Tell us a bit about your family. I was born in Rome, Italy to a family of five kids. My mom is Italian and my father is French. As kids, my dad used to work for the Vatican as a project manager and liaison for one of the Vatican’s fund-raising efforts. I remember as kids my dad would bring one or two of us to school on his bicycle before going to work. The traffic in Rome is madness and he would weave in and out of cars going into all these crazy directions, and along the way we would see Roman ruins, the Pantheon and other historical landmarks.
What is your favorite quality about yourself? I’m extremely driven. When I commit to a project, I know I’m going to go through with it until the end. I can usually tackle several projects at once. For example, right now I work full time for the Army, I run a photography business with my wife and on top of it all I’ve been working to promote Amidst Traffic. I can usually tackle a couple different projects at once.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself? When I set my mind to a project, my personal drive sometimes turns into an obsession, and I can’t let go. If I become consumed from an idea or a thought while in bed, I have to get up and work on it right away otherwise I just won’t sleep. It can cause for some tense moments, too.
As a result, I’m also really impulsive and impatient. Because I’m so driven, I want things to happen now. Immediately. So writing is a great venue to teach me patience, especially during book promotion.
What’s your favorite place in the entire world? I’ve lived in Italy, Pittsburgh and Texas and this fall I’m getting ready to move to Chicago, where I’ve never been before. Out of the places I’ve lived, I can honestly call Pittsburgh home. It’s a city with a town feeling to it where there’s a lot of art, a lot of culture and a ton of passion (especially for sports). I’m not sure if Chicago will change my mind, but I will always consider Pittsburgh home.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? 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.
Stephen King often gets pegged as a horror or genre author, but really, his characters are what make his stories.
Soon after that, I began writing short stories. I wanted to accomplish with words the type of feelings and connections I felt when reading King.
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.
How long have you been writing? I started writing short stories when I was 16. My very first short story is called “The Follower” which is about a teenage boy driving his dad’s car after curfew and thinks he’s being followed by an undercover cop. Last year, I picked up the story and I almost laughed at how bad that original draft was. I ended up rewriting the whole thing and actually included it in my collection, Amidst Traffic, because even though there was still something raw and authentic I knew I could pull back from that piece.
What made you want to be a writer? The money. That was a joke. You can laugh now.
But in all honesty, writing fiction is a thrill because of the discovery process. I always discover something strange, new or unexpected about my characters while I’m in the midst of the story. Writing fiction is a wonderful way to battle thoughts of questions you have as a person. Mostly I’m driven by human conflicts and questions about our existence. I love that writing connects me with complete strangers through the veil of narrative.
Do you intend to make writing a career? I read a book by Noah Lukeman, who is a literary agent, and in one of his early chapters he stressed the fact that if you commit yourself to writing, you should project 20 years out before you can really expect to make it big. That’s a scary thought because we all want immediate results, and some of us want immediate fame or success. But the reality is that you can’t even collect retirement from most jobs after 20 years. When you put it in that perspective, that projection makes more sense.
Some authors make it big much faster, but for the rest of us we should cherish the idea that writing is work and it’s hard and that it requires commitment.
For now, I’m going to keep working full time for the Army, run my photography business and write and publish books on the side. By the time I retire from the Army, in 20 years, we’ll see if I’m in a place where I can earn a living from this. I personally believe my writing is good enough to invest my time into it, but the process can often really be a battle.
What was the hardest part about writing this book? Once I decided on which stories I wanted to include in the book, I spent four months of intensive rewriting, editing and slashing that really consumed me. For those four months I barely interacted with my wife and son. It all became incredibly complex. I actually had to draw a diagram to help me sort how it all came together.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Ultimately, I want people to consider how people are connected and to tackle questions of theology with a serious attitude. There’s a lot of theological and philosophical themes that run through the stories. Mainly questions about our existence, God, our freedom and our purpose. These are questions that shouldn’t be dismissed. I think people should take these questions seriously, even if we don’t come to the same agreement on most of those topics.
Michel Sauret earned the title of Army Journalist of the Year for his writing in Iraq with the Army Public Affairs in 2008. His writing has been published internationally, and his short story "Lost in the Night" appeared in the anthology, "Best New Writing, 2008."
Michel was born in Rome, Italy, and is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh's English Writing department. He published his first novel, "Breathing God," at the age of 19, and has been serving as a public affairs specialist and journalist for the U.S. Army since 2004.
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Genre – Short Stories / Literary Fiction
Rating – PG13
"Amidst Traffic” is a collection of high-caliber, interconnected short stories with a literary flair:
A short-order cook digs a hole in his back yard to escape nightmares of mutilated children; A woman covers her body in tattoos to hold on to emotions that continue to slip away; A soldier who returns home from Iraq struggles with the idea of gratitude, which, if resolved, may save his marriage; A man begins a game of watching strangers to see what it feels like to play God.
All of these stories, and others, are linked somehow. With each tale, more lines and connections begin to form. What initially feels like chaos, gradually begins to take order. A purpose exists that is unveiled by the end.
Every story is crafted with a sense of compassion for the human spirit, while seeking answers about the conflicts we live through in everyday life. The characters in these stories will make you care about their struggles and hope for their redemption.
28th May – Guest Post & Book Feature at Everything for Books
29th May – Book Review at High Class Books
30th May – Guest Post at Next Big Book Thing
31st May – Author Interview, Book Feature & Guest Post at Talisman Book Publishing