Meet Author Mike Somers

Author
Mike Somers has written a novel that I believe gives voice to a group of young
adults who are not often heard. Mike and I met while presenting together at the
Saginaw Bay Writing Project and hit it off immediately. I was intrigued by his
theme and I am excited to welcome him to my blog today.
Welcome
to my blog, Mike. Please tell us about yourself.
It seems most people start out telling others what
they do for a living when they meet, so I’ll start there.  I’m Assistant Professor of English at Delta
College, and I also teach part-time at Saginaw Valley State University through
the Saginaw Bay Writing Project.  Most
recently, I’m an author.  My book STARVED
was published in November 2012.  It was a
lifelong goal of mine to be a published author and now it’s happened.  I’m pretty happy about that!
That’s
so cool, Mike. Talk about the book you’ve written. What was the first seed of
an idea you had for STARVED? How did it develop?
STARVED is about a teenage boy, Nathan, who develops
eating disorders and he ends up hospitalized on an adolescent eating disorders
unit. 
The first seed for the book was personal experience.  I had eating disorders when I was a teen and I
knew then that I’d try to make sense of what happened to me through writing at
some point.  I didn’t know what shape or
form it would take, or when I’d do it, but the knowledge was always there.  I wrote some horrible short stories as an
undergraduate in my creative writing classes – horrible!  I found them recently digging through some
old folders and they’re really quite bad. 
It was just too soon to write about it. 
I needed time for things to compost, as Natalie Goldberg would say.
In graduate school, one of my options was to write a
creative thesis, so I began writing a memoir but it quickly went nowhere.  It was my chance to finally figure things
out, but I ran into trouble right away. 
I was rubbing up against the truth, against what telling the truth of my
own personal experience would mean for my family and me.  Writing a memoir narrowed the story down too
much for me.  I was advised to switch the
project to fiction, and when I did, everything just opened up.  Then the story wasn’t about me, but it could
be about the people I knew and the case studies I’d read – all of it.  Nathan’s voice practically shouted in my head
and once I had that, I had the story.  I
was freed up as a writer.
How
would you describe your writing process? Do you outline? Let the muse lead you?
Or something else?
That really depends on what I’m working on at the
time, so I’ll keep my answers about STARVED. 
My writing process for STARVED took many different
forms over the years.  Back in graduate
school, I jotted a list of chapter titles or themes and I simply went down the
list and checked them off as I went. 
That meant I wrote the story completely out of order and assembled it
like a jigsaw puzzle once I completed the list. 
Then I went back and added chapters to round out the story as best I
could.  My thesis is actually called
SKINNY BOY; the new title came years later once I revised it more completely.
The revisions for the version of STARVED that’s
published came after I wrote the sequel in 2008.  Once I knew what happened next, Nathan could
tell me what to add to the first book. 
Altogether, the story has been in process for nine years.
Was
there a scene that was more difficult than others? One that you pondered
whether or not to include it?
The chapter “Scene of the Crime” was the
unexpectedly hardest chapter to write.  My
mission for the chapter was really quite simple: Help Nathan’s social worker
and nurses get him to see with his own eyes what his body looked like.  This chapter takes place soon after he was
admitted to the hospital but is resisting treatment.
“Scene of the Crime” is one of the most fictional
chapters in the book, so it seemed like it would be easy to write.  But by the end of the chapter, when he
questions why his parents didn’t try to stop him, I was in tears.  I was devastated.  I clicked “Save” on the file, shut my laptop,
curled up into a ball on my futon, and cried. 
I didn’t see or talk to anyone for two days after that.  I didn’t know what was going on inside of me
then, but that chapter allowed me to start mourning the version of myself who
was so sick and near death because of anorexia and bulimia. 
My parents were different from Nathan’s,
though.  I don’t want anyone to think
they didn’t try to figure out what was wrong with me, why I was losing so much
weight.  They took me to specialist after
specialist, so they were involved.  Maybe
what resonated with me from Nathan’s question about why his parents didn’t try
to stop him is that my parents couldn’t stop me and I wish that they’d been
able to.  I’m sure they wish they’d been
able to, as well.
How
has writing this book changed you?
Writing the book changed me in a fundamental
way:  It freed me from what remained of
that part of my past. Telling Nathan’s story allowed me to put my own
experiences in perspective, to put all of that into a box inside of me and move
on.  I had to write about it, get in the
mud and the muck of it again.  I had to feel
all of the ugliness and hurt and confusion and isolation and anger that came
along with it.  Once I’d done that, I
could get on with the next part of my life. 
I wasn’t beholden to that part of my past anymore.
Thank you for such a frank and open interview, Mike.  I believe that STARVED will be the kind of
book that impacts the lives of many people who felt they didn’t have a
voice.  I wish you all the best.
STARVED is available on Amazon.

9 thoughts on “Meet Author Mike Somers

    • Thank you so much, Carol. You're right — eating disorders are a mystery to most of us. A big motivation for me in writing STARVED was to shed some light on how complex and insidious anorexia and bulimia are, even for boys and men.

  1. Excellent interview. I was moved that you curled onto your futon and cried. I look forward to reading your novel, particularly that pivotal chapter. You took a long journey in time and spirit. Congratulations on your accomplishments!

    • Thank you, Deborah! The recovery journey is long and winding, no doubt, but being curled up on that futon was when a deep healing started taking place. I would love to hear what you think of the book once you read it!

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