Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Salon: MAN TALKING and an Interview with Mike Heppner

I've had a busy few weeks and so have not read much that I can usefully post on Sunday Salon.

However, this week I did manage to fit in an on-line novella. It is called MAN TALKING by Mike Heppner (click on the link, fifth paragraph down). It is about a writer, and is a search for love, but is also a kind of contemplation on the business of writing too. I thought the writing was superb and at the end of it just wanted to tell everyone I knew to read it too!

There are some fantastic descriptions of why we write, an author's life, insomnia and how writers interact with each other. The ending was stunning. You find yourself reading that part again just for the pleasure of it and the very satisfying ambiguity.

It is part of a very interesting project.
After reading his novella I emailed Mike and asked him if he would give me a quick interview, and he kindly said yes, so have posted it here.

Mike Heppner was born in Rhode Island in 1972, and grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. His first novel, THE EGG CODE, was published in 2002, and his second, PIKE'S FOLLY, in 2006. He lives in Belmont, Massachusetts and teaches Creative Writing at Emerson College. A third novel is forthcoming.


CD: The novella you published first on-line, 'Man Talking' is the third of a quartet (although each can stand alone). How do the novellas fit together? What determines their order?
MH: The four sections all show, through different lenses, the individual’s ultimately non-materialistic aspirations coming up against the forces of commerce and other people’s independent wills. The sequence is deliberate, though it has evolved over time. “Talking Man” focuses on childhood. “Man” is autobiography, though with an interesting twist. “Man Talking” is a comedic rhapsody on suicide. And “Talking” takes the themes explored in the first three sections and hands them over to other voices.

CD: Is there a common theme? Is the business of creative writing important in each of them? MH: Not the business so much as what’s left when you take the business-part away.

CD: The sucture of this book is very interesting and original: the first person narrative sometimes wraps around another character 'Jack' andtr a third person narrative sometimes takes over. I suppose it is this, in part, which makes it 'literary fiction'. What do you consider to be 'literary fiction'?
MH: It’s a term of convenience to identify writing that doesn’t fall under any other set category, such as Romance, Fantasy, and Suspense. It’s a coded way for people who consider themselves intellectuals to inform the rest of the world, “Don’t bother.”

CD: What are your major influences as a writer? MH: Joseph McElroy, David Plante, William Gaddis, to name a few.

CD: What do you think of the advice: 'Write about what you know'?
MH: It’s about as helpful as the advice, “Breathe air.”

CD: You also teach creative writing. Which do you think helps a writer more: teaching it or being taught?

MH: I don’t see the two as being separate. The only differences between now and ten years ago (when I was a student) are my age, my “credentials,” and the fact that I get paid (as opposed to paying tuition).

CD: What are the rewards and benefits to a writer of exploring different ways of 'being published'?

MH: That remains to be seen. By the way, I don’t consider “Man Talking” published, since the means of presentation is entirely self-contained. “Publishing” on a certain level means “working with other people who have the option of saying no to you,” and for that reason I consider “Talking Man” published, “Man” hand-distributed, and “Man Talking” presented to readers. I would like to publish all four sections some day.

General Questions.

CD: Do you have any connection with snails? (or anecdotes, memorable encounters..etc.)

MH: I used to love escargot when I was little, and then I put two and two together.

CD: What is your proudest moment?

MH: I’m proud of my work.

CD: Have you ever had a life-changing event - if so what was it?

MH: Seeing someone close to me weather a life-threatening illness.

CD: What is the saddest thing you’ve ever heard of or seen?

MH: See above.

CD: If there was one thing you’d change about yourself what would it be?

MH: To be less obsessive and achievement-oriented, and to take better care of myself physically.

CD: What is happiness?

MH: Making productive use of one’s talents.

CD: What is the first thing you do when you get up?

MH: Nowadays I give my two-week-old daughter her bottle.

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