INTERVIEW: Michael J Seidlinger, Author of The Strangest

The Strangest book

To be honest, I’m not sure if Michael J Seidlinger sleeps. No matter what timezone I’ve been on, I’ve seen that green icon indicating he’s online all the time. When he’s not writing fantastic novels, he runs Civil Coping Mechanism, a fantastic indie press that publishes some of the best books out there. He recently celebrated the release of The Strangest, which we dug a lot. Michael was kind enough to come over and answer some question about many things, in a way that’s both interesting and insightful that we may have to start calling it Seidlinger to save time.

So for under-read people such as myself, who read The Strangest, but aren’t familiar with Camus text, would you say it makes a difference to our reading? I didn’t think so, it stands on its own.
Well, it’s awesome to hear that you don’t think so; however, I bet that the book will read dramatically different based on the reader’s familiarity with the original. How so, you’ve got me since both you and I have only experienced The Strangest via a different set of lenses.

You recently published an article on Buzzfeed about the anxiety of social media. Do you feel that this is a necessary evil in the modern day age of self-promoting and publishing?
Oh yeah, you better believe that social media is rewiring how we think, communicate, and function as individuals in modern society. I mean, the 24-hr news cycle alone is a testament to how information technology has restructured the cultural conscience. With artists—be it an author or not—there’s this gravitational pull to the social media platform as a means of both promotion and fascination. In the Buzzfeed article, I wrote about relevancy and the need for validation. It’s very real and almost always, if even not the main reason someone uses social media, one of the things that keeps a person coming back. How often do you find yourself checking your phone for notifications?

Out of all the model day tellings of great novels, what drew you to The Stranger?
I consider it a perfect novel. Well, not perfect but “perfect,” you know? As in—it continues to be that one book that wowed me in all respects, at the language/line level all the way up to the narrative thrust, the philosophical implications, etc. The Stranger is a book I almost always read once a year, and I almost always come out of the reading experience inspired. Few books do that so when one does, you tend to keep it around.

So writing books, as well as creating them through indie powerhouse Civil Coping Mechanisms, what challenges does that bring to your writing and personal life?
Exhaustion, the threat of burning out. Hmm, the lack of a life or being able to actually sit still and not do anything. You know, just relax and, I don’t know, watch TV, without thinking about what I’m working on at the moment. I’m definitely a workaholic. There’s no doubt about it; I never feel right, “normal,” if I’m not working on multiple things at once. If I have nothing to do, I feel useless. Yeah, lots of long hours, less sleep, and the feeling of time passing at a rapid rate. I wish it would just slow down once in awhile.

You’ve got some works that are out of print. Is this an issue for you, do you wish for them to go back into distribution or are you to busy focusing on the next set of books?
It’s kind of a bummer to see a book go out of print. Doesn’t matter if you’re the author or the publisher, it still brings a damper to your day when you find out something doesn’t actually exist as a purchasable entity and the only way is to really procure a pre-existing copy, a used one. Nothing wrong with used books but something’s always off when a book essentially doesn’t have copies in some warehouse waiting to be bought. I’d love to see them go back in print, if the opportunity ever arose. Especially with My Pet Serial Killer, which I get emails/messages from hopeful readers all the time asking about how they might buy a copy, I’d be interested in bringing them back from the literary grave.

Did you find it hard to incorporate social media into The Strangest? It seems like one of those things that’s hard to get right.
The use of italicization was one of the first things I planned before starting the book. I knew I had to actually showcase Zachary’s use/manipulation of social media to dispel, redirect, and hide from reality. That meant actual tweets, comments, posts showing up in the prose. To hint at it would have been a disservice, I think. We’re seeing a lot of social media creeping into novels these days. Joshua Mohr’s All This Life incorporated it well, and honestly, it’s a part of modern life and it’s here to stay, with all it’s positives and negatives. As it feeds on us, it will feed into our fiction.

Was it difficult to create a world and characters based around a character that had no interest in engaging with them?
I feel kind of bad in saying that it was actually quite easy. It was difficult to maintain the tonality of the novel but once I understood what Zachary needed to be, it almost wrote itself. Perhaps it was easier because I didn’t have to render the world, the other characters, as much since Zachary remained distant, unenthused, withdrawn from the world around him so much that he saw it as somewhat superficial and unappealing, even frightening. The whole “character speaking to author” or “author sees self in main character” deal, which is sobering considering how disconnected Zachary is to those around him. It makes me check myself and make sure I’m not headed down the same slippery slope.

As a small press publisher have you noticed print still being prevalent in book sales?
For a little while, it really did seem like eBooks were taking over. Sales were up and with small press, it was so much easier (read: cheaper) to send digital rather than physical galleys. But then–I don’t know what exactly–things slowed down. eBooks don’t seem to sell as well as they did and the preference for print has remained steady throughout, even during the eBook “boom” of like a year ago. Of course, this is only what I’ve experienced and seen; others may very well have experienced differently.

So, after the push for The Strangest, what’s next for Michael J Seidlinger?
I’ve got a Young Adult/New Adult (yeah, it’s actually a genre. It exists. I didn’t even know about it while writing the book) novel called “Falter Kingdom” coming out in early fall 2016 via The Unnamed Press. It’s going to be interesting selling to an entirely different sort of audience. I’m a little intimidated, if only because I don’t know what to expect. Other than that, I’ve finished a screenplay recently, and I’m at work on another novel. We’ll see how that goes; as you know, it’s never really a novel, or a book, until it reaches finished form. Until then it’s all anxiety about trying to get it to that point.

Finally, how do YOU cope?
Coffee. Lots of coffee. Occasional cigar too. Oh, and Mortal Kombat.

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