A! Magazine for the Arts

 Dr. Michael Cody

Dr. Michael Cody

ETSU’s Dr. Michael Cody publishes first novel, ‘Gabriel’s Songbook’

April 17, 2018

JOHNSON CITY â€" A new novel by an East Tennessee State University English professor offers a glimpse into the workings of Nashville’s music industry.

“Gabriel’s Songbook,” published in December 2017 by Pisgah Press, was written by Dr. Michael Cody, a professor and assistant chair for graduate studies in ETSU’s Department of Literature and Language.

“The plot is that of a young musician/songwriter from these mountains â€" just over the mountain in North Carolina, where I grew up â€" who goes to Nashville with his music to try to make a living,” Cody said. “Eventually, he finds out that the music business is more about business than music, and ultimately he learns that his place in the world is back in the mountains.”

“Gabriel’s Songbook,” while a work of fiction, is partly autobiographical.

“Like Gabriel, the protagonist, I spent my 20s in Nashville, writing songs and playing in bands, so a lot of it is based on my own experience, or at least the suggestions of my experience,” Cody said. “Sometimes I felt like I was just writing an autobiography, but then when I went back and really began looking at it, working with the editor, I realized that it really had more fiction in it than I anticipated. I was very glad about that, because I didn’t want to write an autobiography.”

For his book, Cody recreated an actual town that was once located on the French Broad River between Marshall and Hot Springs in Madison County, North Carolina, but disappeared during the Great Depression.

He also includes an element of romance. “Gabriel and his wife marry young, right out of high school, and she doesn’t go with him to Nashville,” Cody said. “But there is a homecoming at the end, so I think it’s a nice love story that goes along with the sort of cultural exploration of music and business.”

“Gabriel’s Songbook” has been a long time in the works. Cody started working on the story in a writing workshop around 25 years ago, when he entered the University of North Carolina-Asheville in his 30s to finish the degree he began as a student at Mars Hill College (now University) before his sojourn in the music business, but he has completed the most intense work on the book over the past three years.

This is the first novel for Cody, who has previously published several short stories, but he hopes it will not be the last. He says he enjoyed not only the writing process, but also working on revisions with the publisher and editor, and he has a couple more novels and a collection of short stories in the works.

“Gabriel’s Songbook” is available from www.pisgahpress.com, as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For more information, contact Cody at 423-439-6676 or codym@etsu.edu.