J. Michael (Jason) Dew lives with his wife and three young daughters in Atlanta, Georgia. He was born and raised in Warren County, Pennsylvania, a region he often explores in his writings.
Jason is currently on the faculty at Georgia State University. He is active with Catholic Charities Atlanta. In his spare time Jason enjoys being a husband and a dad. And fishing. He loves a glinty, trouty stream.
In J. Michael Dew’s words: “I believe in taking up the call issued by Wendell Berry who says that an author’s duty today is to rescue some values from the dustbin of relativism and go about bravely building meaning and relevance in a world at direct odds with them both.”
A Conversation with J. Michael Dew:
This story is remarkably and boldly creative yet feels warmly authentic. One would think you have experienced it yourself.
I suppose I could say the Gadly Plain began for me the day, at age nine, when I found out my father had passed away. It is, I suppose, a working out of that sadness. The story is based on conclusions I reached after years of introspection. I will admit, however: The German woman in the beginning is not a made up character. She was real. I met her as did my sister. But nobody else remembers her presence.
Some authors take years to write a book while others take only months. What was your process for writing Gadly Plain, and how long did it take?
To give readers a practical answer, one afternoon, I went out and purchased a large piece of card stock paper on which I began to diagram plot points. The diagram grew to include characters, biblical references, and other details I felt were important to the story. I used this diagram of sorts as an outline, keeping it in front of me each time I sat down to move the story along. All in all, it took a year to complete a first draft. Copies of that draft then went to professionals in the fields of theology, speech pathology, and creative writing. Once I got their very valuable feedback, I revised the manuscript then sent that version to another set of readers. It took a dogged effort, but it was worth it.
Tell us about the title of your novel. Why did you choose such an enigmatic title as Gadly Plain and what is its significance?
The title was discovered on a Pennsylvania back road somewhere between Interstate 80 and Warren. I was driving home from graduate school under a cloud-splotched sky, and I happened to pass one of those roads that was probably a driveway but was nevertheless given the distinction of a name: “Gadly Plain”. It was a rutted dirt road that more than likely led to a simple hunting camp or some far-flung place of retreat and rest. I didn’t stop to inspect. Instead, I made a mental note of the catchy name, and when I pulled off the road to fish for trout further into my journey (as was my happy custom), I jotted down the name in my journal, thinking this would make a great title for a book. This was years ago. It took a lot of time since to construct my own getaway. Much of that time was spent learning why I needed to do so in the first place.
“Gadly Plain” could be “way away” or “heaven” or “paradise” or “across the rainbow bridge” or “in the bosom of God” or “Narnia.” I didn’t want to be too specific, thereby robbing the reader of his/her ability to imagine Gadly Plain, and I wanted to be (in my humble way) poetic. Gadly almost sounds like Godly, and the existence of heaven is a “plain” truth——nothing complicated, something a child can understand, no need for an advanced degree in theology.
What themes are you interested in writing about next?
At least since the dawn of postmodernism, writers have largely been asserting, in various and sundry ways, the viewpoint that all values are relative, that everything is and should be deconstructed. I know I am generalizing here, but I feel this to be a safe assessment of modern literature. I believe in taking up the call issued by Wendell Berry who says that an author’s duty today is to rescue some values from the dustbin of relativism and go about bravely building meaning and relevance in a world at direct odds with them both. The themes I’m interested in exploring are themes that do just that.
Reading this succinct but sweeping novel, one cannot doubt you believe in the over-arching story of the Bible and the final victory of good over evil. Will you share something of your personal faith?
I am deeply devoted to Christ and strive daily to be the man he wants me to be.
Thank you, Jason.
Your readers may enjoy hearing you talk about Gadly Plain:
J. Michael Dew with the artist-illustrator Ross Boone (“Raw Spoon”) at a book fair