Michael Goodell, Interview and Book Signing

March 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm (Events, Interviews, Reviews) (, , , , , , )

I met author Michael Goodell, Author of Zenith Rising, on shelfari.com a few years ago.  I bought his book, eager to read a something published by someone who I actually got to interact with in a book club.  I love getting to know authors along side their work and separate from their work, its fascinating to me, which is why I am a huge fan of reading biographies and memoirs after reading everything the author has written.  I enjoy pairing fiction with nonfiction and finding the beautiful little seams that tie the two together.  So imagine my excitement when, in addition to booking a signing with me, Michael Goodell agreed to do a blog interview as well!

 Describe your book.  What genre do you prefer it to be classified?

Zenith Rising is a work of mainstream fiction with a linear narrative function. It is set in a declining industrialized Midwesetern American city, and describes how a handful of characters respond to the city’s decline, including that of the protagonist, a real estate developer who, on the eve of his greatest triumph, is rudely confronted with the poverty in his city, and decides he must attempt to do something to try to save the city.

I prefer to use the term serious contemporary fiction to describe its genre. In other words, I don’t aspire to write literary fiction, because I think most literary fiction today employs tricks, slight of hand and technical flourishes. It is actually more a matter of showing off, or of trying to impress your creative writing teacher or seminar host. The view today is, bizarrely, “If it reads well, it can’t be literature.”

What were the major influences for you when writing this book and for you as a writer in general?

I was working with a nonprofit housing group, trying to arrest the downward spiral of poverty and despair through restoring housing. It was such a positive experience, meeting a compelling need, that I wanted to get the message out to a wider audience. I thought fiction would be the best way to go. The kind of fiction I like always has a message–not an overt one, but one conveyed through the story. Since the novel was based inDetroit, but I set it in the fictional city ofZenith, where Sinclair Lewis set Babbitt, I suppose you could say he was a major influence at the time. So was Hemingway, along with Paul Bowles and John Fante.

Come Meet Michael Goodell in person!

When and why did you begin writing?

I have always written, because, trite as it may sound, I had to.

What is the first book you remember reading?

I don’t remember the name, but it involved a pair of wooden skis, a hut, and a hill. I was very young.

Do you have a personal favorite out of the characters in your book? Who is it and why?

When I started it was Narrows Burton. By the time I finished it was Seneca Doane III. He started out as a villain, and, honestly, I never expected him to turn into one of the good guys.


How did you come across the artist featured on Zenith Rising’s cover?

I met Warren Dreher inSan Francisco. We were both working in the back office of a brokerage firm. He was a painter, I was a writer, and we got an apartment together, along with a third friend who played the saxophone. We used to dream about how our lives were likeParisin the 20’s. There were some nights when we would all be in our rooms working on our respective crafts, and it was beautiful. WhenWarrenpainted the cover painting, I told him I wanted it on the front page of my first novel. I never realized it would take 20 years, but eventually, it made it.

Did you learn anything from writing your book? What was it?

I learned that if your work is real the characters actually take over the story, as I mentioned with Doane above. I had a basic story line in my head, but the characters kept driving the plot. I suppose one thing I learned, then, is to get out of the way of the story, that if you are struggling with the plot it probably means you are trying to force the story somewhere it doesn’t want to go.

In your future ventures in the publishing world, what will you do differently?  Why?

I won’t get published by PublishAmerica. I would rather not self-publish, which is basically what I ended up doing with PublishAmerica, even though they billed themselves as a legitimate publisher. At this late date I may end up having to self-publish though.

Tell me about your next book.  How is it linked to Zenith Rising? When is it coming out?

The new book is called Rebound. It’s more of a straight murder mystery, or what I called a postmodern treatment of the hard-boiled detective novel. It came about as a “what if” response to a news article. I wrote 30 pages and then let it sit for ten years because I didn’t know where to go next. When I dusted it off and reread it, I was amazed that there were arrows pointing the way. So I wrote it. It’s set in Zenith, but involves entirely new characters, though some of the old ones make cameo appearances. Much more of the novel unfolds in the exclusive suburb ofWellingtonLakes, where the rich and powerful kill each other and break all the laws. It was fun to write. The dying city plays as big a role in this one, though not as a theme, merely as background. It will come out when I find a publisher, or decide to do it myself.

