Interview with Mindi Meltz

What motivated you to become an indie author?
Being an author wasn't a decision I made from a choice of paths, or some kind of business plan, but rather a sense of necessity that began as long ago as I can remember. Writing is why I am here; it is something I have to do in order to survive psychologically and spiritually. The realm of my imagination and dreams has always been as real and important to me as this world is, and I need to be in it, and I need to translate it into a language that others can understand. I don't know why, but this is just what I have to do. When people consider whether or not they want to be writers, or ask themselves "is my writing good enough," these are questions I don't understand. When I don't write, my life loses meaning. Therefore I am compelled to write; I was born a writer; I have no choice. If a piece of writing I do is not "good enough," I will work on it until it is, because I have something to say--and so I must make it understood.

Writing is the way I make meaning out of life because it is an act of weaving the world together. What I mean is that metaphor and symbolism—which are such major components of writing—are a way of revealing and maybe even creating, through consciousness, the interconnection of all life. If one thing in nature reminds me of another thing which reminds me of another thing which reminds me of my own feelings, etc., then by making those connections I am able to empathize with nature or other people by literally experiencing what I perceive within my own body. I am also able to understand myself better by what I see in nature or in others. In order to imagine the inner lives of characters who are living experiences I have never had, I need to practice empathy. And in order to empathize with others, everyone needs to practice imagination—which is what novels ask us to do, which is why they can change the world.

Why did I become an "indie" author? I assume for the same reasons any author does… because the big publishers were too narrow-minded to give my work a second glance. In my case, it is too poetic, too long, and too outside the mold of any genre.
What is your writing process?
I get impatient with routine, so I don't have a specific commitment to write every day or at certain times. But I do make a commitment. It changes during different phases of my life, but I usually commit to writing several times a week, scheduling it in as I go. I write in all different place, indoors and outdoors. When I'm home, I like to curl up somewhere. I never write at a desk: it feels too rectangular. On the other hand, I do like writing at coffee shops. The presence of people around me who are not interacting with me directly, and the vague ambient noise, somehow help me to focus. Well, that and the chocolate.

I don't have any particular ritual for beginning to write, but I do need space and time in my life to dream--I can't just suddenly shift into writing mode after doing practical tasks or work all day. I find writing to be a sacred activity. I don't mean that I have intended it to be sacred, or that I have set out to write in a sacred way, but rather that I have become aware, when I think about it consciously, that it feels like a conversation with something divine. When I write, I become more meditative, and am filled with that certain sense of wonder that washes away ordinary bounds of thought or time. But it isn't a dramatic experience, and I haven't always been consciously aware of it. It's just like when I go for a walk in the woods, and my whole attitude and being subtly shifts, because I know—even if I'm not thinking about it—that I am in the presence of Everythingness, and I feel it relating to me.

When I write, my whole being is involved. Writing is a sensual experience to me: I feel what I'm writing about in my body, and it helps me to empathize with and vivify the story. Writing is a whole-being experience. It involves right-brain creativity, left-brain organization, body, spirit, and of course heart. It involves wandering aimlessly in the dreamworld, and it also involves writing and rewriting outlines, referring back to notes for consistency, and being extremely organized. Plot developments involve a combination of calculation and intuition. I think a lot when I write. Words don't just flow into my mind; I consider each one. I see the world in metaphorical layers. I interpret everything as a dream. When I create characters, they become real and they live, like people I know, and to some extent they--and the interactions between them--create their own stories, and I learn from them.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Maine. Because it was too cold for my husband, we settled here in Western North Carolina, and we have made a life here that I'm happy with, but in a way my heart is always in Maine. I guess that's partly because my childhood is so important to me, an endless source of inspiration. I don't write about my childhood directly, but it is like this half-conscious, magic well of feeling that is always feeding me wherever I go. And Maine was the context for that, a mirror for the deepest part of who I am. It is wild and quiet and mystical and secretive, full of lichen-hung coves and fog-hidden bogs, deep green with pine all year round, and washed with ever-changing moods of weather. My father is a photographer who captures the spirit of it perfectly in his art, and that, too, influenced my vision. If I could summarize what Maine has given me as a writer: an eternal sense of wonder in solitude and the impenetrable, ever-virgin richness of a hidden world.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
A few favorite authors -- Haruki Murakami, Mary Oliver, Pearl S. Buck, Barbara Kingsolver, just about all the famous 19th century British authors like the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Dickens, etc. Some favorite books aside from theirs -- The Last Unicorn, The Waves by Virginia Woolf, Written on the Body, Hanta Yo, Stones in the River, The Alchemist, The Fifth Sacred Thing, Remains of the Day… I could go on, of course.

I'm not interested in most modern literature, and never in genre fiction. No matter how captivating a story is, I also need the writing itself to be beautiful. It doesn't have to be the lyrical style I write in--I love a lot of different styles--but it needs to be art. For me, literature is a form of art, and that's why I love a lot of older works, that were written back when language was treated that way. At the same time, I'm turned off by books where the language is so clever it feels full of itself. So it's a fine line.

Another element I've been noticing lately in the books that really move me is that they are written from the heart. When I don't like a book or a story, it's often because it's written with what feels to me like a cynical coldness, in which none of the characters have real hearts and the narrator clearly has no hope for them. I know that kind of coldness is a big trend in literature right now, and I'm sure a lot of people like it and see it as more "realistic," but it doesn't do anything for me. And I don't mean that stories have to be happy and cozy and have happy endings, of course. I just mean that in the stories I love, I can feel the author's heart in the story; I can feel his/her compassion for the characters, even if the voice is cynical; I can feel that the writing is intentionally relating to me as the reader. Obviously this is subjective, and different people will have different judgments about which books are written from the heart—and that is fine. But I just think it is important.
What do your fans mean to you?
This is a great question. Writing is a conversation, and it has no meaning without someone out there to read, listen, and take it into their hearts. And yet it is a silent conversation, for the most part: the words are given in silence and received in silence, and the emotions that you experience when you read what I wrote are for the most part completely unknown to me. It's all so mysterious and beautiful to think about!

My writing is bigger than me, and when it leaves me it takes on a life of its own. In a way, I'm not really responsible for it anymore. And I can't take anyone's response to it, positive or negative, personally. It means so much to me that it's out there and people are reading it, and yet sometimes I'd rather not think about it at all, or I can't go on living my regular life as a human being.

But I want to say that I always write with love. I love my characters and I love the story itself, like a friend that walks with me throughout the years I'm writing it. And I love the unknown people who will be reading it. I write because it's absolutely necessary for me to do so, but I also write because I have something I want and need to offer to the world—something more than entertainment, something that heals. Sometimes after seeing the years of painful struggle I went through to get published, and all the rejection letters, friends would ask me what could possibly make it worth it to me to keep trying. The answer is that to have people read my writing and get something out of it is as satisfying and necessary to me as an offer of love being received. We all need to love and be loved. Writing is how I love the world.

So the short answer is, I am unspeakably grateful to you. On the one hand it frightens me to think of you reading this thing which is my soul, but on the other hand, without you reading it, I would be invisible. I would not exist. And that is much worse.
Published 2014-02-19.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Lonely in the Heart of the World
Price: Free! Words: 389,290. Language: English. Published: February 18, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fairy tales, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
In this epic literary fairy tale, a princess descends from her tower to travel through realms of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water in search of the prince who never showed up. Through passionate relationship with the outcast people, gods, and creatures of these realms, her journey of erotic and spiritual awakening helps to heal the loneliness of the world.