The FlutePlayer is a 105-page YA fiction book that adults will also love. Brief synopsis: For nearly ten years, young Oliver has begrudgingly accepted his position as the flute player of the peaceful village of Drommar—a responsibility thrust upon him after the previous flute player, and Oliver's best friend, drowned in a tragic childhood accident. Now on the cusp of adulthood, a mysterious young woman enters Oliver's life, and he begins to question the nature of his world and the importance of his place in it.
Asymmetrical Press is a non-traditional publishing house based in Missoula, Montana, founded and operated by professional authors, Colin Wright, Joshua Fields Millburn, and Ryan Nicodemus.
Q. What inspires your writing?
A. My writing is inspired by all sorts of things. The particular situations or moments in my writing are often inspired by real life—either things that have happened to me or that I've witnessed or that have been related to me by someone. I sort of pull these moments apart in my mind and search for the deeper questions contained within them, and then my writing ends up being me, in the best way that I know how, responding to those questions, and so the actual writing is often very different than the moment or person that inspired it, but the meaning, I hope, is the same. That's how a high school student's quest for self-actualization, for example, became a story about a flute player in a fanciful village far away.
Q. What is your favorite thing about being an author?
A. Thinking about writing. Imagining the characters and coming up with questions and deciding, "Oh, yeah, this is how I'll translate that into a story; this is how I'll put that down on paper." That moment, and then the moment of releasing the finished story into the world, is incredibly fulfilling.
Q. What is the toughest part of being an author?
A. The part in between the conceiving and releasing: the actual writing. I can spend hours at the keyboard and only get down a few hundred words. It takes an immense amount of discipline for me to sit and write, and even if I make myself do the sitting part, the writing part still might not happen. Writing is almost always slow-going for me.
Q. If you could not be author, what would you do/be?
A. A friend and fellow author, Chase Night, actually asked this same question recently. We were talking about how ridiculous it is that a lot of authors, when asked this question, answer that they would die. Chase said that he wouldn't die; he would be very grumpy and difficult to be around if he couldn't write, but he'd survive. I said that, if I couldn't be a writer, I would be a writer anyway.
But, if I really had to answer the question, if I really couldn't be an author, then I'd like to be some other kind of artist—an illustrator or painter or musician (all skills that I would have to spend a great deal more time cultivating if I were going to do them in any serious way). If I couldn't be some sort of artist, well then maybe I would die. Maybe. Probably. Hypothetically.
Q. What would the story of your life be entitled?
A. Probably something like "Do Not Buy This Book—It's Boring: A Love Story"
Q. What is your favorite book of all time?
A. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. It was my favorite book as a child and I imagine it always will be. I think Barrie's imagination inspired my own.
Q. Which character from ANY book are you most like?
A. This is a tough question, because there are just so many books, but for now I'll say Joey Berglund from Jonathan Franzen's novel Freedom.
Q. What character from all of your book are you most like?
A. I'd like to say Oliver from The Flute Player, and maybe at some point I was a lot like him, but I'm a lot like Scott Pelletier (to my detriment, I'm sure), one of the main characters in my upcoming novel, Brand-Changing Day.
Q. Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?
A. I would love to take a weekend vacation inside The Hobbit. Middle Earth sounds like a fascinating and exciting place.
Q. What is your favorite season?
A. Winter, because I like sweaters and warm drinks and snowboarding and the Dr. Who Christmas Special.
Q. What inspired your book cover(s)? Or what is your favorite book cover and why?
A. The cover for The Flute Player, which was designed and created by the talented Colin Wright, was inspired by a specific moment in the book, in which Oliver, the main character, witnesses a burning blue Volkswagen Beetle. But Oliver doesn't know what a car is, so when he's told that the vehicle is a "Beetle," he can only think of the bug.
Q. Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.
A. Well, dang. I wish I had an answer for this one, but this is my first published book, and I'm still in the early stages of promoting it, so I can't say that anything too funny or exciting has happened yet.
Q. Are you working on something new?
A. Yes. I've got a novel, Brand-Changing Day, coming out later this spring. I'm also in the very early stages of a new novel that I expect won't be finished for some time, and while I don't want to reveal much, I will say that it will probably involve string theory and enlightenment and Broadway musicals.
Q. Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?
A. Just that, if they'd like to contact me or have any thoughts or questions about The Flute Player, or just thoughts or questions for me in general, feel free to hit me up on Twitter (I'm @shawnmihalik)—I'm always excited to chat with fellow readers and writers. And I'd also like to remind them that the way we read and publish books is changing, and it's our responsibility as readers to support this medium we love so much. There's a lot of room for innovation in the world of writing and publishing, and I encourage all who want to be a part of that innovation to go for it.