Name Michael Ampersant
Age Too old.
Where are you from Berlin, Germany.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I grew up in Berlin as an only child, went to university, and ended up as an academic in Amsterdam, Netherlands. I founded the Applied Logic Laboratory there, then retired.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
The moon is rising over the Mediterranean (I live on the French Riviera now).
(My partner Chang just took this picture. He got a tripod today, this is his first long-exposure picture.)
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
When I was 15 years old, or so. I would write 10 poems a day. This was in the then-popular free style, no need to think about rhyme. I was also on the High School Student Magazine’s editorial board and wrote satirical pieces. And I once interviewed W. H. Auden, the poet, who was still alive then.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Since very recently, since I finished my first novel.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A picture by Joe Phillips, the American artist. The picture is now on the cover of the book.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I developed a certain style when I started my blog a couple of years ago. The style in the GREEN EYES is fairly idiosyncratic, and solipsistic (and egocentric). The style of the stuff I’m writing now is mildly more relaxed.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Have a look at the cover:
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes and no. There are lots of messages. I don’t know whether you had this in High School, writing essays that would “interpret” a particular piece of literature. We had this a lot. The (implicit) question always was: “What does the author mean, what does he/she want to say?” Even then I thought the question beside the point. If you have a clear message, you write an opinion piece for the New York Times, you don’t write a novel, or a play, or a poem. Art—if that’s what we are doing—art is about ambiguity. There is no clear message, there shouldn’t be, in fact. The more ambiguity, the better.
But yes, there are messages. About language, for example, how language is misused. How people cheat with language, and how they are cheated by language. And about love. How beneficial it is, love. But you possibly know that already.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
A lot, I hope. The boys (the book is M/M erotic romance), the boys are too handsome, of course, all of them. No, yes, the book is realistic literature.
As I said, I grew up in Germany, and the Literaturpapst (the leading authority on literature) in my days was Marcel Reich-Ranitzki. Reich-Ranitzki’s adagio was: modern literature should be realistic. It should be about us. I agree. Really good literature captures its epoch—better than any history book could.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Most (if not all) of it is based on my own experience. That’s quite normal for a first book of fiction, I guess, they are all autobiographical in some sense.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain). Plus a lot of other stuff, of course. But if you put me against a wall and shackle me to this ebony cross in the “50 Shades” and ask again, I’d answer: Mark Twain.
I never had a mentor.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Thanks for the question: I’m reading “The Satyricon” by Petronius Arbiter. Petronius was the arbiter of taste at Nero’s court, yes, Nero, the Roman Emperor. Highly erotic, the book, lots of sex, mostly gay sex. 2000 years old, the book. Very funny. It’s free on Kindle. I’m at 44% of the text.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest:
I’m a great fan of David Foster Wallace (“Infinite Jest”). I love Donna Tartt (especially her first book, “The Secret History”). Lots of authors…John Updike, Hemingway, Flaubert (“Madame Bovary”), E.A. Poe, Annie Proulx. I’m fascinated by writing styles like Sherlock Holmes was fascinated by finger prints. One name…it would be David Foster Wallace.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m writing a sequel to the GREEN EYES…”This Is Heaven,” because Alex (the Green Eyes), after his failed suicide, stubbornly maintains that his suicide didn’t fail and that he’s in heaven now. We’re participating in the Festival Week of Georgia Beach, GA (fictional, the town), and the event is vampire-themed. You can read it as a satirical take on “Twilight” (Bella, Edward Cullen), except that there’s a lot of explicit sex. I’m also working on a comic book project (putting Plato’s Symposium into a comic strip), and I’ve started a YA novel, “The Senator and I,” which is set in a non-standard sci-fi future, a future where Einstein still holds, i.e., there are limits of the speed of travel (the speed of light), so there’s not much galactic travel, and we don’t even have laser swords, but we do have very able robots. The robots do NOT conspire against us, but we’re prone to total decadence because we’ve nothing better to do.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My partner, Chang, to whom the GREEN EYES are dedicated. Oh, sorry, that’s a family member. A friend who’s styled as Jack Horn in the GREEN EYES. He encouraged me to start my blog.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
If I wouldn’t be too old for that, yes.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Very little, a few commas.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Not really. You’re an academic, you write a lot, anyhow. My academic writing experience, it helps a lot (believe it or not). My parents were fairly poor (this was after WW2). My mother would take me to see a friend of hers who owned a type writer, and I would spend hours sitting there just typing. Don’t remember what (I was typing). And I’m not even particularly good at typing.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Well, I just told you. The sequel to the GREEN EYES, it’s not biographic, and it’s more difficult to write.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes, sure. English is not my first language. That’s challenging.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
As I indicated already, it would be David Foster Wallace (DFW). “What really strikes me”—yes, good question. I have been asking this myself, a lot. It’s, I think, because Infinite Jest is beyond style. DFW is so good, he doesn’t need style (as opposed to me, for example, who needs all sorts of rhetorical tricks to get a sentence finished).
