My first published novel, Lisa33 was an avante-garde sex comedy set on the internet. I had a well-known agent, a prestigious publisher, and a sizable advance – everything one dreams of. And yet the end result was quite disastrous. My book got caught up in politics with the publisher, my agent mysteriously disappeared as the book was to come out, and in the end there was zero promotion and a sorry dribble of sales.
Just as my own novel was vanishing into the depths of the literary pond, my agent returned from his own absence to publish a celebrated memoir. In it, he described how he’d descended into cocaine addiction, and how he had left his writers quite stranded. Interestingly, there I was, quite stranded indeed, reading about this memoir in the New York Times. My agent, who had assured me I would be famous, was now himself famous, and I was back at my day-job, reading about it.
For three years I not only stopped writing fiction, I even stopped reading it. I just wanted to get as far away from the experience as possible. I raised my children and worked full-time. When I began to write again, I wanted to get as far away from my previous novel as possible. A harrowing war story seemed about as far from an internet sex farce as one could get!
But perhaps I am making it seem like there was conscious decision about what to write about, when really, like so many things in novel-writing, “The Feet Say Run,” just sort of happened. I had a vision of a man’s life that would span the better part of the last century and in some way tell the story of that century. I had my narrator – an old man looking back on his past from a deserted island. And then I wrote this one scene of his childhood in Nazi Germany, more or less as an experiment. And it felt right. So I just kept going, still unsure what exactly I was doing. Was I writing a book again? Why would I do that to myself? What was I thinking?
In the years since Lisa33, I had grown increasingly interested in the idea of literary fiction that also made for a gripping page-turner. Maybe this was a subject that could allow it. I wanted to explore all of the madness and comedy and tragedy and horror, all of the stupidity and brilliance of humanity, in one big, surreal, plot-filled tale. I grrew more engrossed. After while it was just happening. For better or worse – I was immersed in another novel. There was no retreating – to borrow a World War II metaphor. The only way out was forward.
I still ask myself why, as a Jewish writer, why I would write a sympathetic account of a German who fought for the Nazis. The answer, as best as I can come up with, is this: the book is not only about empathy, but, in a way, is an act of empathy. We are all humans. We are all capable of suffering. Surely that alone is reason for some level of compassion.
About the Author
Daniel A. Blum grew up in New York, attended Brandeis University and currently lives outside of Boston with his family. His first novel Lisa33 was published by Viking in 2003. He has been featured in Poets and Writers magazine, Publisher’s Weekly and most recently, interviewed in Psychology Today.
Daniel writes a humor blog, The Rotting Post, that has developed a loyal following.
His latest release is the literary novel, The Feet Say Run.