Close up interviews com Derek B Miller (English version)

Derek B Miller , in "Close up interviews", with humor  speaks about his book "Norwegian by Night" his writing habits. Meet the author.

Livros e Marcadores (LM): Congratulations, first of all, for your book. Sheldon  is an amazing character, he marked me deeply. What i like most of him is his humor, his peculiar perspective of life. Sheldon reminds me my grandfather, his conviction, his strong will and his life experience. Is this connection with reader one of your goals when you write this book? How do you work it, is for you something natural? Or, otherwise is some that you have work hard to achieve? 

Derek B Miller (DBM): 
One unexpected experience with this novel was learning how many people find Sheldon to be like their fathers or grandfathers. I have received comments like this from as geographically and culturally unfamilar places as Samoa, Tasmania, Portland Maine, New York and Lisbon to name a few.

While it sounds paradoxical, I think the universality of Sheldon comes from exploring and being true to what makes him an individual. I focused — directly, explicitly, and unapologetically — on a Jewish American man of that generation, from that part of the country, with that sense of identity and sort of character. Such people are real. They existed. I think everything Sheldon did in that book is realistic. Mad, perhaps. But realistic.

As a writer, I wanted to be true to a voice. But as individuals we are shaped (and in turn help shape) the socio-cultural world of which we’re a part. Sheldon’s universe was one that was shaped in part by a post-war attitude and stance towards life that I think was widely shared or at least familiar to many people far from Sheldon’s actual home. And then there was his age. I took Sheldon’s age seriously, and I explored the thoughts and feelings of being eighty-two (as best I understood them). People within sight of that age are experiencing something in common too. They are approaching death. How we orient towards that and accommodate it helps define us. That made Sheldon’s story universal too.

As for what is natural and what is deliberate, all I can say is that acting deliberately is what is now natural because I have been working at this for a long time and the relentless effort is now the norm. 

(LM): The humor makes part of your life? What make you laugh?

(DBM):  I haven’t analyzed my own sense of humor and I suspect I won’t bother. It might be that the unexamined life is not worth living, and all that, but I think the unexamined sense of humor is the happiest one: If it tickles you, laugh, and enjoy the laughter. Being smart is wonderful, but being critical can make you dull.

Without a sense of humor I fail to see how anyone can function on this planet. Humor is a function of the capacity to experience something from at least two perspectives and to hear (and enjoy) the interplay between those perspectives. You need to know what is the norm and what is expected of it to know when it is being violated and the significance of that violation. The day we lose our sense of humor is the day we no longer know what is supposed to be normal because that space will have collapsed. That’s why the line, “It that supposed to happen?” is hilarious: It saves us. It opens it up again. It gives us room to breath when all else is lost and madness is the new norm. It is the essense too, as I understand it, of Jewish humor. We step aside — even from an act of God, like the destruction of Sodom and Gommorah — and say, “Forgive me for asking, but are you sure about this?”

So yes, humor makes up a very large part of my life.

(LM): Your son born in 2008, like my own. And i know, by experience, that are troubled times. How have you managed to write a great book in a remarkable 8 months? What is your big secret?

(DBM): My big secret to writing a novel between the birth of my son and New Years in 2008 was my wife. I am a very engaged father and I love it, but the fact of the matter is that during those first six months or so, Daddy is a breastless diaper-changing transportation device. So between 6am and about noon every weekend, I was irrelevant to the life of my son. And during that irrelevance, I wrote. Camilla took care of Julian and I sat at the kitchen table in my own world — the world I can now share through this book. I’d been writing for a long time, and I was very inspired to write this and it was coming together in a way that some previous writing hadn’t. That clarity of purpose and voice pulled me along. I looked forward to the weekends so I could get back to work.

(LM): How much there are of you in Sheldon? Do you have the some pragmatic perspective of life that Sheldon have?

(DBM):  This is sort of an unanswerable question. Sheldon is a product of a great deal of life, including the lives of others, passing through me as a person and then a writer. I distinguish those two things because my skills as a writer may be more limited than my skills as a person. I certainly hope so, anyway. This act of passing through and then trying to represent meaningfully makes our relationship an artistic one. 

(LM): Describe us your writing routine.

