#AuthorInterview with Adam Herman, author of Villa Leila: A Muddy Tale of Love and Monsters
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Adam Herman, author of Villa Leila: A Muddy Tale of Love & Monsters.
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
HERMAN: My name is Adam, and I live in Duluth, Minnesota where I work as an archaeologist. I'm a songwriter with the Americana group The Slamming Doors and I'm involved with two silly and fun podcasts, The Podcostner and the Oddville Revue. I'm not sure what led me to being an author. I think that I just love to write. When I'm working on a novel, I feel like I am exactly where I belong.
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
HERMAN: Sure. The story is based in a fictional version of my hometown, Quincy, Illinois. Theo Beckett receives a phone call that his father is dying. The two of them haven't talked in years, and had a very cold relationship. So Theo heads home to handle the affairs, and while cleaning out the house he finds an old fishing pole. He is reminded of a secret place that his father would go, but Theo was never allowed to join. So in an act of rebellion he heads to this secret spot and meets a talking catfish named Mr. Jones. It turns out Mr. Jones was his father's best friend, and there was more to his father than he realized. Meanwhile, a murderous river monster is on the loose wreaking havoc on the town...There has to be a murderous river monster, right? And it all seems to be connected to the mysterious Villa Leila, a historic castle on the bluffs with a strange history of its own.
FQ: What was the impetus for writing your book?
HERMAN: As a kid, growing up in western Illinois along the Mississippi River, I remember my dad taking my brother and I out on the river. We'd ride in his old beat up jon boat and stare out into the water and the trees on the islands and imagine monsters and ghosts and all sorts of wild creatures roaming around or hiding just below the river's surface. I always felt like there was something mysterious and magical about the river. So I suppose this story was a way for me to connect with that, and to connect with my hometown.
FQ: Please give our readers a little insight into your writing process. Do you set aside a certain time each day to write, only write when the desire to write surfaces, or ?
HERMAN: If I do not dedicate time in my schedule to write, and only wrote when the desire surfaces, I would never get anything done. I'm kind of a procrastinator. There is no cleaner kitchen on earth than mine when I am working on a book! Writing is one of the most joyful things that I have in my life, but it can also be taxing and circular and frustrating. I have to treat it like a job, because it is one. When I'm writing a book or music or whatever, my general process is to get going first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee and go.
FQ: Where do you think you’ve improved the most in your writing process and ability and how do you think you have evolved?
HERMAN: Well, I still feel like I'm learning and -hopefully- improving. One thing that I've noticed in my most recent book in comparison to my first novel is that I quit trying to be a "writer" and just wrote. I'm not sure if that makes sense? I think that I was trying too hard in my first book. Don't get me wrong, Limbo (my first novel) is great. There are some really fun and sweet moments. The greatest thing that I have learned was to get out of my own way and just write in my own voice.
FQ: Was the plot worked out completely before you started or did it evolve as your wrote?
HERMAN: I knew how I wanted it to end. Getting there, though, was a challenge. I set out moments throughout the story that I knew I wanted to happen, but, they had to happen organically through the characters. They can't just happen to serve the plot. There was a lot of moving pieces in the story, and so when I neared the end I used a corkboard and notecards and mapped out each plot point to make sure it was all connected. I'm sure if you were to walk into my office you'd think I was a crazy conspiracy theorist.
FQ: Tell us about the protagonist in your story.
HERMAN: Theo is a single father and on leave from work as a firefighter due to a lingering injury. He is kind of guarded and sarcastic and bored. When he gets news of his father's death it doesn't hit him that hard. On the surface he really just wants to clean out the house and get it over with. Deeper down, however, he wants to connect with his late father.
FQ: Tell us about the fans favorite character. Were you surprised at the response to this character? Why do you think readers respond to this character?
HERMAN: People seem to like Mr. Jones, which makes sense. He's a goofball. There is a childlike quality to him, and also a strange wisdom. One character that readers responded to that was kind of a surprise to me was Huckleberry Gary. He is kind of an ass. However, there is a certain vulnerability to him, and I think people can connect with that. He's made mistakes, and wants to make up for them, he just doesn't know how.
FQ: What was the most difficult scene to write and why?
HERMAN: There are some scenes in the book that take place in Morocco. One of the biggest challenges was to stay respectful to the culture and the language, and still find a way to give it some humor. I wanted to write real characters and not just cartoons of people and places. There was a lot of research involved.
Learn more about author Adam Herman and Villa Leila: A Muddy Tale of Love & Monsters, at adam-herman