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Writer Michael Abraham talks about “Providence, VA,” the story of a massive power outage that strikes the Galax area and forces people into self-reliance.
By SHAINA STOCKTON
Michael Abraham recalls the words of a woman who once told him that if the civilized world falls apart, her self-sustaining friends would be the ones who would persevere.
In his new novel, “Providence, VA,” the author sets out to test that theory against the backdrop of a disaster that strikes a semi-fictional community set near Galax.
The book tells the story of a 17-year-old girl named Sammy Reisinger who travels to Galax for the annual Old Fiddlers’ Convention. While there, disaster strikes, leaving her stranded in unfamiliar territory.
“Providence was inspired by a woman named Mikell Ellison,” Abraham told The Gazette. “She once said to me, ‘If the world goes to hell in a hand basket, my neighbors are the people you want to know. They are resourceful, and they will survive.’ So, I began thinking about writing a novel that would test this theory.”
For his disaster, Abraham chose to destroy the electrical power grid. “Without power being supplied from distant power plants, I thought perhaps the dam on the New River in Fries might be able to supply the community with a small amount of electricity,” he said.
Abraham has dedicated a lot of time to his writing, but it wasn’t the first stop in his career. In 1976, he graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in mechanical engineering. However, after five years of working in the field, he realized that it wasn’t where he belonged.
“I ran a commercial printing company in Christiansburg that I inherited from my father from 1991 until 2007,” he said. “My engineering education was invaluable in helping me understand the steps of problem-solving. I think that it helped me gain the determination that I would need later to tackle a full-length book.”
After he started writing, Abraham spent years studying Appalachian culture and history. As a result, he has written several books about Southwest Virginia and neighboring West Virginia, and has developed a deep appreciation for the area he grew up in.
“It is my job as a writer to gain a greater understanding of what this area is about,” Abraham says. “I think that the people here have a lot to be proud of.”
Abraham’s goal for this novel and his other books was not only to entertain, but also to educate. “I always begin by asking myself what things I want my readers to know when they finish,” he said. “With ‘Providence,’ I was interested in delving into traditional Appalachian culture and how I felt that people would deal with a disaster.”
Each of his books is carefully researched and fact-checked before he begins writing. “Providence” took approximately 14 months to conceptualize and only two and a half months to write.
His previous works include two non-fiction books, “The Spine of the Virginias” and “Harmonic Highways, Exploring Virginia’s Crooked Road,” and another novel, titled “Union, WV.”
In addition to writing books, Abraham is also a freelance writer for several magazines, including Blue Ridge Country, The News Messenger, Greenbrier Quarterly, Motorcycle Cruiser and Backroads Motorcycle Tour. He has never been professionally employed in journalism, as he prefers the freedom of freelancing.
He particularly enjoys writing profile pieces. “One of my greatest strengths as a writer is bringing out the best stories in the people I meet.”
In his spare time, he enjoys a myriad of activities, such as motorcycling, hiking, bird watching, juggling, building stained glass panels and traveling. He enjoys reading regional authors like Sharyn McCrumb and Homer Hickam, as well as many different works of non-fiction. “I often joke that I would rather write than read,” he said.
Abraham hopes that “Providence, VA” will spread the message about what is most important in life.
“I hope that readers will realize that the trappings of our society upon which we so heavily depend are a relatively new thing and they could vanish in a moment. If they do, life will go on, and we will continue to seek happiness and fulfillment.”
• For more information about Michael Abraham, or to buy his books, visit bikemike.squarespace.com.