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
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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Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
I’ve certainly always been a daydreamer, and I think as I got older that translated naturally into wanting to write. Also, my entire family besides myself are either psychiatrists (father and brother) or psychologists (mother and sister), so it feels like I had little choice but to either go mad or turn a little bit thoughtful and introspective.
But there is also a craft and that took some time to acquire. My early writing efforts have thankfully been lost to the ravages of time.
As to how I chose this particular book, had grown increasingly interested in the idea of literary fiction that also made for a gripping page-turner. And I had this idea of telling a big, epic tale of human tragedy - of cruelty and compassion and blindess and brilliance - through a single, long life. Gradually, my narrator, a German who had fought for the Nazis, began to take shape. I honestly never had a moment where I decided, “I am going to write another novel.” I just began poking around. And then I was in too deep, immersed, and the only way out was forward – to borrow a military metaphor.
Is this your first book?
The Feet Say Run is my second novel. My previous novel, Lisa33 was an avante-garde sex comedy set on the internet. I had received a large advance for it, but in the end the publishing experience was quite disastrous. I wanted to get as far away from it as possible. A harrowing war story set in Nazi Germany was surely about as far from an internet sex farce as one could get.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
This was published through a small press, Gabriel’s Horn.
For years after my miserable experience with Viking and my first novel, I ceased writing fiction entirely and even reading it. When The Feet Say Run was completed, I had few connections left in the publishing world. But I had posted a few poems to a public website, and my publisher had read an admired them there. She emailed me and asked what else I wrote, I sent her the manuscript, and she wanted it. So that was that. It was an easy decision.
In a way I feel I am one of the few writer to be “discovered” twice, as Gabriel’s Horn was surprised to learn I’d already had a novel out with major publisher.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
Wow. I would love to write a book on this, to be honest. But let me say a few more words about my experience in the “mainstream” world.I certainly had my share of rejection letters. In fact, in no time at all, I had accumulated a stack that covered the entire spectrum of conceivable reasons for turning down a manuscript – up to and including (this is true), that my writing was, somehow, “too sophisticated.”
What does one say to that? “How dare you! My writing is NOT sophisticated AT ALL!”
I went through novels and agents and eventually sent off my manuscript for Lisa33, a post-modern sex comedy set entirely on the internet. I soon got a call back from Bill Clegg, who was then already a big name in literary representation, and who was eager to represent it. He not only succeeded in selling it, but managed to get a bidding war going. Viking was the highest bidder, and the book sold for six figures – one of the largest sums that year for any unpublished writer. I quite literally jumped for joy, thought I was living my dream.
Yet from that moment on, pretty much everything that could go wrong did. My book was immediately caught up in politics at Viking. While my editor loved it, her boss evidently hated it to an almost equal degree, and wondered why Molly had spent so much to acquire it. The publication date got pushed out. The printing, the publicity, weren’t going to be that large after all.
Meanwhile my super-agent, Bill Clegg, gradually grew more and more remote and eventually flat-out disappeared. Nobody knew what had happened to him. And then Viking pushed the publication date back again. And then a third time.
It did finally come out, with no publicity whatever, and quickly vanished into obscurity. As did I. The beacon of fame swept right over me, illuminated me for a few delirious seconds, and then moved on. The ultimate irony was when my agent – who had once assured me I was going to be famous, published his own memoir and landed on the front page of the New York Times. I read the review from my cubicle, back at my day job.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
I’ve gotten a huge amount of perspective. I had dreamed of The Algonquin Club, fascinating repartee with brilliant intellectuals, parties among the literati. Of course, it was all an illusion. My friends are the same friends I have always had and cared about. My family is still first in my life. Most of all what I learned is this: if you don’t love the process of writing, you shouldn’t be doing it, because the reward, even when you supposedly “make it” is really a fleeting bit of fool’s gold.
I am so proud of my new novel. It is really miles better, deeper, more intense, than the one I got the big advance for. And my expectations are so much more grounded. I just want people to try it and enjoy it.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
I would definitely recommend a supportive small press like I found. This is been a fun, interesting, stimulating experience. If there are financial rewards at some point, so much the better, but I am not depending on them.
Breaking in to the “mainstream” world is even harder now. The industry is a mess. I see the rise of indie and small presses as a natural consequence, with a lot of positives, similar to the rise of indie filmmaking and smaller music labels. It allows for more options for the consumer, but also makes it hard for consumers to know what to choose. Which is where reviewers and bloggers have their own role.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
My advice is more about the writing than about the publishing.
First, forget everything anyone has “taught” you about writing. Nobody knows. There is no assembly manual. There is not carefully marked trail. You must find your own way through the wilderness. Second, be sure you truly love writing, and not merely the idea of writing. Third, please forget, “write what you know”! Worst advice ever. Write the book that, as a reader, you would most want to read.