Monday, March 06, 2017

Author Interview: 'Gardens of Hope' Michael Holloway Perronne



Michael Holloway Perronne is the author of eight books including: "A Time Before Me," "Falling Into Me", "A Time Before Us, Men Can Do Romance"  "Gardens of Hope," and"Embrace the Rain."  His debut novel, "A Time Before Me" won the BronzeAward, Foreword Magazine's Book of the Year Award in the Gay/Lesbian fiction category.  

Michael was born and raised in Mississippi.  He received a BA in Film from the University of Southern Mississippi and a MFA in Drama and Communications from the University of New Orleans.  
 
He currently resides in Southern California and is working on his next novel, "The Other Side of Happy."

His recent release is Gardens of Hope.

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About the Book:

On the surface, Jack appears to have all a man in World War II era 1941 could want with his solid middle-class background, upcoming college graduation, and the perfect, devoted fiancee. But one
night when he accidentally stumbles upon a shadow life of men who desire other men in a Downtown Los Angeles park, he begins to realize exactly what has always left him with a feeling of emptiness.
Despite the constant danger of being arrested by vice cops, Jack continues to visit the park every chance he has to feel a connection, no matter how fleeting, with another man. One night he meets a handsome and charismatic Japanese-American, Hiro, who appears to want more than a quick encounter, and Jack surprises himself by starting to truly fall in love for the first time.

However, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9066 and orders the mandatory relocation of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans, who have never been charged with a crime, to far flung internment camps sites. Jack and Hiro suddenly find themselves torn apart before their secret, fledgling romance can blossom. Desperate to find and reconnect with Hiro, Jack accepts a high school teaching position at an internment camp in the California desert, Manzanar. There, surrounded by armed guard towers and a prison-like environment, Jack begins to fully realize the injustices being faced by Japanese-Americans during one of the most controversial times of United States history and shifts his world view- forever.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book? 

There’s been a lot of talk in the media lately about Executive Orders given by the Trump administration, such as the one banning temporarily banning citizens and refugees from majority Muslim countries.  Until about a decade ago, I barely had any awareness of the details of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 which required the forced registry and relocation during World War II of over 100,000 Japanese-Americans due only to their ancestry. My interest in learning more about Japanese-American internment began years ago when one of my co-workers revealed to me that she had been sent to the camp based in Arkansas as a girl.  As young as she was during that time, she still had vivid memories of what it felt like to grow up behind barbed wire and treated at such a young age as a prisoner.  I was moved by her story and honored that she shared it with me. Most of all, I was shocked at how little I, and it appeared many others, had about this part of US history. 

The more I learned on the subject, the more I wanted to use Japanese-American internment as a backdrop for a novel focused on the forbidden love story between two men from different worlds.  I never could have dreamed when I first started working on Gardens of Hope how similar the rhetoric towards immigrants by our current president’s administration would be to what was used to ultimately incarcerate tens of thousands of Americans that had committed no crime.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?   

Gardens of Hope was my first historical novel, and I was quite nervous at first writing it.  I so wanted to do the topic justice and capture as best as possible the struggles of Japanese-Americans during this period.  What worked best for me in my research turned out to be a combination of multiple visits to the Manazanar internment camp site in California, numerous pieces of fiction and non-fiction on the subject, including Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s classic, Farewell to Manzanar, and some personal interviews.  The park rangers at the Manazanar site also proved to be quite helpful and willing to answer any questions about the site.  To other authors writing a historical novel, I would suggest searching for as many different sources of information on the topic as possible, including a variety of first person accounts to get as well-rounded a viewpoint on the topic as possible.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?   

Chances Press published Gardens of Hope.  It’s an indie press working with a small roster of authors that has worked with all of my titles.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

My debut novel, A Time Before Me, a gay coming-of-age novel set in New Orleans, was released back in 2004.  Back then the amount of gay fiction, especially gay romance, was just starting to explode in the publishing market.  One of my biggest joys after the novel came out was the amount of emails I got from readers, especially those in the South were the book was set, on how the message of the book spoke to them and mirrored some of their own personal experiences.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?   

Currently, I’m working on a new novel titled The Other Side of Happy that focuses on a divorced couple coping with finding out that their child is transgender.

Q: What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?  

 I think examples of the hate rhetoric towards Japanese-Americans in the book will sound eerily familiar to what we hear being used now against immigrant groups.  It feels as if we’ve forgotten our history and what happens when we fail to celebrate our country’s biggest asset, our diversity.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?   

I hope Gardens of Hope inspires readers to find more about both Japanese-American internment and the early gay rights history.  Sometimes to understand our present and the possible future we need to pay attention to our past.
  
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?  

 I hope that those who may be feeling helpless with the current state of our government and society become inspired to find their voice to continually speak out against injustices not just against themselves but all of their fellow Americans.