Monday, March 4, 2013

Interview with Alan Oakes, Author of 'Between Micah and Amos'

Today, author Alan Oakes is letting us get to know him a bit better, while also talking about his new book Between Micah and Amos, as well as some of his other projects. Thanks for stopping by!

What was the inspiration behind 'Between Micah and Amos'?
I wanted to shine a spotlight on a student in school who had so much hell going on in her life that wasn’t even her fault.  

Teachers have seen it before -- a good young person comes into class but personally they are a mess - and the teacher thinks if they just had a home where things were stable and the young person was really loved, they would be going to college -- instead they wind up with their mugshot featured on the cover of Busted magazine.

You see a young person with so many struggles and wonder -- will the young person get swept into the undertow of their life circumstances, or can they somehow triumph over the adversity and have a better life than the one where they came from?  That was what I was wrestling with in Between Micah and Amos.

Which character was the most fun to write? The most challenging?

I LOVED creating Ashleigh’s mother!  She is SO dramatic!   She thinks she is mother of the year, but she can’t escape her own narcissism to really reach out and love Ashleigh.  And yet, there is something so vulnerable about her.  

There was an aspect to Ashleigh that was a bit challenging to write.  I wanted her to tell little lies throughout.  They are like survivor lies.  She doesn’t mean bad by them, but she tells them in order to get something she needs to survive.  It is a learned trait from watching her mother operate.  Ashleigh is good at it too.

What other projects do you have in the works?

I am polishing up a novella tentatively titled Crossfire that picks up where Between Micah and Amos left off.  It features Ashleigh’s asphalt-tarring hunk of a boyfriend, Billy.  Crossfire should be out by the summer.  Some readers are asking me to make Between Micah and Amos an extended series - and I have other ideas too.  So I may add some more episodes before the bigger blowout ending which I have in my mind.

How do you think your work with high school students influences your writing?

This generation of young people are extremely complex!  They are this explosion of life, passions, and impulse with cell phones fused to their hands. Their lives barrel ahead and they are so over stimulated. They will be an interesting generation to watch become adults. What sort of world will they create? Will they even like what they made?

I think also the area of Texas where I live is such a melting pot - we have this really unique mixture of students culturally.  The orbits of all these cultures collide in high school.  It adds a richness of perspective and viewpoints -- and the conflicts too!) 

Finally, I kept Between Micah and Amos at 50k words because the students I work with usually hate to read!   I noticed that more than Great Gatsby length and it just isn’t gonna happen!  

What are some of the greatest challenges facing teens today and how do you help them?
There are a heck of a lot of kids around right now who are basically raising themselves or they don’t have parents who are functioning in a way that helps them.  They are feral kids and they are kind of lost.  

But by far, the most difficult students I work with are ones who struggle with an addiction.  They sometimes can’t even see how the addiction is taking apart their life, brick by brick, until it is too late.  

When I work with young people, I start by creating a solid relationship and then I work with students to approach their problems in a way that is productive.  You can’t shove something down a young person’s throat. You can’t tell them what to do.  They have to discover it and work through it themselves.

What would your own high school teachers say if they could see you now?

I went to an all boys Catholic high school -- that is another novel!  But we were always taught ‘be a person for others’ -- so I hope they would say good job. -- And then they would say you still suck at algebra!

What is the greatest compliment ever paid to you by a student, colleague, or parent?

I LOVE having students come back to visit after their senior years -- especially students who were told by parents or peers it was impossible to graduate.  My job really is helping students realize that they do have what it takes, if they just believe in themselves.  It is awesome to see someone’s whole outlook on life change because they set a goal to graduate and achieved it through hard work.  It’s really humbling if they come back once they graduate and say thanks.  

You are a fan of the film noir genre. What are some of your favorite movies in this genre?

I’ve gotta go with a newbie here -- the Breaking Bad series was great modern film noir. All the characters are flawed in some way.  There is darkness and mystery and this underlying tone of suspense and desperation – it sizzles!

Orson Wells is probably my favorite old time film noir director and actor.  Check out Touch of Evil -- it is brilliant!    I had Orson Wells in my thoughts when I wrote the character Detective Reese in Between Micah and Amos.  

What are some of your favorite coming-of-age reads?

Steinbeck’s East of Eden was just wonderful for me!   If you are a younger sibling to an older brother or sister who is perfect in your parents’ eyes -- read this!  The movie with James Dean is also riveting!  It is when you totally relate to the character and get that yearning feeling in your stomach -- then you know this is hitting you.  The Outsiders was another one.  The characters were so alive for me.   

What is something readers may be surprised to learn about you?

In college, in the summertime, I worked on the set decorating crew of the The Untouchables, starring Kevin Costner and Sean Connery.  Let me tell you all those antique desks and furniture were HEAVY!  

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you, Andi, so much for kicking off this blog tour!  And thanks to your readers for checking this out! Now go eat a Sonic hamburger! 

Thanks for your time!


Alan Oakes is a Graduation Coach and Counselor at a Texas High School.  He is a featured writer for Green Building and Design magazine and a contributor to other magazines including Texas Architect and New American Luxury.  In the past, he served as Associate Pastor of Saint Austin Catholic Church and Director of Catholic Campus Ministry at UCLA.