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No, unfortunately not, I’m not famous enough.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Cover art, as I said already, is by Joe Phillips, and the design is by Phil Haxo, a friend of Joe. They are both based in San Diego, CA.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
GREEN EYES was easy. Somewhere at three quarters I had some problems regarding the plot, but I knew the (happy) ending already. Very helpful to know the ending. And a few more things. For example, I knew that the last chapter would start with the sentence: “Wasn’t it Sarah Palin who said ‘History repeats itself as a farce, or as romantic comedy.’” (In reality it was Karl Marx, of course).
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Good question. Yes, sure. In my case it would be: “Just let it happen, don’t plot too much”—the sequel to the GREEN EYES is highly plotted and that complicates things. I decided not to do much plotting for “The Senator and I.” I know the ending already, and somehow we will get there, and the planet will be saved by the joint efforts of my 16-year old heroine and her stupid foster father, the senator. And, second, “Do your research.” The more you know, the easier it is. The first (autobiographical) book is easy because you don’t need to do any research, you know everything already. As to “The Senator and I,” tomorrow I can’t write a word because I have to study about the Getty Museum (where the senator lives).
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
“Just do it.” Marten Weber, the M/M author, he advises: “Never participate in a creative writing class.” Otherwise, I would advise: “Follow the rules until you break them.” In mediocre writing, there are always too many qualifiers (adjectives, adverbs). “Gentle/gently.” Avoid the qualifier “gentle/gently.”
English is possibly the richest language on the planet. There’s a verb for everything. Don’t shy away from difficult words, be precise. There’s a reason to use the verb “to behold.” Don’t say “gaze” unless there’s a specific reason for it…
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Yes, and no. I shouldn’t compare myself to Mark Twain, obviously, but the way he poked fun at the world, that’s what I’m trying to do.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first one was “Pinocchio,” and the second one was “Cannery Row” by John Steinbeck. I see myself still sitting there, reading the book that I had discovered in my parents’ book shelf (I was seven years old, then), my parents looking at me…what is little Michael doing…but they were liberals, my parents, in particular my father, so if little Michael wants to read Cannery Row, let him read Cannery Row. I enjoyed it a lot, the book.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Lot’s of things, fortunately. This question, for example.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Barack Obama (after he stepped down).
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
The GREEN EYES have an answer to everything, including tomb stones. In the novel, John, the narrator, sees himself passing away in the darkroom of the town’s only gay club, and then sees himself buried “in the lost corner of the graveyard, where darkroom victims are buried and tomb stone inscriptions censored.” Along those lines. “Better here than in Philadelphia” (J.C. Fields).
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Fast action comedies. Fast action anyhow. I’m impatient. “The Bourne Identity,” for example.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Gratin Dauphinois (food). Turquoise (color). Bach (music).
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Well, I had a career as an academic. If I would have to do it all over again, I would go into robotics, or mathematics.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Yes (link follows). The blog helped me a lot to get relaxed about writing. Would recommend it to any aspiring writer. (In the GREEN EYES, which are about everything, as noted, we have a passage about attempts to replace the word “blog” by newer, better words, and in a crucial passage, which foretells the happy ending, John (who’s, among other things, a blogger), imagines: “This is the future that we deserve, Alex as a sexologist with his own clinic next door, and I as a better word behind my laptop, living happily ever after, and Alex pays the bills.”)
Buy link of the GREEN EYES on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B013V50XV6
GREEN EYES page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Greeneyesnovel/
One last remark: this was a fun interview, these were fun questions.