Our interview today is with Dale Amidei author of The Anvil of the Craftsman (5.0 stars, 14 reviews). Before we get to the interview a brief description: A doctoral candidate in Theological Studies accepts recruitment by a friend in the U.S. State Department for an initiative to the most troublesome province in 2006 Iraq. The many challenges of nation building expand the mission from diplomacy to a survival situation as local and international interests position themselves to oppose a State Department initiative: one vital to progress in an uncertain theater. Terrorism and counter-terror operations threaten to keep the team from leaving the relative safety of Baghdad. Until, that is, a former USAF Special Tactics operative hunting the men who want to kill them draws duty as their protector. The simple questions posed during a tribal council threaten provincial and regional stability; the conclusions reached explode into a clash of faith, loyalty, schism and betrayal that will help shape the future of two nations.
Interview with Dale Amidei
1. What was unique about the setting of the book, and how did it enhance or take away from the story?
The setting for the majority of The Anvil of the Craftsman is 2006 pre-surge Iraq, during a time when the outcome of the war effort was very much in doubt. The setting permeates the storyline and adds to the energy of the plot.
2. What specific themes did the author emphasize throughout the novel? What do you think he or she is trying to get across to the reader?
The theme of the novel is the three possible orientations of the human spirit, which are universal. The questions are foundational, and all people make their choice consciously or otherwise.
3. Do the characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?
Comments in the title’s eleven five-star reviews consistently mention the excellent character development that led to their impression of the novel. The characters seem real and their predicaments and experiences evoke emotions in the reader. All of the defining aspects of my characters reside to some extent in real people of my life or history.
4. How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes?
No one can experience war without being changed. With the stakes as high as life, death, and shaping the future of two nations, no one emerges from such levels of intensity unaffected.
5. In what ways do the events in the books reveal evidence of the author’s world view?
I write from the perspective of a conservative and a Christian, and those viewpoints mirror in my main themes and narrative characters. The novel, told through many eyes, is set in the real world. The effect is a work of fiction that seems pulled from the pages of history.
6. Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way? Did this lead to a new understanding or awareness of some aspect of your life you might not have thought about before?
I found the writing of “Anvil” both exhilarating and clarifying. More importantly, readers have reported that digesting the title has done the same for them. It is gratifying to think that I have penned a work of fiction that is now becoming a portion of my readers’ philosophical makeup.
7. Was there a basis for your story? A previous experience? Something else?
In August 2006, Al Qaeda terrorists near Ramadi murdered Sheik Ali Abu Jassim, who had been working in support of the formation of the Iraqi police forces in the region. The assassins committed the further offense of hiding his body in a field rather than return it to his family for prompt burial as demanded by Sharia law. The sheiks of Anbar had finally seen enough.
The subsequent movement they called “The Awakening.” American forces joined by tribal militias began to transform the Province. The insurgents’ fledgling Islamic State of Iraq found an overwhelming counterweight in the manpower and authority of the united tribal leadership. Through a series of actions that carried this momentum forward, what had once been the most troublesome province in Iraq slowly stabilized. Foreign influences in the region diminished. The Anbaris themselves took control of their destiny, working with the central government toward national unison. These events inspired “The Anvil of the Craftsman.”
8. What research did you have to perform to back up your story? Any research which really opened your eyes or gave you new respect for a topic or profession?
A huge amount of cultural and near-term historical research went into the setup of the storyline. It led to one of the most heartening aspects of the plot, which is the struggle of the tribal people of Al Anbar against first a brutal dictatorship and then foreign interlopers seeking advantage in a time of turmoil. Several readers have expressed their appreciation of my including the tribal perspective.
9. What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? Are you character/story builder or an outliner or some other method?
Method is everything. I work from a series of summaries and synopses that evolve into the scene listing spreadsheet. Characters likewise receive a biographical workup before the first draft begins.
10. How do you get past writers block or distractions like the internet?
I cloister. Focus requires the elimination of distraction by whatever means are necessary. Writing to me is an art, and the creativity involved needs a committed environment to happen.
11. Favorite book from childhood.
No books affected my life so much as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It took me many years and more than a dozen readings to understand the appeal of those works. His basic premise is, I believe, that character and faith are inseparable. The vitality of one will link inextricably to the other and will share to an extent its strength or foundational flaw.
People in the real world are an amalgam of strength and weakness. Orientation toward life or death is steered by enlightenment and delusion. It is the combined strength or failing of many measures that make us what we are, and just as important is the validity of the allegiances to which we dedicate ourselves.
I try to take each character’s score in that same matrix into consideration before bringing him or her to life in my fiction. I hope that the result will be vibrant and resonating characters, and a greater sense of immersion for my readers.
Thank you! -Dale Amidei
@DaleAmidei on Twitter
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