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Questions for Michael White

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Message Edited by Jessica on 10-22-2007 01:21 PM
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Re: Questions for Michael White

I am only through page 53 of the book so far (more Red Sox watching than reading this weekend :smileyhappy:), but I feel like different attitudes and viewpoints on black people and slavery are being presented. I am reminded a bit of Uncle Tom's Cabin, if I am remembering correctly, which also presents different viewpoints on slavery and blacks. Here are a couple of things I noticed:

Mr. Cain, Augustus' father, was considered "a model of slave ownership" and "he'd instilled in his sons, Cain and his younger brother TJ, four guiding principles regarding the nature of the South's 'peculiar institution.'" (pg. 31)

Eberly was described as "the wealthy planter who treated the rest of the world as if they were his slaves, the kind of man who thought he could buy anything he wanted." (pg. 10)

Cain tried to remain detached:
"Why an owner was willing to pay good money for a slave's return and what he did with him once he got him back, well, that wasn't any of his concern." (pg. 11)

Two known positions on freed blacks were mentioned:
"A wealthy abolitionist named Gerrit Smith had provided the land to any Negro who wished to work it. The man had conceived of it as a place where they could make their own way, separate from whites but still here in America, unlike those that advocated a forced return to Liberia for all freed blacks." (pg. 40)

Michael, was it your intention to present different viewpoints by having characters represent different positions and/or attitudes on slavery that were prevalent at the time of the story?

Also, were the four principles Mr. Cain advocated based on some particular theory of the time?
Laura

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Re: Questions for Michael White

I found it interesting that Augustus Cain's father read Roman History. I'm sure there are historical parellels that we can draw between Rome's civilization resting on the backs of slave labor, and the Southern states building their economic strength on slave labor.

In the book, you never give us the first names of either Mr. or Mrs. Cain. Augustus' names are Roman emperors; I wondered if TJ's initials stood for Tiberius Julius?
IBIS

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Re: Questions for Michael White

Laura,

Yes, I did want to give various views on slavery at the time. From my reading and research, I found that not all Southerners supported slavery to the same degree (for example, most Southerners did not own slaves, and yet fought loyally in the War). Just as all Northerners were not anti-slavery (for example, the term "dough-faced Yankees" refers to those Northerners who passives or actively supported slavery). I hoped to present a complex view of a complex problem. Regarding Mr. Cain's 4 reasons for slavery, they were an amalgamation of many of the justifications for the South's "peculiar institution," and even carry over into the post-Civil War era. But during the antebellum period, one could justify slavery (and one's conscience) in a number of economic, moral, and even Christian ways, which Cain's father does.

Michael


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Re: Questions for Michael White

TJ does stand for roman emperors. And as you correctly point out, like Rome, much of its success was built on the backs of slaves. And like Rome, the South (and likewise the entire country) was built on such a problematic hypocricy. Finally, Mr. Cain sees himself, and his sons, in a grand tradition, like Rome. At the same time, he places on Cain a great responsibility--to assume the farm, to marry the wealthy woman next door--one that forces him to run off to the Mexican War.

Michael


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Re: Questions for Michael White


MichaelCWhite wrote:
Laura,

Yes, I did want to give various views on slavery at the time. From my reading and research, I found that not all Southerners supported slavery to the same degree (for example, most Southerners did not own slaves, and yet fought loyally in the War). Just as all Northerners were not anti-slavery (for example, the term "dough-faced Yankees" refers to those Northerners who passives or actively supported slavery). I hoped to present a complex view of a complex problem. Regarding Mr. Cain's 4 reasons for slavery, they were an amalgamation of many of the justifications for the South's "peculiar institution," and even carry over into the post-Civil War era. But during the antebellum period, one could justify slavery (and one's conscience) in a number of economic, moral, and even Christian ways, which Cain's father does.

