Today I want to welcome Patrick Dilloway the author of WHERE YOU BELONG. I’m glad to have him here and hope you enjoy his interview. And now, here’s Patrick:
Sheri: Hi, Patrick. Why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us a little about you.
Patrick: First of all, thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it. As for talking about me, there’s not much to say. In my bio I talk about all the things I’m NOT doing because it’s far more interesting than what I am doing. Mostly I was born and raised in central Michigan, got an accounting degree to pay the bills, and moved to Detroit. I spend most of time working and writing. Are you asleep yet? Writing is really my only real hobby, or at least the only one I spend much time doing. If I had the equipment and time I’d love to travel and take pictures. At home I have a lot of framed shots from places I’ve been like Maine, New Mexico, and the Grand Canyon. The good thing about writing of course is that you can do it pretty much anywhere so long as you have a utensil.
Sheri: What inspired you to write your first novel?
Patrick: If you want to get technical, “Where You Belong” is probably my thirtieth novel. I’ve been writing novels since I was twelve, though most of those are better off never seeing the light of day. This one is the first one I’ve ever published, though. What really inspired it is two things. First, after reading “The Cider House Rules” by John Irving about seven years ago I decided to myself I really wanted to do something like that. I tried a couple of times, but I couldn’t get it right. When Prop 8 in California and other similar amendments came about, it put the focus on gay marriage. In listening to some of the arguments against it like, “If you let gays marry then people will start marrying their siblings!” I started to get annoyed. I found that was an issue where I really had something I wanted to say. So using “The Cider House Rules” as sort of a template, I focused on creating a story that would deal with the issue of gay marriage without preaching at the reader.
Sheri: Who are a few of your favorite authors?
Patrick: My overall favorite has to be the aforementioned John Irving. I’ve read all of his novels, his book of short stories, and even his dull autobiography. I’ve already mentioned my love of “The Cider House Rules,” which is followed closely by “The World According to Garp.” Some of my other favorites are Michael Chabon, whose vocabulary I would kill for; Richard Russo because of his great depictions of small town life; John Updike, whose descriptions could make even the worst story into poetry; Kurt Vonnegut, who could tackle horrible subjects while still making you laugh; and Terry Pratchett, who is just a great storyteller.
Sheri: Can you describe a typical writing day for you?
Patrick: When I was writing “Where You Belong” I typically on Monday-Thursday spent about three hours writing in the local library. On Saturdays I would write from 10am-11pm (taking breaks for lunch/dinner) at the libraries and the local Starbucks (or similar establishment) after the libraries closed. It may seem grueling, but I usually took Fridays and Sundays off so I could stay rested. The worst part was subsisting on ham sandwiches on weekdays. After a while you really start to crave a little home cooking. Right now I’ve scaled that back so that I don’t write much on the weekdays, saving my energy for Fridays and Saturdays. If you stop by a coffeehouse in the Detroit area and see someone lurking in the back with a laptop it might be me.
Sheri: What’s your favorite setting from one of your novels?
Patrick: I love the town of Midway, Iowa that I made up for “Where You Belong.” It’s largely based on where I grew up in Michigan, right down to the large chemical plant providing the town with most of its business. I really enjoyed writing the history of the place, how it’s founded largely because of its proximity to deposits of pig droppings. Inventing the backstory for the place really helped make it come to life in my mind.
Sheri: What do you think makes your characters memorable?
Patrick: I’d like to think Frost Devereaux is memorable for more than having a funny name and doing something bizarre in marrying twins of different genders. I think why readers would really remember and connect to him is his vulnerability. He’s not an infallible superhero or some tough gumshoe or something like that. He’s an ordinary guy who wants to find love the same as most of us. In the process he makes the mistake of giving his heart to the wrong people, as I’m sure most of us have done on more than one occasion. Even though he gets caught in some outlandish circumstances, he’s still the kind of person you could meet in the supermarket.
Sheri: What are you working on at the moment?
Patrick: At the moment I’m taking a little mental break from the serious writing by working on an old-school sci-fi alien invasion story. It’s about “Martians” who are actually human colonists returning home in force. Eventually I’ll probably get back into something a little more literary, but I always think it’s good to have a little variety in your writing so you don’t get too stagnant.
Sheri: What’s the most important message you’d like us to take from your new release?
Patrick: As the title suggests, the book is really about finding your place in this world—Where You Belong. Maybe you’re a man and find you belong with a woman. Or maybe you find you belong with another man. The important thing is what you and your significant other feel in your hearts, not how your genitals line up. I hope we can someday get to the point where a story like Frost’s wouldn’t be all that shocking.
Thanks a lot for having me on and asking such great questions!
Excerpt from Where You Belong:
I wake up again and the hand is gone, but I’m not alone. I sense a figure lurking in the shadows, hovering there like a ghost. I think at first it’s my mother; unable to speak I revert back to babyhood and whimper in what I hope is a reassuring fashion. The figure, caught, shuffles forward and I see it’s not my mother—it’s my father.
“Hey, kid,” he says. “How you feeling?”
This is a stupid question as I’m in a hospital bed, surrounded by machines with my face wrapped in bandages. He hesitates before taking the seat next to my bed. For what could be a minute or an hour he sits there, staring at me as he searches for something to say.
“It’s too bad about your mother,” he says.
Though not quite four, I understand this means something terrible has happened. I whimper again, this time mournfully. This rattles my father; he twitches uncomfortably in the chair. He doesn’t want to be there and I don’t want him there; I want Mommy. My father was only the man who lived in our barn.
His hand reaches out to touch my forehead, but his skin is sweaty and warm, not the cool, soothing presence of my other visitor’s. I try to move my head to shake it away only to find I can’t. “I’m not going to hurt you, kid,” he says. His hand moves across my forehead to the bandages. He peels these back gently and then leans close to me so that he can see what lies underneath. Whatever it is causes him to quickly pull his hand back, letting the bandages fall into place again.
“Oh shit,” he whispers into the darkness. I’m too young to know the meaning of this expression. Still, from his tone of voice I gather something’s wrong and whimper again. “It’s all right, kid,” he says, trying to sound cheerful. I know he’s lying. I know things aren’t going to be all right. Not ever again.
My father pats my left hand with his. “Hang in there, kid,” he says. He backs away until the shadows swallow him again. He pauses for a moment before making a decision. The door clicks shut. I wait a moment for him to come back, but he doesn’t. Not ever again.