Monday, July 16, 2012

Bollywood meets Don Quixote in Daniel Rider's first novel, 'Indian Summer'

1) Daniel, your first novel, Indian Summer, is now available. Can you tell us some about it, and yourself as a writer?

Well, Indian Summer is kind of a modern-day Don Quixote, at least to start out. But it changes the mix somewhat. It asks the question "What if Don Quixote goes mad not for medieval romances, but for Bollywood flicks, instead?" That opens up the question of how does this guy — this very white, very American, very nerdy in some ways, guy — function and look in American society if he’s acting like an Indian superstar. Also, it asks the question, "What if Sancho Panza is a woman, and what if she has a crush on this crazy guy and that’s why she stays with him?" That’s the premise, at least — but ultimately it’s about these two lonely, somewhat damaged, best friends that go off on an insane quest to find him an Indian girlfriend, but ultimately end up being on a quest to find themselves.

As for me as a writer, I find myself in this odd position where I’ve always written, but I also spent a long time as an academic, teaching college English mostly. I quit teaching to be a writer and a stay-at-home dad, and I’m absolutely loving it. I’m just getting started now, and that’s exciting. I’ve had a couple poems published, two stories in this awesome anthology Dreams in Shadow, and some really cool things in the pipeline. Indian Summer is my first novel, and really a labor of love, a kind of hat’s off to my 20-year-old self and my Peace Corps service—although what happens in the book is a very twisted, wild, silly, surreal view of that time. Not looking through a mirror darkly, perhaps, but looking through a mirror dorkily … although there’s some darkness in there as well.

2) You have taken part in the HarperCollins authonomy web site, which gives writers an opportunity at becoming published. What has been your experience with authonomy, and how has it helped you as a writer?

Authonomy is a cool site. For those who don’t know, HarperCollins UK set up the web site as basically an alternative to the slush pile. Writers post part or all of their novel on the site and then critique each other’s work. There’s also a rating system, and every month the five works with the strongest support actually end up being reviewed by HarperCollins editors, and some of these books even get deal offers.

For me, I came to the site a little late, just four months before my book was to be published, so I missed out on getting critiques that would have helped me in the planning process, but I’ve enjoyed the chance to read and connect with other writers, especially those who have similar interests and styles, and to see what people think of my book. I’d definitely do it again.

There are some downfalls to the site. Not everybody writes good reviews — and by good, I mean thoughtful, not gushing. I want constructive ideas, not just “It was good” or “It’s not my thing.” And some people are more about themselves only, and not the community, which is an important aspect to Authonomy. But all in all, Authonomy is a great place to do two things: A) get feedback on your writing, and B) market yourself a bit. After all, you’ll need to do that when you’re published, so attracting readers here is good practice.

3) Who are some authors you feel have influenced you as a writer?

Oh, there are tons. Probably the big ones, the ones I really see guiding my own writing, are Sherman Alexie, David Lodge, William Faulkner, and A.S. Byatt. Raymond Carver is perhaps the biggest influence; my writing changed a lot after reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Also, for this specific book, Indian Summer, I took a lot of inspiration from Cervantes, Chaucer, and an author named Sonia Singh. Her Goddess for Hire and Bollywood Confidential never failed to put a smile on my face.

4) If chocolate did not exist, how would the world be different?

I was going to say that I’d be skinnier, but then I realized that wouldn’t be true. You see, my absolute favorite ice cream flavor is Breyers’ Mint Chocolate Chip, but I don’t get it very often because my wife doesn’t like the chips. But if it were just mint, watch out — we’d be eating ice cream every day!

5) Whole, 2 percent, or skim milk? Or something else?

Whole, because that’s what my daughter drinks.

6) A friend has e-mailed you, sending a link and telling you, “You have to check this out!” You go to the page and realize you are looking at the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List. Unfortunately, your face and name are right at the top of the list. There is a knock at your front door. What do you do?

Oh, man! This is a messed-up scenario! The thing is, I’m a stay-at-home dad and FIERCELY protective of my two-year-old daughter. She’s never even had a babysitter. And I certainly don’t trust the FBI to be a good first babysitter and take care of her. So my first thought would be for her. If my wife were home, then that would be okay. I’d have her take Katie into another room so she wouldn’t have to see her dad get carted away, and I’d cooperate completely. Hopefully, it would all be peaceful and quiet, and I’d get to the bottom of things and be released, though probably not with an apology. (There’s a good Indian movie called My Name is Khan, by the way that deals with an FBI arrest like this…)

If I were home alone, though — wow. There’s just no way this situation can be good. If I answer the door, my daughter sees me get arrested and then gets handed off to God knows who. If I pretend not to be home, they probably have a warrant and bust in — even worse! If I go out the back door — well, I’m pretty sure the FBI has encountered this tactic before and would have prepared for it, so this would be worst of all. So the best I can do is call my wife, tell her to get home quick, hopefully get the neighbor on the phone to look after my little girl, and then call through the door, “There’s a child here. I’ll surrender and come peacefully, but you’ll have to promise no violence.” Still, I’d put my daughter in another room for safety before opening the door.

Whatever happens, this is an ugly, scary predicament, with no good solution, other than waking up and discovering it was all a nightmare. But that would have been a cop-out answer, and I definitely wouldn’t want that kind of cliché on my record.

For more about Daniel Rider
Daniel Rider blogs
Daniel's Facebook page
Daniel's Smashwords page
Daniel's Amazon page

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