Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Books: Interview with Author Henry Martin - literary fiction

I met author Henry Martin through GoodReads, and have been thoroughly enjoying his posting contributions to several of the threads in the communities there. So, I'm really excited to post his interview today. When I interviewed Henry, I hadn't read his work yet - however, I just finished reading his first novel. I will get a review out in the next blog post. In the meantime, get to know Henry a little bit - and enjoy what this inspiring writer has to say!

Henry, it's a pleasure to host you here. Tell us, where are you from and what is your background?

Despite calling New Hampshire my home, I consider myself a cosmopolitan. I was fortunate to experience life in a few different countries, but I have to keep some mystery. So, instead of being specific, I'll confuse your readers with a paragraph from one of my short stories:

I am a nomad, a cosmopolitan, a citizen of the universe. No matter where I go, I always stand out; out of place, a misfit, an eccentric oddity. My voice both hoarse and soothing, a mixture of tones and melodies. An intriguing mixture of accents spanning halfway across the globe, from the Back Bay towers of Boston, through New Hampshire’s pristine wilderness to the coast of Spain, taking a few occasional stops in several European countries. A sound so pleasing and annoying at the same time, that it can only be compared to the buzzing of a hummingbird’s wings amidst the rambling of bulldozers’ engines in the Amazon rainforest. If you sprinkle it with a few drops of saffron, I may sound Indian; yet, on a humid night, after a glass of Pampero I might be easily confused for a South American. A wild night of Vodka drinking converts me into a Russian, and when a Flamenco dancer arouses my imagination, I may come across as a Spanish gypsy. During a storm, when the sky is heavy with water like the breasts of a nursing mother are with milk, I acquire the sound of an electric eel, spinning in the coarse sand underneath a tidal wave. The world is my cradle, its languages my lullabies. 

That sounds indeed very cosmopolitan. A little mysterious. And how many books have you written? What do you consider to be your target audience?

At this point my main work consists of the books Escaping Barcelona, Finding Eivissa, and Eluding Reality, which make the Mad Days of Me, trilogy. I also have a collection of short stories, Coffee, Cigarettes, and Murderous Thoughts, and a collection of avant-garde poetry, The Silence Before Dawn.

My target audience would be the reader who is looking for a thought-provoking story, not merely entertainment.
Your book "Escaping Barcelona" has a quote that I really like: “Silence—people are afraid of it—they feel the need to make small talk, anything, just to break the stillness. I don’t feel any such need. To me, silence brings about peace and certitude.” Does this quote, in any way, mirror your own feelings (past or present)?

When Rudy, the protagonist, says that, he is referring to the uncomfortable silence between two people, to a situation many will try to avoid by engaging in a needless chatter.

As for my personal feelings about silence - I embrace silence whenever possible. Our world is so full of clamor that we hardly, if ever, take a moment to just listen. This, however, brings up a different question - is there ever silence? No matter where we find ourselves, chances are that there is some noise. Be it the rustling of leaves as they sway in the breeze, the chirp of a bird, a car horn, a train rolling on its tracks, the buzzing of insects, the sound of water rushing over rocks... our world is never silent. When I say I embrace silence, I mean that I cherish moments void of unnatural noise. 

Silence is the precious time we can be comfortable with our own thoughts.  

Talking about quotes, tell me your favorite quote - or any of your favorite quotes - who it is by, and why you love it.

I have to admit that I do not have one favorite quote. Quotes change, depending on the mood; what I find strikingly beautiful one day, may come across as mundane and useless the next. There are, however, sentences that strike me as amazing, sentences that provoke thought. Just last night, as I was reading Camus' The Plague, I came across one: "Can one be a saint without God?" I contemplated that question for a long time. Nevertheless, it is not really a quote, so I'll answer with one I saw today: 

"Imagine having nothing on your hands but your destiny. You sit on the doorsteps of your mother's womb and you kill time-or time kills you. You sit there chanting the doxology of things beyond your grasp. Outside. Forever outside." - Henry Miller

I like it. It's thought provoking, optimistic and pessimistic at the same time. 


Since you mention Miller and Camus, let's talk about writers. Who is your favorite author/writer? Which of her/his book is your favorite? Is he/she an influence in your writing?

My favorite author is Henry Miller. There are others: Albert Camus, Knut Hamsun, Charles Bukowski, Albert Cossery, Boris Vian, Karel Capek, Italo Calvino.... Miller, however, stands above all. If I had to choose a single book of his, it would probably be Black Spring, but that is a very hard choice to make. 

Miller most definitely influenced my own writing. I started reading his books when I was only a teenager, and from then on, I have developed a love not only for his words, but also for the way he wrote. Miller loved life, and it shows in his books. There is a certain unconditional honesty in his writing that inspires me.
Although I haven't yet read your books, based on the descriptions, reviews and sampling of your work, you tend to write about loners, isolated or troublesome characters and/or relationships, am I correct? What prompts you to go deep into a character's soul searching and write lit fic?

Yes Andrea, you are partly correct. I tend to write about individuals and their struggle in the greater collective. While, at the cursory glance, we are all part of a larger society, deep down we are all individuals. Inside each one of us is that scared kid, the troubled teenager, the working parent who struggles with the weight of responsibility, the dreamer who wonders what if... I tend to write polarizing, yet universally human characters. For example, Rudy, the protagonist from the Mad Days of Me, trilogy: He is intelligent, yet he is wasting away. He has a possibility to escape his plight, yet is too proud to ask for help from his parents. He can make the choice to be deported, yet decides to remain homeless instead.

As to why Literary Fiction, I must admit that I never viewed my writing as literary fiction until it was pointed out to me. Nevertheless, literary fiction, unlike most genres, allows for the greatest flexibility in character development. Most genres must follow established formulas - in romance, there has to be love; in crime fiction, there has to be a crime; in horror, something gruesome must lurk around - in literary fiction, one can fully concentrate on the character as the character himself advances the story. Literary fiction is also best suited for addressing the greater issues we, as society, are facing.

Soul searching...well, the best stories are the ones we can relate to on a purely human level.

Have you been to all the locations you mention in your books? What place is on top of your bucket list and why?

I'm fortunate to have visited most of the places I write about. While technology makes it possible to write about just any place in the world, there is something selfishly pleasing about researching the places I visited years ago, and refreshing my own memories of tastes, smells, and sights I had enjoyed.

At the top of my bucket list would be South America. Just me, a motorcycle, camping gear, and enough money for gas and food along the way. I would fly down to Chile and ride all the way up to Mexico, experiencing as much as possible along the way.
Are you optimistic/hopeful/romantic?

That's a loaded question. Deep inside, despite all the gloom and realism, I'm an optimist. I like to gaze at the horizon, wondering what lies behind the line of sight, which probably makes me a hopeless romantic.  

Tell me one thing about you that you would like readers to know.

I still have dreams.

Glad to know you're a dreamer, so we can expect more books from you. Where can we find more about you and your books?

You can visit my infrequently updated blog:

my frequently active Goodreads profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6583769.Henry_Martin
or my Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001JCCFNI

Thank you for having me. 

You're welcome! Good luck and keep writing!


  1. Andrea,

    Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my work.

  2. From Tuesday 03/04 through Wednesday 03/05, Escaping Barcelona will be available for $0.99 only on Kindle.

    In addition, eBookSoda, Ereadernewstoday, and The Fussy Librarian are all going to feature the book on those days.

    If you were considering to get your own copy, this is the time to do it. http://www.amazon.com/Mad-Days-Me-Escaping-Barcelona-ebook/dp/B00A7Z243O

    On midnight Wednesday, the price will go back to the original $2.99.