(DBM): I have an ideal routine, and then I have a real one. The ideal is something like this: I wake at around 6:30 AM. I shower and dress and eat and have coffee as though I am going to a normal job. I sit in my basement office and briefly check email, make sure there wasn’t a nuclear war I need to know about it, and then I retreat into my material. I have switched to using Byword to write as I can’t tolerate Word any longer. I write using inverse type — white type on a black, full screen. No other images. No email. No windows. Then I write from about 8AM until 13h00. Whatever happens happens, but as Nora Roberts says (one of the most prolific writers in the world), the only rule is “ass in the chair.” Then I go for a 10K run if the temperature is between +30 C and -12C. Above that I have no tolerance for heat and below that I get cold. I hate exercising inside, so I’m prepared to tolerate the range so long as it isn’t too slippery.

My mornings are intense whereas my late afternoons are open to rhythms. I might read or watch TV and suddenly understand something so I rush back and work until the material has been completed. I don’t write at night. I’m the opposite to Michael Chabon this way. I’m not a morning person per se, but the dreamlike fatigue of the morning puts me in the state of mind that supports creative possibility for me.

(LM): Do you like to map out your books ahead of time, or just let it flow?

(DBM):  I think this is a false dichotomy perpetuated by authors, and some of it is the result of really not understanding what they are doing (i.e. they can write, but they can’t necessarily analyze their practice because that isn’t what writing teaches you how to do).

In my view, the creation of any story is an abductive and iterative process. That means that the determination of what is the story — the act sequence, the drama, the meaning, the inter-relationship among the parts — happens by creating, and then reflecting on the creation to make decisions that in turn result in more creation. It is a process in dialogue with itself. The writer must — by virtue of the abductive process — go back and forth and back and forth so that the story is written both forward and backwards at the same time. Richard Ford has said that the first time you write the book forward, and the second time you write it backwards. That’s perhaps the idealized answer. Closer to the fact, I think, is that we write forwards, then backwards, quite regularly and more often than we might prefer.

It is a profoundly unnatural way of thinking. Those who like their logic linear are unlikely to be emotionally at ease in the creation of a story because it requires a constant engagement with the question, “what does this observation about what I just wrote mean to the writing?” It requires a constant answer to, “why am I telling them (the reader) this?” and “what is the value or virtue in the telling?” 

Those who say they do it all at the beginning are neglecting the nuance of their own reality in my view unless they really are ignoring what they’re writng and not allowing themselves to be influenced by it. I suppose this is possible but it’s a mystery to me if it happens; I wouldn’t want to read fiction written that way. And those who say they don’t do it all and “just flow” are those who want to romantize the creative process and downplay the analytical facts of it.

After all, being creative is sexy and being analytical is not. 

«There is a craft. There is a means of reasoning. And yes … there is also magic. »
Also, some projects demand that you know the answers in your story at the beginning. Mysteries really require that. Others projects don’t. You can write about a romance without knowing how it will end and simply allow the force of the characters you’ve created to determine the most valuable path so the story evolves.

All of this is to say that the writing process is not about one’s essential character and personality. There is a logic to this. There is a craft. There is a means of reasoning. And yes … there is also magic.
(LM): What can we see in your workplace, all common things, or do you have something distinctive or unusual?

(DBM):  At the moment I write in my basement in a very spartan environment. I think the last thing a good writer needs is inspiration from a window looking out over Venice. Aside from it setting the standards too high (because really, who needs that kind of pressure?), you might be writing science fiction comedy, in which case, what good is the Ponto Vecchio? 

«Stephen King rightly said that the writer needs a “far sighted place"»
Stephen King rightly said that the writer needs a “far sighted place” and to me that is someplace that allows you to look beyond the horizons of your own, immediate, possibility. It is the effort to do so that enriches the soul and infuses the writing with new possibility. As for unusual … I have my guitar nearby when I need a break. I’m not very good but I have some rhythm and it helps change my mood which can be nice. I don’t think that’s so unusual though.

(LM): What is your next project?

(DBM):  I’m working on two manuscripts, actually, but since I haven’t decided which I want to be my second novel I’d rather not say. I will say that there is more writing coming if you liked the first.

(LM): Tell us something about yourself that is largely unknown and surprising..

(DBM):  I’m not sure anything about myself surprises myself, and I’m increasingly uncertain about what others might fund surprising these days so I don’t know the answer. As for unknown — no one has ever heard of me. No one knows anything. I don’t mind it that way. I simply want the writing and ideas to be known. There’s where the value is. That’s what might last.

(LM): Do you have some funny story related to a book tour or book event that you can tell us?

(DBM):  I’ve never been on a book tour, and I’ve been to very, very few events. So sadly, no. No stories to tell there.

Promotional Video about Close Up Interviews

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