[alert variation=”alert-info”]Publisher: Ocean Street Press
Formats: Paperback, eBook, Kindle
Purchase: Powell’s | Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | iBooks[/alert]
A Native’s Tongue, by Michael Dennis, is a remarkable example of modern literature with a nostalgic look back to the 1970s. The story centers around Charles Winters, a short-order cook who meticulously restores old cars in his spare time. Left by his father when he was a child, Charlie now lives in the Valley with his mom and often has conversations with an apparition of his beloved sister who died in a car accident some years ago. He is attracted to trouble and tries to fill the void in his heart. He goes from party to party and from one girl to another. Without thinking, Charlie gets involved in a relationship with Violet. He meets this successful but self-doubting businesswoman at a Hollywood reality show producer’s party. Later, Charlie meets Jennifer, an attractive young blonde, and falls in love with this “incarnation of Aphrodite.”
Will Charlie stay with Violet, or follow his passion and be with Jennifer? Although everyone has romantic fantasies, the question is whether they should be pursued. People must be careful, since you never know what may happen when dreams become part of real life. According to Jennifer, “nothing is ever as it seems,” and this is not an ordinary love triangle.
The book’s style effortlessly affects your feelings. Every detail mentioned works well to create a mysterious, sad, wicked, vicious, and simultaneously illusive psychedelic atmosphere. Rich and vivid descriptions help to facilitate involvement in the narrative’s events. This is a great story.
The following interview between Dennis and me will help you get to know the author and better understand the book’s characters.
Charlie calls Los Angeles a “city of darkness.” As a native of the city, would you agree with his judgment?
Yes! It looks pretty on the outside, but once you weed through all the bullshit it’s pretty heavy.
Music is an integral part of your book. Charlie is always tuned in: Slim Harpo, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane. What kind of music inspires you in your writing and/or brings peace to your soul?
As you can see, I love everything from blues to 60s and 70s rock. I have a vinyl collection that has kind of an eclectic mix of all of the above including the whole discography of Jefferson Airplane… I just love revolutionary music. I also like some newer stuff like Future Islands and Patrick Sweany.
Although Charlie drives an old 1977 Chevy van and restores other old cars, a red muscle car is what he dreams about owning. Do you have a car of your dreams?
I have a few, but a 1949 Chevy truck comes pretty close!
Most of the book’s characters come from a one-parent home. Would you like to share what kind of a family background you come from and how that has influenced your writing?
My family background is actually pretty normal. I grew up with two parents who are still together some forty years later. My dad was a workaholic, but my mom was around to raise me. I was definitely the outlier growing up in Los Angeles. I don’t have a single friend whose parents are still together. Most of the time those divorces were pretty ugly, so I think it impacted me even from the periphery.
In contemplating love and novels, Jennifer asks herself, “Did the endless portrayals of love and romance in novels really exist?” How would you answer such a question?
Love is a tough and sometimes very painful thing. It can also have moments that become the most beautiful moments in life. So, the irony is that Jennifer is living those depictions from the novels in her own tragic romance. I personally have loved and experienced a lot of these emotions that come along with it. Love exists, just maybe not in that romanticized way we see it portrayed over and over again. It can be even better.
Do you believe people’s paths cross for specific reasons? Do you think people should always follow their intuition?
I am a huge believer in intuition and some sort of universal fate. I think people should always be listening to their inner voice and even their dreams. It has guided me to meet some really interesting people and loves in my life.
According to Charlie, people come to Los Angeles to follow fame rather than their passion. What are you motivated by when you write?
Writing for me is purely passion. I just love to do it. I have this romantic fantasy that one day I will get to be tucked away in some remote location just writing everyday… It could happen.
Jennifer mentions that she has read a lot of Dostoevsky and Gogol novels. Another character, Charlie, has never finished the esoteric books that he has tried to read. Do you think that our reading preferences reveal something about our character? What kind of books are you fond of?
I think, in life and in fiction, the kind of books you read says a lot about your interests and on a deeper level: who you are or want to be as a person. When you include a reference to a book while writing a character it almost magnifies the importance of what it reveals about the character. I am a big fan of Thomas Pynchon and Norman Mailer.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell your readers?
I’m glad you trusted me enough to read the book. No matter what happens when you finish it, I hope you’ll reach out and stay in touch. The next one is in the works now and will be out next year. Hang in there with me and we’ll share some experiences together.
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