Monday, May 15, 2017

Interview with Daniel A. Blum, Author of The Feet Say Run

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.



Where did you grow up?

I hail from the exotic hinterlands of Long Island, New York.

My father is a pscyhoanalyst and my mother is a psychologist. If that does not drive one to distraction, and a bit of reflection, I don’t know what would. I currently live outside Boston with my family.

When did you begin writing?

I tried writing in high school, but those efforts have thankfully been lost to the ravages of time.

My first passably decent piece of writing was actually letter I wrote to in college to a girl who I was interested in. It was a long, rambling, comic description of a train ride I was on, and it was something of an “aha” moment about how to inject life and wit into descriptions of the everyday world around you. Thinking back, it is not really surprising that my best early bit of prose was born of an effort to impress a girl. The good news is, the letter itself was definitely a success with its target audience. Unfortunately, the ensuing love affair was rather less successful. It lasted all of a month. Yet my love affair with the written word is still going strong.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

I have no particular pattern. I am neither nocturnal nor diurnal. I’m an omnivorous reader and a restless scavenger as a writer.

What is this book about?

The Feet Say Run is not an easy book to describe or classify. It’s really the story of the twentieth century told through a single, long, extraordinary life. The narrator, Hans, is an eighty-five year old castaway, reflecting on his past.

Hans grows 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, marries a Brazilian chambermaid in order to receive a kidney from her, and keeps reliving his war experiences. There are many, many interwoven stories.

I think of it as a literary novel that is also a page-turner - full of comedy and tragedy and suspense.

What inspired you to write it?

I wanted to the kind of novel I most like reading. I read mostly literary fiction, but I often find the stories way too slow, lacking in passion and humor and life. I wanted to write something that was gripping and hard to put down, that hit the reader on an emotional level, but also had beautiful prose.

As a Jewish writer I also became interested in the German experience of the Nazi era, and how little that story had been told. The more I read, the more universal I felt the story was. We used to learn that caricature of Nazi Germany peopled by killer robots, people entirely unlike us. It was a comforting sort of myth, but a myth nonetheless. So I wanted to tell it in a way that made it real and human and understandable.

Who is your biggest supporter?

I have a number of regular readers and supporters, and have been through a few different agents. My wife is both an avid supporter and an exacting critic – but that has driven me to be a better writer. But for this book my biggest supporter has been my publisher, Gabriel’s Horn Press, who really fell in love with it and pushed to see it in print.

Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?

I am not. I have tried that experience and find giving and receiving criticism – the hidden competitiveness, the false-praise, even the the cliquish little subgroups within the group – to be extremely uncomfortable.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

It was more a roller-coaster ride than a road.

This is actually my second novel. My first novel was Lisa33, which was published by Viking over a decade ago. I actually went from a long string of rejections to having publishers suddenly in a bidding war for my novel. That was quite surreal. In the end, for reasons I still don’t fully understand, the book was not promoted at all by the publisher. They took a financial bath on it, and I soon returned to obscurity. Ironically, my agent, who had assured me I would be famous, later came out with his own memoir and found fame with it.

For years after that experience I ceased writing fiction entirely and even reading it. Yet one day I found myself working again, crafting this new story, and before I knew it I was in deep and – as they say in a military campaign – the only way out was forward. When The Feet Say Run was completed, I had few connections left in the publishing world. But I had posted a few poems to a public website, and my publisher had read an admired them there. She emailed me and asked what else I wrote, and I sent her the manuscript.

In a way I feel I am one of the few writer to be “discovered” twice.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Amazon and  Barnes and Noble. We may be getting it into bookstores but for now it is online.

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