June 9, 2008 · Updated 2:59 PM
"You don't need to meet Michael J. Vaughn to know he wears a lot of hats. But an interview - appropriately, by email - reveals that the artistic accouterment of poet, playwright and journalist have long concealed his true aspirations - now he dons the most unusual of literary guises, that of online author.There are so many schizophrenic voices running round in my head, he writes, by way of explanation for Gabriella's Voice, his 200-page e-book now available from online outlets.Although he is loath to describe his online opus as autobiographical, he admits that his visit to Bainbridge Island three years ago was an inspiration. The novel concerns a 50-year-old opera buff whose unusual family tragedies propel him to leave generous checks with small-town opera companies, and whose emotional journey to recovery begins when his travels end on the island.I've been in love with Puget Sound since I was a child, writes Vaughn. I love riding the ferries.And in more ways than most, he's no stranger to those island paths leading nowhere but the water's edge. Vaughn's publishers are called Dead End Street, and they have made it possible to read Gabriella's Voice straight from most computer screens for $7.99, or as a Rocket e-book, a portable book-reading computer heavily marketed through Barnes and Noble.But for those of us used to regarding the Internet as a short circuit to the cheapest deals around, it's worth noting that the Barnes and Noble option is hardly a bargain at $200. As ever, however, Vaughn makes an unusual case. When people tell me they're traditionalists and enjoy reading an old-fashioned book-book, I tell them I couldn't agree more, he writes. It's market restrictions that make online publication necessary. After various publishers had rejected his work, some because it was too intellectual for their audiences, and the more academic houses because it was too commercial and plot driven, he was pleased when deadendstreet.com came along. It's such a relief to be in print, he says. No more editing - it's out of my hands. And he's more than just grateful to his publishers. He respects their artistic policies, describing them as a revolutionary forum for works that might not otherwise get published elsewhere. Furthermore, he has faith enough in the Rocket e-book to set himself up as their novelist-diplomat. He hopes to tour Barnes and Noble stores giving readings and answering questions about the product.I really do view the Rocket as the next step in the development of online reading, and crucial to my personal success, he says.In particular, Vaughn says he admires Rocket e-book reviewers for recognizing the musical allusions in Gabriella's Voice for the stylistic embellishments he had intended them to be. As far as my novel's concerned, opera is just window dressing, he says.Of course, for the eccentric author of an unusual book, the artists' costume box holds plenty more delights. As an award-winning poet, Vaughn is currently on the road to promote his verse - and then there's that play he continually threatens to finish. Writing as one arts journalist to another, he reveals he might even go back to writing as an opera critic for the press.For Vaughn has a journalist's skepticism, for all the happy-go-lucky spirit of his unique creativity. No stranger to the exploitative arts world, he doesn't mind confessing he was almost conned by a literary agency who offered to take him on their books, on condition he paid to have his work edited by their manuscript doctors - the furthering of whose own business turned out to be their main aim. There are people out there spinning fictions far less plausible than anything in my book, Vaughn says.In characteristic soundbite speak, Vaughn describes himself as a master of different mediums. I've learned a lot, and I have faith in online publication, he writes."