AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Daniel A. Blum, Author of The Feet Say Run



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:

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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.  

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

My previous novel, Lisa33 was an avante-garde sex comedy set on the internet.  I had received a large advance for it from Viking, a prestigious publisher.  Yet in the end the experience was actually quite awful – a dream that morphed into a nightmare.  I won’t get into the details here, but simply put, I wanted to get as far away from my Lisa33 experience as possible.  A literary novel set in Nazi Germany was surely about as far from an internet sex farce as one could get. 

Of course, there is more to it than that.  I had grown weary of the novels – many of them quite celebrated - that I was reading, and increasingly interested in the idea of “serious” work that also made for a gripping page-turner.  And then I was drawn to the idea of exploring the scope of modern history, - all of the cruelty and compassion and blindess and brilliance - through a single, long, remarkable life.  And so my narrator and novel began to take shape.  I honestly never had a moment where I decided, “I am going to write another book now.”  I just began poking around with some ideas.  And then I was in too deep and there was no retreating.  The only way out was forward – to borrow a military metaphor. 

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Honestly, I put everything I have learned about life and writing into this book.  So on the one hand it came fairly steadily, and on the other I’ve been apprenticing for it since I was a daydreamy child.

As far as advice, my tip is really forget everything anyone has “taught” you about writing.  Nobody knows.  There is no assembly manual for putting together a novel.  No carefully marked trail.  The writer must find his or her own way through the wilderness.   Most especially, please forget that most dreadful bit of advice, “Write what you know.”  Unless your life has been particularly remarkable, it is not likely the source material of riveting fiction.  Finally, I would say write the book that as you reader you would most want to read.  

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

As it turned out, my publisher found me.  I had posted a few poems on a public website, and the publisher had admired them and commented.  This started an email exchange and my forwarding, The Feet Say Run.  I have to believe I am one of the few writers who was “discovered”, then entirely forgotten, then once again “discovered” for something new and unrelated. 


Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

What shocked me about my first book, Lisa33, was going from a long string of rejections to having publishers suddenly in a bidding war for my novel.  That was quite surreal.  In the end though, the book was not promoted at all by the publisher.  And then my agent disappeared mysteriously.  The beacon of fame swept right over me, illuminated me for a few delirious seconds, and then moved on. 

Interestingly, my agent later came out with his own memoir, which got a great deal of attention.  In it, he described how he’d descended into cocaine addiction, and had left his writers quite stranded.  And there I was, quite stranded indeed, back in my day-job, as I read about agent’s memoir in the New York Times. 

For a couple of years afterward, I not only ceased writing fiction, I ceased reading.  But life must go on. 


Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I have a couple of projects nearing completion and am unsure right now about which to publish next.  One is quite serious and the other is humor.  I seem to go back and forth.  The sacred and the profane.  For me they seem to need one another, to perpetually orbit one another.      


Q: What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?

That I am Jewish and chose to write and essentially sympathetic portrayal of a German who fought for the Nazis.   I’ve been thinking a good deal about how a novel is an act of empathy.  I requires empathy to create its characters, and demands empathy of the reader.  I think, in The Feet Say Run,  I wanted to try to take this as far as one could. 


Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

That humans are capable of extraordinary cruelty and kindness, stupidity and brilliance; that life is chaotic and infinitely complex;  that this sturdy-seeming thing we call civilization is in truth so desperately fragile, a single breath can blow it apart. 


Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Just thank you much.  It was my pleasure.  
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