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 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.
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As a book bloggin’ and book luvin’ Princess, I’m always curious to find out how authors got the ideas for their books. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
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.Of course, there is more to it than that. I had grown increasingly interested in the idea of literary fiction that also made for a gripping page-turner. And I was drawn to the idea of telling a big, epic tale of human comedy and tragedy, of cruelty and compassion and blindess and brilliance, through a single, long life. Gradually, from these disparate threads and ideas, the book 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 – to borrow a war metaphor – there was no retreating. The only way out was forward.
Can you tell us what your book is about?
An old man, Hans, finds himself a castaway among a group of survivors on a deserted island. What is my particular crime? he asks himself. Why have I been chosen for this fate? The book is the answer to this question.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.It’s really the story of all of the insanity, irony and horror of the modern world itself, as seen in a single, long life.
Can you tell us a little about the main characters of your book?
The story is narrated by Hans. He is very complex – embittered yet not unkind, ironic, intelligent, passionate, bleak, aware that he has few days left in the world. The love of his youth was Sylvia, who attains an almost dream-like beauty and nobility in his memory. Dawn, his young, chess opponent is golden-haired and also somewhat mythical or surreal. Hilda, the governess, is more practical and solid. She is vivacious, anti-Fascist politically at a time when that was quite dangerous. Hans’s mother is particular, contradictory, snobbish about her wealth, an admirer of Hitler. This is really just scratching the surface as there are a great many settings and characters.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would that be?
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, a novel is not just a long short-story. You must have an ever-advancing plot-line, and you must make the reader want to find out what happens next. Many writing classes seem to work from short stories, yet the requirements of short story and a novel and qualitatively different. Third, please please please, forget, “write what you know”! Worst advice ever. Write the type of book that, as a reader, you would most want to read.
What would you say is one of your interesting writing quirks?
I rewrite fanatically. I want every sentence to sing. Also, I want every book to be completely unlike anything else I’ve written.
Do you hear from your readers? What do they say?
When Lisa33 came out the internet was still young. All I heard back were Amazon reviews. Now I have a blog. I’m on Facebook. I get emails. And of course Amazon reviews. It’s incredibly gratifying when I see how many readers experience the novel exactly as I’d hoped. That said, I don’t actually enjoy reading reviews. I fear the worst. So far…my dread has not been validated.
What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
That would be from my wife! She’s an avid reader and a tough critic. Many years ago, she was pretty harsh about a novel I had been working quite hard on. I was indignant, but in retrospect she was quite right. I had written all of these rather lovely sentences, but the whole that they formed was seriously flawed. I couldn’t see that. I could only see the sentences themselves.
What has been the best accomplishment?
This book, The Feet Say Run, is it. Without a doubt.
Do you Google yourself?
I don’t. Much like reading reviews – I don’t want to know!
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I am up to three unpublished novels that I am genuinely happy with. One is outlandish comedy. One is serious / literary. The third is definitely what one would call commerical fiction – but with a bit of a twist.
Do you have anything specific that you would like to say to your readers?
I would say this: I never expected this book to be quite so relevant to today’s world as it has turned out to be. Also, like everything I write, comic or serious, it is ultimately about human compassion. I hope it comes through. Enjoy.