1. Which of your characters is your favorite?
2. Tell me about your travels.
In 2014, we were pilgrims on Camino de Santiago–my wife, daughter and I--from the Pyrenees to the Atlantic we biked across norther Spain. After the Navarro heat and the wine fields of Rioja, Leon’s dazzling stained glass and the climb over O’Cebreiro, on the last day’s ride to Santiago, three of us pushed bicycles the last fifty yards. There was a man in a green kilt who played bagpipes in the shade of the stone arch entrance. The high notes soared through the passway and delivered us to the field of light before the cathedral. And when we walked onto the courtyard and beheld the time-worn stones of its face, the three spires rising and rising before us, the mid-afternoon sun full on it, and above, the man-sized James, a fishermen, as lore had it, beckoned and I forgot the flesh wound in my side and thought to fall down and weep jubilantly, just as all of the others who made the trek of the soul and body, through space and time to this place. For such a moment, there was no preparing.
There was another thing–the day we topped a hill at noontime and the land fell away in a panorama so I spun on a foot gazing on fields of blood red poppies, as far as the eye could see, blooming in the sun even to the reaches of an ancient church where the Camino winded, and the three of us--mother, father and daughter–hugged on the roadside with heartfelt joy, this after the hard ride. We sipped wine and broke bread in the cloister marked by the cross of St. James. And it was good, this life.
3. Coffee, tea, or milk?
4. What else can you do besides write?
Here where we live now, in the foothills beneath the mountains, we raise chickens, grow tomatoes, make homemade wine and Applejack whiskey. For the Applejack, here goes:
14-16 lbs apples or 1 gal juice
1/3 lb Sugar
1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme (find all this stuff at your local beer making shop)
1/2 tsp Energizer
1 Campden, crush
1 pkg Champagne Yeast
1. Put juice into fermentor container; immediately add crushed Campden tablet and Pectic Enzyme to prevent browning. Stir in all ingredients except Yeast. Cover.
2. After 24 hours, add Yeast. Cover.
3. Stir daily. After 5 days, syphon Cider off sediment into a glass jug.
4. After ferment is complete, around 3 weeks, syphon Cider off sediment into a clean container. Stir in 1/4 cup dissolved sugar per gallon of Cider.
5. Wait for a hard freeze. When one is coming, take container outside, cover, leave overnight. Next morning, scoop off all slush and ice. What’s left is Apple Jack Whiskey. Bottle. Age for 3 months. Give thanks. All be joyful.
5. Who are you reading right now?
I’ve just finished teaching the first semester of a year-long novel writing workshop for undergraduates, a class where ten hand-selected student writers contract to write a full-length novel over the course of an academic year. The contract requires them to rise at 4:30 daily, write two pages a day, ten pages a week, thirty pages a month, and a hundred and sixty pages by finals at the end of fall term. Beside my desk, right this second, are 1,650 pages of new American literature, some of it not so bad. That’s what I’m reading now.
6. Pop culture or academia?
7. What is the toughest scene you ever wrote?
8. Where do you find inspirations to write?
I find inspirations to write at 4:30 each morning in my writing room built onto the back of my house which has fifty or so four-leaf-clovers buried inside the steps I walk down to sit at my desk, turn on the typewriter and go. Most often, I’m done before first light, do it again the next day. That close to your dream state, your inner-censor is turned full off. Get stuck, walk out and rouse the chickens. Plenty of inspiration there.
9. Food you could eat every day?
Apple Jack Whiskey–it’s what got all the apple trees in New England cut down by the Puritans.
10. Are you into sports or other physical activities?
Out here in the wild west, after the snow melts, we float the rivers–the Green, Colorado, Salmon, San Juan, Snake. The white water is huge, and every big rapid has taken lives. The only way to row that sort of stuff is to stay in shape and stay a little crazy, so I work out hard twice a week on dead weights, do windsprints, hike the foothills on Sunday, ski hard in winter. This keeps me honest, and a little crazy. And hopefully out of deep water.
11. What kind of music speaks to you?
12. Do you outline your stories or do they just take you along for the ride?
13. Celebrity crush.
14. Who are the biggest influences on your work?
15. Do you still watch cartoons?
Michael Gills is author of three collections of short fiction, including The House Across From the Deaf School (Texas Review Press, fall 2016), two novels, including Emergency Instructions (Raw Dog Screaming Press 2017), and White Indians, a visionary memoir, part two of which is forthcoming. He is Associate Professor/Lecturer of Writing for the Honors College at the University of Utah. Gills’ collected papers are archived at Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The House across from the Deaf School
Michael Gills’ third collection of short fiction, continues the life and times of Joey Harvell, whose stepfather, in “Last Words on Lonoke,” gives him a .30-06, tells him not to aim at anything he doesn’t want to kill, and “that’s pretty much it for [his] gun safety lessons.” Later, in “What The Newly Dead Don’t Know But Learn,” his uncle swims Joey and a group of fake cowboys across a creek on Camp Robinson, only a fisherman’s trotline is stretched across the S-curve, and the result, like the book as a whole, is a hard fight there’s no recovering from.
What others have said about Gills' work:
"Each word is a spark, every sentence a sizzling fuse. The whole...is a
sun-white conflagration, cleanly and cleansing. Michael Gills sojourned
in the heart of light and he has returned to his home world with that
light still cling to his ever utterance.."—Fred Chappell
"Michael Gills' prose reeks with accuracy and bulls-eye
"These stories are, scene by scene, sentence by sentence, beautifully
written--clean, gorgeous prose, perfectly pitched. The detail work is
exquisite. Suffering and loss are given their necessary place in these
stories, but so too are grace and mercy.”—Donald Hays