 What’s one thing you would want your readers and fans to know about you?

Tough question. I was going to say that I’m honest, especially in relation to writing. I suppose, though, I should say I am passionate about the written word.

Read My Official Review of Zenith Rising

Interview Questions inspired by Ritesh Kala’s Book Reviews Blog

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Zenith Rising – A Flash Back Review

March 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

This is a review I dug up from a few years ago.  I’ve chatting with the author lately and wanted what was fresh on my mind to be fresh on my blog as well.

Title: Zenith Rising

Author: Michael Goodell

Publisher: PublishAmerica

Length: 229 pages

As most people know, I am a shelfari.com addict. It makes sense, as shelfari is a book site for book people and I am quite certainly a book person. In my shelfari hunting and pecking for great reads and cool recommendations, I ran across an author named Michael Goodell who has since been a fun shelfari friend to engage in the banter of book talk. One day, a group of us decided to read his book Zenith Rising (available for purchase on amazon) and discovered quite a treat.

I found Zenith Rising to be an interesting read and great first novel for Goodell. It was slightly reminiscent of an old classic with a mix of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker, but unique and very much an original piece full of life and art and the raw thoughts of humanity. I also believe that its a good shelf companion to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.

Goodell has said about his work,

[…] one message I want people to walk away with after reading Zenith Rising, it would be the transformative effect that the pride of accomplishment and the sense of ownership can have on people who have never accomplished anything, (nor been told that they could or should), and never owned anything that wasn’t given to them. On that last point, when I was working with a nonprofit housing group, I was struck by the similarities between the lives of trust fund babies, and those of welfare babies. They both are born into lives with no demands and no expectations, and both engage in self-destructive behaviors, often culminating in wasted lives. I tried to point out that connection through some of the characters and their antics.

I think Goodell has succeeded in his goal, as most people I have talked to about the book feel a twinge of nostalgia towards the work as a whole. I cried like a baby through chapter nine, the way I cried in Wall-E. People should read this book before finishing school, high school or college, I don’t think it really matters which, just before they go out into the world. Inspire them to not let money go to their head, and not let their cities become pieces of crap. We’re always taught about the problems in other countries. Growing up, I always heard the glories of mission trips. Did we ever do activities in our own cities that were helpful? Not really. The closest we came was a yearly trip to Dallas four hours away. We got a lot done and it was amazing, but anything that can be done in Dallas could have certainly been done in Houston.

I truly believe that Goodell’s book has a bit of simple brilliance about it and cannot wait to read his second book which will also be set in the city of Zenith.

An excerpt from the book (pg.82-83):

One of the men stood with back to the viewer, in the lower center of the painting, where the mountain sloped down to a ridge, gazing out across a valley or vast plain stretching to the horizon. Often painted at dusk, with mist rising from the ground, or the sunset colors reflecting in the myriad streams snaking their way across the valley floor, the paintings gave the attorney an aching desire to step into that long lost world. He stood beside the adventurer at the edge of a precipice. The world unfolded at his feet, waiting for a man courageous enough to carve a life from its untamed wilds.

Information from the Zenith Rising Website:

From its stunning opening scene of a police raid gone tragically awry, to its heart-breaking conclusion, “Zenith Rising” tells the story of a dying city. Yet once that city was a world leader in manufacturing and technological innovation.

Once Zenith’s future was limited only by the size of its dreams.

Though the years stripped away its promise, the people of Zenith didn’t share equally in its decline. For some, the wealth garnered during the glory years insulated them from the city’s struggles. Others sought to suck the last bit of life, and profit, from the dying city, while a few, a lonely few, saw things as they were and vowed to change them.

Michael Goodell has given us a compelling tale ripped from today’s headlines. By means of a riveting plot and vivid characters, he presents a challenge every American must confront.

You can learn more about it at http://www.zenithrising.webs.com
The list price is $24.95.


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