Interview with Winston Strong

What are you working on next?
I've got a good start on "Tales From Mephitis", which is the Dantean jouney of a man seeking the twin goals of economic survival and a level of wisdom of what life is about, with a subtext of the economic and cultural delapidation of a formerly middle class area...I'm just a bit frustrated by the press of need-to-do chores that is keeping me from working on it as much as I'd like.
Who are your favorite authors?
Ah, good Lord, let's see...Thomas Mann, Robertson Davies, Herman Melville, Goethe, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Montaigne...How much time do you have? Then there's the poets, the non-fiction writers, the playwrights...
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Sunrise. I love the "air of early morn" as Mencius calls it. I love that time of day. And you never know what the tide will bring in, do you? This time of year (February) I am also inspired to get up to feed the woodstoves so we don't freeze.
How do you approach cover design?
Actually, my wife and I designed and created that cover. It was a great deal of fun. We spent a few days playing around with lighting and effects. We used some old stick-on letters that were my wife's grandfather's, God knows why he had them, a sheet of mylar, 2 gooseneck lamps, and a flashlight. We wanted to create a moody feeling, one slightly menacing, and seasonally eerie. The figures I drew and we cut out.
"The October People" deals with repressed memories. What do you think of the controversy about whether or not they are real memories?
As far as I'm concerned there is no controversy: They are real. It's funny; as far back as Aristotle they were accepted as a real phenomenon. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche wrote of them before Freud. Personally I think that those who deny their reality are as ridiculous as those who believe they know the earth is 6,000 years old, or those who deny the Holocaust happened. Or perhaps, like Oliver Sachs, they hold a strictly mechanistic view of the mind, one that views the brain as a machine. For such people there can be no unconscious influences, only malfunctioning parts. Unfortunately, their work is sized upon often by guilty people who use it to hide their crimes. As Dickens said: I "pity their ignorance and despise them".
You mentioned a few philosophers just now. Do you have a particular favorite?
Not per say. I lean more toward the philosophers of life rather than the systems builders.
What do you mean by "philosophers of life"?
I mean those men and women whose focus was on how we can live full, meaningful, moral lives. The Stoics, for example. Or Lao Tse, the author of the "Tao Te Ching". By the systems builders I mean people like Hegel, Marx, or even Russel. These people exert heroic efforts to figure out a way to explain everything. It hasn't been done yet, and people have been trying for as long as we know. Probably all the mainstream religions would have to be seen as "systems builders" too; as they have an answer for everything.
How about psychology? Do you lean toward a particular school?
Yes, definitely. Carl Jung and Abraham Maslow. If anyone has ever actually read Freud's theories as he wrote them, they'd see why current Freudians view him as Darwinians view Darwin: They quietly disown the basic dogmas of their founders. Carl Jung's work is a psychology of the urge toward wholeness and healing. His theories of dreams is empirically far more valid than any others I've seen. Maslow's major contribution was his premise of describing mental health, not by studying the mentally ill, but by studying the traits of fully-functioning, mature, whole individuals.
You seem to have to great pains to render the 'dialect' of Long Island residents.
Some Long Island residents. Like any sub-group, people who were born and raised on Long Island, particularly the less educated, have a distinctive way of speaking and pronouncing words. This holds true of Rhode Islanders, Minnesotans, Texans, ad infinitum. Some pronounciations I couldn't render because it would have been too confusing for the reader. For instance, the characters would say instead of "don't", "don", which I think might be too much. The frequent use of particular expletives is unfortunately also part and parcel of their speech.
Dreams play an interesting role in "The October People". How do you see them?
As I said, Carl Jung's theories on dreams seems the most appropos. One of his points was that a dream is complete. By that he meant don't add association chains in the Freudian way, because that leads you right back to the central problem, which is not hard to unearth. The dream has a specific message that needs to understood in the context of that particular dreams symbolisms. If a person has an unnoticed, or unresolved problem that is affecting their growth, a dream will often symbolize an aspect of that particular problem in that dream. Sometimes dreams are supra-personal, and those are often remembered for a lifetime. Those normally don't have anyone you know in them and have a numinous quality. But for all their usefulness, dreams can become, like anything else you think you understand, a completely perplexing phenomenon. They remain mysterious and awe-inspiring in the end.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has given me an early oppurtunity to place before the world something I've created that I'm on fire about. The site is easy to use, and very efficent. They have my many thanks.
Published 2014-02-17.
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