Formerly a Prison Psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist, Michael Braswell has taught ethics, human relations, and social justice courses previously at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has also taught for 35 years at East Tennessee State University, where he is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. During that time, he has published 21 books on a variety of topics including ethics, counseling, the spiritual journey, sports and religion. He has also co-authored two novels. He and his wife continue their work as publishing consultants.
Interview with Joab Book Synopsis
In “Interview with Joab“, 15 scripture-based, “what if/rest-of-the-story” stories offer the reader an opportunity to reflect on and discuss well-known Bible stories in a fresh, thought-provoking way. The brief commentaries and questions following each story are designed for personal and small group study. These biblical “what ifs” demonstrate the relevance of these timeless truths and God’s lessons for contemporary individuals, families, and communities.
How did your book come to life?
I have always wondered about Bible stories, in terms of what happened to the characters–what were they thinking and feeling as they interacted with each other. In addition, I thought about “what-if” scenarios that could have provided different ways of looking at characters and events. For example, what if Peter and Judas had accidentally crossed paths the night before the resurrection? What might the adulteress who was spared by Jesus’ intervention with the angry mob say to her daughter ten years after that life-changing event occurred.
Why do you think your readers are going to enjoy your book?
My hope is that readers will find insights and encouragement for their lives with with such issues as sibling rivalry, enabling, dealing with betrayal, and embracing second chances.
Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected? (What was it?)
I gained new appreciation for the struggles many of the characters went through on a human as well as a spiritual level. Broken families and relationships then and now require perseverance and a turning toward One greater than ourselves in order find forgiveness and healing.
How do you start writing a new book? What comes first? The characters? The story?
A sense of the story comes first in most cases. After that, the characters seem to find their voices. Sometimes, the endings come in the middle rather than at the end of the story.
In two sentences or less can you tell readers something unique about your book?
The timeless lessons of traditional Bible stories are written in a fresh, thought-provoking way that offers contemporary Christians encouragement for living in today’s world.
Where do you find your ideas? Does something trigger them? Do you carry around a notebook in case inspiration strikes?
They seem to come to me while I’m day-dreaming or looking out the window at the woods. Sometimes ideas for books come from interesting conversations I have.
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done or always wanted to do?
I have always enjoyed writing. The desire to share something that is interesting or important to me with others is a large part of my motivation. As with any such effort there are highs and lows, but for me, there have been many more highs than lows. And of course, writing is at the very least cathartic and therapeutic for the writer.
Where do you want to go with your writing career? Where do you see your writing career in five years?
I have more ideas and outlines for book projects than I probably have time to get around to. Ideas and imagination are important to me so I will probably continue to add to the list. There are 5 or 6 books that are more of a priority including a book on the spiritual journey and a short story collection of southern fiction.
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
I am currently working on three projects. “The Way Home” is about the seven stages of the spiritual journey; “The Crackerjack Gospel” is a collection of short stories my son, Scott, and I are coauthoring; and “Fire Storm” is a collection of short stories about World War II.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing versus traditional publishing?
While there are advantages to each, I still enjoy working with traditional publishers. Although I have worked with larger and smaller presses, I tend to enjoy working with smaller presses more because the experience is often more collegial and personal. I do believe self-publishing can also make a lot of sense, especially if the author is willing to engage in the marketing process and other services a traditional publisher offers. Of course, there are also more focused niche projects that may not have a lot of market appeal, but are worth doing. The technology available today makes such “projects of the heart” affordable for a dedicated author.
If you were told your stories were unbelievable and not written very well, would you continue to write? What would your response be?
My goal has always been to make my stories the best that they can be. To do that, I have to be open to constructive criticism. Sometimes I agree with the Editor. Sometimes I don’t. Either way, I seriously consider suggestions from Editors and friends who read my work before deciding what to do.
What are your strengths as a writer?
I don’t know if I can answer that—probably a better question for editors and readers. I guess I feel like I have a pretty decent imagination and am curious about the human condition.
Where did you grow up? How did your hometown (or other places you have lived) inspire your writing?
I grew up in the fifties in south Georgia in the small, rural town of Moultrie. Story telling and humor were a part of my youth. I worked a variety of manual labor type jobs growing up which exposed me to a lot of interesting people and characters.
What is your favorite food? Do you have a favorite restaurant you’d recommend if we ever visit your city?
I enjoy most kinds of food including Italian, Mediterranean and of course, East Tennessee has some very good barbeque restaurants. I would probably recommend “The Firehouse” in Johnson City, TN and “The Dining Room” in Jonesborough nearby.
Does your family support you in your writing career? How?
yes. My wife and I work as publishing consultants. She reads and makes suggestions for all of my writing and deserves credit for much of my success. My oldest son, Scott, is also a writer and communications/social media professional who has helped me in a variety of ways.
What is the best book you’ve read?
I have a lot of favorites including the Bible, Frederick Buechner’s “Wishful Thinking”,Tony Campolo’s “Let Me Tell You a Story, Guy Sajer’s “The Forgotten Soldier”, “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat Moon, and anything by Mark Twain.
In all the books you’ve read, who is your favorite character and why?
Rather than singling out a favorite character, I find flawed characters most interesting. There is potential good and bad in everyone. It’s always interesting to me to see how such characters work out their lives toward some sense of completion.
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