GOODREADS ASKED ME the following questions for the benefit of its readers. I thought I’d share my answers with you.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH WRITER’S BLOCK?
It is not a problem these days. I have amassed a vast repository of material upon which to draw. My approach to a story long or short is that I am prompted by a meaningful moment or a significant passage in my life and the explication of its meaning becomes my destination. Getting there I’m free to wander. I banish my censor and open the gates and whatever flows through me goes on the page. My first draft is right-brained and spontaneous and produces a throbbing mass. Afterward, the left-brain takes over and slices and dices and rearranges the parts. At the end of a writing session I stop when I know what I want to have happen next so I can resume the following day. And if I do get stuck, I might have a conversation with my character. I might say: Joe, help me out here! What would you like to do next?
WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
There is no one best thing. There are many great and wonderful things. I see writing as an exercise in telepathy that transcends time and space. Images and ideas and emotions are delivered to my conscious mind from a subconscious repository of all ideas and images and emotions which I then arrange into a story and render in symbols on the page. Some time and place later—perhaps tomorrow across town, or maybe thousands of miles and hundreds of years later when I am dead and gone—some anonymous reader will scan the symbols and the story will emerge in his conscious mind just as I had conjured it in mine. It is a mystical and mind-blowing process that I am thrilled to participate in. Also, my life is the material for my stories and if I don’t tell them no one will.
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice! Master your craft. Learn the rules, then break them if you will but know that your reader must understand you. Writing is an art and you are an artist and you are free to render your private vision as long as the reader remains immersed in the vivid and continuous dream and keeps turning the page. Dare to be different. Be true to yourself. Be in touch with your inner audacity! And since you’re not likely to make a lot of money…enjoy the process!
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
Preparing my second novel for publication. Penitentiary Tales: a Love Story recounts the escapades of one Dean Davis, a thirty-something, educated, straight white male from the affluent community of Sausalito, in Marin County, California, who is sent to an Illinois prison dominated by a daunting, ethnically diverse population of inmates from the mean streets of Chicago. How does he do his time? What challenges does he meet? How does the experience affect his social and political consciousness? Addressing issues of race and gender from an uncommon point of view, it is at once a serious inquiry into the minds and hearts of the marginalized and the oppressed and a bit of a romp. It will appeal to adventurous and intelligent readers of all persuasions who appreciate a literary walk on the wild side. It has been written. It is being edited. Pending final revision it should launch in the spring of 2019. Concurrently, I am writing a novel tentatively titled The Trip.
It is based on a written account I kept during my first acid trip in Berkeley, California, in 1968. It is proving difficult to reenact the mental and spiritual states that characterized that era because the doors of perception have nearly closed.
HOW DO YOU GET INSPIRED TO WRITE?
I’m fortunate. I have story ideas clamoring to be let loose like a pack of frantic beasts in a cage. And I love my stories so much that I can’t wait to write them so that I can read them the next day and say: Damn, boy, you are good!
WHERE DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR MOST RECENT BOOK?
Decades ago, at the request of an Anthropology Professor, I interviewed a prison inmate about his opinion of homosexual activity in the penitentiary. He wouldn’t stay on point but incessantly praised his loving wife who waited for him faithfully and was keeping the family business afloat until after his release. I learned later that he would not be released any time soon, if ever—because he was locked up for murdering his wife! I was fascinated and disturbed by the depths of the man’s delusion and wrote a short story around it called A Day and a Wake-up. Some years and many permutations later the story became the novel Inside the Mind of Martin Mueller.