Interview with Mike Klumpp
by Joy Anne Shearer
SPMG author Mike Klumpp recently published I Am: The Miracle, an insightful memoir of his experiences in Africa and how his faith grew during his time there. I Am: The Miracle is an inspiring read and a great holiday gift. Now you can give twice: for each book purchased, $1 will be donated to victims of Typhoon Haiyan! Get your copies here: http://www.amazon.com/I-Am-Miracle-Mike-Klumpp/dp/1938444043 . Mr. Klumpp was kind enough to answer some questions for us so we could peek at his writing life, marketing style, and more.
Besides writing, what other work do you enjoy?
I have worked for two reasons in my life; one, because it allowed me to write, two, because I was working at the very thing I loved. Currently, I work teaching in a school in Hong Kong, I pastor a small church, I work with the homeless in the Philippines and Kenya and I train in the martial arts. I enjoy helping people; seeing a smile where there was no hope.
What type of music do you listen to?
I listen to an eclectic folk rock jazz blues and classical mix. Paul Thorn, Ray Willie Hubbard, and Matt the Electrician are at the top of the list the last few weeks. Before that Arvo Part, Bootsie Collins, and Mike Doughty were at the top of the pack.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
Esse quam videri. To be rather than to seem.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Keep writing – strive for honesty and transparency – write about what you know – trust your instincts but be willing to live with the results – learn to be a team player – never cease to get educated
Who is your favorite author and why?
Wow – this is tough. I would have to say William Kotzwinkle. His books are profoundly funny and yet rip the cover off of modern culture. Next would be Kerouac for his honesty or Nicolas Gogol for his beautiful exposing of human nature in Dead Souls.
Name a book, or a few books that have had an influence on you and your writing.
Dharma Bums by Kerouac, Cat’s Cradle by Vonnegut, Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, Love in the Ruins, Walker Percy and The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle, These books are among the most influential in my writing though in a memoir like I Am:The Miracle it may be less evident than in my fiction.
Why do you write?
I write because I always have. When I was young I was told by my parents to be seen and not heard. I would sit alone in a room in our home filled with books. I decided that writers had a voice without speaking aloud. Writing was my voice. So I would sit and write. My earliest memory of keeping a journal and writing was age seven or eight.
What is the best part of being a writer? The worst?
I don’t know what the best part of being a writer is. Writing, I suppose. I write because I love to write and writing is it’s own reward. I remember my first published work. It was a play. I also saw the premiere performance. It was very cool. I remember the joy of my first piece of published poetry (my first love as a writer-hence the need to support myself while writing). I had a great sense of accomplishment. I remember my first publishing contract and then seeing my first book in print. I think the feeling that I did what I felt I was designed to do was the reward, the best part.
The worst part of being a writer is the homework. Finishing a manuscript means going to the editor and working through the teamwork phase. Re-writes! Homework! Rejection sucks but it comes with the field. Yeah, I say it is the homework. Also for me, one done means the next project starts. I never seem to rest and enjoy what I’ve done. After my first book hit the shelf I immediately started to think about the next one. I never took the time to enjoy the accomplishment.
Do you have any writing rituals? What is your ideal writing environment?
Rituals – a few. I always like music while I write. I need coffee. I love to work in coffee houses or other public areas. However, I have learned to write wherever I am.
How do you handle writer’s block?
Honestly, I have never had writer’s block to any large degree. When I feel detached or uninspired I just write anyway knowing I can re-write. I guess that is the trick. Just write. On the few occasions I have not been able to bring myself to write but felt the need to create, I painted or drew. For a while I made more money painting than writing.
Do you handwrite or type?
Both – I used to do everything as a younger writer on notebook by hand and then transfer. I got away from that. Technology – it was easier to just write at the screen. Recently I went back to writing in a notebook. I am working on a novel and think that by writing then transferring I will force myself to do an additional re-write before I send it to an editor.
What does the title I Am: The Miracle mean exactly?
It is double entendre. In the bible, God identifies Himself to Moses as “I am that I am.” In the book, I propose that God – the “I Am” – is working through us, giving special significance to what we do while revealing Himself to us and then through us. That we would know there is a God is a miracle. That He would participate in our lives is a miracle. As we allow God to work in our lives by participating with Him in loving others, we become the miracle. I Am: The Miracle – God is and so are we.
