Welcome to the blog, Mitchell! Could you tell us a little bit about Petty Offenses and Crimes of the Heart?
The crimes involved in the stories in Petty Offenses and Crimes of the Heart may sometimes be petty – a man who leaves a bag of cat droppings on his neighbor’s doorstep after learning about his past – and sometimes involve criminal types (the career criminals in “My Life of Crime” and “Missing Pieces”). But more often the offenses involved are committed by and against ordinary people (the man in “The Nazi Next Door” who learns one evening, over a fence, that his neighbor’s father collaborated with the Nazis during World War II). And there are the mysterious offenders, such as the ambiguous interviewer in “Catching Up with Cartucci,” who unbeknownst to the interviewee, seems to have special knowledge and opinions about the latter. Some of the “crimes” in these stories run much deeper, are of a much more emotional nature. The offenders and victims in these tales have been much more tortured than by any run of the mill crime. Such as the mother in "Fortunate Son," whose son goes missing in action while on duty in Iraq, and the father in “The Duke of Broad Street,” who, twenty years after abandoning his daughter, shows up on her doorstep harboring a deep secret.
What led you to write a collection of stories about crime and its many variations?
I majored in psychology as an undergraduate, and have a law degree, so I guess you can say it was an outgrowth of that. I've always been a student of people, of what they're capable of. And it never ceases to amaze me what people do, what dangers they put themselves in. Not to mention how people can do what they do to others and those they love. The personal crimes in life, however, can be worse. Basically, these stories came together with my realization that crime does not only occur in the literal sense but in the relationship/emotional sense, as well.
Do you have any favorite authors we should be reading? Who are your influences?
There are so many well-known and not so well-known writers I could recommend that I can't count. Yes, a lot of people have read some of my favorites -- Joseph Heller (Catch-22), Philip Roth, Bret Ellis, John Irving, Nick Hornby, Ellen Gilchrist, Larry McMurtry, Frederick Barthelme, and Andre Dubus, all of whom have influenced me in one way or another over the years, but there are so many other great writers out there that people need to discover. Such as Perry Glasser (author of Dangerous Places) who is an excellent, engaging writer of short fiction, and Benjamin Percy (The Language of the Elks), Not to mention the great fiction of my former teacher at the University of Illinois, Mark Costello (The Murphy Stories), Paul A. Toth (Airplane Novel) and Timothy Gager (Treating a Sick Animal: Flash and Micro Fictions) , and the powerful poetry of Diana May-Waldman (A Woman's Song), who speaks to every woman. These are just a few. There are so many great writers to read and so little time to read them!
Betrayal, love, danger – those are some hefty themes! How do you make the theme serve the story rather than the other way around?
You always have to start with the characters and the situation. Even when the story is based on a smidgeon of an idea and develops, it all comes from the character, making him or her real. Otherwise the story will not be effective; if your characters don't live, neither will your story.
What is your best advice on writing?
Write from your heart. Write what you know/what you want to know, what interests you, what you care about, not what you think other people tell you or think you should read. (Be careful of English teachers' reading list suggestions!) Don't try to impress people with your vocabulary. Communicate from the heart, from your soul. Your writing is your mark on the world, so make it your best every time. Move someone with your words.
Thanks so much for stopping by, Mitchell!
Mitchell Waldman is the author of the new short story collection, PETTY OFFENSES AND CRIMES OF THE HEART (Wind Publications, August, 2011).
Waldman's short stories, essays, and poems have appeared in or are scheduled to appear in such places as The Waterhouse Review, Troubadour 21, The Big Stupid Review, Litsnack, and many other literary magazines. His work has also appeared in the anthologies, Beyond Lament: Poets of the World Bearing Witness to the Holocaust (Northwestern University Press, 1998), Messages From the Universe (iUniverse, 2002), America Remembered (Virgogray Press, 2010), Green (MLM, 2010), Looking Beyond (Scars Publications, 2011), and Prominent Pen (dirt edition) Scars Publications, 2011).
Waldman is also the author of the novel, A Face in the Moon, was co-editor (with Diana May-Waldman) of the anthology, Wounds of War: Poets for Peace, and is Fiction Editor of Blue Lake Review. (http://bluelakereview.weebly.com). His book reviews have appeared at Scribes World and Midwest Book Review.
Mitchell Waldman can be found on: http://mitchwaldman.homestead.com
Petty Offenses and Crimes of the Heart is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. It’s published by Wind Publications.
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