What is your working title of your book?

Mirror, Mirror.

Though I may have to change it because of the movie recently released of the same title. Is that about Snow White? While some of my stories draw loosely from fairy tales, this title refers to a major theme of the book, which is self-identity: how we can (or can’t) know ourselves and others, how we are blind to so much that is within us, how we see others through those blinders and the havoc that wreaks on our relationships, how women and men define and know themselves relative to the other gender . . . and such questions.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The stories come to me on their own, usually in the form of a voice. I like how Fellini describes his process; when an idea for a film came to him, he said it was like hearing a voice in the distance you could almost but not quite make out. The making of the film was his attempt to bring those words into form. It’s like that. I’ll hear some words, faint, whispered, and I write them down, but they’re not the real words, they’re only close approximations, and the hope is that later drafts will uncover them, the truth of what they want to say, and sometimes they do and sometimes not.

The subjects of this book–self-identity and intimacy, men and women, failed love and hoped-for love, violence and emotional violence–these come I guess from my own questions and experiences and interior struggles. The disastrous relationships and the ones of profound connection.  The futility of understanding my own behavior. Men and women trying to understand each other, and the absurdities that arise from their attempts to do so.

I’m also interested in the grotesque as a subversive aesthetic. Many of the women characters are repugnant or otherwise startling exaggerations of the stereotypes of women in our culture, because that’s the only way I know how to write female characters who don’t fit into patriarchal images of women. It took me some years to figure out that’s what I was doing, and at first I was a bit disturbed that my female characters were so often psychotic and self-destructive, from prostitutes to strippers to pathologically insecure actresses. How else can a woman write about women in a patriarchal culture? If I wrote about “normal” women, who were balanced and emotionally healthy–and I do know some women like this–that would be like turning a blind eye to the fact that we live in a culture that has no room or time for feminine values, and that women don’t continue to suffer because of it. The stories do not, however, blame men–individually or collectively–for this, although their characters might. More often my stories are holding up a mirror to women, to show them their own self-destructive and pathological tendencies, and to show them, too, that they have the choice to drop these delusions or to continue them. That sounds heavy. But the stories are really very funny.

What genre does your book fall under?

Literary fiction. Though I’m hoping it may hit that sweet spot between commercial and literary markets. The stories are rather dark and moody and blackly comedic and perhaps they have a sexy quality, a la Fifty Shades of Gray. I haven’t read that and don’t intend to, but I don’t see why an author can’t write about romance and sexuality and violence and mystery with style, with exquisite use of language, and that’s what I aim to do.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I think this is a stupid question. Each reader will imagine a character differently. It’s always chafing when you read a wonderful book and fall in love with a character or the picture of that character you’ve made in your mind and that you’re relating to and then you watch the movie and there’s some cheeseball playing that part. Not that I’m against movies being made of books and my plots might lend themselves well to the screen, but I’d probably want unknown actors to play the parts.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A collection of long short stories that explore intimacy, love, violence, men and women . . .

I don’t know. I’ll have to come up with something better than that, but I don’t care for one-liners. If you could condense it down to a sentence, you wouldn’t need to read the book.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I hope to place it with a small independent press, but if it doesn’t get picked up, I’ll publish it myself, with glee.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About two years. Five stories are complete and I’d like to write two more. Also the book includes a novella titled “All the Lonely People” (yes, Beatles reference), and that’s something I wrote the first draft of about five years ago.

I like to write quickly. Even though I write very long stories, they come out fast, especially since I switched (back) to writing first drafts in longhand from the computer a few years ago. I’d like to write even faster. The material that comes out in a rush, I find, is the best.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I humbly submit there may be some comparison with the Spanish novelist Javier Marias’s work (except that he’s a genius) in terms of the dark-rainy-night sort of mood of my book and the long flowing sentence style and endless unbearable self-reflective monologues and embedded monologues. His technique of nesting stories within stories within dialogue has influenced me a lot. Wherein a character might tell another character a really long story and within that story another story might be told and it’s all encapsulated in an exchange of dialogue. I especially love Marias’s shorter novels, such as The Man of Feeling and A Heart so White.

The quirky, tragic plots and black humor might have something in common with Italian novelist Niccolo Ammaniti’s novels.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think I answered that above. The voices . . . the voices . . . Also I like to make myself laugh. As I’ve said, it’s a funny book, in a sort of intellectual way. But not pretentious. Really. I hope.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The table of contents? The story titles so far are “Mirror, Mirror,” “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” “Three Wishes,” “New Year’s Eve,” “The Spy Prostitute,” and the novella, “All the Lonely People.”

You can read excerpts from some of the stories on the writing page on this website.

Check out Megan Kaminski’s Next Big Thing blog at http://mllemegan.blogspot.com/2013/02/next-big-thing-this-place.html

And Dennis Etzel, Jr.’s at

http://dennisetzeljr.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-next-big-thing.html

 

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