Today I have a very thoughtful interview with singer/songwriter/author Mike Romeling. His debut novel Tale of the Taconic Mountains was released last October.
How do you deal with negative reviews?
I believe that when a reader enters into the author’s world, it becomes a kind of collaboration where the reader and/or reviewer should have as much freedom to react to the experience as the writer had in creating it, and let the chips fall where they may. And everyone’s a little different. I remember when Tolkien was asked for his reaction to some of the mixed reviews that were written when “The Lord of the Rings” was first published. He remarked how some aspects or sections of the book that were censured by some critics were the very same that were particularly praised by others. He concluded by saying this: “The author, of course, finds many faults both large and small, but fortunately being under no obligation to
either rewrite or review the book, he will let them pass.”
Which of your characters is your favourite?
Amber Steele probably gets the nod because of a rather startling experience I had when introducing her into the book. When the mountain town of Cedar Falls is being besieged by thousands of displaced bats, the PETA people bring Amber—a soap opera star—into town to help promote non-violence toward the marauding bats. She was originally meant to have just a minor scene in the chapter, but I felt maybe I should give her a bit of background. Instead, it was as though Amber leaped off the page and took me on a wild ride back into her harrowing and disturbed childhood and on through her early years as a stripper before her soap opera career. By the time the chapter was finished, I remember sitting back slack-jawed, wondering what the hell had just happened. A reviewer of the book kindly asserted he liked the book, “Not just because it contains what I believe is the definitive
stripper memory sequence in American Letters, but because the tale satisfied everything I look for in fiction.” I hope he is right :>)
What input, if any, did you have in the cover design?
I was very pleasantly surprised with my experience in getting the cover designed. I wrote a description/concept to the artist, hoping I would get something that might at least be in the ballpark compared to what I was seeing in my head. When the proof arrived, it almost felt as though I had done it myself. As they used to say on the old TV show, The A Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
Do you have a writing routine?
Except when my singer/songwriter endeavors force me to adopt “musician’s hours,” I am an early riser and like to work from 4 or 5 in the morning until 8 or 9. Seems to best fit my biological clock and ensures I will get a good chunk of word done before the phone rings or there’s a knock on the door and the day goes off in a different direction. I insist on having my coffee cup on the desk at all times but seldom get more than a couple sips before I get distracted by the writing and the coffee goes cold. That’s a good reason to get up and stretch and wander off to the kitchen to heat it up in the microwave after which it returns with me to the desk where it soon grows cold again. Just as well really. Although I have moved my computer recently, at the time of writing the novel I was facing a wall. But since my Dad was a watercolor artist, I have one of his best paintings on that wall. So the view was fine. Now I am by a window where I can see the trees and flowers (or right now the snow) and occasionally watch my cat, Boots, saunter by with a rodent in his mouth. That’s always a useful reminder that no matter how bad things may seem, they can always get worse.
Anything else you would like to add?
I would like to thank you Sarah for the opportunity to share some thoughts with your readers and wish you all a happy 2013, chocked full of great books.
Mike is a freelance writer and singer-songwriter from upstate New York. His first novel “Tale of the Taconic Mountains” was released in 2012. He lives−and often rambles through−the very mountains where the novel is placed. But since writing it, he takes care to return home before scary darkness falls.
Everyone had an agenda and it just seemed like coincidence—and of little consequence—that they happened to end up in the small town of Cedar Falls nestled at the base of Bakers Mountain, deep in the ancient Taconic Mountain range. Completely involved, even obsessed, with their own pursuits, it was hardly surprising the visitors would be unaware of older agendas both within the dying town and up in the forests and ridges of the mountain looming above.
There was the discontented novelist fleeing his job and his family, hoping to regain his mojo with a young girlfriend and a new book; a mother in search of her long-estranged daughter, but finding first an unlikely romance with the proprietor who loved his failing bowling establishment like a child—at least when he wasn’t making plans to burn it down for the insurance; a soap opera queen who thought she was stopping by for a simple PR gig for the PETA folks when the town was plagued by thousands of bats in search of a new home. Instead found herself revisiting Gretchen Foley, the frightened disturbed child she had been before emerging as the famous Amber Steele.
There were the two Native American friends who came to climb the mountain in search of the fabled quartz Spirit Stones of their Mohican ancestors, the young man who wanted to retrace the steps of his grandfather who once lived along the river that flowed through town. But instead he would come to grief and need to be carried down the mountain by the mysterious and seemingly ageless Boudine sisters who had led secluded lives high on the mountain as long as anyone could remember. Few knew where these strange women had their cabin, but the dying Randle Marsh did, and it was said that he visited the sisters often; was he trying to live on endlessly as dark rumors suggested the sisters did? The rustic Wayne Funt knew where they lived too, but he would leave them strictly alone until he and his dog Duke played a major role in the mayhem that broke out during the raging Christmas snowstorm that buried the town and the mountain.
This collision of clashing agendas was presided over by a sheriff who did the best he could to navigate a safe landing for as many as he could who shared the wild ride on this memorable, often frightening year. And if the result could often be laced with humor and absurdity, it was always tempered—sometimes tragically—with what has always been true: sometimes, deep in the heart of the New England mountains, there are things going on, things both lighter than air and darker than starless night.