Posted on 09/04/2018 at 12:00 PM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Dean Serravalle’s biography looks exactly as one might expect a published author’s to look.
He earned a master of arts while learning directly from renowned writers, worked as a freelance journalist, and serves as both the program chair of English and a professor.
The fiction he writes, however, is anything but ordinary.
One of his novels, Chameleon (Days), removes the narrator from the story and explores an author’s psychotic break as he prepares to write an idea he has apparently stolen.
Another, Reliving Charley, gives its characters the ability to live their lives in reverse.
As Serravalle prepares to launch two more novels, he took the time to chat with us about his process and his journey.
SADYE: How did you get started writing?
DEAN: I’ve always paid great attention to and valued people, moments, conversations, etc. with an artist’s appreciation, I suppose.
I started writing to express and perhaps release everything I am sensitive to.
As soon as I started writing as a young teenager, I felt like I could empower my voice and make wise statements based on those life observations.
It freed me to think, create and express myself without a fear of risk.
SADYE: In addition to literary novels, you've written a children's series, a commercial psychological thriller, and two screenplays. Is it difficult to switch among such different writing projects?
DEAN: No, not really. When I devote myself to a project I throw everything I have into it.
I’m not a formulaic writer. Instead, I like to listen to the story I am writing.
This subconscious method of writing is my preference, no matter what project I am challenged by.
I prepare my mindset once I reach the stage where I can’t remove an idea from my mind anymore.
I create time (literally) and commit myself to its completion by imposing impossible deadlines on myself.
SADYE: What were the most important things you learned from your apprenticeships under award-winning poet Di Brandt and equally renowned writer Alistair MacLeod?
DEAN: Di Brandt constantly encouraged my experimentation with language.
As an accomplished poet herself, she showed me how to infuse myself, and my own interpretation of language, into my writing, and I am eternally grateful to her for that.
Alistair MacLeod was a natural storyteller. I was a big fan of his short stories because they were so true to the human experience.
But in person, he could spin a story into an entertaining experience. So I was very fortunate to learn from two incredible writers.
SADYE: You’ve had a number of works published and a number of awards throughout your career (for teaching and writing). What has been the most rewarding moment for you?
DEAN: I was very touched and honored to receive the Loran Award for Teaching because it validated my passion for literature, both as a writer and teacher.
However, the most rewarding moments for me come from the subtle moments in the middle of the night when I put together a sentence I repeat to myself over and over again because I’ve fallen in love with it.
I know we don’t receive awards, reviews, or even acclaim for such moments, but I prize them as a writer because they mean so much to me as an artist.
SADYE: Where do you find your inspiration?
DEAN: I find my inspiration from many sources.
The spontaneous nature of my children, my beautiful wife, my incredible brothers, my mother’s heart and my father’s convictions, my eclectic students, etc. are automatic influences.
I spend a lot of time thinking about my spirituality and existence, which may explain why I write existentialist works.
I am truly driven by the imperfections and conflicts of everyday life. My memories and regrets are inspirational to me.
I think about them often as well as “what could have beens” and “what ifs.” I’m a nostalgia sucker and sometimes a sentimentalist that way.
SADYE: Your main characters don’t have it easy. If you had to live in one of their shoes, which would you choose?
DEAN: Well, I feel like I’ve already lived in all of their shoes, so to speak, as a result of creating them.
I’m a method writer, I suppose, and I really like to become the characters I create.
They’re edgy and raw at times but big in the heart and appreciative of their fates, even if those fates are tragic. Big dreamers with small town loyalties and saintly ambitions.
I suppose I wouldn’t mind living my life in reverse one day, like the main character in my first novel, Reliving Charley.
That would be an interesting ride, wouldn’t it?
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Categories: Author Interview