JR: A Floating Life is receiving rave reviews. For those who have not heard of it yet, what’s it about?
TC: As the readers’ reviews on Amazon and BN.com suggest, A Floating Life is an unforgettable, inventive, and often amusing ride that entices the reader to enter a fantastical world of multiple journeys.
A nameless narrator awakens to the muddle of middle age, no longer certain who or what he is. He finds himself at a party talking to a woman he doesn’t know who proves to be his wife. Soon separated from her but still living in the same apartment, he is threatened by a litigious dachshund and saddled with a stubborn case of erectile dysfunction in a world that seems held together by increasingly mercurial laws and elusive boundaries.
His relationship deepens with an elderly Dutch model maker named Pecheur whose miniature boats are erratically offered for sale in a hard-to-find shop called The Floating World. Enlivened by Pecheur’s dream to tame the destructive forces of nature, the narrator begins to find his bearings.
A Floating Life charts its course among images that surprise and disorient, such as a job interview in a steam room with a one-eyed, seven-foot chef, innumerable bears living in caves in Central Park, and the narrator’s breast feeding of the baby he has birthed. Kirkus Reviews aptly commented, “At times Crawford seems to be channeling Kafka or Borges . . . Odd. Offbeat. Strangely shimmering.”
JR: Your novel has been described as everything from a science fiction piece to magical realism to a detective story, if you were to boil it down to one genre, what would you say?
TC: The genre is literary fiction. A Floating Life seeks to probe the human condition and bear witness to the narrator’s denials, challenges, and halting steps to move forward. The novel might appeal to those who love authors such as Franz Kafka, García Márquez, and Haruki Murakami.
JR: With so much being put out there in the marketplace, why do you think that readers should give A Floating Life a chance?
TC: A Floating Life offers, I believe, a unique reading experience. It asks the reader to abandon preconceptions, embrace startling images, and embark with the narrator on his strange journey into the world and his own depths. And, as many readers have said, it’s fun to let go and take the roller coaster ride!
JR: How long did it take you to write it and what do you have in the works next?
TC: This novel took two years to write. My next novel will play with the myth of Gyges in telling the story of a man who fears that others do not see him. His suffering, begun in his earliest infancy, leads to terrible transgressions that may be beyond his power to heal in others or in himself.
JR: You decided to go with a small publisher instead of a large one, what advantages did they offer?
TC: Arcade Publishing is an excellent, storied house (which has published five novels by the new Nobel Prize winner, Mo Yan). I received encouragement, in depth editorial suggestions, marvelous copy editing, and a vigorous promotional effort to launch A Floating Life. I can’t imagine having a better experience.
JR: How did your legal background play into your novel?
TC: Some of the dialog probably benefits from the Socratic Method that all law students suffer through in their courses. The absurd humor of some passages in the novel may be fueled by a reaction against the rationality favored in a legal education. And a lawsuit can be a metaphor for a process that moves a person from one venue to another in life. So the narrator is legalistic when he accuses a dachshund that has crossed a property line of “trespassing”. The dachshund, after some repartee, responds in kind by saying, “I brought the lawsuit against you for your own good.” The narrator is horrified to think how the lawsuit may cause “painful hours of preparation and years passed in uncertainty.” But in our passages through life, these painful hours and years of uncertainty are inevitable and sometimes healing.
JR: With the new landscape of ePublishing, what advice do you have for authors bursting on to the scene and those reinventing their careers?
TC: A decade ago many publishing pundits bruited the arrival of ePublishing and the radical transformation about to occur. Now ePublishing is really here. It’s visible in the excellence of the eReaders, the increasing revenue generated by ebook sales, the fact that ebooks are constantly growing as a percentage of copies sold, and of course the digitization of so many stages of book production and promotion.
“Platform” is now a requirement for authors. If the author can’t offer some way to aid the publisher’s sales, the publisher will be hesitant to sign up a book. This inevitably leads authors to the social media in order to reach larger communities and ultimately generate sales. An interesting facet of the requirement that authors have a platform is that it somewhat levels the playing field between authors and publishers. If an author can sell books, self-publishing becomes far more possible as an option. However, the ideal scenario is usually acceptance by an established publisher that acts as a gatekeeper for quality and can generate a certain level of sales that will be augmented by the efforts of the author.
My advice for an author is to weigh whether a platform would help his or her book/career. If it would, the author should start building that platform as soon as possible (and even long before the book contract is signed or the manuscript delivered). If the platform can encompass candor, humor, friendship, and creativity, so much the better!