Local author of fantasy tale showed courage in real life

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Portraits of the artist: J. Michael McFadden at the Michigan Author Jamboree last Saturday: at left, looking fairly pedestrian on-stage; at right, in Full Wizard holding his book, Deidre’s Dawn. The color of his robe is more accurate at right.

Photos by Cynthia Price

by Cynthia Price

Deidre’s Dawn is a sweet and hopeful tale about courage and believing in yourself – subjects about which its author, J. Michael McFadden, knows quite a bit.

A native of Cleveland, McFadden studied mechanical engineering at University of Detroit-Mercy and, after a stint in Ann Arbor where he met his wife Barb, settled at Howmet for the next 20 years.

But, he says, “I had been getting tired of the bottom line orientation of the engineering world. I would say I’m more of a sensitive kind of person, money first versus people first never fit well with me. I was more concerned about the people, and it got very stressful. So, I decided to go into massage therapy and went back to school.”

After attending the Kalamazoo Center for the Healing Arts, McFadden landed a job at the Muskegon YFCA, willingly taking a pay cut. He still works there now that it is the Lakeshore Fitness Center, but for fewer hours a week.

“Of course, I couldn’t have done it without Barb’s support,” he says. She is a nurse and ended up in a management position.

At the same time, he had wanted to try his hand at writing since high school. He wrote movie reviews and other pieces for his school paper, and he made up stories for his three children, to put them to sleep at night.

McFadden started a writers’ group at Barnes and Noble almost 20 years ago. Originally called Writers’ X-Change in honor of The X-Files, the group still meets.

Combining his love of stories with his need to write something a little longer, McFadden came up with Deidre’s Dawn, based on both old Celtic tales and on a painting of a young woman surrounded by fairies by Edward Robert Hughes – which provides the cover art for his book. (He was assisted by Howard Ruback, no stranger to The Examiner,  on the cover and all other illustrative photos in the book.)

He got a lot of rejection letters, but he persevered in pursuing his dream. When he found out about self-publishing, in particular the on-demand style where books are printed up only as they are ordered, his first book became a reality.

He is now part of Argon Press, also profiled in earlier Examiners, started by Steve LeBel. McFadden cannot say enough good things about the help LeBel and other Argon writers have given him. They also include Ingar Rudholm, who appeared with McFadden at the Michigan Author Jamboree at the Book Nook and Java Shop in Montague last week. That presentation’s emcee, local author Andrew Smith, praised Rudholm for his hard work on behalf of everyone in the West Michigan writers’ community.

McFadden’s book is part of a trilogy called the Enchantment Trilogy. McFadden has written the second, Rising Darkness, and it will be published in the near future. Once the third book is completed, he hopes to write an adult series featuring an archaeologist.

In Deidre’s Dawn, nine-year-old Deidre discovers she can summon magic powers as she escapes a miserable life to find her long-lost parents. It requires courage and love in her heart to confront the icy tormenters who have overtaken first-century Ireland.

Speaking of courage, McFadden wears a wizard’s robe, long white hair, and Gandalf hat to promote the book. Though he removed the wig and the hat at the Author Jamboree, he actually seems quite fond of the purple velvet robe.

Purchase Deidre’s Dawn online at Argon Press (argonpress.com), or on Amazon.com.