My fellow bibliophiles, please welcome David Litwack to the blog today. We shall chat about the secret lives of linguistics professors, Homer’s Odyssey, The Life of Pi, and how no celebration is complete without bread pudding. Don’t forget to check out the giveaway at the end of the post!
Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?
Even in reality, we all face extraordinary circumstances, albeit a small number of times in our lives. These times are periods of high stress, when our mettle is most tested and our emotions most intense. Readers read to get that emotional high vicariously, without real life risks (e.g. facing death. If the character dies, the reader gets to close the book and go on with their life). While the mundane minutia of life still goes on during such times, it’s not what interests the reader. Lots of detail is fine, but only if it adds depth to the action.
What biographies of the creators of your favorite genres do you want to read? Are there lesser known creators that still need a biography?
I’m fascinated by Tolkien’s real life. The richly detailed world he created couldn’t have come out of nowhere. It’s hard to imagine the mundane life of an Oxford linguistics professor could have spawned the intensity of The Lord of The Rings. Did his sense of Mordor come from his time in the trenches in World War I? From the loss of his parents at a young age? Unfortunately, while he left us a wealth of fiction, we know little about his inner life. Biographies of Tolkien tell an external story. I’d love to know what went on inside the mind of a writer who could create such an enduring and epic tale.
Along the Watchtower portrays two fictional worlds—the world of a recovering veteran in a VA hospital and the fantasy world of his dreams. For the fantasy world, I played many hours of World of Warcraft to get a feel for “living in the game.” I also read a number of academic texts on the mindset of gaming and why it’s so popular.
To better understand post-traumatic stress, one of the best books I read was Achilles in Vietnam. The author, a noted PTS therapist, juxtaposes dialog from his patients during their sessions with text from Homer’s Odyssey, showing the stress of war on soldiers across the millennia. That juxtaposition helped me create the fantasy world of a prince who suffers from war trauma as must as our vets today.
With the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?
Some readers still stick to their genre, despite ebooks. Maybe that’s a relic of bookstores, where books are shelved together by genre. Or maybe it’s a lack of risk taking. To me, after a while, books of a single pure genre start to feel the same.
I prefer books that cross genre boundaries and are less predictable. The best literature defies genre. I hope as the book store mindset fades, readers will take the chance and explore more outside their comfort zone.
I was taught that a villain should be the hero of his own story. A villain who does evil just because he’s a bad guy doesn’t interest me. I like a villain who is doing what he believes to be right, even though it may cause irreparable harm to others. A good example is the arch vicar in my first novel, There Comes a Prophet. He believes in his heart that progress and innovation have been the leading cause of evil throughout history. He dedicates his life to avoiding a repeat of ancient wars by suppressing that most human trait—the desire to fulfill one’s potential.
Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? One that didn’t work for you?
I was surprised that the movie of The Life of Pi was so well done. Most of the book takes place in the mind of the main character. I had my doubts it would transfer well to film, but thought the movie was great. Ender’s Game, which is one of my favorite sci-fi books, was not so fortunate. While generally true to the story, its inability to live inside the main character’s head crippled the impact of events, leaving mostly special effects.
In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?
Most writers are private people and not self-promoters by nature, making marketing feel awkward. I find it takes a lot of time, and I’m always fighting my sense of discomfort. On the positive side, I like connecting with readers in a way that wasn’t possible before. When I do an interview like this, or write a blog post, and someone comments in a way that shows I’ve touched them—that’s very rewarding
Dinner with my wife and friends. A good bottle of wine. Bread pudding for dessert.
What were you like as a kid? Did your kid-self see you being a writer?
When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor for no other reason than I had an aunt who insisted I be a doctor. Around twelve, I found out what doctors do. I’m on the squeamish side about blood and stuff, so I changed my mind. And my eventual career in software did not yet exist at that time. The writing bug didn’t strike me until I was sixteen. The editor of a newsletter at a summer youth encampment—a girl with striking blue eyes—recruited me to write an article. The next morning I saw it in print with my byline, and I was hooked.
Cover art can be so important for a book, making or breaking sales. What cover art has caught your eye, that you found stood above other books?
I know that cover art is important, and I spend a lot of time for each book trying to get it right. But for myself, the cover is the tip of the iceberg. I never buy a book without reading a few good and bad reviews, the blurb, and however far Amazon’s ‘look inside’ lets me go. If the description doesn’t strike me, or if the writing style turns me off, I won’t buy the book.
What do you do when you are not writing?
Read, go for long walks, bicycle, travel, play golf…badly.
My third novel, The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky, just came out. It’s an alternate world story about a world divided between the Blessed Lands, a place of the spirit, and the Republic, whose people worship at the altar of reason. A mysterious nine-year-old girl from the Blessed Lands sails into the lives of a troubled couple in the Republic and changes everyone she meets. She reveals nothing about herself, other than to say she’s the daughter of the sea and the sky. But she harbors a secret wound she herself can’t heal.
My latest worked is a sequel to There Comes a Prophet. I hadn’t planned on writing a sequel, but the characters, Orah and Nathaniel, kept nagging me to finish their story. Now, I plan on making it a trilogy.
Places to Find David Litwack
A $100 Amazon/B&N Giftcard or a Book Depository shopping spree of the same value, plus two print copies of Along the Watchtower will be given away. Open Internationally. Ends 7/7. Click on the link below to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway!