Interview with Michael Reilly, Author of Fresh Heir
Joining us today is Michael Reilly, author of Fresh Heir. Michael is a writer and an entrepreneur. Fresh Heir is is first novel and was released in May 2011. He is also founder and chief executive officer of FitDivs Inc, a company that promotes and rewards healthy living.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Michael. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I currently live in Charlottesville, Virginia, with my wife, Lara, and my four children. I have two boys and two girls, ages 5-13. I received a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University and a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. I spent the first 15 years of my career working in a family media business, first as a journalist and then as an executive. For the past few years I have focused my energies on my “creative” dreams, which include writing and entrepreneurship.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Port Washington, NY, which is on Long Island. My father was a stockbroker and my mother a homemaker. I am the youngest of three boys.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Taking family vacations into the mountains of upstate New York and New England, mostly in the winter. It instilled in me a love of mountains and cold weather, which is an integral part of my personality today.
When did you begin writing?
I began writing novels about ten years ago, but I would say the foundation of my writing was established in childhood. As the youngest, I was quite a bit separated in age from my older brothers, and there weren’t many other kids in my neighborhood. So I often had to “invent” friends to play with, and I believe this has always been instrumental to my creative abilities.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
I write on the go. When I am in the midst of a project, the creative process for me takes place whenever and wherever. By the time I actually sit at a computer, it’s really just a process of tidying up what I have already crafted someplace else...in the grocery store, on the youth athletic fields, in the bathroom...you name it.
What is this book about?
Fresh Heir is a novel about the challenges of parenting in the modern world. It takes a satirical poke at the trend toward helicopter parenting and the penchant for parents to over-schedule their kids for fear they won’t be successful (the kids and the parents). So many non-fiction books have addressed this issue, but as we know, those types of books can be very dry and academic. My goal was to write a fictional story that would convey a substantive message within the scope of an entertaining narrative. I hope my readers will laugh along the way, but in the end, stop and give serious thought to the underlying issues.
What inspired you to write it? A topic I encounter every day as a parent. I think all parents today have witnessed obsessive parenting in one way or another. The “helicopter parent” is the pejorative term we have for it now, I suppose. Perhaps some of us are doing it and don’t even know it. Even for parents who are making conscious efforts not to get caught in the trap, it is very difficult to ignore the pressure.
When I was applying to college, it was considered outstanding to have straight A’s, participate in after school clubs, and play varsity sports. You could write your ticket anywhere. Now, that’s almost like a joke. If you haven’t started your own Internet company, played in the New York Symphony, or discovered a biomedical breakthrough, you’re considered a weak candidate for top colleges.
I didn’t set out to write a novel that I expected would change this trend. But I do hope it will spotlight the absurdity of our compulsion to push and push our kids without any respect for the proper balance that is so important to a peaceful childhood.
Who is your favorite author?
It’s nearly impossible to pick one. I could probably list 20 quite easily, but if I had to narrow it down, I would list these four, each from a different time period: Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Updike, and Richard Russo. As a history buff I am also a huge fan of James Michener and David McCullough.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
Right now, primarily on Amazon.com
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
You can’t publish if you don’t write. This maxim holds true in so many facets of life. You can’t get in shape, for instance, if you don’t exercise. But I think the challenge for writing is that it becomes so hard to engage in the process if you don’t see the payoff...i.e., your name in print. The fact is you will never get your name in print until you start writing. So write furiously, even if the end result gets no further than your own hard drive. Just keep writing...and writing...writing. Publishing will surely follow.
What is up next for you?
I have several ideas in mind my for my next book. The themes are similar to the one in Fresh Heir. Right now, however, I am focusing my energies on another creative compulsion I have: starting companies. I am working on a start-up company that incentivizes and rewards good health.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed and am grateful to anyone who takes the time to read my book.