Today’s interview is with Steve Searls, author of My Travels with a Dead Man.
1) What is your author name and in what state do you live (or country if not in the US)?
Steve Searls. I currently live in western New York State. I was born in North Carolina, however, and then moved to Colorado when I was seven. I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees from Colorado State University, and the University of Colorado, Boulder, School of Law, respectively.
My wife and I moved to New York State in 1988.
2) What is the title of your newest book and what is the genre?
“My Travels With a Dead Man” is a multi-genre literary novel that that blends magical realism, fantasy, alternate realities, romance, mystery and suspense in the coming of age story of the main protagonist, Jane Takako Wolfshiem.
3) What is the book about?
Jane is a naïve young woman of half-Japanese, half Jewish American ancestry who suffers a seizure and is saved by an enigmatic man calling himself Jorge Luis Borges, the same name as the esteemed Argentinean literary figure. When next they meet, nearly two years later, Jane inexplicably falls passionately in love with Borges. Soon however, he reveals a dark side to his character that frightens and confuses her. After visiting the Daibutsu, a bronze statue of the Buddha in Kamakura, Japan, with Borges, a demonic figure she names “the man in black’ plagues her dreams with nightmares of a violent nature. These nightmares and Borges’ manipulative treatment of Jane nearly drive her mad, even as she learns from him that she has the power to travel through space and time to alternate realities. Jane also receives visitations from the ghost of Basho, the famous Japanese haiku master, and the Daibutsu who appears in Jane’s dreams. Both offer cryptic advice warning her about Borges. Borges’ violent and manipulative treatment cause Jane to fear him, but all attempts to break his control over her fail. Ultimately, Jane learns Borges’ is exploiting her powers to fulfill a dangerous prophecy, one she’s led to believe by Ulrikke, Borges’ mother, will result in Jane’s death and threaten humanity’s future. Unable to know who to trust, Jane must decipher the true nature of the prophecy so she can take action to prevent it from coming to pass.
4) Where did you come up with the idea?
I originally wrote a short story about a young woman who encounters a homeless man named Borges in 2013. At some point in late 2014, I began to expand the story into a novel. I didn’t work from an outline, but just let the characters dictate how the story developed. It was an organic process in the sense that each time I came to a dead end I would think of a new character to add to the novel, and more of the plot would reveal itself to me. At this time I was re-reading many of Jorge Luis Borges’ stories and Basho’s famous haibun (a combination of haiku and poetic prose developed in Medieval Japan), Oku no Hosomichi – often translated as The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Both writers had a major influence on the story’s development.
5) How long did it take you to write it?
It took me roughly 5 years to complete. During that time I was working on another novel, a multi-generational saga, but I stopped work on that book to focus my efforts on completing “My Travels With a Dead Man,” which I deemed would have a better chance at getting published as an unknown author.
6) Did you learn anything from the project?
Quite a lot. I learned how to better hone my craft in order to write a compelling story that would interest publishers to take a chance on a first time writer. And my research into various subjects, including Buddhism, Norse mythology and the history of the Vikings, and the works of Borges and Basho, all proved invaluable in developing the major themes of my book.
7) Do you have an author website and/or blog? How about a book video?
Yes, I have an Author’s Facebook page. It’s Steve Searls, Author at https://www.facebook.com/SteveSearlsAuthor. My website, also named “Steve Searls, Author,” includes a blog of my longer form essays, along with pages devoted to some of my short fiction and poetry. The link to the website is here: http://www.stevesearls.com/.
At this time, I don’t have a video, nor do I plan to hire someone to make one. That’s not because I dislike book videos, but I made the decision to use my limited marketing budget in other areas.
8) Do you have any success tips to pass on to fellow authors? How about any great editors/cover artists?
As a debut author, I’m still learning as I go, but if I had one piece of advice, I would say, be persistent.
The only other thing I’d add is don’t use too many adverbs.
9) What genres do you like to read? Are you open to reading new authors and reviewing their work?
I’ll read almost anything, from all genres of fiction and non-fiction, having been a bookworm since I was a young child. I am constantly checking out new authors, and have reviewed a number of the books from authors old and new.
10) What is your favorite book of all time and why?
I’ve had a number of favorite books over my lifetime. It’s impossible to limit myself to just one book. Here are a few fiction titles I’d recommend:
“Collected Short Stories” by Hemingway
“As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner
“The Stranger: by Albert Camus
“Lord of the Rings” by Tolkien
“Dune” by Frank Herbert
“The Man in the High Castle” by Phillip K. Dick
“Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf
“Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier
“The Rings of Saturn” by W. G. Sebald
“2666” by Roberto Bolano
“The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles” by Haruki Murakami
“The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood
“Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy
“The Broken Earth Trilogy” by N.K. Jemisin
“The Dispossessed” by Ursula K. LeGuin
“House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski
As to why? Because they are all fabulous reads.
11) Fun Question: Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
I’ve had dogs as pets in the past, but not at present. Regrettably, I cannot be around cats, as I am deathly allergic to them. And by deathly, I mean I need an epipen handy at all times, because they caused anaphylactic shock that required me to rush to the hospital one time when I was visiting an aunt who has several cats.
12) Fun Question 2: Do you own an electronic reading device? If so, what kind and how do you like it?
I own a Kindle. Most books I buy these days are e-books because I own so many print books I’ve run out of space to put them all. For the present, my Kindle meets my needs.
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