What was the driving force for beginning this project?
I bet a friend a cigar I could write a book in a week. This story was within me looking for an out and that was the opportunity. Started Monday morning. Finished Saturday. Then the great editing team at Spectacle helped to make it into a credible work.
What sorts of challenges did you have along the way?
In this project there were no huge challenges. The story wanted to be told. I love the teamwork of writing. Author, editor, sales and promotion staff so I don’t resist editing and adapting. For many writers this is an obstacle. The work belongs to you only so long as it is in your head. The greater challenge is now. This is a good book. I isn’t for everyone; no book is. Nonetheless, it is a good book. With me living in Hong Kong, I have not been as accessible to promote the book. Social media is no problem. I only wish I had more time to be on the street promoting.
What were some of the joys of working on I Am: The Miracle?
Well, it is an incredible story. I witnessed all of the events described in the story portion of the text. The joy has been listening to the reaction of readers who have found personal insight and inspiration through the book.
Is there more to the story after the book ends?
Yes. I will eventually write a book The Journey to Cold Mountain detailing my life and spiritual journey beyond the Africa story. I currently live in Hong Kong. My spiritual development is ever changing, ever evolving, always simplifying. While I still have some active involvement in Kenya, I am now working in Manila with homeless children and street teens while also mentoring in Hong Kong. I am learning more about being a miracle as I continue my journey.
Do you plan on revisiting these experiences with more writing?
I doubt I will revisit this theme specifically. However, as this is my life, i am certain that the themes and sub-themes will continue to cycle in my work.
How much of your writing time do you spend on marketing?
Not enough. I feel that the modern trend in publishing requires authors and writers to work the markets. I hope to revise this in the upcoming year. My goal is to make a concerted effort to speak and promote in the summer of 2014.
What marketing advice would you recommend to a newly-published author?
Shamelessly self promote! Eric at Spectacle gives some great advice along these lines. Tell everyone you’re a writer. Use every social media option you can. Make a list of influential people who might help promote your book. Be visible. How do you handle book reviews? I don’t go out of my way to read them. A bad review can leave you feeling torched. It’s part of the game. You will not appeal to everyone. I write in a spiritual genre. However, mention the Bible and you’ve already pissed somebody off. My first book got a scathing review by someone who really just didn’t like my worldview and the way I handled assisting my daughter with an
event in her life. Why he reduced my whole book to one small even in one chapter, I don’t know. But when I read the review it hurt. Nonetheless, that bad review taught me early to leave it alone. Forget it. I have also met more than one person who said the book helped them make it through the most difficult time in their lives. Be happy you are part of the less than one percent who make it into print. Someone likes your work and hey, that’s enough.
How do you view social networking sites?
Twitter seems a bit redundant and like too little bang for the effort. Facebook has been good for me stimulating interest among friends. I hope to use YouTube more for future promotion. Social networks allow for visibility. Develop your use of every available avenue of promotion.
Do you have any projects in the works?
I have a book in notes. The working title is Spliced. It is a novel about someone who discovers he is in two worlds. I have three screenplays in development. Mason Blanc is about the life of Jean Lafitte. The Magic Jeepney is a project I hope to use to bring assistance and commerce to the Philippines. Ironic in that it is about rescuing some kids trapped by a storm. The recent storm and damage in the Philippines makes this story a bit too real. And finally, We Three Kings is a martial arts screenplay detailing the rescue of a kidnapped child by a rogue gang of martial artists, each from a different style. Then I have The Journey to Cold Mountain floating around in my head somewhere.
How do you like to spend the holidays?
I will make a big Cajun meal and decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving. We don’t have an oven in Hong Kong so no turkey. Christmas will be spent with family who are coming to Hong Kong and working with missions to the Philippines – collecting support and supplies. Then New Year’s, I will go to Kenya to work with the Massai and Nandi tribal people.
How can readers contact/follow/friend you?
Facebook: Michael Klumpp. Twitter: Mike Klumpp. Website: www.mikeklumpp.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have newsletters and blogs and am working on a YouTube channel so others can join the journey and be the miracle.