I recently read and wrote a review for your marvelous book: "A
Face in the Moon". Mitchell, can you share with us what
it was that inspired you to write 'moon'?
I was inspired to write "A Face in the Moon" by a relationship
I was involved in many years ago. The book is by no means an
autobiography, but, as many pieces of fiction, was indelibly
marked by my own life experiences.
Indeed. I think many of us do draw on life experiences as fodder
for our writing. Mitchell please tell us how long have you been
I started writing when I was a kid, always thought that I would
be a writer "some day." I was in the second grade and
will never forget the experience that went with coming in second
place in a grade school fiction competition, having to stand
up on the stage before the whole school, my knees knocking together
as I stood behind the cover of the podium reading my mimeographed
story aloud to the entire school. I was scared to death, but
thrilled at the same time. I was not just another kid in the
class, but had a unique view of the world, an identity, that's
how it felt, and that's what writing was then, and is for me
-- a portal to the true expression of the soul. Sounds like very
high-falutin b.s., I know, but it is, nonetheless, true.
During the rest of my childhood,
however, I didn't really write much. I read constantly, everything
I could find, but didn't pick up a pen much. I even avoided taking
high school creative writing classes, having convinced myself
that I had nothing to say and that I couldn't write well enough
to compete with the other "creative" writing students.
It wasn't until my first year of college, at the University of
Illinois, in Champaign-Urbana, when I took a course from a wonderful
writer named Mark Costello (author of The Murphy Stories and
Middle Murphy) that I realized I was good enough, and that I
did have something to say. Since then I've been writing on and
off, even completing a really bad novel during a summer break
in law school, but from which I learned, at least, that I could
finish a novel, even if it was a terribly flawed novel like that
one. When this other student in my class, whose work I admired,
envied really, asked me what I was going to do after college
I said, without hesitation, be a writer. He laughed and said,
yeah, but what are you going to do for a living. I was naive,
idealistic, unrealistic back then I guess. I really believed
that I could just do that, be a writer. I still have that hopeless
naive belief, though, that it will happen "some day."
It does happen on occasion.
Thank you for that insight into your writing experiences! Now,
if you will, please tell us a bit about yourself
A little about me? Well, my life has been pretty tame, non-eventful,
I guess. The standard living through divorce as a kid, having
to deal with that whole ball of wax. My childhood is something
that I haven't written much about.
So much of it is buried beneath
the surface of my consciousness -- the daily warfare that I remember
from growing up in a family that was really more like two separate
families -- my mother remarried to a man with two kids when I
was five -- that never really coalesced completely, at least
not in my parents' eyes. It was the typical modern American Jewish
guilt and angst-ridden childhood, I guess.
Living in suburbia (I grew up
in the Chicago area), the middle-class lifestyle, with all the
materialism that went with it, the artificiality that went along
with it. The perfect patches of lawn, the neatly placed Monopoly
houses laid out side by side, the new cars every other year,
while all this other real stuff was going on in the world. Poverty,
hatred, prejudice, war. Vietnam was always there as a threat
- the draft looming years ahead, but still a very real threat,
as the war seemed to continue forever. The daily assaults to
the eyes every night watching that stuff on the news.
There was the fractured family
on my father's side. I hardly knew him, hardly know my older
brother, who lives in New Zealand, nor do I really know the four
half sisters scattered around the world -- a couple of them in
Chile, and two in California, who I last saw when they were children,
although I have established contact with a couple of them in
the past year due to the wonders of the Internet.
And there was the first marriage
of my own, trying not to repeat the mistakes of my own parents,
but inevitably winding up in the same way...divorced. With three
kids, all the heartbreak that goes with that, leaving them. The
American way. But, that's a story of its own. And, finally, finding
the right woman to be with. A wonderful woman. And struggling
with daily life, rising early to write, trudging off to work
to try to pay the bills, child support, etc. It's not always
But it's life, real life. Something
I like to read about, like to write about. I have trouble relating
to books about the wealthy and all their "weighty"
problems while they're living a life of leisure, it relates to
so few of us with real lives and issues to deal with. But, then
again, that's my own personal prejudice. Writing and reading
about real people. People that struggle with everyday life decisions,
with just getting by. (I'm a big Raymond Carver fan, by the way).
Thank you Mitchell. I wonder if any of us have really known
anyone who live the storybook type of life? I didn't, and certainly
no one I know has. Now, let's shift gears a little, how long
did it take for you to get published?
As my book "A Face in the Moon" was published by one
of the new generation of publishers -- the print on demand publisher,
iUniverse -- this is a somewhat difficult question to answer.
As a writer of mainstream, literary type fiction, after some
frustration in finding a home for my novel at "traditional"
publishers, despite generally positive responses, I turned to
iUniverse to publish my story.
This new breed of publishers,
whose technology has allowed many to more or less "self-publish"
their books with little in the way of editorial interference,
have added a lot of new opportunities for writers and readers,
alike. However, they also carry with them a stigma that has to
be overcome due to the nonselective publishing process involved.
