Thursday, January 17, 2013

Author Interview #151: This Book Does Not Exist by Mike Schneider

This Book Does Not ExistOur interview today is with Mike Schneider author of This Book Does Not Exist. Before we get to the interview a brief book description: Based in part on a true story: When the love of his life vanishes in the midst of a trying but passionate long distance relationship, an aspiring writer must brave the perils of a surreal world that has been warped by his own memories and imagination in order to find her. Combining memoir, science fiction, mystery, and suspense into a love story that explores the evolving nature of relationships in an increasingly digital world, This Book Does Not Exist is an imaginative, page-turning novel. Musicians record breakup albums… Consider this a breakup novel, written for anyone who has ever loved and lost.

Interview with Mike Schneider

1. What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story?
Cleveland is a city that has gone through tremendous changes in the past couple of decades as a result of globalization and the rise of importance of the Internet to virtually every industry. As a result, it proved to be the ideal setting for a story about confronting change. Hopefully, I was able to express as much in my descriptions of certain pieces of scenery like the Warehouse District, the Detroit-Superior Bridge, and the destitute areas of East Cleveland.
2. What specific themes did the author emphasize throughout the novel? What do you think he or she is trying to get across to the reader?
This is a novel that asks the question, “Why does life have to be so hard?” It is a story about embracing change first and foremost. But it is also about the ways in which technology has redefined relationships. It was my intention to portray how young people communicate and interact in the 21st century, something I haven’t seen many, if any, other novelists do accurately.
3. Do the characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?
Since the protagonist Mike is based on myself, and many of the details within the story were pulled from episodes within my own life, I had no problem relating to him. In my experiences talking with readers, Mike seems to be most relatable to those who love someone dearly – or at least did so in the past until that person was lost (for one reason or another). His dilemma – to fight to find Naomi and save their relationship or to give up and search for love somewhere else – is something individuals who have felt deeply about another person can most readily identify with.
4. How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes?

Under the guidance of Geppetto, Mike grows increasingly bold over the course of the narrative… maybe even brave… and / or desperate, depending on when exactly you were to ask him.
5. In what ways do the events in the books reveal evidence of the author’s world view?
I suspect the ending reveals my world view most of all. Unfortunately, to talk about it here in more detail would be ruinous to those who have yet to read the book.
6. Did certain parts of the book make you uncomfortable? If so, why did you feel that way? Did this lead to a new understanding or awareness of some aspect of your life you might not have thought about before?
None of the writing in the book makes me uncomfortable; I know where the story is headed after all. But there are certainly sequences that are designed to make the reader feel tense – and those were perhaps my favorite sections to write (the Burning Club Incident is my personal top pick). Having said that, in early drafts I wrote about more than a few private moments from the relationship I was in that broke apart and motivated me to begin working on this book. Doing so was uncomfortable. Wisely, I think, omitted those passages from the final text.
To answer the third part of the question, I firmly believe writing This Book Does Not Exist allowed me to come to terms with the end of my relationship, with a woman I considered to be the love of my life. It would not be an exaggeration to say that writing this book saved my life… which you can interpret as you wish.
7. Was there a basis for your story? A previous experience? Something else?
Yes, I started writing the novel shortly after going through the first stage of what became a prolonged and devastating breakup, as I’ve alluded to above. The novel is based in part on a true story, a combination of memoir and fiction. For example, at one point Mike drives from Los Angeles to Cleveland in 37 hours without stopping to sleep at a motel overnight. I did that.
8. What research did you have to perform to back up your story? Any research which really opened your eyes or gave you new respect for a topic or profession?
For me, for this book, research involved living in Cleveland and going out at night to explore various parts of the city. I would come home from those adventures and funnel them through the central conceit of the novel, the Door to the other world. The initial episode in which Mike becomes lost in East Cleveland and finds the building with the sign that reads “Come to Geppetto’s today because tomorrow may be too late” was born out of one of these expeditions.
9. What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? Are you character/story builder or an outliner or some other method?
I didn’t outline this novel, although normally I would have. It is the first thing I do whenever I write a screenplay. In this case, I was able to get away without outlining because I uniquely understood the protagonist and because he had such a clear goal – find Naomi – which made plotting relatively simplistic once I nailed down the turning point at the middle of the narrative. Not to spoil too much, but there is a moment where Mike leaves the Door behind only to discover things have gotten far worse than he ever imagined they could become… that is the midpoint.
10. How do you get past writers block or distractions like the internet?
Writers block only happens to me if I’m not writing; the best way to escape it is to keep writing something, anything. Otherwise, I try to turn off my Wi-Fi connection or sometimes write on an iPad, which limits me to one application at a time and walls off my vision so all I can think about is the open document on the screen.
11. Favorite book from childhood.
It has to be a comic book. I’ll say the “Death of Superman” issue in the Superman series.
12. What’s on your desk? Can you see your desk? Describe what you see when you look around.
I can see my desk. I live in front of it. The laptop I am writing at now is resting on top. To the right side of my MacBook, there is a Doomsday! 2012 Countdown Calendar. To the left, I see a toy LA Dodgers helmet. I can also see over the half-wall that borders my loft, which looks through a set of windows and into the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, or in this case more specifically an adjacent building full of condos overlooking a courtyard. You might think of the movie Rear Window.
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