Michael Paul Michaud is a crime novelist and lawyer in the Greater Toronto Area. His new novel The Introvert, is a black humor mystery/crime novella, with 30,000 words in length (160 pages) and its voice/feel is rather innovative.
We recently did a Q&A with the author on his latest book and his work which follows:
What inspired you to write this book?
I wholeheartedly subscribe to Toni Morrison’s suggestion that ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’ Though in my case, it is less about writing a book that hasn’t been written, as much as it is about writing books similar in vein or feel to the books that have most inspired me. This is certainly what motivated me to write Billy Tabbs (& The Glorious Darrow), being a devout fan of Animal Farm, which I believe to be the finest example of satire and allegory.
So when it came time to pen my first book, I’d decided to write something that paid homage to Orwell’s revolutionary novella, while at the same time telling my own unique tale of social hypocrisy. The Introvert was similarly inspired, only instead by Dostoyevsky and Camus. I had just read Crime and Punishment and The Stranger back to back, and I found myself absolutely captivated by the two anti-social protagonists in those books. Their peculiarities and their eccentricities. Raskolnikov was particularly twisted, and I was mesmerized by how he went fumbling, maddeningly through that novel, tempting his arrest at every turn yet escaping time and again. As a result, I was immediately inspired to write my own story with a dysfunctional, anti-social protagonist.
This became The Introvert. In fact, one of the bars in the book is called Rodion’s (the first name of the protagonist in Crime and Punishment), which is my nod to C&P. However, what became clear to me after I’d written it, was that I had injected the book with such humor and innocence that it reminded me of The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time, which I had read years earlier. Having identified this, I immediately went back into the book and re-named a second bar “Wellington’s” – the significance of which readers of The Curious Incident will understand. I now liken The Introvert as something of a cross between Crime and Punishment and The Curious Incident. If you wonder how those two genres could possibly work as a single story, you’ll just have to check it out.
What was the most challenging part of writing the story? How long did it take?
The most challenging part of writing the story, and how long did it take.
Most writers will not be very happy with this answer, but I did not find any particular part of this book to be challenging to write, except perhaps settling on the precise form the ending would take. The book itself flowed out almost effortlessly, which even to this day I can’t explain, nor do I fully understand, and may explain why I am still so in love with this work. Billy Tabbs (& The Glorious Darrow) was an entirely different story.
It took me nearly two years to write that book, and I was fighting with it often, sometimes spending hours on a single page, only to see that page later cast into the rubbish. It was an infuriating process full of self-doubt and creative discord. I did not have those moments with The Introvert, a draft of which I finished in ten days, and which I may have tweaked for another week, with a completed product in no more than three weeks.
I believe the ease in which I wrote it was due, in part, to the fact that it was written first person, stream of consciousness. That helped, significantly. It is also a novella, less than 1/3 the length of BT. But that still doesn’t account for why one took two years and one two weeks. I can only liken it to a basketball player who suddenly can’t miss a shot, or a baseball player who is locked in at the plate. Sometimes you struggle, sometimes you don’t. I was inspired to write The Introvert, and I was in the groove. It just came pouring out very quickly. I wish all writing was this easy. Most of the time isn’t.
What writers have been your inspiration?
There are so many writers who inspire me. Dickens and Vonnegut, to be sure. Dostoyevsky and Camus, as mentioned above. But above all, Orwell is likely my number one influence. Animal Farm, 1984, Keep The Aspidistra Flying, Coming Up For Air. Those are the funniest, most human, most heartbreaking stories.
I just adore Orwell’s ability to highlight human frailty, and the frailties of society at large. He was also a prophetic writer. Read his quote about “the leader” in Coming Up For Air. Consider 1984 as juxtaposed against the current political, technological, and social media climate. Consider Animal Farm whenever a new party or organization proclaims that they will fix the evils of the past regime and finally “do it the right way.”
I really wish Orwell had lived longer. I really wish he were still alive today. We could use him. Of course, if he did suddenly appear, I think the first four words out of his mouth might be “I told you so.” Just a hunch.
Do you have another book in the works?
I am currently putting the finishing touches on “Relics” – which is a family drama/mystery that covers two decades in the life of Sarah Edson from Portland, Maine. In Relics, I wanted to tell a tale of innocence lost, family dysfunction, and how smaller, seemingly innocuous moments from our past can return to greater, even nefarious consequence.
It is a story about justice and forgiveness. This is my first crack at a female protagonist, and I hope I do her justice.
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