Interview with Moses Yuriyvich Mikheyev, Author of Strange Deaths of the Last Romantic
17 Nov 2020
What can you tell us about your new release, Strange Deaths of the Last Romantic?
I started writing Strange Deaths right after I finished my graduate degree in theological studies at Emory University in 2017. Initially, I was planning on getting my PhD in philosophy, but then I slowly changed my mind about that. I decided I’d take a break from school and try my hand at becoming what everyone told me was just a stupid dream: a writer. I figured I could take a few years off, write a few novels, and if things didn’t work out, I could always head back to school and become a philosophy professor. I finished the novel in a little less than a year. I then sent it out to agents, and it got rejected by all of them. Then I got an email from one agent that was interested. I signed a contract with that agency, and they tried to get it published. Allegedly, it came close to publication with Sourcebooks, but after further review, they ended up axing it. After two years, with no publishing deals and only coronavirus in sight, I decided to fund the entire project myself. I hired an editor from Penguin to edit the book and had my sister team up with an expert on the cover. After a year or so of that, the book is finally coming out November 17th, 2020. It was a long journey and I hope readers enjoy the book!
What or who inspired you to become an author?
I moved to Atlanta in the summer of 2015 to do graduate work at Emory. It took me a few months to find a job and get settled in. In that time period, I purchased a lot of Russian literature. I spent a month or so going through Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. I decided somewhere along the lines that I could write a book similar to Crime and Punishment. It was just a thought, but I decided when I had the time, I would try to write that book. (Strange Deaths is not that book. That book is yet to come.)
But, even before all of that, I’ve been writing short stories and making movies in my head ever since I was a kid. I always wanted to be a writer, but I never seriously considered it as a career option since its success rate is effectively zero. I guess reading Dostoevsky just strengthened my resolve to seriously consider writing an actual novel.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
That one is easy.
(1) The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
(2) Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky
(3) East of Eden by Steinbeck
(4) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
(5) Søren Kierkegaard: A Biography by Joakim Garff
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
If it’s writing-related, then I’d love to interview Fitzgerald. I’d love to pick his brains about Gatsby. And maybe I’d ask him why he thought Tender is the Night was his best work (I think it’s pretty awful). Either way, I think he’s the best writer that America ever produced and it’s unfortunate he wasn’t recognized in his own lifetime.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
“Favorite” and “writing” in one sentence? That’s a loaded question. I hate writing. It’s awful. Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise. It’s excruciating pain. I’d much rather be crucified upside down than finish another novel. Being a writer is a curse. You know you have to write, and you know you can’t stop—and you know everything you write is garbage. Like William Goldman, I only write because “the rage” is still there. One day I’ll wake up and the rage will be gone. Then I’ll probably shoot myself.
What is a typical day like for you?
I used to have a routine with writing. The goal was always 2,000 words a day. After four completed novels, I’m starting to take breaks. I’ve started and stopped something like 4 or 5 novels in the last year or so. It’s awful—writing is. I have this one novel that I’ve been working on that was supposed to be epic. I got a hundred pages in and quit writing because it started boring me to death. Most novels are like that: they bore the author and then the audience. The good news is: when I get bored, I just stop writing. There’s no use in publishing utter garbage. I only finish novels I somewhat believe in. I guess Strange Deaths made the cut.
What scene from Strange Deaths of the Last Romantic was your favorite to write?
Writing the entire book was pain. It was written out of pain and in pain. I mean, I could say it was written for, by, with, et cetera pain in mind. I don’t think I enjoyed writing a single scene. I mean, I’m no sadomasochist, so pain brings me no joy. And all real writing is just verbal pain. But if I’m asked, “Which scene was least painful to write?” then I’d have to go with the prologue. The prologue was easy. I felt no pain writing that one.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
In my twenties, when everything was just cotton candy and pink sunsets, I lived by the idea that hard work paid off. Today, I live by the idea that life is just work—and every once in a while, those who get lucky, get paid. I guess I’m no longer an idealist. This book, like a million other books, will likely sell ten copies—if I’m lucky. The “if” is really a big one. I feel that if every day of my life. I just write because I have to. I live for the same reason: I have to.
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