Mitchell Waldman, author of “Petty Offenses And Crimes Of The Heart”

Today I am interviewing Mitchell Waldman, author of PETTY OFFENSES AND CRIMES OF THE HEART (Wind Publications, August 2011)

Mitchell, What is your book about?

PETTY OFFENSES is a short story collection including both stories about actual crimes and criminals and the effects they have on ordinary people, and crimes which run much deeper, are of a much more personal, emotional nature.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Some of the stories in the collection are based on personal experiences, persons I have known, while others are purely fictional.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite?

One of my favorite characters in these stories is Delores Leary, the mother in “Fortunate Son,” who exhibits an incredible amount of strength despite the circumstances she goes through when her son goes MIA in Iraq. Then, there’s the unknown interviewer in “Catching Up with Cartucci,” who has his own very unique manner of questioning his subject.

How long did it take you to write your book?

The book developed after several years, and the stories all just seemed to fit together in a uniform body of stories that seem to work very well together.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

Usually, I am just trying to entertain and give the reader a glimpse into the lives of characters they don’t know, make them relate to, feel what my characters are going through. Transport them to this other person’s life. Make the reader feel. Although, in a couple of instances in Petty Offenses, the stories do have a greater agenda, to get some of my social concerns known, without hitting the reader over the head with a “message.” My greatest goal is to keep my readers interested, turning the pages and live through my characters’ lives and dilemmas.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

I have to admit that in a couple of instances in the stories in Petty Offenses, I have a greater agenda, want get some of my social concerns known and felt, without hitting the reader over the head with a “message.” About war, the environment, various social injustices, prejudice.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I was a psychology major and have a law degree, so, yes, my background has influenced the writing of Petty Offenses in that I love to study people, why they do what they do. And, particularly, in this book, why the commit crimes, sometimes make decisions that others of us would never make.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on more stories and a novel, with my partner, Diana, that ought to be something spectacular.

Do you have mental list or a computer file or a spiral notebook with the ideas for or outlines of stories that you have not written but intend to one day?

I carry a little notebook around and jot down story ideas. Then there are the piles of fragments of stories that I start sometimes and then come back to to revisit. Once in a while they result in an actual story. I have to admit my best ideas for stories often come to me in the shower.

What writer influenced you the most?

There are so many well-known and not so well-known writers I could recommend, that have influence me, 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 (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!

What advice you would give to an aspiring author?

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.

I like that you expanded the adage of “write what you know” to include “Write what you want to know.” It’s more realistic and a lot more fun. Have you written any other books?

I’ve also written a novel, entitled A FACE IN THE MOON, and co-edited with my partner, Diana, an anthology entitled WOUNDS OF WAR: POETS FOR PEACE.

Where can people learn more about your books?

My books are available on online bookstores, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For more information, check out my website at: http://mitchwaldman.homestead.com, or my publisher’s website at: http://windpub.com/books/PettyOffenses.htm

It’s been great talking to you today, Mitchell!

Thanks, Pat!

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