Monday, 16 May 2016

Interview with Erik Von Norden

My guest today is Erik Von Norden, author of Theory of Irony: How Jesus Led to Moon Golf, which was spotlighted last week, here on Just Books.

Hi Erik, and welcome to Just Books. Thank you for joining us and agreeing to an interview.
Would you please start by telling us when you started writing for publication and what made you decide to put your work out there to be read by others?
Several years ago, and three pots of coffee. That is to say, one morning after drinking way too much Columbian Supreme, I was ranting to a co-worker (an author) about all the washed-up actors and athletes who had become Governors and Congressmen. He retorted, "You ought to write a book!" So I did.

Who or what has helped you become a better writer over time?
My sister, the journalist, can write in ten syllables what most people would write in a paragraph. My daughter is something of a prodigy for inventing words that don't exist in the English language, but should.

What are the hardest and easiest parts about being a writer?
Nothing is easier than writing. The trick is to tell people stuff that actually happened, and convey how it impacts their lives in the world today (though I often have to reassure the skeptical, "You can't make this up.”). The only hard part is making money after you publish.

What can we expect from you in the future?
If you give me a good review, or otherwise help me sell a million copies, I promise to be more prolific than Stephen Bloody King. I might start with an irreverent, ironic biography of Ben Franklin.

"All things are possible to he who believes."

Hopefully, my readers will help you on your way to that million. ;)
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
Never an outline. Just drink three cups of French Roast, mentally download whatever poltergeist in haunting inside my head, type fast and edit later.

What inspired Theory of Irony: How Jesus Led to Moon Golf?
My "Rube Goldberg contraption" of a brain processes the world in a corkscrewed sort of way. Nothing makes sense to me the way it does to most people - for example, my government gives boatloads of tax money for anti-smoking campaigns, and then to farmers to grow more tobacco. That seems counter-intuitive to me. I can usually come up with an answer, but get there by connecting images and ideas in ways decaffeinated people do not. Writing all that out is more crucial than, say, oxygen. Maybe there are others like me?

Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?
Sure. Each chapter ends with a personal digression, like a wealthy law firm client with the patience of a crack-addled ocelot, and a former boss who parroted the ocelot's self-defeating commands, conspiring with an adversarial photocopier that was pre-programmed to lapse into a narcoleptic coma every nine minutes.

Who designed your book cover..?
I did.

...And do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Yes. The image of spending America's gross national product to send astronauts to the Moon, only to have a game of golf break out in near-zero gravity, seems to convey irony writ large.

Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
Anyone who wonders.
Consider this. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected by 121 different publishers - because it didn’t fit into a pigeon-holed genre – before it went on to sell five million copies.
One aficionado told me, “We only review gothic steampunk novels about sparkly vampires, as told from the Algerian perspective.” I am paraphrasing a little. If you want to read about Algerian vampires with sparkly perspectives, read that book. If you want to know why nothing makes sense (or if you like to laugh), read this one!

What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment?
My kids. Nothing comes close.

What a wonderful sentiment, Erik,.. and on that note lets leave your book to one side and find out a bit about you!
So which novelists do you admire?
Hunter S. Thompson had the biggest influence, though admire may not be the right word. Michael Shaara, author of Killer Angels, can mentally transport a reader better just about than anyone. Mary Shelley. Cervantes, no doubt, though his actual life would outdo any character of fiction.

"The only hard part is making money after you publish."

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Hike in the woods. Read. Ski. Run. I work ungodly hours. Spend time with my family. Ponder perpetual motion. Not necessarily in that order.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Give up excess, sooner. Quit alcohol, and all kinds of self-medication, younger. It does not help to worry over things beyond your control. Seek out (the few) great people and emulate them.

Seems like sound advice!
Before you head off back to your little house, deep in the woods lets do a quick Top Ten…
1. Favourite colour…
Bear along a minute. In the great northern woods straddling the Canadian border, the night is so dark you literally cannot see your hand before your face. On rare occasions though, an arctic plunge clears the clouds, a massive, full moon dominates the sky and a blanket of blinding-white snow covers the ground. When this happens, the usual ink-black, midnight forest illuminates so brightly you can read a newspaper with the naked eye: The unseen sun's yellow rays reflect off the grey-white moon, filter through the atmosphere of the blue-green Earth and the ground radiates an ethereal hue everywhere. The bioluminescent glow - somewhere between azure and aquamarine – is adopted as the color of the snow, of ungloved hands, and the mist from your warm breath. This is my favorite color.

2. Favourite Animal…
Blue whales. They can grow 110 feet long, weigh 200 tons and propel underwater in sprints of more than 30 miles per hour. They far exceed the mass of any animal, even the largest dinosaur, yet placidly roam the sea with no enemies, save man. They leave me speechless.

3. Favourite book…
Where to start? The Bible. Some might say that answer is too convenient, but it really is phenomenal literature. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson. Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Anything by Barbara Tuchman. Benjamin Franklin, by Carl Van Doren. Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. I could go on all day.

4. Favourite film…
I have watched Apocalypse Now more than any other film. Casablanca is probably the greatest. Anything by Ridley Scott. There are infinite second-favorites.

5. Favourite food…
The short answer is pasta. The candid truth is that I do not see food the way most people do. Food - any kind - is sustenance. I am grateful for nutrient calories, and will eat what is put in front of me without complaint and never throw it out. But especially, pasta.

6. Favourite Season…
Winter. I should add that in Vermont there exists a three-week stretch between Winter and Spring, when ice-rain comes down sideways and turns waist deep snow drifts into slush waterfalls, and the frozen dirt roads into bogs. This is colloquially called "Mud Season." I love each time of year, and every transition, but I could live without Mud Season. Winter is best.

7. Favourite Flower…
"Black Eyed Snoozin." When my kids were very young, and we went for hikes, they mistakenly took that name for the common wildflower, Black-Eyed Susan. Those same flowers still dot the trail and the vivid yellow color revives powerfully wonderful memories.

8. Favourite quote…
"All things are possible to he who believes."

9. Favourite item of clothing…
My old fedora.

10. Favourite singer / band…
It’s eclectic. Pink Floyd. Mozart. Robert Johnson. Sometimes, John Coltrane. Bowie. The Grateful Dead. And, David Gray. “Writing music” is much different than “running music.” What about you?

Anyone who knows me, knows Bowie is my favourite, but my taste is music is as wide and varied as my taste in books. As for the difference between writing and running music, I don't have an opinion as I'm neither a writer nor a runner. :)

Thanks again for joining us here today, Erik. Good luck with your sales, and any future projects!


  1. Rainne:

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the spotlight and interview. I would add that your commentary and photo inserts were especially apropos. I have re-posted the matter on my own website, twitter and facebook.

    -Erik Von Norden

    1. You're welcome, Erik.
      Thank you for your comment and the reposts :)