Eric Dorsey - A Tale of Friendship and the Meaning of Connection
From working in finance to living in his van as a critical care nurse, an echo persisted across the years, whispered in an eerie unison by teachers, professors, managers, employees, colleagues, friends: ‘Eric, you are a Writer.’ As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, My Father's Indian: How A Butterfly Split The Oak
Please give us a short introduction to what My Father's Indian is about.
At its heart My Father’s Indian is about human connection, journeying into and through the main character’s attachment disorder to explore themes of vulnerability and intimacy. The sharp lens of emotional paralysis serves to illuminate these themes, but Suzy’s journey and fear of heartache are universally relatable. Everyone is tempted to hide away from connection after experiencing loss, say a death, betrayal or break-up, and the novel seeks to encourage bravery in leaning on others for support. Human beings are social animals after all, and we need our community.
To be less abstract, after carrying a lifetime of running away to its natural extreme, Suzy discovers only isolation and loneliness, unable to fathom how she got off track. Framed by a wilderness backdrop, events conspire against her willful ignorance as tragedy forces her to confront her past and seek out true friends. Ultimately, My Father’s Indian is a tale of friendship, forgiveness, catharsis… And perhaps the path to a new lease on life.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there something in particular that made you want to tackle this?
In truth Suzy’s struggle with vulnerability and her journey through attachment disorder are exaggerated versions of my own experience, fictionalizing my inner, psychological journey as I searched for meaning.
I have always been fascinated by psychology and our inner worlds, inspiring me to go back to school for a psychology degree in my thirties, purely as my own search for self. My Father’s Indian is the love child of my varied education and background, interweaving elements from my masters in mathematics with the psychology of human relations. It also draws from my own personal epiphanies having discarding a high profile, white-picket-fence life in finance to live in a van as a critical care nurse, spending time either in the wilderness or with the dying. My friend, facing death is an education in itself, and I contrived to put Suzy to this test!
Tell us more about Suzy. What makes her tick?
Suzy follows a carefully constructed character arc. Deeply insecure, she’s spent her life building a wall, projecting a confident, extroverted persona to hide in. It is the ever-present drive to hide her fear of being hurt that made her tick. At the beginning of the novel she’s immature and can be annoying in her cavalier attitude towards others, though cracks are seeping into her wall. When tragedy strikes, her wall crumbles and increasingly all bets are off as she’s stripped bare of her defense mechanism, allowing the reader to truly discover Suzy underneath the mask: vulnerable, lonely, endearingly funny, invariably kind.
Which of your characters was the most challenging to create?
Jasper is the most nuanced character, and it was definitely a challenge to effectively convey his character arc given a limited presence in the storyline. As the story evolves the reader learns more about him and he becomes increasingly important, not only serving as a plot driver but also as a means to tie themes together. It would have been easy to leave him as a flat character, a plot catalyst only, and I’m proud I fleshed him out and gave him an arc.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I spent years as an endurance swimmer, up to a 10K (6.2 miles), the swimmer’s marathon, increasingly migrating to trail running as I aged. Now that I live out West, I’ve forsaken the water entirely for the constant opportunity to escape into the mountains, training for longer and longer ultra-marathons. Endurance sports are an epic was to truly push boundaries and feel alive! I’m also an avid backpacker, having covered thousands of miles over months in the wilderness, including adventures in Patagonia, Norway and Canada.
The plot contains some twists and turns. Do you plan it all out before you start writing, or does some of it just "happen" along the way?
Well, I did throw down a cacophony of disorganized notes that could be considered an outline in the most generous sense possible, and certainly I had a loose idea where my characters and I were headed, but no, in general I got to know the characters, tossed them into situations, and then simply transcribed how they reacted. When I write I’m just as excited to see the story evolve as I hope my readers are.
Tell us more about the cover and how it came about.
I love the cover! I wanted to use a one of my own wilderness photos to convey physical isolation, capturing both Suzy’s literal and emotional space. I spent a lot of time flipping through my collection, and when I stumbled across that one I immediately knew it was right. The inversion layer of clouds and fog drifting through the trees eerily connotes the isolation of a vast space, and the dark trees in the foreground cut the viewer off, preventing access to that open space. And, most importantly, I took that photo from the deck of my cabin, where I wrote most of the novel. The cover neatly ties the novel back to my own journey, on a personal level.
