Joyful and Excruciating

Moony McNelly Author Interview

Moony McNelly Author Interview

Goin’ Through the Motions is an intriguing memoir of John Henry Shields. Why was this an important book for you to write?

John Henry Shields is closely modeled on my own father. In fact many of the events chronicled in the novel have been taken from conversations with him during the last few years of his life. Many other episodes derive from my eyewitness accounts along with those related by relatives and friends. He was a complex individual who at times could be charming, engaging and thoughtful, but at other times annoying, aloof and thoughtless. As was true of many southerners of his generation, his stubborn neck was weighted with a number of albatrosses such as prejudice and misogyny, although as he began to gain the upper hand on some of his demons as he aged. His alcoholism, coupled with his what is now termed PTSD from having served in the 82 Airborne Division during WWII were his most formidable foes. Our relationship, which I will oversimplify as love-hate, has never been far from my mind, even more so as I aged and began to reflect. I realized that I too had the need to try to rid myself of the albatross hanging from my neck. Therefore, in an attempt to explain it to myself, I attempted to explain it to the world. I chose to mimic the duality of life, so I constructed it from both the factual and the fictional.

What surprised you the most about John Henry Shields life?

One of the most surprising aspects of developing the character John Henry Shields was my willingness to continue an exercise that, frankly, was both joyful and excruciating. The novel has taken me some fifteen years to complete because I left it and return to it many times. In addition, at the risk of sounding cliche, the work acted as a catharsis for me, and I am now certain that was what I wanted and needed. I will remain thankful to Virtual Bookworm accepting John Henry (my manuscript) and for helping me through the tedious process of self-publishing. That too was a surprise after more than a few “dead ends” while tramping with John Henry down publishers’ row.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

There are numerous themes and motifs in the novel, some major, others subordinate. They are life’s old conflicts, none of which are new to art: father and son; humans and war; male and female; humans and nature; humans and their “multiple selves” and of course, the most prevalent–humans and death.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from this book?

I suppose every writer believes one minute and doubts the very next that readers will find something in his or her work with which they can connect. Artists who claim they are creating only for themselves best stay clear of lie detectors. If I must be specific, to me, the idea of searching for some truth is universal. Perhaps readers of Goin’ Through the Motions: Last Renderin’s from a Quester and Rounder will find in the efforts of John Henry Shields, whether they be judged a success, a failure, or somewhere in between, a universal call to live a “real” life.

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Goin’ Through the Motions: Last Renderin’s from a Quester and Rounder, most of which is interior monologue, employs a stylized dialect best described as “Southern Mountain English.” In 1984, terminally ill and confined to a VA hospital, John Henry Shields reviews his life.

Prelude, a dialogue between John Henry’s son Martin and his wife in 2012, opens the novel. The Prologue to Part One, presents John Henry on a day in 1932, when he undergoes an epiphany that sets him on his life’s quest to live a “true life.” In Part One, John Henry recollects various events in his life and begins to question if his life has been worthwhile. The Prologue to Part Two is set in the Airborne training camp in Fort Benning, GA, 1942, where on his first jump from a C-47, the awakening he experienced as a boy in 1932, is resurrected. In Part Two, John Henry continues to recall events in his life as well as choices he has made, some of which please him, while others fill him with regret. After his death, his wife Myra closes the action from 1984. The last section of the novel, Fortuitous Epilogue, recounts the dreams of John Martin Shields. In Prelude, Martin mentioned these to his wife Peggy as having occurred on six successive nights, before the Sunday marking the 28th anniversary of his father’s death.

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About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on October 8, 2021, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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