your pen moving and clean it up some other time. The Artist’s Way says that we are all created equal and that we shouldn’t deify those further along the path. I think writers should take up photography. I find that it refreshes my spirit and sharpens my eye.
Is there anything else you’d like to say before we finish up?
Think of your favorite book. The reason that book exists and is available to you is because someone was willing to support the author, monetarily or otherwise. As a reader of indie fiction, you are in a relationship with indie writers. If you support someone, you are a partner in his or her continuing creations. If you are a deadbeat, well, that has an effect too. I would also like to thank Writer’s Block Party for so much hard work and kindness toward independent authors!
Awesome, thanks for allowing me to interview you!
Please take a moment to visit Finley at:
Or check out my personal review of his book here.