Daniel A. Blum grew up in New York, attended Brandeis University and currently lives outside of Boston with his family. His first novel Lisa33 was published by Viking in 2003. He has been featured in Poets and Writers magazine, Publisher’s Weekly and most recently, interviewed in Psychology Today.
Daniel writes a humor blog, The Rotting Post, that has developed a loyal following.
His latest release is the literary novel, The Feet Say Run.
WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:
About the Book:
At the age of eighty-five, Hans Jaeger finds himself a castaway among a group of survivors on a deserted island. What is my particular crime? he asks. Why have I been chosen for this fate? And so he begins his extraordinary chronicle.
It would be an understatement to say he has lived a full life. He has grown up in Nazi Germany and falls in love with Jewish girl. He fights for the Germans on two continents, watches the Reich collapse spectacularly into occupation and starvation, and marries his former governess. After the war he goes on wildflower expeditions in the Alps, finds solace among prostitutes while his wife lay in a coma, and marries a Brazilian chambermaid in order to receive a kidney from her.
By turns sardonic and tragic and surreal, Hans’s story is the story of all of the insanity, irony and horror of the modern world itself.
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Thanks for letting us interrogate you! Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?
I truly love the writing itself. It is the most intriguing puzzle, the best brainteaser and the most intricate, joyous daydream, all rolled into one.
Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be? I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?
If it is cracked up to be lots of fascinating repartee with the intelligentsia, scandalous gossip at The Algonquin Club, not to mention several James Bond girls hanging on your every word, then no, it is not all it is cracked up to be. Even with the success I have had, there have been plenty of frustrations – a glutted market, challenges of getting read and noticed, and dreaded time spent promoting oneself. I truly weary of all of those, “Look what so-and-so said about how wonderful my book is” Facebook posts.
On the other hand, the writing itself is a great pleasure, and producing something that truly moves people, that makes them think, that people connect with – that is extremely satisfying.
Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?
My first novel, Lisa33, was with Viking, a very prestigious name in the industry. And it was an awful experience, to be perfectly frank - a dream that gradually morphed into a nightmare. This one, The Feet Say Run, is with a small press, Gabriel’s Horn.
What’s the snarkiest thing you can say about the publishing industry (e.g. rejections, the long wait, etc.)
Yikes. How much time do we have, and how many glasses of wine have I had? For one, I truly don’t understand the judgments of the Ruling Class of opinion-makers. I read lots of celebrated, literary fiction, lauded by critics, and so much of it is just plain tedious. Can’t anybody just say, “Nothing happened in this book! Where was the story?” Sometimes I feel editors and critics are just so many sheep. One praises an author, anoints him or her as “the chosen one”, and everyone else, feeling secretly insecure in their own judgments, just falls in line.
The Feet Say Run is mostly quite serious, but I also write a humor blog. I grew so frustrated at bad writing by celebrated authors that I wrote pieces in the blog about the Worst Sentences in Modern Novels and the Worst Sex Scenes. They were two of my most popular pieces. Of course, they’re meant to be fun but there is a serious element to it: if we are unable to critize and demand the most from ourselves, from one another, then literature is in trouble.
Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?
I would say they’re all supportive. My wife is my toughest critic, but it has made me a better writer. When she was really enthusiastic about The Feet Say Run it was definitely a good sign.
What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?
That would be with my first novel, Lisa33. My agent, Bill Clegg, managed to get a bidding war going for it, and I got a very big advance from Viking. After years of rejections, this was all completely surreal to me. “You’re going to be famous,” Bill assured me. Yet after that, everything went wrong. I won’t go into all the details, but it was ultimately deep-sixed. Buried by the publisher, not promoted at all. And Bill himself mysteriously disappeared just when the book was coming out.
All things must pass, and that definitely includes my advance, which I spent through in the next year. So I found myself back at my day-job. One day I was sitting in a cubicle, reading the New York Times, and there was my old agent, Bill Clegg, on the front page. He had just published his own memoir. He’d descended, evidently, into cocaine addiction, had left his authors stranded and bad left the literary world entirely. And now he had returned - this agent who had assured me I would be famous – and was himself basking in fame and success. In his memoir he actually wrote about how he’d left his writers stranded. And there I was, one of his writers, feeling very stranded indeed, reading about his book, his redemption and glory, from my anonymous cubicle.
To be honest, I stopped writing and even reading fiction for a couple of years after that. But of course, life must go on.
How about the social networks? Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?
I suppose Facebook is the behemoth, and it is definitely useful. But I am very ambivalent about it. I started my blog to promote my fiction, and then got on facebook to post links to the blog, and then got on twitter to tweet about my facebook posts. Its an infinite loop, a whirlpool, and feels like art and beauty are getting sucked right into its vortex.
Book sales. Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)? How are you making the sales happen for you?
I have absolutely refused to look. I don’t want to know. I’m enjoying that so many friends and book group readers have loved the book. I’m sure if it really starts to take off I’ll know. Thankfully, this time around, my expectations are a good deal more grounded. Eventually, I’ll get a royalty statement from my publisher, so I’ll deal with it then.
What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
Hmm…it might be to complain about, “The Dying Animal,” by Philip Roth. This novel is a perfect example of mindless critics raving about a truly horrible book. And it is also an example of a writer suffering from way too much praise, believing that whatever he writes must be a work of genius by definiton. Roth has written some fine books and some awful ones. This was definitely in the latter camp. Or maybe if you have a breast fetish, it’s a work of ineffable genius. Who knows?
Okay, too much sugar for you today! Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in. Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?
Haha. I think I would need something stronger than tea to believe that I “wouldn’t have it any other way”. We all have our regrets, after all. But I will say this: I still truly love writing and reading - in spite of how I may sound. I just read, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante and it is everything a novel should be. I can’t say enough good things about it. What’s more, I truly enjoy talking about books – whether seriously or snarkily. Most importantly, I’m really proud of The Feet Say Run. I want to write a literary novel with passion and suspense and a real, compelling plot - in short, to write the book I would most want to read. So many people tell me the book is really hard to put down, which makes me feel that on some level at least, I have succeeded. And that is incredibly gratifying.