Several months ago, I read Max Andrew Dubinsky's short story, “The Boy With His Heart on His Sleeve,” and didn't care for it. Too sappy. The metaphor too easy. So when he published a book of short stories last month, We Can't Go Home Again, I only bought it because it was $0.99 cents.
I'm so glad I did.
If I could use one word to describe We Can't Go Home Again it would be Ash, like cigarettes, sin, and death. The characters are dirty with it, and Max asks us to look unflinching into their lives. To say I was impressed is an understatement.
That's why I'm absolutely thrilled to be interviewing Max Andrew Dubinsky today. Max is a writer and blogger, and recently finished a yearlong exploration of America via car. I hope you enjoy the interview!
Of course. I appreciate the opportunity. Thanks for thinking of me.
You live in Oregon now, but you just finished road tripping the country for several months, right?
I've been living in a basement in the backwoods of Oregon for the last two months, however I just made an official move back to Southern California. I spent the better half of 2011 visiting over 37 different cities and towns and seeking God in the streets. My wife and I were considering moving to Portland after the trip, and this opportunity to live rent free for a few months outside the city was presented to us so we jumped on it. We used the time to dive into our craft, but I wouldn't recommend for any newlyweds to move into a basement in the woods for the first three months of marriage. It wasn't exactly a honeymoon, but it was a great opportunity for writing.
What did you learn about life? About writing?
There is a major difference between leading the charge and gaining a following. Leading a charge will present major opposition because you have to stand for something which will eventually upset someone. When we try to gain a following, we want everyone to like us and often make self-destructive sacrifices to keep everyone happy. The only thing that can sabotage you is you.
And as far as writing goes, any writer who is serious about his craft needs consistency and routine. Waking up in a different bed and city ever few days can really upset the creative mindset. As a result, I couldn't focus on any major projects aside from my blog, Make It MAD, where I documented the trip.
I once traveled the world for eleven months and hated when people asked this question, but there's no way to avoid it: what was your favorite place along the way?
This is a difficult question because, as I am sure you know, my experience in every city and state was so vastly different. That said, Southern Utah and the Pacific Northwest were the most beautiful places I explored. So many of the landscapes made me forget that I was in America. And my favorite cities were Portland, Oregon and Savannah, Georgia.
Can you tell us a bit about We Can't Come Home Again, your recently released book of short stories?
We Can't Go Home Again asks the question, “Are any of us beyond forgiveness?” as it follows seven different characters within 6 separate stories desperately seeking redemption and a second chance. I think we live in a world that harbors a lot of unforgiveness, and I really wanted to explore that through genuine human relations that have suffered major tragedies and hurts.
We Can't Go Home Again deals with addiction, pornography, abortion, broken relationships and death. I know those topics sound heavy and depressing, but that's what makes them beautiful because the characters experience forgiveness and healing from their actions.
Did you write them while you were traveling?
All of the stories featured in We Can't Go Home Again were written before I hit the road, and along the way I did, in fact, return home myself. My wife, Lauren, is a big fan of my fiction. She encouraged me to put it all together into a collection.
All of the stories were originally unrelated, but it turns out each one of them focused on the common theme of an individual who is lost and struggling with their identity. And in each story someone deals with leaving and returning home to seek atonement from the things they've done. That's how the title, We Can't Go Home Again, was born.
What is one story from the book that seems to connect deeply with people?
“31 Days of May” seems to hit home both for me and the readers. It's a dark and painful story about the destructive nature of pornography and addiction, but it's also the story in We Can't Go Home Again where the power of forgiveness, family, and light shine the brightest.
We've all struggled with or have had experiences with Pornography, and we've all been hurt by our fathers and mothers. And we all desperately desire forgiveness and unconditional love. This is why I think “31 Days of May” has received such praise and tears.
What are you working on next?
I am tackling three different projects simultaneously right now. I am working on a novel I am going to release as a digital download for 99 cents in six parts every other month in 2012, my quarter-life memoir which will focus heavily on my trip in search of faith and the events leading up to it, and the possibility of producing one of the stories from We Can't Go Home Again into a short film.
What is one piece of advice you have for aspiring writers?
The difference between being a Pro and an Amateur, is the Pro gets out of bed and gets to work at the same time every day no matter the stakes and the consequences. The Amateur writes whenever he feels like it.
Mr. Dubinsky has graciously offered to give TEN copies of We Can't Go Home Again to Write Practice readers. To win a copy, simply comment with your email address and we'll pick TEN random winners. Deadline: Thursday, 5pm EST.
And whether you win or lose, consider purchasing We Can't Go Home Again. It's only $0.99 cents, and you'll be helping an excellent writer share his gift with the world.
Today, practice writing about a young man driving from one coast to the other to go home. What does he see along the way? What does he think about? Does he find home when he gets there?
Write for fifteen minutes. When you're finished share your practice in the comments.
Don't forget to leave your email address to win a free copy of the book.