Marc Schuster is the author of The Grievers (The Permanent Press 2012), The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl (The Permanent Press 2011), Don DeLillo, Jean Baudrillard, and the Consumer Conundrum (Cambria 2008), and, with Tom Powers, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy: The Discerning Fan’s Guide to Doctor Who (McFarland 2007). He is the editor of Small Press Reviews and a contributing editor for Shelf Unbound. When he isn’t writing, Marc teaches writing and literature courses at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.
Thanks, Marc. It was great learning more about your experiences!
- How does being an author help your ability to review books?
I think it gives me an appreciation for the amount of work that goes into writing. Even if I read a book that may not be my cup of tea—something in a genre I don’t generally enjoy, for example—I know that the author has put an incredible amount of effort into the project, so I treat that book with respect. Along similar lines, being an author also gives me an appreciation for the craft of writing, so I frequently find myself admiring not just what the book is about but how the author approaches the material.
- What are your favorite genres to review?
I love science-fiction and mainstream literary fiction. Anything that tells a story in an interesting way will grab my attention. Also, though it’s not quite a genre, I’ve been focusing mainly on books from small presses for a while. I feel like there are so many great titles out there that don’t get much—if any—press, and I want to be able to help people discover them. As a reviewer, I like to think my job is to match the right people to the right books.
- How did you decide to review books and blog about them?
I went to a writers’ conference about five years ago, and one of the speakers was talking about his experiences as a small press author. The speaker was Curtis Smith. I bought his short story collection, The Species Crown, and loved it. But when I checked to see if anyone had reviewed it, I found that few people had paid it much attention—and that hardly anyone was championing works from small presses. That’s when the inspiration to start Small Press Reviews struck.
- How often do you blog?
I try to post a review a week at Small Press Reviews, but on my personal blog I usually post a few pieces each week. Mostly they’re short—just little updates on my writing or images of paintings that I’ve recently completed. Blogging fairly regularly makes me feel like I’m in touch with a larger community of writers.
- If you could have dinner with any author(s), who would they be and why?
Actually, I’d rather have dinner with some of the bloggers I’ve been following—Frank Dorchak, August McLaughlin, Joe Ponepinto, Maria Diaz (aka Inkspeare), Kourtney Heintz, D. Thomas Minton, H. Conrad Miller, and John Hyland, to name just a few. And the list could go on and on! I’ve met so many interesting people with such diverse interests online that I think it would be cool to have them all over for dinner sometime. I guess the internet is a double-edged sword in that respect. You meet so many great people online, but at the same time, geography keeps you from meeting them in person.
- How important is the cover of the book to your first impression of the story?
A good cover can go a long way for me—particularly when I’m trying to decide which book to review next. I usually have a stack of about five to ten books waiting to be reviewed, and if a book has a cover that looks like it was put together in five minutes using clip-art, I’ll probably pick up something else. Fortunately, that rarely happens.
- Do you have a favorite place to write?
I move my writing space fairly frequently. Sometimes I’ll sit at my desk, but other times I’ll move to the dining room table or, on occasion, to my basement. I guess that makes me a seminomadic writer.
- What do you love most about writing?
I like playing with different combinations of words and trying to figure out the most interesting way to say something. Sometimes that has to be a reward in itself, since it’s pretty common for me to spend hours on something that doesn’t actually go anywhere.
- What is the hardest and easiest part of the writing process for you?
The hardest part is usually just forcing myself to sit down in front of my computer to start writing. The easiest part is finding excuses not to do it.
- What five words best sum up your personality?
Quiet, bookish, curious, artistic, attentive.
- Other than writing, what else do you love to do?
Playing with dogs, painting, and reading.
- Describe your perfect day.
Drinking coffee with my wife and reading on the porch. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll do some writing.
- Do you have a writing schedule?
No, but I probably should. For the most part, I write whenever I find the time.
- What are your past, current, and/or next projects?
My novel, The Grievers came out in May, and I’ve been trying to promote it. I describe it as a coming of age novel for a generation that’s still struggling to come of age. It’s about a man in his mid-twenties who’s struggling to live up to the promise of his youth while mourning the death of a friend. He has a dead-end job that involves marching in front of a bank dressed as a giant dollar sign, and he’s on the verge of flunking out of grad school. When he’s asked to put together a memorial service for his friend, he sees it as a chance to redeem himself.
Before that, I wrote a novel called The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl, which is about a suburban soccer mom who’s struggling to overcome a debilitating drug addiction. It would seem there’s a lot of struggling going on in my fiction, but I also try to leaven my novels with humor. Steve Almond, who’s one of my favorite authors, has been kind enough to describe my work as “very funny and very sad, two qualities that travel well together.”
Currently, I’m working on a few different projects, including a novel, but I’m still writing with the door closed on that one. I do, however, have a short piece appearing in a forthcoming issue of The Writer, and I’m a contributing editor for Shelf Unbound, so my writing shows up there from time to time. It’s a free online magazine about all things indie—definitely worth checking out! I’m also serving as a guest editor for the next issue of The Conium Review.
15. Where can we reach you? (Twitter, Facebook, website, blog, etc.)
Check out these two other publications from Marc: