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Interview with Dave Milbrandt

Author Dave Milbrandt fell in love with writing in junior high and has been blessing readers with his stories ever since. A Southern California native, Dave has taught at both the high school and college levels. His recent release, Fool’s Luck, brings a fresh and interesting perspective on an everyday person running for president.

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Teaching and writing must be difficult to navigate. What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with work and other responsibilities?
With my previous books, I took a month during my summer vacation and wrote all day, every day until the first draft was done. While it is a great approach for getting the story on the page as quickly as possible, it is not so good on the body, soul, or spirit.

I actually have the travel and gathering restrictions imposed over the last two years to thank for helping me write Fool’s Luck. I was able to write a few hours every night, which gave me the time to get into Myles’ head and tell his story.

The biggest challenge now is that, for the first time in my writing career, the next story has popped into my head as soon as the last one was finished. This makes things a tad inconvenient because I am working full-time again and haven’t been able to find the time to plan or write. One of the blessings of being married to a fellow writer is that you can live out the biblical adage of iron sharpening iron. She has her own, very successful regimen for writing each day, and she’s helping me find time to write and still teach, grade papers and be a regular human being.

What prompted you to write Fool’s Luck?
Again, here is where being married to another storyteller comes in handy. We were talking one day about what people do with their lottery winnings. The conversation went something like this:
“Why don’t people who win the lottery do something good with the money.”
“Like run for president...”
From that, the seed was planted for Fool’s Luck.

Did you use your own experience as a teacher when writing the character of Myles?
It is said that all writing is autobiography, and there is some truth to that for Fool’s Luck. I absolutely leaned into my two-decade career as an educator for material. I hope that by doing so the experiences ring true for readers and help them connect to Myles as a person and not just a character on a page or screen.

What did you learn while writing Fool’s Luck?
Writers are shaped by what they read, and Fool’s Luck is an example of that. Much of my reading in the past few years has focused on powerful, emotion-driven characters, and I was able to reflect that in this book more than the Jim Mitchell novels. Also, perhaps because of the television shows and films I have been watching, I have started to write more cinematically, with a particular ear toward dialogue. Readers and listeners of Fool’s Luck said they have appreciated the fruits of these labors.

What message do you hope readers take away from Fool’s Luck?
Many people who have read the book ask me if I won the lottery would I make the same choice Myles did and run for president of the United States. I tell them absolutely not, and that is largely because of what happens to Myles on the journey he takes in the book. I hope readers will understand the key struggle the protagonist faces: how do I balance my hopes and dreams with my commitments and obligations? How do I find that elusive work/life balance? And, perhaps most importantly, how can the quest for glory and power blind us to the riches of a simple life well lived?

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
When I began my writing career, it would have been easiest to characterize my work as clear-cut Christian fiction. As I have matured as a storyteller, I find myself telling tales about Christian living in a broken world. I think of authors like William Kent Kruger or Charles Martin, who write about Christians wrestling with the temptations of this world and still seeking to live redeemed lives. While my work might be tinted by different experiences, I hope it also reflects the same agape love the Father has for His children.

If you could have coffee with an author, dead or alive, whose work you admire, who would that be? What would you ask him or her?
Along with Kruger and Martin, writers like Davis Bunn, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kristin Hannah, and Khaled Hosseini inspire me with their storytelling. Unlike most self-respecting scribes, I am not a fan of coffee. But I would love to share a cup of hot chocolate (or iced tea, depending on the weather) with Charles Martin and ask him how he creates male protagonists with such raw emotional depth. His work moves me like few others have, and I definitely want to be like him when I grow up.

What’s your go-to snack while writing?
While a small dose of chocolate might be the reward for a good day at the keyboard, my typical storytelling fuel is trail mix and dried fruit to keep the brain firing on all cylinders as the story flows from my soul through my fingers and onto the screen.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
My boss often reminds us that you need to go slow to go fast. This piece of advice would have been helpful when I started writing. I regularly tell the story of how I wrote Chasing Deception in five weeks but it took 15 years to get it printed. I thought the first draft was golden, when it was, at best, gilded with a shine that hid its flaws. Had I worked polished the story rather than set it aside for a decade, my writing career would be a different place than it is now.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
One of my key forms of entertainment outside of writing is watching a whole lot of Commonwealth TV shows. If it’s from the United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand, I’ve probably sampled or binged the show. Quite frankly, I often know the actors on those shows better than I do American celebrities. I savor the writing on those shows, as not everything is spelled out for the viewer and an actor or actress can say more with a glance than others can with a page of dialogue. Sometimes my wife and I can think of a British or Aussie colloquialism before the American phrase comes to mind.

What books are on your TBR pile right now?
I read fiction as fast as I get ahold of it, but non-fiction tends to linger on my shelf longer than it should. I have yet to crack the spine on The Come Back Effect by Jason Young and Jonathan Malm, but am in the middle of The President Club by Nancy Gibbs, Humble Calvinism by J.A. Medders, Be the Bridge by LaTasha Morrison and The World According to Star Wars by Cass Sustein.

What are you working on next?
While in development on a general market screenplay inspired by one of my Jim Mitchell book, I am plotting out my next novel, which will be about a man who wants to switch lives with his more successful twin brother but quickly learns that, as Shakespeare once said, all that glitters is not gold.
Jessica Baker loves sharing her passion for reading with others and connecting readers with authors. In addition to blogging at A Baker’s Perspective, Jessica is a virtual assistant, proofreader, and runs her own business. Though she wishes she had a library like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Jessica realizes the importance of sharing her books with the world to tell the story, and donates many books to her local library. Jessica Baker lives Central New York with her husband, teenage daughter, beagle, two cats, and four ducks.

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