Saturday, 23 June 2018

Interview with Mike Schlossberg

On June 5, 2018, Redemption by Mike Schlossberg was released and I featured the book here on Just Books.

Today the author,  Mike Schlossberg, has joined me to answer a few questions about the book and himself.

Hi Mike, welcome to Just Books.
Would you like to kick off by telling me a little about yourself and your background?
Hiya! I’m Mike Schlossberg. I’m 35, married with two kids (Auron, 7 and Ayla, 5 – bonus points for your readers if they can figure out what video games the names came from). My full time job is serving as a Pennsylvania State Representative, where I represent 65,000 people in the city of Allentown and South Whitehall townships.
I also suffer from a major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, and have since I was 18 (probably longer). I’ve been openly discussing my mental illness for the past 3.5 years now, and that experience has become the biggest issue of my career. That experience, in particular, helped inform Redemption.

When and how did your interest in writing begin…?
6th grade. That’s an easy one. I remember my teacher at the time teaching us about writing and I remember thinking, “WAIT. I can just…make things happen in my magical story land and have total control?” It was a blast. And I never stopped. So much so that I dedicated my first book (a non fiction book called Tweets and Consequences about how politicians screw up their lives with dumb things they do on social media) to my middle school English teachers.

And what made you decide to put your work out there to be read by others?
I hate to say it, but that makes it worth it. I view writing the same way as I view my career in government and politics – it’s a chance to inspire and help people. Writing for myself – and only myself – just isn’t enough.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
The ability to create and manipulate worlds and organically allow characters to grow – and using that ability to help people.

How did you come up with the title, Redemption?
I did a whole blog entry about this:
Short answer: It’s the name of the ship, but it’s also a journey that I think every person who suffers from mental illness seeks: Redemption from imagined guilt and wrongs. Redemption from their own minds.

So you use your personal experiences in your writing?
Absolutely. The main character – Ash – is largely informed by my own experiences with depression. He’s what would have happened if my life had gone a different way (minus the Spaceship part, obviously). He’s not exactly like me – he’s more stoic, more reserved – but he still presents an interesting perspective of how my life could have been (and almost was).

Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
It is not Ash, the character based on me. It is Alexis, the character largely based on my wife, albiet in a more exaggerated form. She is brash, vulnerable and multi-layered. Her experiences sent her life in a different direction than Ash’s, and I loved writing her growth as a character – but much of that comes in book two!

For those of us who are thinking of reading your book, could you tell us what to expect?
I summarize it in one sentence like this: “A story about depression, anxiety and the end of the world.” That being said, it’s a story of personal growth, set against the background of a world-ending plague. It has action, adventure, romance and a decent amount of crying. I hope – and I think – that it keeps you on your toes. And it’s certainly something that has broad appeal for anyone who likes a coming of age story.

Tell us about the cover and how it came about.

So this part was one of the neater things. It’s a space adventure so I had to incorporate that, but at the same time I wanted to make sure that the mental health component of my book was captured as well. I merged them the best I could and I think it rings true for people with mental illness or depression – the world is exploding around the person in the picture (supposed to be Ash), but his hands are in his pockets as the galaxy burns. I think that is something that every depressed person can sympathize with.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
No question about it – who doesn’t look twice when they see a great cover?

Do you have a special time to write? How do you fit your writing around your family and work?
Usually, yes! Evening. Kids go to bed, wife watches TV, and I do at least 1,000 words, every night/every other night. I have an easier time writing in the evening than anything else. As for doing it with family around…noise-cancelling headphones, man. They’re the best.

When you consider your future, what would you like to make happen for you?
I would like to be in politics as long as I have the passion for it – and you need that passion to survive the insanity that comes with it sometimes. That being said, I’m employed at the will of the voters, and if they decide they are done with me, that’s that. Whenever this part of my journey ends, I’d love to swing it as a writer full time. This is so much fun – and I enjoy interacting with people like this.

Other than writing, what are you passionate about?
Again, helping people, and particularly the most vulnerable in society. I’m a pretty progressive Democrat – I believe in giving those who need it a hand up and making sure that everyone in society has the same opportunities that I have been lucky enough to have.

It’s time to relax! What do you do?
VIDEO GAMES. I mean, reading, obviously. I read vociferously. But video games. Skyrim and Final Fantasy are my two favorites.

Quick fire round:

Favourite Season?
Favourite quote?
“The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Favourite book?
Hard one. The Dome, Stephen King.
One food you will NOT eat?
Tuna fish.
Dream vacation?
Hawaii or Jamaica.

Which fictional character, book or film, would you like to meet and why?
That is a good question! I am legitimately going through my Goodreads books to try and come up with an answer that sticks out more than anything else. I’m gonna go with Phoebe, the sister in A World Without You by Beth Revis – the most aware character I’ve ever read that she is not the main character of the story.

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
That I can answer easily. This speech. If you watch it, you can’t tell, but I am utterly terrified. I finished it and sat in my seat and just shook for five minutes. People don’t realize how much all of us are pretending to be strong and smooth, when in reality, at moments, we are collapsing or raging inside.

It's an outstanding speech, Mike, thank you for being a voice for anyone affected by mental illness, myself included!

Thank you ever so much for joining us today, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
This was really comprehensive! Thanks so much for the excellent questions.

If you would like to know more, you can catch up with Mike Schlossberg here:
Website  Blog  Facebook  Twitter

Redemption is available to buy in ebook and paperback
Amazon  B&N  Kobo  Smashwords

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