Michael


I remember reading something in college that we did not get in high school and we discussed it quite a bit, that was that even Abraham Lincoln was not against slavery at all, but that it was politically and economically necessary for him to take the stance he did. And that the great Emancipator that we all talk about and learned about in junior high and high school and still today think of him as, really had no great feelings one way or the other about slavery, but the views helped the causes he did want or believe in. Any thoughts on that Michael? I have never heard any other talk about that, other than that one semester in college.
Vivian
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Re: Questions for Michael White

Vivian,

Lincoln was not as simple nor as ideological as we were taught in middle school. He was smart and wise politically, and acted as the politician many times. His famous remark that to save the union he would free some, none, or all of the slaves is typical of his political savvy. However, he was against slavery (from a moral perspective)from fairly early on in his life, and the only question was how would it be achieved. But the northern attitudes of the time were varied and complex, ranging from those who supported slavery, to those who wanted to send all slaves to their own country in Africa, to those die-hard abolitionist like John Brown who emancipate all slavery at any price. Lincoln, as president, had to balance his own moral principals with the demands of keeping the nation together. See Kearns books about Lincoln.

Michael


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Re: Questions for Michael White


MichaelCWhite wrote:
Vivian,

Lincoln was not as simple nor as ideological as we were taught in middle school. He was smart and wise politically, and acted as the politician many times. His famous remark that to save the union he would free some, none, or all of the slaves is typical of his political savvy. However, he was against slavery (from a moral perspective)from fairly early on in his life, and the only question was how would it be achieved. But the northern attitudes of the time were varied and complex, ranging from those who supported slavery, to those who wanted to send all slaves to their own country in Africa, to those die-hard abolitionist like John Brown who emancipate all slavery at any price. Lincoln, as president, had to balance his own moral principals with the demands of keeping the nation together. See Kearns books about Lincoln.

Michael


Thanks Michael. You know, I didnt even know Lincoln's death was a conspiracy and that others were involved and others were killed or set to be killed that night until I recently read the book Manhunt: the 12 day chase for lincoln's killer by Swanson. What a fascinating book. We did that as a bookclub in here and other's didnt know it either. We told Swanson about how this was never taught to us in any public school and I had asked some friends if they had known it too and they said what?? lol Swanson said, I am not surprised, you rarely hear the whole story at the college level.

I am nearly through with your book and enjoying every bit of it. :smileyhappy:
Vivian
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Re: Questions for Michael White

Michael:

My question isn't so grand as some of those that have already appeared. I continue to be curious about your writing process. So I'm wondering about the purpose of the scene with the dog (pp. 113-114). On the surface, it seems simply to be the way you chose to set up Cain's going to the saloon, which segues to his remembering his relationship with the Indian girl. But I imagine there's more to it than that.

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Re: Questions for Michael White

A fair question. I think the scene, in my mind at least, suggests a number of things, but about Cain and about the story to come. For Cain, it shows, obviously, his ability to do violence, to shoot a gun. After all he lives and works in a very violent world, and he's good at it. Secondly, it suggests that he does violence--shooting the dog--at times to protect something--the little boy. It is, I had hoped, a scene that shows that Cain is able to step in and take charge, and to do so for a good purpose. Regarding the story, it hints at the violence that is to come, the violence that was spoken to Cain by the blind "seer" on the ferry--that the nation will run red with blood. These are some of the things I had hoped to accomplish by this scene. And by the way, I do love dogs and hated to have to kill this one off!
Michael


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Re: Questions for Michael White

Michael

This is a question of process, your creative process.

I'm a violinist with the BSO, and whenever we start rehearsing, we find our instrument's "voice" or "key" in individual ways. For example, I increase the tempo of my bowing incrementally.

Could you chat briefly about how you found the "voices" of your characters. Specifically Cain, who sounded more literate than the rest. The southern drawl of each character was uniquely theirs...Rosetta's voice was clearly different than Preacher's, for example.

To my reader's ears, I loved the cadence, the rhythm of your characters' speech. I would read the speaking parts of the novel aloud, just as readers of Milton's poetry would.

Did you have Southerners speak out loud for you? Did you research the accented differences by tape-recording them? Did you transcribe them in a coded pattern?

