IndieView with Mike Wehner, author of The Girl Who Can Cook

What came easily? I’m blowing my own mind, lol. Jack Kerouac to live the stories I want to tell. Home of the IU Hoosiers and some of the best and worst Chinese food on planet earth. Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it? Mike Wehner – 5 June 2018
The Back Flap
It’s been three years since chef Erin shot her boyfriend, John, five times during a domestic dispute. Editing, cover design, book layout, typesetting, eBook design. Looking back, all of the characters are actually some aspect of my personality. My friends were were eager for his murderer to get what she deserved (she did). It’s about metrics, twitter followers, visibility. Aldous Huxley was the first person to tell me that magic was real when I was fourteen. A book that twisted trope and convention and had something to say. It wasn’t an especially bad deal, from what I understand it was the exact same deal offered to most new authors. I can’t believe how stupid (or arrogant?) I was to think this was a simple idea and an ideal candidate for a debut novel. The intersection of business and art will always be an ugly place but the entryway is by far the worst. About the book
What is the book about? This is a complicated question. I finished a draft and then edited. It’ll be nice to go dumpster diving for snappy dialogue one day in all that refuse. Since this book was inspired by an actual tragedy I went out of my way to make sure none of the characters resembled anyone I knew. George Carlin taught me to question everything. About Publishing
Did you submit your work to Agents? I work as an illustrator, I have a drawing tablet and an art studio. I’ll elaborate. Were there any parts of the book where you struggled? I spent about nine months querying. What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you? Hopefully I’ve succeeded there. The main character is a guy who abandoned his fancy engineering job to rediscover his life through art. If I’m writing fiction I need silence, but for essays or other creative pursuits like illustration I like the baroque guys, Vivaldi or someone like that. I was really excited until I read the terms. I struggled a great deal with pacing and fitting the epistolary elements of the story in the right spots. That sounds really convoluted but it was just a method of outlining for nerds. It’s lighthearted but filled with, uh, interesting sh!t. That is a huge theme in the book. How it’s hard to see the people you love for what they are, good or bad. Your wife will probably never recognize your genius because she was in the bathroom with you that time you got food poisoning, the same way you’ll never see your best friend as an idiot because you’re wired to always take his side. This is a psychological thriller but it isn’t all doom and gloom, it’s quite funny. This is a split narrative. What would you like readers to know about you? Do you listen to music while you write? The real person who was murdered was a sweetheart, a really fantastic human being, so I also wondered how strongly I would feel if he wasn’t so nice. I was obsessed with Where the Sidewalk Ends when I was a kid, so much so that my grade school librarian gave me the school’s copy. It’s not that I want to know, it’s that I have to know. I’ll outline a haiku if it means I can put off doing the hard stuff. I was able to parlay this into representation and after six months or so of querying in earnest I got an offer from an established house. Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors? It’s a way to keep content pumping into the world in a healthy way and not spamming away on twitter or writing the zillionth article on why adverbs and the passive tense make for bad writing. It’s a psychological thriller/romantic comedy noir. Bloomington, Indiana. The first draft took about two weeks and each subsequent draft was another few weeks of writing. I didn’t want anyone to think I was retelling it or trying to somehow profit on the death of a friend. And one year since she opened Essen, a German restaurant in San Francisco’s East Bay. There’s a really powerful female lead character and I certainly believe in equality but it isn’t intentionally feminist, it is what it is. I wrote something like 300,000 words to get an 80,000 word final product, talk about killing your darlings. Based on beta reading this book has been best received by adults 22-49. Maybe I understand the math of it a bit better than the average creative-type human. No, I’m a madman. Writing this very response I just realized the extent to which this book is about me. That movie is about him killing a little boy but it’s incredibly comic too. I’m a low-rent polymath in the age of specialization. The man in the driver’s seat was John’s best friend, Alex. How long did it take you to write it? As for marketing that, I am going to try and win people over with sincerity. When did you start writing the book? The same with anything else in life. Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished? The main story comprises seventy percent of the text while the rest is filled with journal entries and excerpts from a fictitious memoir that plays a key role in the story. Would that tribal instinct to protect your own override reason? It’s not that I’m arrogant or feel I can do it better than someone else, it’s that the world is so incredibly fascinating to me and filled with a million different sandwiches—I want to eat them all. About Writing
