I wrote much of my first novel A Prayer for Dawn in front of live audiences during solo spoken word performances. Continuing and expanding on that technique for Blackchurch Furnace (which is a sequal of sorts to APFD) I worked out a lot of this material both in live solo performance, but even more importantly, with live ensembles.
SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?
NS: I read Stephen King’s Pet Sematary when I was in the 6th grade and was blown away by how real his characters felt and how natural their dialogue was. That book definitely shaped the type of writer I wanted to be.
SR: Did you try your hand at poetry as a teenager or use stick figures to illustrate your comic books? Tell us about your early writing efforts.
NS: Well, I’ve written fiction and poetry since as long as I can remember, but I hadn’t intended to be a novelist per se. I thought I was going to be a professional musician. When I was very young I made a pact with myself that I would sign my first record contract before I turned thirty. The summer after I turned 27 I was nowhere close to a record deal, but I got offered my first book contract (for A Prayer for Dawn) and I said, “OK, that’s pretty close.” And I’ve been a writer ever since. That sounds kind of dumb, I guess, but that’s how it happened.
SR: Practice pitching: tell us what your book is about in 30 words or less.
NS: Blackchurch Furnace is a scathing satire of faith, family, and all that we hold dear, where the only thing you can believe in are the voices in your own head…and they are every bit as crazy as you are.
SR: Tell us something about you that isn’t common knowledge.
NS: I have a PhD in Interdisciplinary Humanities.
SR: What’s the best thing about writing?
NS: Being able to take something that only exists within your mind and sharing it with the whole world. Also, authors are really fun to hang out with.
NS: What’s the worst thing about writing?
The crushing poverty.
SR: Due to oppressive taxation you have to move into a tiny house. What are the ten books you aren’t giving up?
NS: Not due to oppressive taxation but plain-old poverty, but I already live in a very tiny house. I reckon these are the books I ain’t givin’ up-
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter Thompson,
Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
House of Sleeping Beauties by Yasunari Kawabata
Breakfast of Champions, Slaughterhouse Five, Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Exterminator! and Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs.
11/22/63 by Stephen King
SR: Do you listen to music when you’re writing? How does music/art influence you creatively?
NS: I don’t just listen to music when writing, I write music soundtracks for all of my books. Like so—https://mymemoriesofafuturelife.com/2013/04/10/the-undercover-soundtrack-nathan-singer/
Here is the soundtrack itself — http://whiskeyshambles.com/release/on-through-the-night/
I have been periodically releasing the soundtrack to Blackchurch Furnace over the past several years.
My music and my writing cannot be separated; they are a symbiotic duo. Each of my novels corresponds to a different musical genre: A Prayer for Dawn is a thrash novel, In The Light of You is a punk novel, Chasing the Wolf is a blues novel etc.
SR: If you have to live in a potential natural disaster zone, would you pick blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions? Why? If you had to describe your protagonist as a weather system, what would they be?
NS: I would live in the midst of a blizzard, if I had to choose. I’m fond of the snow overall, so a blizzard would be slightly less intolerable than the other options. But comparing natural disasters to my characters (which is very appropriate), ALL of my characters are hurricanes. In fact, Hurrican Katrina is practically its own character in Blackchurch Furnace.
SR: What detail in your writing do you obsess over the most? Character names? Locations? Description? Dialogue? Research?
NS: I don’t know if I obsess over it the most, but the dialogue is probably the most important element of the writing to me. It is very important to me that my characters speak a certain way and that each has his or her own, unique voice on the page.
SR: Is your protagonist more likely to go insane or end up in prison?
NS: Blackchurch Furnace is an ensemble narrative, and virtually all of my characters are mentally disturbed and are frequently in and out of prison.
SR: What’s your protagonist’s greatest fear? Why?
NS: D’antre Philips’ greatest fear is; despite the music he has recorded and the books he has written, no one (especially his daughter Dameka) will remember him when he’s gone. His ex-wife moved his daughter away from him some years ago, and over time she seems to want him in her life less and less.
SR: Everyone needs an outlet to help them recharge. What hobbies do you have outside of writing?
NS: I don’t really have hobbies. Everything I do is all of a piece to me. Theater, fiction, poetry, music, performance, activism, it’s all the same passion, they just manifest themselves slightly differently.
SR: 6 Fun facts about you, or your protagonist: 1. Favorite color 2. Favorite game 3. Favorite vehicle 4. Favorite social media site 5. Favorite subject in school 6. Favorite pet
NS: Me: 1. Black 2. Classic Clue (the boardgame) 3. I’ve always wanted a black and silver Triumph 4. Facebook by default 5. Either creative writing or theatre 6. My dog Kali.
D’antre Philips: 1. Black 2. Arcade-style Frogger. 3. Cherry-red Porsche (though he’ll never be able to afford one) 4. D’antre doesn’t do social media. 5. History (so he could fight with the teachers over their lies and white-washing) 6. His old pit bull Iceberg Slim (RIP)
SR: Do you have any special events coming up? Where can people catch up with you in person or on a podcast?
NS: I am ALWAYS doin’ stuff – live performances, podcasts, you name it. Connect with me on facebook for all the up-to-date info!
Dr. Nathan Singer is a novelist, playwright, composer, and experimental performing artist. He is also the lead vocalist and guitarist for award-winning “ultra-blues” band The Whiskey Shambles. His published novels are the controversial and critically-acclaimed A Prayer for Dawn, Chasing the Wolf, In the Light of You, The Song in the Squall, Transorbital, and Blackchurch Furnace. He currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
This was originally published on Spinetingler Magazine (site now removed).