Jane Takako Wolfsheim learns she can alter time and space after meeting a charismatic stranger named Jorge Luis Borges.
Inextricably she falls for Borges. Soon, however Borges’ lies and emotional abuse, and nightmares about a demonic figure, “the man in black,” nearly drive Jane mad. After her parents are murdered, Jane flees with Borges. Both the ghost of haiku master, Basho, and the Daibutsu of Kamakura, a statue of Buddha that appears in her dreams, offer her cryptic advice. Unable to trust anyone, Jane must find the strength to save herself, her unborn child, and possibly the future of humanity.
– When and where do you prefer to write?
At my desk in the morning after breakfast with sun shining through the window, but id I’m bumping up against a deadline, I’ll write anytime, day or night. That’s for fiction, however. Blog posts often come to me on the spur of the moment, and I’ll write them out in a rush, which can have its advantages if the subject is topical, but also a downside, as I don’t spend much time editing them before posting.
The same applies to poetry, which was once the only thing I wrote. I still write poems spontaneously these days, usually after reading online poems by people I follow on Facebook, but not as often as I did when I began writing poetry following my early retirement due to my autoimmune disorder.
– Do you have a certain ritual?
I’ve never really thought about that. I used to get a coffee each morning to wake up, but I’ve stopped all caffeine since the coronavirus pandemic started, except for the occasional green tea. So, the answer is no, I suppose.
– Is there a drink of some food that keeps you company while you write?
I often forget to eat or drink when I’m writing, especially when it’s going well. I’ve been known to write straight through lunch at times and suddenly look at the clock as see it’s already late afternoon, and I realize I haven’t eaten anything for hours.
– What is your favourite book?
It’s impossible for me to pick just one. I’ll just list a few books I like to re-read on a regular basis:
Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien)
Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier)
Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood)
The Rings of Saturn (WG Sebald)
Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
Dune (Frank Herbert)
The Dispossessed (Ursula K. LeGuin)
The Stranger (Albert Camus)
Labyrinths (Jorge Luis Borges)
And that’s just fiction. Ask me a different day, and I’ll probably name a bunch of other books.
– Do you consider writing a different genre in the future?
I don’t consider myself a writer in any particular genre. “My Travels With a Dead Man,” is a multi-genre book in my view, a literary novel combining elements of magical realism, fantasy, coming of age, science fiction, romance, mystery and the paranormal. I write intuitively, without an outline or a plan when I begin, so it depends on where the characters are taking me, and what they need to tell their story.
– Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?
Yes and no. None of my characters are based entirely on anyone I know, but some have traits similar to people I crossed paths with. I never start out writing a character with the idea that he or she is a stand in for any specific person. I have included autobiographical elements in some of my characters, mostly in the short stories I’ve written.
– Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?
No. I should though.
– Which genre do you not like at all?
I don’t think in terms of disliking any genre. What bothers me is a poorly written book, with flat or stereotypical characters and a predictable plot, regardless of genre.
– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?
Wow, that’s tough. Writing is such a personal thing for me. It would have to be someone who shares my vision for the book we’d be working on together. Also, I would need someone who respects my work enough to listen to my ideas.
– If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?
With my chronic autoimmune disorder, travelling is difficult. There are many countries I wish I could visit, but in terms of research for a book, the country would depend upon the book’s setting. I’ve only travelled to Japan and Mexico in my life, and never for the purpose of doing research. More than likely, a trip to another country would spur me to think of stories that could be set there, rather than choosing a place first and then going there for research purposes. All that said, I’d love to visit Italy, Spain. India and New Zealand (the last because my daughter spent a semester there and tells me she’s going to take me to New Zealand at some as yet to be determined date). But that has nothing to do with any literary aspirations.
Thank you, Steve Searls and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
Steve Searls retired from the practice of law in 2002 due to a rare chronic autoimmune disorder (Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor Cell Associated Periodic Syndrome). He began writing poetry in 2001 and, using the pseudonym, Tara Birch, was the featured poet of Tryst Poetry Journal’s Premiere Issue. He’s also published numerous poems as Tara Birch in print and online, including the poetry chapbook, Carrots and Bleu Cheese Dip, in 2004. Steve was also active as a blogger posting under the name, Steven D, at Daily Kos (2005-2017), Booman Tribune (2005-2017) and caucus99percent (2016–present). Steve’s published essays on Medium include “Clara’s Miracle,” about his wife’s cancer and resulting traumatic brain injury from chemotherapy, and “My Rape Story.” Raised in Colorado, he now lives with his adult son in Western NY. My Travels With a Dead Man is his first novel.