Michael David Lukas

How did you become a writer?

I had that urge to write since I was in elementary school and I occasionally wrote a poem or a short story for class. But the moment I actually became a writer, I think, was when I started writing regularly, a few hours every morning. That would be when I was about twenty. 

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

The writers exciting me most right now are those who mix together genre and literary fiction: Mohsin Hamid, Victor LaValle, Colson Whitehead, Jennifer Egan, and Kazuo Ishiguro to name a few. I also have a special place in my heart for fabulists like Salman Rushdie, Orhan Pamuk, and José Saramago. And I owe my love of literature, in part, to Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner, and Ursula LeGuin.

When and where do you write?

For a long time, I wrote six mornings a week, from morning to lunch. Then my daughter was born, I started teaching more and that became more difficult. These days it's more like three or four. But I still write in the mornings at the same desk made out of an antique sewing machine and a tabletop from IKEA.

What are you working on now?

I'm working on post-apocalyptical retelling of the biblical book of Esther.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

I've had hard writing days, really hard writing days, and long periods when I doubted myself in a profound way. But I don't really believe that there's such a thing as writer's block. The idea almost seems like an oxymoron. Though maybe I'm just cursing myself to years of writer's block with this answer.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Write the book you want to read.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Write every day. Believe in yourself. Figure out what you want to do, and do it.

Michael David Lukas has been a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey, a night-shift proofreader in Tel Aviv, a student at the American University of Cairo, and a waiter at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont. Translated into more than a dozen languages, his first novel The Oracle of Stamboul was a finalist for the California Book Award, the NCIBA Book of the Year Award, and the Harold U. Ribalow Prize. His second novel, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo, is forthcoming from Spiegel & Grau. A graduate of Brown University and the University of Maryland, he is a recipient of scholarships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Montalvo Arts Center, New York State Summer Writers’ Institute, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and Elizabeth George Foundation. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Slate, National Geographic Traveler, and Georgia Review. He works at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley and lives in Oakland.