Noah K. Mullette-Gillman interviewed by Kipp Poe Speicher July 25 2010
First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to interview new authors like myself. It can be difficult for new voices to be heard. There is always such a stampede of good people who would like to be writers. Yes, I think that everyone should try writing a book, simply for the sake of self-development, but that doesn’t mean that their work is going to be good enough that we should all be forced to read them.
I remember when I was in college, I wrote a lot of poetry, but I reached the point where if anyone else told me that they wrote poetry; I assumed that it would be terrible! Imagine how it would be if, for every real policeman, there were twelve people playing dress-up who thought they should be policemen too. Would you take a chance and report a crime, if you weren’t sure that the man in blue was who he claimed to be?
Would you go to the doctor if you were skeptical that he was a real doctor?
I think the struggle for a new author is a little like that. We have to prove that we are who we say we are, and until we do everyone assumes that we’re just playing dress-up.
1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
Evening is usually best for me to churn out actual pages. When it gets very late, and there aren’t many people awake, I find it easier to think. It’s as if there’s more room for my thoughts. Maybe it’s a little easier to pick up the radio transmissions from my muse when there’s less interference… Or maybe that time just feels more private and safer to me.
2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
I really do prefer having a pen in my hand and a notebook to clutch. The tactile element is so very important to me when writing. I carry a great big leather-bound notebook everywhere I go and I’m constantly filling it up with plot ideas, bits of conversation, even drawings of people who will end up in my stories. My fingers usually end up stained with black and red ink.
Naturally, in order to write a long work, like a novel or short story, you need to use a computer, and I do, but I continue to use my notebook throughout the process.
3: What do you draw inspiration from?
Of course, the answer is everything. I draw it from my life, from the music that I listen to, from the books I read, the movies I watch. I draw it from my travels around the world and walks in the woods. A friend of mine pointed out a few years ago that in my best work I always seem to be fighting against something, and he was right. In each of my best works I am trying to solve a problem in my life on the page. When the story’s done being written, I always expect the problem to be fixed as well. Does it work? To an extent. In my psyche my writing will have moved me forward. In the world? I’m still working on that.
4: Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count?
My only goal is to do the best work that I possibly can. If inspiration gives me twenty good pages that day? Great. If it gives me half a page? I’ll be patient. In art quantity is nothing when compared to quality. That said, when my spirits are up I’m actually a prolific author.
5: Are you a published or a self published author and how do you come up with your cover art?
I published my first novel myself, through lulu.com. While I have every hope that The White Hairs will find an audience, I do understand how difficult that is for a new independent author. I accepted from the beginning that I probably wouldn’t make a lot of money with this first book.
However, I plan on having a long career as an author and this book will still be available many years from now. Hopefully by then I will have found an audience and they will get curious about my early work.
Now, just like anyone else, I’d like to live a fulfilling life. I’d like to be appreciated for my work, and financially stable. I’d like a happy and easy life (starting…now!) But that’s not the point. The work is the point. If I never sell another copy, I will still keep writing. The stories and the ideas have dominated my thoughts my entire life, and that’s never going to end.
I take tremendous pride in my work. I may be my own greatest fan! The most important thing is to complete these stories and get them out into the world. Then it will be up to the rest of humanity to decide if they will become as important to them as they are to me.
The cover of The White Hairs was painted by my good friend Dana Black. I met Dana in 1987. I had just moved to a new high school. He was my first new friend in a strange new school. Many years later, we’ve gone through periods when we haven’t talked very much, even times we’ve been angry with each other, but he was there for me when I needed a cover.
I called him up, full of excitement and told him that I had decided to self-publish my first novel and all I needed was a cover. He basically dropped his life for a week or so to work with me designing the cover together and then he executed it. It was a great process, very collaborative!
And I think the result speaks for itself. The spirit of my story is right there in that painting. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect single image to express my story.
We’re both working very hard now together on a fully illustrated children’s book.
6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?