Why did you title this "How A Butterfly Split the Oak?"
Hm, the entire title is intentionally vague, and hopefully intriguing. The answer to this question is multi-layered and my readers will simply have to decide for themselves as the plot gradually illuminates different aspects and interpretations.
Some of your reviewers mention this mystery blurs the line between fantasy and realism. Why did you take this approach?
Ah. I think we all, particularly fiction readers, long for something deeper than our everyday experience of life. There is something more meaningful beneath the surface! From religion to love, nature, and everything between, it is wonder, awe, and each person has their own search. We don’t know exactly what it is, but we can feel it, we strive for it! The beauty of writing fiction, creating your own world, is the ability to intersperse glimpses of this realm through magical realism. Used sparingly, it’s my favorite genre.
Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
Wow, that’s so tough to choose! Perhaps just a few books? My favorite in my teens was The Catcher in the Rye, which undoubtedly influenced My Father’s Indian. Both are first-person, slice-of-life accounts of an individual’s search for meaning, all while navigating troubled psychology. In my adult life, I fell in love with Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins, given his whimsical storytelling and similar themes of meaning and self. Hmm, I’ve read all of John Green and think we share a similar voice, albeit for a different age audience. Speaking of go-to authors, I’ve also read all of Dan Brown, Michael Crichton, and John Sandford’s Prey Series, perfect for when I need to lose myself in a fast-paced story. Oh, and I love being sucked into a fully formed world, say Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, or, I recently discovered Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy. Have you read those? Wow!
Does the book contain a hidden message? What do you hope your readers will take away from this?
Ha! I wouldn’t go so far as to say ‘hidden’, but certainly it has a message. I believe I mentioned earlier that Suzy’s struggle with vulnerability is universally relatable as part of the human condition. Few experience her extreme of emotional paralysis, but everyone reacts to loss with the temptation to shut down, protect themselves from future pain. What is the old axiom, ‘If I never loved I never would have cried.’? Actually, I believe that’s Simon & Garfunkel, but yeah, universally relatable. I like to think My Father’s Indian is inspirational in terms of reevaluating friendships, relationships, and perhaps even seeking reconnections. In fact, that’s my favorite feedback I see sprinkled throughout numerous reviews.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I wrote most of this novel up at my cabin, at times buried in snow which certainly helped shape the vibe, but I was still living about half-time in my van too, writing in coffee shops or isolated campgrounds, so average is hard to choose. The universal factor is music, further shaping the cabin vibe or blocking out the coffee shop noise. In my acknowledgments, I thanked some of the artists I had in heavy rotation for their inspiration. I like the idea of readers checking out the music I listened to as I wrote, immersing themselves in that same vibe.
What are you working on right now?
Honestly, I’m working on building an online presence at the moment, something I’ve never had before, and I’m proud of my recently launched website! It not only promotes my writing but also contains a photoblog of my VanLife. I’m planning to develop a blog about my travels and life experiences on the website as well. Check it out! www.ericdorseyauthor.com
As far as my next novel goes, I’m delving into something a little more commercial, as opposed to strictly Literary Fiction. My greatest strength is attention to detail, which readers will appreciate as everything begins to tie together in My Father’s Indian – In truth, there are virtually no superfluous details. I’d like to think my next greatest strength is insight into the human condition, and both together lend themselves nicely to a crime drama. Say Stieg Larsson, Gillian Flynn and Nicole Krauss walk into a bar, Little Miss Sunshine on in the background, inspired, they co-write a novel. Oh, or maybe The Royal Tenenbaums was on. Both! Jack London was probably there too. I definitely have some ideas percolating, at least in part stemming from my time working on an ambulance.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Primarily my Website:
https://www.facebook.com/eric.dorsey.902/ (Personal Facebook)
https://www.facebook.com/My-Fathers-Indian-105978024724934 (My Father’s Indian Facebook)