Alan holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas and a Master of Arts degree from the Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about the author, feel free to go to his website: 


Like a flash, the discharge from the gun lit up the inside of the dimly lit, filthy trailer Ashleigh called home. Ashleigh sat curled up on the stained pink carpet next to the pull-out bed in the living area where she slept.  The victim lay dead, slumped against the wall of the trailer.  Ashleigh looked at the motionless body.  She was petrified.

Meet Ashleigh Mae, a seventeen year old high school senior living in the small town of Micah, Texas.  Her boyfriend Billy calls her a wild child.  Her momma is always telling her she makes bad choices.  No matter what, no one really understands her.

Ashleigh dreams of a life with Billy.  Their love is true, she thinks. When her mother forces them to leave Micah in the middle of the night and move in with her momma’s old boyfriend Casey, on the outskirts of a town called Amos, Ashleigh’s life is torn apart.

This is her fight to get it back….

**My thoughts**

It took me a little bit to get into this book, but then I was compelled to finish it as quickly as possible to find out what happened to Ashleigh. She is such a disaster area, through no original fault of her own. Her mother has bounced from man to man, beating to beating, setting a horrible example for her daughter. Ashleigh is almost destined to follow in her mother's footsteps. But the move has the potential to be the best thing that could have ever happened to her, despite all of the problems. She finds a new best friend and a trusted adult who both are actually trying to help her. No one else has done it thus far.

I love Gloria, the school counselor, and actually feel sorry for her. I am also a teacher and have felt that frustration of trying to help a child only to hit walls with parents and other professionals. At one point, I was almost even in tears watching Gloria struggle to help Ashleigh. 

When I was in high school, I was kind of like Manuel. I wanted to befriend and help everyone who seemed to have problems. The difference was, my parents actually also wanted to help, whereas his fear that he will only be brought down. There is a great lesson in here about supporting your kids and their decisions.

Buy links: Paperback \ Kindle \ B&N 

The characters are always going to Sonic, so author Alan Oakes is giving away gift cards in the names of the main characters to random comments during the tour:

Grand Prize: Billy-sized $25

2nd Prize: Manuel-sized $15

3rd Prize: Ashleigh-sized $10

If the winner prefers, they can get either an Amazon or gift card instead of the Sonic card. 

Follow the tour for more chances to win!   


  1. Alan Oakes here -- Good Morning! Thanks Andi for doing a beautiful job kicking off the tour. I think you hit the nail on the head for people in education. We can see some kids who we think if only they came from a more stable house-- they would be such a different place...I'll be checking in after school today to say hi again!

  2. My mother used to be a teacher as well and one of her most rewarding cases is also a student from a difficult background, who was orphaned, she was one of the teachers who helped him to graduated and he is still calling her for all the holidays, even after he moved.

    lennascloud AT gmail dot com

    1. That is wonderful! Don't you think kids know who loved them? What a great example for you!

    2. That's wonderful!! Your mom sounds like she really cared for her students - what a great example for you!

  3. I love discovering a new author and a great sounding book!

    hopefull1978 AT gmail dot com

    1. Thanks Hope for the uplifting encouragement!

  4. What a great interview. This author has a lot of insight into the teenager.

    1. Thanks MomJane! Sounds like you are writing from experience! : )

  5. I love the premise of this book! I'd love to get a chance to read it!

    andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com

  6. Thanks for the chance to win!

    1. You are welcome! It will be a fun blog tour!

  7. It's sounds like an interesting read, did you take your inspiration for your book from your own experience?


    1. Hi Lana -- I wrote it in a way to respond to the young people I've seen who are just trying to get through the day, even when they have this mountain of problems waiting for them after school. From my personal experience in my teen years, I think I was more of a Manuel Garcia - a helper - but my friends were nothing like Ashleigh or Billy growing up.

  8. Sounds good! I'm looking forward to read more!


    1. Thanks! We've got lots of stops on the blog tour and the interview questions were just so provocative for me too.

  9. Sounds good! I'm looking forward to read more!


  10. I love the cover did you choose it yourself?

    1. Thanks Jibriel -- I love your name BTW! So elegant! The cover was done by Whiskey Creek Publishing in consultation with me. I was really happy with their layout - I was glad we put the trailer in the background and Ashleigh's sky too. We had such a funny time adding earrings to Manuel's lobes! I think we went through three tries to get them right!

      If you go to Between Micah and Amos on Facebook - check out the Jan 6 post - It is the cover I designed for my presentation to Whiskey Creek.

  11. Thank you for sharing the excerpt! Your book sounds fantastic!


  12. Did you have to research a lot for your novel?

    moonsurfer123(at)gmail Dot com

    1. My work is in the same orbit as the school counselor of the book, so I had a feel for my material. I did research some stuff on teenage emancipation to make sure I had my facts straight. I also researched age of consent laws because, not to be a spoiler, some of the young people in the story get a little frisky...

  13. I look forward to reading more about Ashleigh. I have my fingers crossed for her.


  14. Missed out on the party day! Best wishes for your release..

    booksaremagicblogspot at gmail dot com