Inquiring minds want to know(!)
IBIS

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Re: Questions for Michael White

First of all, should I call you IBIS? But regarding your questions, it's interesting to hear how another artist reaches a "voice." I try to get to a character's voice and by extension her psyche in several ways. If the story is first person, I really have to hear the character speaking in my own head before I can hear her speak on the page. So I go around for long periods of time letting that character speak in my head. I did this with Cain. During long car trips, hikes, in the shower, I would have him talk, think out loud, describe things form his point of view. Another thing that I do is to read other novels of the period, or other novels with similar characters or narrators. They often can tell me the direction I want to go in, or in some cases, not go in. Finally--and this applies both to the prose and to the characters' dialogue--I read my work out loud over and over and over. It is here, that a character's inner and outer voice is fine-tunes. Regarding the Southern voices, I lived a rural and mountainous part of Western North Carolina. In fact, my third novel, A DREAM OF WOLVES, is set there (incidentally, it is currently moving toward the movie production stage and I just finished reading the screenplay for the producer; I found myself altering some of the dialogue because it didn't fit the mountain drawl). So I did have some experience with at least mountain southern drawls (which are quite a bit different that deep South or mid-south or Georgia drawls, etc.).

Hope this helps. It was interesting hearing how a musician accomplishes the same sort of artistic voice.

Michael


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Re: Questions for Michael White

[ Edited ]
Michael,

Congratulations on DREAM OF WOLVES. I hope it's a great cinematic success, and I hope you laugh your way to the bank! I will wait to see the movie before reading the book.

Thank you for your detailed answer about the dialogue and prose "voices" in SOUL CATCHER.
That aspect of how an author builds an entire alternate reality from absolutely nothing has always fascinated me.

I live near Boston, and I have a friend who can identify the accents of anyone who lives in nearby Cambridge...I mean within a distance of blocks...North, South, East Cambridge etc. etc. And he told me that your characters spoke so individualistically that he could identify from what section of North Carolina they were from(!)

I am known as Sacred IBIS by my husband
or Bedraggled Scarlet IBIS, or when I've irritated her, Bird-brained IBIS by my 23-year old daughter.

Message Edited by IBIS on 11-05-2007 02:31 PM
IBIS

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Re: Questions for Michael White

Well, I guess I'll just call you plain IBIS. I am fascinated by accents in a work of prose, and how one tries to achieve them, and to define a particular character.

Michael


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Re: Questions for Michael White

Mr. White,

Hi. It's Bryan again. I just wanted to let you know that even though I'm not that far through the book(not enough time with working 2 jobs), I am finding it very interesting.

If at all possible, is there a way for you to sign it for me.

Thank you for your time. Can't wait to find out how it ends.


Bryan
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Re: Questions for Michael White

Hi Bryan,

Send it to me with an SASE so that I can stick it back in the mail. Why don't you send it to my school address (you see, I have two jobs too, so I know how that goes).

Dept. of English
Fairfield University
1074 North Benson Rd.
Fairfield, CT 06824

Michael


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Re: Questions for Michael White

Michael,
I've been trying to get copies of your earlier publications; I've found copies of 3 of them: Garden of Martyrs, Dream of Wolves and Blind Side of the Heart.

Unfortunately, I can't find neither new nor old copy for Brother's Blood. Do you know where I could get a copy of it? Thank you.

IBIS
IBIS

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Re: Questions for Michael White


IBIS wrote:
Michael,
I've been trying to get copies of your earlier publications; I've found copies of 3 of them: Garden of Martyrs, Dream of Wolves and Blind Side of the Heart.

Unfortunately, I can't find neither new nor old copy for Brother's Blood. Do you know where I could get a copy of it? Thank you.

IBIS


IBIS,
B&N does not like us posting web sites for books that are not B&N, understandably I guess, but since I can't find it here either, and I would rather stick to the rules and not get in trouble lol,, check your pm's and I have a site you can get a copy of the book you are looking for :smileywink:
Vivian
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ENG267
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Re: Questions for Michael White

IBIS:

I've sent you a private message, as well, which you may find helpful.

ENG267
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IBIS
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Re: Questions for Michael White

Vivian, thank you very much!
IBIS

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