On Fridays right here, writers talk about their books, their process, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. Today Monte Dutton joins us to celebrate the launch of his novel, CRAZY OF NATURAL CAUSES, a Kindle Scout winner published by Kindle Press.
Chance Benford is a good man, not a holy one. He's just a football coach, and an unscrupulous one at that. After a horrific car crash, he gets over being crazy of natural causes, but the world around him is just as crazy as ever.
Set mainly in the Kentucky Coal Country, CRAZY OF NATURAL CAUSES is a novel about religion without being particularly religious. Irreverent like Benford himself, it's a fable of redemption and life’s absurdity.
- What were the most challenging aspects of writing this book, and what came easily?
Chance Benford is more distant, compared to the characters in my first two novels. I could relate to Riley Mansfield (THE AUDACITY OF DOPE) and Frankie Hoskins (THE INTANGIBLES). I created Benford, more or less, from thin air. I've never coached football, or been in a serious crash, or been married, or had to rebuild my life. I had to get to know him, think through him, imagine how he would have reacted to radical twists and turns in his life. I think I needed to do this in order to mature as a novelist. I set the novel in Kentucky, where I've never lived but had spent enough time to understand. Once I familiarized myself with the terrain, it flowed naturally. Few people are saints. Few are sinners. Most fall in between.
- Tell us about your main characters and what drives them.
Chance Benford is a good, but flawed man. He is also, literally and figuratively, a survivor. Over the course of the story, he learns to roll with all the punches and make the best of what befalls him. A lot befalls him. He finds virtues and vices he didn't know he had.
Wally Ruff was his best player, a mischievous, rowdy quarterback good enough to earn a college scholarship. Wally does more for Chance than Chance can do for himself. Chance's gratitude teaches him to accept Wally as he is.
Zeke Runnels, another player on the Elmore High team, becomes Chance's man Friday and realizes his own dreams with Chance's assistance.
Elise Zirimis Benford leaves Chance before the story begins, and Chance has to come to grips with the reason why. Chance hires Keely Packson to work for him when he stumbles into a new career. She becomes first his friend, then his lover.
Lindy Rose is the ambitious television personality who makes Chance something of a star and then betrays him.
Whit Cumberland is the patriarch of an evangelical empire who attempts to hire Chance. Son Buckley is the cocaine-addled heir to the empire who becomes jealous of Bedford and tries to destroy him.
Darla Lorick spins out of control when her lover, Wally Ruff, leaves town for college. Her jealousy turns murderous.
- Can you describe your journey to publication: the torment and elation, the times none of it made any sense, the moments when it all came together?
My first two novels were published by Neverland Publishing LLC, a small Miami, Fla., operation that believed in me, and I'm grateful and always will be, but the time to move on came, and it was quite a struggle. I got lots of polite, complimentary rejections from publishers and agents. Casting my lot with the Kindle Scout program was really just something I stumbled upon. I never lacked confidence in myself, but my only reliable expertise is writing a book. I’m a reluctant promoter. When I submitted the manuscript, I expected it to be selected. That's where my confidence came in handy. It's an honor to be chosen, but I would have been devastated if CRAZY hadn't been. Now I look forward to awaken one morning as an overnight sensation after enduring years of struggle. I look forward to becoming a different sort of Chance Benford.
- You get to the end of your life, and there to escort you through the tunnel to the light beyond and show you around is a philosopher / author / artist / scientist / celebrity you've always revered. Who is it, and why him/her?
Jimmy Carter. I took his trials as president personally. He taught me the folly of aspiring to a career in politics because I recognized that the system would chew me up and spit me out the same way it did him. I consider his failure glorious. When Carter left office, I believe he vowed to do what he wanted and never again let politics get in his way. He wasn't a great president, but he may be our greatest ex-president. Yes, he'd be the man I'd want to show me the ropes.
- Tell us about your other books, past or in the pipeline.
I spent twenty years writing about NASCAR for a living, but my ambition was always to progress into fiction. I wrote a book about high school football nearly thirty years ago. I wrote a number of books about auto racing. I wrote a book about music, TRUE TO THE ROOTS: AMERICANA MUSIC REVEALED, that led me to Riley Mansfield, the unlikely hero of THE AUDACITY OF DOPE, which is the story of a pot-smoking songwriter who reluctantly becomes a national hero. THE INTANGIBLES is centered in a small Southern town, one a lot like the one I still live in, during the turbulent sixties. Most of it occurs in 1968. I'm younger than the characters, but much of it is based on the memories of my childhood and later. I'm unlikely to write another book as important to me on a personal level. I came to grips with lots of old demons in that one.
"Dutton spins a great yarn. This one will sweep you along from beginning to end."
John Edwin Mason, Ph.D., Department of History, University of Virginia
Monte Dutton is a native and resident of Clinton, South Carolina, who graduated in 1980 from Furman University and proceeded to be accepted (twice!) to law school and opt not to go. He taught himself to play guitar in his forties and enjoys writing songs. He tweets in haiku sometimes because normal tweets are too easy. He writes short stories and illustrates them at wellpilgrim.wordpress.com and addresses non-fiction subjects in his montedutton.com blog. He still writes weekly NASCAR columns at Bleacher Report.
We'd love to hear from you, so feel free to connect with Monte right here.