SALT OF THE NATION BY MATT BLOOM
Matt Bloom's Salt of the Nation is the story of Harry McBride, a disillusioned gravel plant worker who impulsively slugs the Republican presidential nominee during a campaign photo-op and instantly becomes America’s most famous fugitive and newest hero.
Tell us a bit about yourself – something that we will not find in the official author’s bio?
- My journey into writing began at age 24. I had been working on Australian fruit plantations and had returned to the states with no plan and no idea what to do with my life. So, I got a bartending job at a beach bar in Montauk, NY, which is on the eastern tip of Long Island. I rented a tiny, yellow cabin that still exists, unchanged. I woke suddenly one night and lay staring at the ceiling, listening to the nearby surf. Then it hit me, out of the blue; I would become a fiction writer. I started a novel about my experiences in Australia the next morning.
Do you remember what your first story (article, essay, or poem) was about and when did you write it?
- My first essay was about whales. I wrote it in 3rd grade, with a little help from my father, if I remember correctly.
What is the title of your latest book and what inspired it?
- The title of my latest novel is Salt of the Nation. Although I started the book prior to the political rise of Donald Trump, it was inspired by the direction American politics seemed to be going in, and even more so by the social undercurrents fueling those politics.
How long did it take you to write your latest work and how fast do you write (how many words daily)?
- I didn’t write Salt of the Nation continuously. I completed the first draft in about a year, put it down to write another novel, then came back to it. I’d say I devoted a total of three years to the book. I don’t do word counts, but I usually write about 2 pages a day when working on a first draft. The self-editing, which involves multiple drafts, is the most time-consuming aspect of writing a novel for me.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
- I don’t have much time to write my fiction since I work full-time as an anti-money laundering investigator. So, I get up early and try to do anywhere between a half-hour and an hour of writing each morning before starting my job. Two pages is usually the most I ever complete in a day. Slow and steady.
Is writing the only form of artistic expression that you utilize, or is there more to your creativity than just writing?
- I used to sculpt when I was young. I worked with clay, plaster, stone, even metal. I’d like to return to sculpting one day, as a hobby, if I can find the time and the proper workspace to do it in.
Authors and books that have influenced your writings?
- Like many young, male authors, Hemingway was a big influence when I started. I still love The Sun Also Rises and Islands in the Stream. Bukowski also influenced me, since I was often working in bars and living in cramped, damp, dingy apartments, the way he did. Catcher in the Rye remains one of my favorite books of all time. I re-read it every few years. It’s incredibly funny and sad, and aspects of Holden Caulfield remind me of myself as a young man.
What are you working on right now? Anything new cooking in the wordsmith’s kitchen?
- I’m working on a new novel called Cat Dancer, which involves American ex-pats living on an island off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. I’m also working on the third book in a series of self-published children’s illustrated chapter book, called Hello, My Name is Bunny! It’s acharity project that I’m doing with my wife in order to raise funds for cat rescue shelters.The protagonist in each Bunny book is a cat who is so grateful to have been rescued and adopted that she pays forward her good fortune by helping less fortunate animals around the world. The first book takes place in New York City, the second takes place in London, and the one I’m currently working on takes place in Paris.
Did you ever think about the profile of your readers? What do you think – who reads and who should read your books?
- I don’t think too much about the profile of my novel readers. I try to write for everyone by telling the best, most honest story that I can, one that speaks to the human condition and what’s going on in our society. I subscribe to the “If you write it well, they will come” philosophy. I’m pleased that my three previous novels have been well-received by men and women, young and old. For my children’s illustrated chapter books, I target children ages 6 and above, and cat lovers of all ages.
Do you have any advice for new writers/authors?
- Dedication is key. Write every single day, even if for only half an hour. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Very few (if any) writers nail it on the first or even the second draft. Take a break between drafts in order to gain perspective. Don’t be discouraged by others nor by what can often be a painful and frustrating process. And don’t give up or believe you’re no good just because your submissions are being rejected. Keep trying to improve and keep submitting, but only what you believe is your best possible work.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
- Two things that are related, both from my parents. 1.) Find what you love to do and do it. 2.) Never give up.
How many books have you read annually and what are you reading now? What is your favorite literary genre?
- I think I read about 20 to 25 books annually. I wish I had time to read more, but between writing, work, and keeping up with the political circus, I find it difficult. I’m currently reading Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward. Very good. My favorite genre is literary fiction. I like a book that takes me into a different world, but one that exists or existed rather than those found in science fiction or fantasy. I like a book with characters I miss or feel inspired by once I’ve finished it.
What do you deem the most relevant about your writing? What is most important to be remembered by readers?
- My writing strives to capture what’s going on in our society right now, without being heavy-handed or on the nose. I try to use humor and even some satire to shine a light on some of the darker forces bubbling beneath the surface. I believe doing that is a fiction writer’s most important job.
What is your opinion about the publishing industry today and about the ways authors can best fit into the new trends?
- I do notice certain literary trends, but I don’t try to fit into any of them. They come and go too quickly to keep up with. You have to write what you feel you can write best, rather than what you believe the publishing industry wants at any given time.
What is your opinion about your publisher – Adelaide Books?
- What I particularly like about Adelaide Books is it publishes fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, and poetry. It’s a wonderful mix, and Adelaide’s authors are an incredibly acclaimed and diverse group, which means readers will be transported to a wide variety of places. I also like that Adelaide designs beautiful books and it seems to truly value and respect authors. This interview is case in point.
Matt Bloom has worked many jobs over the years to support his writing habit, including but not limited to kitchen hand, freight elevator operator, migrant laborer, truck driver, bartender, and currently as an anti-money laundering investigator. Matt grew up on Long Island and has lived briefly in Australia, Mexico, upstate New York, and Ohio. He now lives in Manhattan with his wife, Shelley Simmons-Bloom, and their cat, Bunny. Matt’s first published work of fiction was a short story in the Westside Spirit, a free weekly newspaper that still exists. His three previous novels are Blue Paradise (1998), A Death in the Hamptons (2002), and The Last Romantic (2005). His children’s books are Hello, My Name is Bunny! (2016) and Hello, My Name is Bunny! London (2018). Matt has also earned fiction fellowships at Sewanee Writers’ Conference (1998), Breadloaf Writers’ Conference (1999), and a residence at MacDowell Artists’ Colony (2003).