Who or what inspires your writing?
I don’t have the slightest idea when I am writing, but much later, removed from the process, I see certain connections that I hadn’t suspected. At the Commodore website I address this issue with examples.
When did you first know you would be a writer?
In college I first tried writing stories. Later I wrote movie reviews, and psychiatric articles and whatever else inspired me. I did that for 25 years but all along I felt my true calling was fiction. I felt it offered the greatest amount of freedom to tell the truth. I didn’t have to worry about professional reputation.
How long did it take you to write your first novel?
2- 3 years.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Keeping the material entertaining. The story more or less tells itself, but then you have to step back and see if other people will be as interested as you are.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Have you written anything else?
I’ve written for the Yale Review, the Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, Medical Hypothesis, most of them opinion pieces, but usually full of clinical details that readers tell me remind them of characters in a novel. I took that as praise, because no where else do people come as alive as they do in fiction.
Who are your favorite authors?
Jhumpa Lahiri, Saul Bellow, Phillip Roth, Nietzsche.
What are some of your favorite books, or which book has impacted you the most?
Herzog. Like many other readers I saw myself in this character.
What are you currently reading?
Lahiri’s The Namesake, The Lowlands.
AND NOW THE GIVEAWAY
Commodore was born while I was writing a different book, After Lisa. That was a story about a writer I had seen (as a psychiatrist) who was completely beaten down by circumstances, the worst imaginable. His 12 year old daughter died of cancer, then his 16 year old son attempted to hang himself, failing only because the pipe he attached his rope to gave way. Convinced his son fully intends to follow through on his plan as soon as he is let out of the hospital, we follow the writer as he tries and fails to rescue his son. All of the cards had been stacked up against him, including an insurance company that refused to let his son stay safely in the hospital. To find relief from his despair Michael writes a novel about a man that is different from himself in every way. Cornelius Vanderbilt, the 19th century’s version of Superman becomes the focus of his imagination.
Vanderbilt came from the bottom rung. He quit school at 11. That wasn’t unexpected. His father was an illiterate farmer who had disdain for book learning The family tried to farm in rocky soil of Staten Island along the shore, meaning they faced the full force of New York’s upper bay which delivered damp, cold ferocious winds that his father cursed and spat against trying to make a battle of it . He usually lost. It was predictable that the senior Vanderbilt took some of it out on his son.
Nor was it better for Cornelius at school. Vanderbilt’s teacher showered him in the classroom with unconcealed sarcasm, uniform contempt for every quality Cornelius possessed. Not paying attention, not doing his homework. Cornelius was no better than his older brother who also quit school at an early age for the same stated reason, to help his father on the farm A family tradition, hard work and failure.
Only Commodore had other plans. His mother’s hero had been her father who had been a ship captain. Unfortunately, her princess days ended abruptly, at 7 when her father died. Unable to feed her family, the children had to be parceled out. So Vanderbilt’s mother, as a little girl, was a servant in the minister’s house. Fortunately her spirit was not broken, She was treated well, taught to read, allowed her dignity
She never got over her father. She spoke about him all the time. And Cornelius Vanderbilt listened.As a boy Cornelius Vanderbilt would wear his grandfather’s captain hat and sit along the shore watching the ships from the other side of the ocean pass his family’s farm. He knew the name of every one of them, His father couldn’t stand his dreamy ways. He wasn’t enough help working the fields.
Vanderbilt’s father was an orphan at 3, raised by his uncle who would not let him go to school, lest he lose work time. We mentioned his mother losing her father. Vanderbilt also lost his brother and his favorite son. Why did misfortune toughen Vanderbilt, drive him on? Why was there no quit in him? How did he always come out on the winning side of adversity?
He was a hero throughout America The poor boy who became the richest man in the world. It is an amazing story
I split off Commodore from After Lisa because, although I felt Michael’s story and Vanderbilt’s made for a dramatic contrast, which I originally thought was needed, it eventually became clear to me they each could stand on their own.
~ SYNOPSIS COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR
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