How did you become a writer? I’m not sure why I was initially drawn to writing, though I’ve been doing it for as long as I can recall. The reason may have been something as mundane as the fact that I was bad at drawing—which I still am. I did derive acute satisfaction from telling stories, and from hearing them. I was also drawn to books early on. I belonged to something called the Arrow Book Club in elementary school. The arrival of a new book in the mail each month was a big deal; I liked the books as objects, apart from whether I found their content interesting.
As late as my sophomore year at Queens College, however, I was a math major. I took a creative writing class because it fit well with my schedule, and the professor, a woman named Sandy Schor (one of my favorite all time names) saw potential in me. She encouraged me to enter the school’s writing contest—which I won with a novella I’d been doodling with since high school. After that, I began to take writing, and reading literature, more seriously.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.). Yikes, that’s a hard question—compounded by the fact that my books are all over the place with regard to substance and style. For my second novel Sloth, for example, you can see a lot of James Joyce and Dr. Seuss. But you won’t find a trace of either in any of my other books. I teach religious history, and I think you get a lot of King James-ish (actually, New King James-ish) rhythms in my sentences. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t read much contemporary fiction—I’m still plowing through the canon. I do go back to Saul Bellow as often as I can because he’s such good company. I read Shakespeare and Dostoevsky whenever I want to feel like a fraud.
When and where do you write? I used to write late at night—after midnight. But as I’ve gotten older, my writing time has migrated to the mid-morning. My desk is next to a floor-to-ceiling window, and I’ve got an astonishing, panoramic view of lower Manhattan, including the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty, so it’s a pleasure to sit down and write. I also do a lot of composing in my head during the day, walking to and from work, and I’m always recording voice memos on my iPhone.
What are you working on now? I’m about two-thirds through the sequel to my middle-grade novel Twerp. Random House has been very kind about not giving me deadlines, but the first draft should be done by late November. Oh, and I’m always working on opinion columns and shorter pieces.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? As counterintuitive as it sounds, I think writer’s block is a disease of too much self-esteem. It comes from an inability to admit that a certain percentage of what you write is going to be crap. Once you admit that fact, you can go ahead and write the crap and then just throw it out.
What’s your advice to new writers? Avoid self-esteem.
BIO: Mark Goldblatt is a theologian, novelist, columnist and book reviewer as well as a professor at Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York. His controversial first novel, Africa Speaks, a satire of black urban culture, was published in 2002 by The Permanent Press. His second novel, Sloth, a comedic take on postmodernism, was published in 2010 by Greenpoint Press. The Unrequited, a literary mystery from Five Star/Cengage, followed in 2013 — the same year Random House released Twerp, a novel for young (and old) readers.
Goldblatt's book of political commentary, Bumper Sticker Liberalism, was published by Broadside/Harpercollins in 2012. He has written hundreds of opinion pieces and book reviews for a combination of the New York Post, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reason Magazine, Commentary, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Ducts Webzine, The Common Review, USA Today, the Daily News, Newsday, National Review, the Daily Caller and the American Spectator.