I TAKE THE PROUSTIAN QUESTIONNAIRE
Visitors to the blog know that I’ve put about a dozen author colleagues under the magnifying glass with a Proustian-like questionnaire penned by yours truly. Designed to go behind the words and into the writer’s mind, the questionnaire was embraced with thoughtful answers as the amazing end result.
What is a Proustian questionnaire? Well, Wikipedia and on-line dictionaries define Proustian as anything remotely to do with Marcel Proust, a “French novelist whose long novel À la Recherche du Temps Perdu (1913–27) deals with the relationship of the narrator to themes such as art, time, memory, and society.”
Yep. So anything to do with what surrounds you is…Proustian. I think.
What are your thoughts on muses and do you have one?
Muses are mythical, compelling creatures credited with facilitating masterworks that otherwise would have never been. Alma Mahler and Helga Testorf come to mind along with that whole thing George Sand and Chopin had going on. I have to say that the Heuer character is richer because of a couple of guy buddies who endured my pestering to look over scenes and dialogue for male “authenticity”. They had plenty to say: “guys don’t think like that” “guys don’t care about that” etc. I took about half of their suggestions; the rest is creative license. Heuer is complicated, so the reactions he got from my muses told me that I had something very interesting.
Your characters have a great capacity to love, yet they’re starved. Why do you think this happens in fiction and in real life?
Hmmm. Heuer is a child of the Cold War and a baby boomer, which means his views are very out of step with the current times. In the Eighties, he obsessively reads Ayn Rand, votes Republican and walks around wearing a button that says “Cruise On” in support of cruise missile testing. He does this not out of any enduring belief, but out of a need to enrage. He is rocking his own version of what a “bad guy” is. And it works: women are curious about him, but don’t venture near very often, and he’s fine with that. He sees ‘love’ as a commodity that can be traded up or down. And he can leave relationships behind as long as he has a photo trophy or two to mull over. It’s baggage, I guess. That’s what empties the glass.
Without giving spoilers, would you say you’re a “happy ending” writer?
I certainly like definitive conclusions. Cliff hangers and Whaaa Happened? doesn’t really do it for me and so I wouldn’t want to do that to anyone good enough to read my stuff. So I’m in the business of delivering endings that hopefully make the reader happy, even if, by pure definition, the plot circumstance is not.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Epithets? Wow. I want to be remembered for being kind. It’s a quality that doesn’t always come easily, but I consciously work at it and am getting better for it.
If you could dine with any historical figure living or dead, who would it be and why?
The Real Thing
This changes year to year. Currently, I’d have to go with John Graves Simcoe, first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, and scourge of Long Island during the Revolutionary War. I love AMC and their current historical drama TURN: Washington’s Spies. It’s a potboiler. Simcoe is not only bad, he’s vile; yet he’s staunchly committed. A Royalist defending his country against republican marauders, he puts everything second to that first. He’s a bad, bad guy, and I can’t take my eyes off of him. I’d love to know how he lives with himself and then probably give him a good kick in the a**.
Past, present or future? Where does your mind dwell?
When I was young, I fell victim to the romantic past. I came of age in the Eighties, so naturally I believed that the Sixties had to be the be all and end all. Like Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris protagonist, I believed that satisfaction rested in what had already passed. Now at the half century (gawd that sounds old) I have fully come to my senses. The Eighties hold a lot of fond memories for me, but I have no desire to revisit them. The best time of my life is NOW and the next thing coming…whatever that is.
What informs your writing most?
Music! Music affects me a lot. I have the radio going morning till night and I’ll listen to anything from alt to classical to jazz to rock to pop to hip hop. I’ll actually pick my music depending on where I am in the story. If it’s an angry point, I might put on Slipknot or Rammstein.
Growing up in the Seventies, school kids were encouraged to think globally and act locally. Have you ever flirted with this philosophy?
Sure. I try to keep current and it amazes me how major issues disappear when someone in Hollywood gets married or divorced. But that’s always been a condition of pop culture. I mull things. I try to be thoughtful. Some of it actually makes it into the mouths of my characters which is great. If there’s to be controversy, let it come from them.
Guilty pleasures: we all have them. What is yours?
Frat boy comedies. DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR is a favorite along with ANIMAL HOUSE and anything coming from camp Apatow.
Your greatest victory?
Going back to school at age 39 and graduating third in the class. *yah!*
Tell us about the one that got away. Person, place or thing.
It was a car. A real beauty and a classic. But I didn’t have the money to buy her, so I made her a character instead.
What are some of the overriding themes in your work? Do you have a favorite?
I’m always rocking nostalgia, but not in the way some might expect. I like memories as much as anyone else, but I don’t live in them, so a number one theme in Heuer is that nostalgia hurts more than it helps. Another one, and this really is a pet peeve, is that prying into someone’s business really is a lousy thing to do. The business of suspicious spouses cum private eyes appears routinely in advice columns where they ask permission from the columnist to break into their loved ones email. I can’t abide that. As far as I know it’s still a punishable offense to read someone’s snail mail, so why should electronic communications be any different? The mortician character Enid wrestles with this in HEUER LOST AND FOUND. She doesn’t break into his computer, but she does go through his things, and she feels terrible about it. Which brings me to my final theme: some questions don’t need answers. Enid is committed to finding out what happened to him, but does she really need to know in order to love him? That one has to be my all time fave.
Who do you admire and why?
Anyone who can take on a task and finish it. That’s commitment. That’s saying something about what a person is and what they can be.
Are writers fully formed works of art or works in progress?