Some have likened iUniverse to the so-called "vanity presses,"
and, in fact, given the nature of this type of publisher, and
the process involved, many books are published which are not
representative of the highest quality of writing. However, there
are many serious writers who have been frustrated with the narrowing
opportunities offered by the traditional publishers who have,
more and more, been bought by larger and larger conglomerates
for whom maximizing profits is the bottom line. Those of us who
are serious writers and have chosen to publish in this emerging
alternative route thus have to overcome the stigma that exists,
to some part for good reason, of books published by such publishers
due to the lack of a quality control process, or a sifting of
the books published. One way of weeding out quality books is
by seeking book reviews both online and in the press of this
kind of book and by readers, as well, in such places as Amazon.com
and Barnesandnoble.com, as well as by word of mouth communication
of such books. I've attempted to do this, sending my novel out
to numerous review sources, including you, and have garnered
much enthusiasm and interest in my book from various sources.
Reviewers will become more and more important in the emerging
technology that widens literary opportunities for both writers
and readers, and thus increases the diversity of books available
to readers, and to some extent confuses readers. The reviewers,
in this new technology, and the readers, will become the new
gatekeepers, rather than the select group of editors at publishing
companies to decide what books are worth reading and their importance
to the reading public will increase dramatically over time.
I feel somewhat defensive about
having been published by this type of publisher. Therefore, I
could say that my stories, poems and essays have been published
in numerous "traditional" publishers. But I feel that
the writing should be judged on its own, as you, Molly, have
done with regard to my book, as have other reviewers and readers
who have enjoyed and praised the book. My publishing of "A
Face in the Moon" in this manner is just one way to get
attention to my writing and, I guess, "graduate" to
a more traditional publisher, though that should not in any way
detract from the value of the writing itself. In this regard,
I'd invite any readers interested in a story such as mine --
belated coming of age story, a story about a young man and a
young woman trying to find their places in the world and their
ways to each other -- to read the first few pages of my book,
available by the way at my website ( http://mitchwaldman.homestead.com//FACEINMOON.html),
and decide for themselves whether they want to see more.
You bet. If I am not mistaken Hemingway, Dickens and one of
my all time favorites Mark Twain all 'self published' so you
join quite a company! And I certainly see no reason for you
to have to defend yourself or your work at all. Mitchell, now
please tell me what rewards do you find from being a writer?
What are you working on right now?
The rewards of fiction writing are great. Writing affirms one's
soul. It's a way for one to get in touch with how he or she feels
or what the writer believes in, even though in fiction one does
not come right out and say it. It's a way to communicate, as
I hope I did with "A Face in the Moon", what people
go through on a personal, emotional leveI during certain key
times in their lives.
I'm currently working on a number
of short stories, some new and some old, for a possible collection
of stories, tentatively entitled "In the Company of Strangers."
The stories tend to focus mainly on relationships of ordinary
people. Many of these stories deal with people in family or love
relationships who, nonetheless, don't really seem to know each
other. They touch upon the theme of alienation, and are populated
by people who are looking for their places in the world or looking
for love, generally in all the wrong places. There are stories,
also, of people who unexpectedly come across people who they
don't wish to come in contact with again, who have hurt them
in the past, and then, of course the question becomes, how do
I handle this contact that brings me back to the traumatic events
of the past. The stories are, I hope, about real people trying
to get through their lives the best they can, living from day
to day, trying to make sense of it all in a world that is not
always so hospitable. There are the strangers among us and whom
we meet daily. And there are the strangers whom we live with
or who are our neighbors and we never really get to know. I'm
trying to mold these stories into some sort of ordered form.
Many of them are out to magazines big and small right now and
many of them have been published in small and literary magazines.
I find all of this very enlightening Mitchell. We really are
beginning to understand you as a writer! Now, what advice do
you have for aspiring writers?
Writing often has a highly idealized image. We read about the
glamour of the big name authors, the six and sometimes seven
figure deals, the national book tours. The handful of writers
who are brand names are what many writers starting out aspire.
They see the glamour and glitz in declaring to the world I am
a "writer," or better yet, an "author." As
a result, sometimes, their writing suffers as they try to formulate
their words with these kinds of images (inauthentic) and goals
(unrealistic) in mind, rather than trying to serve up "truth."
The "truth" is not necessarily the same as factually
accurate. This goes more towards writing from the heart, and
writing to move people emotionally without tricks or ploys. Writing
that goes to the heart and comes from the heart is a difficult
thing, but conveying the way the writer or his or her character
feels about something is a most satisfying goal. A writer writes
and the fix of creating something of quality is perhaps the writer's
greatest satisfaction. Having created something that is a unique
piece of oneself is a great feeling.
Writers, of course, don't write
in a vacuum, and generally have a basic desire and need to communicate
to others, to express themselves, and finding his or her audience
is paramount to this communication process. Yet, above all, you
must accept constructive criticism and, at the same time, maintain
the strong will and self-editing tools so as not to be deterred
by criticism or the lack of feedback from other people. It's
a difficult balancing act. Hemingway talked about the need, in
revising one's own work, to be equipped with a "built in,
shock-proof shit detector".
In short, seek out the support
of others, and write for yourself, not for others. If you do
this, your words will come from the heart. Finally know that
a writer writes and you must be very determined. There are many
hurdles to face. Writing is a lonely occupation, there may be
few to encourage you, at first, but if you believe in yourself
and in your words, you're already a step ahead of the competition.
Thank you so much for such an interesting interview Mitchell.
I look forward to reading and writing a review for your next