Do you have a writing process? I outline at the outset so I feel like I am getting something accomplished. I’ve been playing the guitar since I was a little kid, I can’t have music on that I like, I get distracted. You are going to die one day, but that ole’ axiom is wrong. If yes, what gets the fingers tapping? Simply put: it’s wildly unfair. I received two offers for this manuscript and I turned them both down. I took a photo for reference because I was going to do an ink drawing or a painting or something. A man goes to work as a cook in the restaurant of the women who murdered his best friend after she’s exonerated by the courts. Live as passionately as you write and write as passionately as you learn. Oh, I’m in the process of reading and producing the audiobook too. A good deal of the plot is hidden around in there and it shows there’s going to be food but it isn’t too bleak. Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know? In the aftermath of the shooting I began to wonder how I would feel if she went unpunished. Anyone can kick a crappy book with a garbage cover and terrible prose out into the ether of Amazon. This book was edited four times. Your wife will probably never recognize your genius because she was in the bathroom with you that time you got food poisoning, the same way you’ll never see your best friend as an idiot because you’re wired to always take his side. I wanted the cover to reflect that. I may write at other times but this is when it’s compulsory. If girls like it a bit more because they get to see a chick kick some ass, fantastic. He’s taken justice into his own hands, what he doesn’t know is that soon he’ll be inside, using those hands to peel carrots for the girl who can cook. I don’t have much of a base audience or email list to work with so to grow that and let people really get to know me I’m launching a podcast in May called “Interesting Sh!t with Mike Wehner.”   Each week I write an essay and then I riff on that theme for the podcast, it’s a one-man show. The girl is actually my wife. I did it. If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences? Fiction, essays, blogs, whatever. No exceptions. I’m not ruling out the mainstream but I’m not in a great place to negotiate what I think is fair, so until I am I’ll be over here. I’d never intentionally put an ideology into a work but many of the readers commented that it had feminist themes. There were long gaps in between. Two years since she was found not guilty on murder charges by way of self-defense. I don’t know anything about what works in book marketing. It’s not about what you deserve or the merit of your work, it’s about what you can negotiate. I knew exactly how I wanted the story to sound, if that makes sense. A real-life friend from college was murdered during a domestic dispute. Not if you start right now. I know I’m going to ignore it, but I do it because it’s a way to avoid doing the real work (for me). I imported it into Photoshop and farted around for 45 minutes and knew I had the cover. Yes and yes and yes. Like the infamous sign coming out of the locker room at Notre Dame, “Play like a champion today.”
About You
Where did you grow up? Get your copy of   The Girl Who Can Cook from Amazon US or Amazon UK. I scribble out one or two or ten poems and maybe do an illustration or two and then I get back to it. You can read all about it in her memoir; there’s a copy on the front seat of the car parked in front of Essen. The cover I ended up using isn’t what I intended. There are endless blog posts and $.99 eBooks but at the end of the day I put the majority of my effort into writing a great book. A black and white and blood red ink drawing is going to be bleak, so I’m glad I didn’t go that route. I truly believe in the book I’ve written, so for now I am going to go at it alone and see if I can find an audience. No author sells their book, other people sell your book. Did you hire a professional editor? Where did you get the idea from? I even made my own imprint, who knows what I will do with that. The first was a small, hybrid publishing house and I didn’t see how they offered anything beyond what I was capable myself. First to agents then to publishers once I found representation. Can you see someone for what they are when you love them? My process is to not engage with the so called “war of art.” I write from 9 p.m. It was a particular event, well two. A few miles from the worst stretch of Lake Michigan imaginable, the part lined with steel mills, ports and other assorted sludge factories. to midnight, Monday through Friday. They invest very little and in the unlikely event that author does hit, they make a windfall. Mainstream publishing is too risk averse in their handling of new authors. Happy accident. I’m one of those really odd, self-learning people. If I am having trouble getting words out then I write “Shellies.”   That’s the word I use for grown up versions of Shel Silverstein poems. I don’t know that any modern author influences my actual prose but so many authors, writers and storytellers have had a profound impact on the way I think and experience the world. I did it all. I discarded a Fellowship of the Ring’s worth of material editing this book. Do you outline? How it’s hard to see the people you love for what they are, good or bad. Was it a particular event or a gradual process? It’s unbearable for me to hire someone to do something I don’t know anything about. If so can you please describe it? Voice is the only part of writing that comes easily to me. These are my heroes, my uncles, my psychologists, my friends, my adversaries, my teachers, my shepherds, my mentors, my role models. Tone and diction. The truth is that I’m not truly great at anything but I do a little bit of everything. The first reference that comes to mind is that great Colin Ferrell movie In Bruges. I set out to write a simple revenge story, but I’ve learned that books are rarely about what the author intends—this one is no different. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) It takes a real champion to go at it alone and make something great, something indistinguishable from a professionally published book. Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself? We all know how important it is for writers to read. I wouldn’t know how to hire an editor unless I’ve edited a book. Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, Mike Mignola, Ken Kesey, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Chris Cornell, Franz Kafka, Kurt Vonnegut, Shel Silverstein and so, so, so many others influence me all day, every day. Northwest Indiana, the region as they like to call it. Initial outlines started in early 2016 and the novel itself started that summer. That is a huge theme in the book. Life isn’t too short. I eventually got it all together by making a graph of Fibonacci spirals and overlapping them according to numbers that appeared in each section. I did everything myself (don’t do this). The main character used to be an engineer so I based all the numbers in the book on the Fibonacci sequence, so the book has an unusual emotional arch for a psychological thriller. Do you have a target reader? I’m not kidding, I’m nuts. End of Interview:
For more from Mike, visit his website and follow him on Twitter. Where do you live now?