Dharma? Writing is my calling in life. I can only hope that I will be so lucky as to make a living at it. I’ll certainly give my best to any other job that life may throw my way, but the jobs I’ve had have all gotten in the way of my WORK.
7: Do you own an ebook reading device?
I recently released The White Hairs for the Kindle, and it can also be downloaded in PDF form from lulu.com. I don’t have a Kindle or similar device yet. I do have an iphone, and the Kindle app allows me to read the book that way. Amazon also allows us to download the file and read it on our PCs.
Honestly, I’m not entirely sold! Just as I prefer holding and pawing a notebook when writing, I like to have a book in my hand. I like the smell, and the pages. I may even like having to find something I can find to use as a bookmark.
It’s great that ebooks are cheaper than physical copies. That can only help new authors like myself. Whereas many people would be wary about risking fifteen or twenty dollars on someone new, $2.99 is really very close to free for a whole novel!
I also imagine that if I were to go on another long trip overseas, it would be great to download a dozen books and take them with me that way. I have a habit of packing too much luggage as it is!
8: Who are some of your favorite authors and what are you reading now?
Paulo Coelho, Doris Lessing, Neil Gaiman, last summer I got very interested in Milan Kundera and read quite a few of his books. I read an inordinate number of books on ancient mythology. I love finding one of those thick volumes that say “The Myths of X” or “The Legends and Folk Tales of X.” (Insert any country in the world for X.) I appreciate that these stories have survived for centuries, often millennia. I don’t steal from them. I wouldn’t even say that I imitate, but I try to understand what these important books were aiming at and be mindful of that in my own work.
I’m reading a few books right now: Douglas “Dag” Rossman’s The Northern Path, Robert Heinlein’s Farnham’s Freehold (which I’m not actually enjoying,) Keith Thomas’ Religion and the Decline of Magic, and Alejandro Jodorowky’s Psychomagic (finally available in English.) I recently finished reading Stieg Larsen’s second book, but won’t start the third until I finish at least one of the others that I’m working on….
9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?
I think that anything that can be done to bring attention to writers and books is great. I do not have plans to record a book trailer at this time.
10: How did you come up with the title of your latest book?
The main character of The White Hairs is a creature named Farshoul. He’s something maybe like a Yeti or an Abominable Snowman. However, I never say, in the book, what he is. I describe how he and his people live, and we get to learn a lot about them and their culture. In the book I simply refer to them as “The White Hairs.” At the last moment I briefly toyed with the idea of changing the title to “Farshoul and The White Hairs” to make it stand out more, or even just “Farshoul.” But neither felt honest to me.
11: What are you working on now that you can talk about?
I’m working on a few things. As I mentioned, artist Dana Black and I are working very hard to illustrate a children’s story of mine. It’s a beautiful story and Dana is doing the best work of his life. I look forward to being able to talk more about this in a few months.
I’m also writing two novels. One is, to be vague, about magicians in the modern era. The other is a survivalist story. It has a lot in common with Road Warrior, and Miracle Mile, but I think I have a twist on the genre that no one has ever tried before. Of course, both of these ideas will turn out differently in my hands than they would in the hands of most authors. It isn’t enough for me to have the big ideas, and the flashy concepts. That side of the story comes very quickly and easily to me and I need it to be there, but at the same time, the deeper mythological and metaphysical work is of equal importance to my enjoyment of the story.
On the one hand, I love reading comic books. I love Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns’ work. I love big action movies too. But on the other hand I enjoy reading Philosophy and Russian Literature. I need work that’s thick with ideas and wide with human development. Some people might imagine a contradiction between a science fiction or fantasy story and a deeper work.
The White Hairs, to put it bluntly: is about Abominable Snowmen! Depending on your perspective you will probably either think that’s “awesome” or juvenile. The ideas and emotions in The White Hairs are sophisticated. They are mature. At times I think the story can be quite shocking in its frank understanding. As a reader, I crave this combination. I want to have both the fantastic and the deep together. As a writer, I’m trying to give us all the kind of story I want to read. I hope that a few of you have similar tastes to my own!Free previews are available at Amazon