From the Author
The story was inspired by a visit with my mother and father to my paternal grandparents' grave located in Highland County, Virginia. Much of the imagery in the book emerged from this visit one cold March day. While the story is set in the fictional town of Maple Gap, astute readers will recognize a loose interpretation of Monterey. Nonetheless, Maple Gap exists solely in my mind - created from bits and pieces of life in the Shenandoah Valley - from Winchester in the North to Lynchburg in the South. The flood, for example, was inspired by a tragedy that occurred in Nelson County during Hurricane Camille in 1969. Over 150 people were drowned or buried in mudslides that night, their bodies crushed between boulders and uprooted trees. Many were never found, entombed in the mud.
The Winter Calf draws from many genres. There are obvious elements of horror; pivotal scenes occur in a graveyard. The novel can be considered Southern Gothic, reminiscent of Harper Lee, Truman Capote, and Flannery O'Connor. The book can also be described as magical realism; it hints at a ghost story. It draws heavily from Appalachian folklore -- focusing upon the wise but misunderstood mountain witch who is hiding from the world. Some would describe The Winter Calf as a coming of age story - the story of how two boys from very different worlds are changed when a strange woman enters their life. Finally, like James Herriot's veterinary tales or Steinbeck's The Red Pony, The Winter Calf is a rural story about life on a farm - a boy dreaming of raising a calf.
The story focuses on three primary characters. Iris Littleton is the old recluse on the hill that everyone says is a witch. Folks in town say she murdered her five-year-old son - and waits for his return. Henry Mayfield is the wide-eyed but stubborn boy who dreams of raising a calf for the county fair. After an accident, Henry is terrified when he has to knock on Iris' door one winter day. Jerome Bigman is the school bully and Henry's nemesis; he dreams of killing his abusive father.
Writing The Winter Calf was an emotional experience. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it.
About the Author
Michael has published two stand-alone novels. "Frozen Highway" tells the contemporary story of a militia leader threatening a former soldier and her family in rural Alaska.Similarly, "The Last Buffalo Soldier" follows a war-hero fighting discrimination in the segregated South of the 1950s. He has also published several short stories.
Michael currently lives on a farm with his spouse in northern New York and wakes every morning to a herd of Ayrshire dairy cattle. He has also lived in coastal Virginia,west-central Georgia, and, most recently, rural Alaska.