Interview with Lee Sternthal

When did you first start writing?
I can't remember a time I wasn't writing.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I started this book in 1997. It took 20 years to write. It's based loosely on some people I knew in my youth, the stories they told and the lives they were living. It's also an investigation into the mystery of family, love and legacy.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Quite honestly, this is a strange and mysterious book, like a secret written in literary form. I sent it out to a couple publishers, and while some thought it was interesting, no one wanted to publish it. It wasn't commercial enough, not marketable, just a good story about a girl trying to figure out her life in extreme circumstances. It is the perfect little book for an indie publisher and I'm proud to offer it this way.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Letting my imagination roam free and then giving it form. Connecting with others. Perhaps they read something or see something I've written and for just a moment they feel they are not so alone...
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything. What's a word worth if it is not read?
What are you working on next?
A couple films: an adaptation of a Western by the writer Trevanian. A film that takes place in Philadelphia, about a Greek girl coming of age within her marriage and family, and a story about a young woman widowed just before she is about to take her wedding vows.
Who are your favorite authors?
James Salter, Michael Ondaatje, William Saroyan, Melanie Rae Thon, Tim O'Brien, Stanley Booth, Joan Didion, Denis Johnson, William Faulkner
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading, photographing, hiking, spending time with my family, and travel.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes! 4th grade. It was about a cat who stole a boy's spaghetti dinner, but then got sick and...gave it back.
What is your writing process?
Beginnings are the hardest. That's convincing myself that what I want to write is worthwhile to somebody else. I usually write emails to myself about what I want to write, what it will be, sort of like a running notebook. I never look at these. It's more of a journal to clarify things in my mind. Then, hopefully, I've convinced myself, or I can't not start, and I make a terrible mess and have terrible days at the keyboard where I don't think I'm accomplishing anything. But then, after a couple of weeks of this, the fun begins, and I get to rewrite the fragmented mess I've written. And that's where the first form, the first real shape takes place. It's normally there that the process starts moving and I really start enjoying myself. This works until I hit those dead spots I don't know what to do with. And then the process repeats until I get to the end of the book or screenplay. This can take years, and normally does. I'm not a very fast writer. No matter what I try. Then, once I have it all down. i let it sit, for a long time. And then, when the time is right, I go back and rewriterewriterewrite.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
"See Bill Run." 1st grade. It probably had more impact on me than any other story because I knew then that in one form or another this is what I wanted to do, tell stories for the rest of my life.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.

This is the most moving book I have ever read. Words wouldn't do it justice. I've never wept so hard at the end of the book for all the possibilities of being a human and being alive that I felt I suddenly, if not understood, then at least could maybe begin to fathom. I read it at a very hard time of my life, when I was 20, and it changed me. I'm forever grateful to Mr. O'Brien for writing this book, and one of the highlights of my life was getting to personally thank him a couple years ago.

Motel Chronicles by Sam Shepard

The spell this book of short stories, essays and poems cast on me was as great as that of Mr. O'Brien's book, so much so that I carried a worn copy of it wherever I went for over a decade. It's notebook style, fragmented yet complete opened up a new possibility of expression with words in the long format. There was no need to connect everything, everything is connected, whether a hotel, a rose, the love of a lost loved one, the ghost of a misunderstood father, the sounds of coyotes at dusk or cows mooing in the morning. It was all there, all you had to do was drive down the road of Shepard's book and, like the greatest shaman, he'd guide you into yourself.

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

It's quite simply the fullest book I've ever read. It's question of "self and other" at the heart of it consumed me, consumes of all of us: Where do I say no to the world and yes to myself, and at what cost?

Anna is so alive and so tragic, and that is this book, alive and tragic, not like life, but life. No one got life on the page better than Tolstoy, and I don't think he ever did it better than in Anna.

Rule of The Bone - Russell Banks

A modern retelling of Huck Finn, this book packs such a beautiful THC inspired dream. Written in the 90s, its timeless still and unfortunately for the problems of youth, poverty, racism and class it captures, still timely. It's also the greatest description of Jamaica, a place I've never been but have always wanted to go, I've ever read.

Anything by Robert Hughes - Robert Hughes

As a former art critic, he is not rated as a great author, but great author he was, undoubtedly one of the greats of the last 50 years. From his reviews to his histories his voice is singular and unforgettable, even when you totally disagree with him. I highly recommend "Nothing If Not Critical" as a starting place, but only a starting place. Infinite riches and wisdom in his criticism and prose. Uncompromising, unyielding, his is a voice I constantly miss.
What do you read for pleasure?
Right now, mostly politics, though it's more torture than pleasure.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My iPhone, actually. I love pulling it out anywhere and taking down a chapter or two. I'm sure my eyes are suffering, but what the hell...
Describe your desk
Wherever I am with notebook or keyboard and some inspiration. I'm not precious, though I do prefer to be out of the house to write, and preferably not at a coffee shop.
Published 2017-08-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

History of The Night
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 77,110. Language: English. Published: August 7, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Thriller and Suspense, Fiction » Coming of age
At the turn of the 21st Century a gifted and troubled seventeen year old girl, Samantha, faces the end of her younger brother's life, as well as the world of drugs, crime and the streets of her city closing in on her.