Editor’s Note: Stephen and I have been friends for over 20 years. He is smart, kind and funny. I didn’t know a lot about the book he wrote—he really did focus his life around writing for over a year. When I read it, I was captivated by the characters and the story. I enjoyed the book very much. It is a love story with a strong thread of metaphysics in it. Stephen was one of my early teachers in metaphysics so I found it fascinating how he weaved those ideas within the story.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I grew up on a dairy farm in nearby Ravenna, MI. It was a great experience. Besides the many fond memories I have from my childhood, I was instilled with a strong work ethic. I am the second oldest of 6 children; 5 sisters, (one deceased). I have degrees from Muskegon Community College, Michigan State University (theater, speech and English), and Western Michigan University (Reading Specialist). During my 34 years in education, I taught a variety of classes in the K-12 system ranging from Alternative High School, Adult Basic Education, GED preparation, Adult High School completion (instructor and academic advisor), high school, and college students. I was also active in community theater as an actor and director and performed the same duties at Muskegon Community College’s theater program. While teaching at Orchard View High School, I directed two plays.
As a hobby, which became a passion, I have attended numerous workshops, classes, and read and studied countless books over the years which dealt with various aspects of Metaphysics and Spirituality.
Comes the Phoenix tells the story of Tyler Reynolds, the men he loved and how they changed him. But spirituality and metaphysics play a significant role in the telling. I know you have been well-educated for many years in metaphysics. How did you know how much of metaphysics to include without the reader needing to be herself well-versed in the subject?
This was sometimes rather tricky. I had to have the characters tell enough about those aspects touched on (reincarnation, soul mates, psychic readings, various modalites of energy healing, the Star People, to name a few.) so that the reader would understand that part of the story, but not go into so much detail so as to possibly bog the story down. I think for those readers that want to learn more about any of these aspects, they can Google that specific topic and learn more. I also was very fortunate to have two friends who teach classes in metaphysics proofread the manuscript before the re-writing process began.
In addition to the storyline, I really enjoyed the characters Comes the Phoenix. Could you give us some insight on your main character Tyler? In some ways, he reminds me of myself at a certain age when I was single.
Well, for starters, I think Tyler is rather idealistic at first in both in general and in love. He’s survived some rough spots in childhood and adolescence. Some would be quick to say came from a dysfunctional home. But to some degree, who hasn’t? Relationships are a great teacher and here Tyler is the student. He learns some valuable lessons the hard way.
What do you hope readers take away from your book?
I want them to not only be entertained, but to also learn something as well. In this case, learn a little more about some aspects of metaphysics, spirituality and to see that gay people have the same emotional experiences as everyone else. All of the characters in the book could be your relative or neighbor.
Did you always want to write a book? What influenced you to write this particular story?
I always believed that one day I would write a novel. Also, I always knew in the back of my mind that I had this story to tell.
Do you have plans to continue writing? If so, do you want to continue writing about your characters in Comes the Phoenix?
I think that everyone has one great book inside of him/her. And I thought Comes the Phoenix is mine and that would be that. However, as I was finishing the re-write I realized Tyler’s journey in life is far from over. I have more to say via Tyler. His understanding of metaphysics broadens and deepens, while he experiences the complexity of his own self-understanding as he continues his life journey.
What actually made you decide to sit down and actually start writing the book?
A good friend of mine, Eddie Conner, told me about the course called The 90 Day Novel which is taught online and via the telephone by Al Watt of Los Angeles, CA. I looked into it and signed up. Al gives his students an outline, a story form to follow, and daily support. If one writes every day, one has a rough draft of the book at the conclusion of the 90 days. I didn’t write every consecutive day. My draft should really be called the 110 day novel.
As your friend, I so admired your discipline in writing the book. I don’t think your friends saw much of you for a couple years. How did you structure your days so you could keep writing and not be tempted by distractions?
For me mornings were, and continue to be, my most creative time of day. I had to learn to schedule other things around this commitment. That can be rough some days. Also, I had to learn to NOT tell everyone what I was doing for several reasons. The most important one being that detracts from the creativity one needs to get the draft down on paper. The class was taught in a semester format. I was reminded of what I used to tell my college students. “You can do this. Even if you have a difficult schedule, a semester doesn’t last forever. It just seems like it some days.”
How do you think writing Comes the Phoenix has evolved you creatively? Are you “less afraid” to write—has it made you want to write even more?
I learned a LOT from this first book writing experience due to Al Watt’s constructive criticism, but I don’t know that I’m any “less afraid” to write. However, I showed myself that I can do it. And, I had a story to tell. Al Watt would tell us: “No one can tell your story as well as you can.”
I love the cover of the book. How did you decide on what the cover should look like?
I LOVE the cover, too. Wendy Mersman of Moon Designs, LLC. (Rockford, Michigan) designed it. She read some excerpts of the book and asked for my input. Did I have any ideas that she needed to be aware of? Her goal was to design a book cover that would entice people to pick the book up and look at it. I told her: “It would be nice to see some representation of a phoenix, the story begins and ends on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, and the new moon figures prominently in the telling of the story.” Voila! The cover you see was what she designed. I have had MANY compliments on it.
For fun, which actor or actors would you like to see playing the leading roles from the book?
This is always fun. Whenever I read a new book I like to think of who I would cast in the film version. My first choices would be Emory Cohen as Tyler, Matthias Schoenaerts as Christopher, and possibly Matt Bomer as Ben.
Stephen, do you have any advice for other writers — I include myself in that.
Keep writing! Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc. Just get your thoughts down on paper. If you are stuck, set the timer and write for at least 5 minutes. Jot down anything that comes into your head. Don’t edit. You can clean up the errors later. Remember, no one can tell your story like you can!
If you have any questions or comments for Stephen, he can be reached at the following: Stephenschmidt49@gmail.com, www.stephenwschmidt.com You can also find him on Facebook
Excerpts from Comes The Phoenix can be read at: www.ComesThePhoenix.com
Comes the Phoenix is available at the following locations:
MUSKEGON: Bill & Company, Gracie’s Book Store, Maggie’s Gourmet Gifts
GRAND HAVEN: The Bookman
GRAND RAPIDS: Schuler Books
And at Amazon.com (Also available on Kindle and Nook)