1) A bit about me: I was the kind of guy who, when unable to pay for my junior year of college, won my tuition and some of my expenses at a chess tournament the summer before I would have had to drop out. I wanted to be a researcher, but my professors made me kill animals by cervical dislocation (broken necks, to save on Demeral). So I worked as a business writer for about twelve years.
Then I became a professional singer and composer, with a “day job” as the cantor of a medium-sized congregation. I didn’t make the Met, so I retrained as a teacher. That didn’t work out so well.
2) Day Job – It’s the Artists’ Grant!! Between a host of physical issues and PTSD from being mugged in the school district by my students, I received a disability judgment. I supplement this by tutoring.
3) My hobbies – I eat dinner from my farm frequently – I have a full vegetable garden. I also golf and skate, and coach my daughter in gymnastics. She’s 5. My son is 10, and he’s as good a golfer as I am, so we coach each other.
4) I started writing with my first adult poem, “Metaphor,” written while my marriage was falling apart. I actually wrote poetry almost exclusively for three years. So I just finished my first book, 3 Through History: Love in the Time of Republicans, in July of this year.
5) I can’t say that I “choose” a genre; rather, I choose characters and put them in scenes where they will express their interesting, creative, passionate, erudite, crass, or rakish selves.
6) My first book came from a real life love triangle. But the back story, which is an excuse to tell history from three points of view, follows three made-up lives. I retrojected the characters from their 2010 lives back to their childhood. Most of the back story wound up as oblique reference, but for example, it was crucial for the reader to know that Rafi was a true idealist, a Socialist Kibbutznik born forty years after the Kibbutz movement reached its zenith, and therefore had a very hard time fitting in anywhere. He leaves
and goes back several times that the reader knows of.
7) My sources – well, in a way, it was easier when I was writing poetry exclusively. Anything I wanted to capture, whether it was a gnarled chunk of driftwood frozen to the side of a rock face by an ice storm or a lullaby for my daughter, would be worth a scribble, and some of these would turn into poems. Now, I have to conceive of the story, and set my characters in that narrative flow. It’s not easy!
8) I don’t believe in writer’s block. I do believe in careful story editing. We also have this gift called the blog, which allows a writer to produce text on a page without committing to putting it in a longer (or shorter!) form. For example, when I wrote my essay “Void,” I put it on my Aquaverse blog, and posted it for ccomments on Facebook. Other writers convinced me that it was perfect as it was; that I didn’t need to condense it into a poem or a set of poems.
9) Outline? Absolutely. As a former musical composer, a lot of my writing forms reflect compositional structure from music. You could think of my first novel as a sonata-allegro form with a development section for each character. That having been said, some composers used a non-structure, called “through-composing (durchcomponieren)” when they got a good enough idea. Some of the novel reads that way too, especially the section after 9/11 in which Dimitri’s brother-in-law was about to pitch a development in thoracic surgery to an investment group at Cantor Fitzgerald, and got trapped under
It was a direct line for that character to go to Afghanistan
to open field trauma units, but the development was that his wife, Dimitri’s
sister, was pregnant and the brother-in-law helped Dimitri transfer into Princeton to finish his degree there, so that he could
stay with his sister while the brother-in-law was at war. So, you make one
decision and a flow of the story pushes you along in a direction that you might
not have expected.
10) I didn’t read as a kid, except for poetry. I hated windy novels. I didn’t get Jane Eyre until I was already in my forties. At the time, I liked Kafka most, but I think that my dialogue, which is my strong suit, has more Russian roots. Think Gogol’s Dead Souls, for example. Every dialogue had a narrative purpose, as well as being a way to advance the characters and their schemes.
11) The challenge of a first book – One of my Facebook colleagues, Jacques Andervilliers, puts it nicely. A poet will capture every detail in a scene, but may not connect the scene to the overall work. Each of my chapters was written to be a little story in its own right – but as Jacques said, I had to keep the plot and character arcs in the foreground.
12) If I could do it over again – Wow. I am still trying to figure out how the whole marketing thing works. But it works differently now, with the rise of the eBook, than it did when I started the novel. Still, I got a piece of coaching when I was a business writer to know my client’s métier as well as she does, or better. So if my client was me, why shouldn’t I know my business? I need to keep learning about how people make a living doing this. The target keeps moving, so one keeps learning.
13) Marketing – see above! As I write this, I have been blogging my book on http://3throughhistory.blogspot.com and on Facebook, a chapter at a time. I joined Twitter and I’m on three writers’ groups on LinkedIn. I also attend two book clubs and have my own book business card. Still, I don’t have an agent, and I may have to figure out e-publishing to pay for a good story edit.
14) Forthcoming books? Look for this novel, 3 Through History: Love in the Time of Republicans, which may be on Amazon or Smashwords by the time this interview goes live.
OK – fun stuff. Favorite food: MetRx Vanilla Cream meal replacement bar. Runner-up – melons from my own garden.
Fuzzy socks??? If I could afford a pair of shoes that didn’t turn nasty after a month, I would never wear socks.
Secrets? What would you say about a former math teacher who misread the planting directions and put eggplant and melons 1 foot apart and not 4 feet? Planning is great, but execution is better. Unless it’s my own – execution, that is, unless I can sell tickets!