Today, I welcome Michael A. Barry to the blog.
Michael is an author with a passion for travelling, aviation, anthropology, pshychology, and history. He released his first book at the end of last year.
Cendrine Marrouat: Hello Michael, thank you for answering my questions. First, who is Michael Barry?
Michael Barry: Michael Barry at the time of le Grande Adventure was a 53-year-old semi-retired small business owner. I have done everything from construction, real estate sales, real estate investor/management, and a successful mom-and-pop auto painting repair business.
My college experiences were taking only the courses I thought I would need for business, but I did take a creative writing class which I did enjoy, but never thought writing was by any means, my calling.
CM: You are the author of Vagabonds in France, a book that takes the reader on an unexpected journey across France. Tell us more about it.
MB: Well after my wife and I went through a very tough 3 years, some would call it our hell years, just as we were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we received the call from our landlord saying, “The owner of your rental wants to sell, so you’re going to have to leave.”
After looking around for a place to live (Florida seeing 50% or more increases in rents) I had the idea that traveling, living on the road in foreign exotic lands until we tire of traveling, would do us good. We’d use the money we would have used for rent to travel. I had big plans.
CM: Why did you decide to write the book?
MB: Writing the book was something I decided to do for one reason. Nobody would have ever thought I would or could write a book, including me. I had something to prove. I know I had the gift of gab and a decent vocabulary, so I went for it whole hog.
CM: The book is a collaboration with Liesl Walsh, your wife. You wrote the words and she provided the photos. How was the experience of working together?
MB: Collaborating with my wife was mostly good. It was a first for both of us, and she jumped in with both feet.
I originally didn’t want pictures, but she would have none of that seeing she’s a photographer. It all worked out, and we learned a lot of valuable lessons and skills. It was a great experience.
CM: Vagabonds in France is a true story. What was the most challenging moment of your journey? And what is your happiest memory?
MB: The hardest part of the journey was packing the house into 2 storage units while planning the trip. We sold a bunch of stuff on Craigslist, made about 50 trips to the units with an over-stuffed car and about four 17-foot Uhaul trips. When we came home from Europe, we did it all over again.
It sounds strange, but my happiest memory was getting home. For us, it was an incredible and satisfying accomplishment for many personal reasons. Getting home was like crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
CM: Did you meet interesting people? What did they teach you?
MB: Most of our personal meetings were brief but mostly pleasant ones. The French and even the Parisians were very pleasant people. We learned to appreciate the French culture and in turn appreciate the way they do things here in the US.
CM: What are your favorite quote and image from the book?
MB: My favorite quote comes from our first adventure into Her Majesty, Notre Dame:
“After mass was over and while the parishioners exited outside, the organist shifted into a dark, powerful, soul-shaking, Black Sabbath mode. You know the Black Sabbath before Randy Rhodes Black Sabbath. It was so creepy and scary, I swore zombies were going to pop out from under the church floor and start all their zombie nonsense.”
My favorite image was of Sacré Coeur, with people from all over the world hanging out with a lone guitarist entertaining the crowd. It was one of my most memorable highlights.
CM: These three sentences alone from the back cover make me want to read the book: “Endure nasty weather and illness, witness the flood of the century, and meet some wonderful and not-so-wonderful people. Chuckle with me as we live among the French and try to learn their ways and language. Then make it back home to an empty house we’d never seen before.” How did you manage to write such an effective blurb?
MB: Well, I had to encapsulate all the exciting parts of the book into a few sentences. It took a while, but I feel those words did the trick.
CM: How has the book been received so far? And why do you think it is the case?
MB: The book has been received very well considering I had no expectations. My wife keeps track of sales, and for the most part we sell a few copies every day. The 23 people who have reviewed the book on Amazon say they really enjoyed the journey. A lot said they felt like they were on the trip with us and chuckled at the humor.
CM: Anything else you would like to add?
MB: I wish I’d known that I had the ability to write when I was in my 20’s, I would have written a lot more books.
So the moral is, if you’re young, write a book now, give it a shot, you might be the “next one”.