Highlights from Mitch’s interview with Sara Nelson, editor of Amazon’s Omnivoracious Book Blog:
ABR: You spent many years as a musician, and now many years as a writer. How are the processes of making music and writing related for you?
MA: I think the way that they’re most alike is in rhythm and cadence. I really believe that if I have any aptitude for writing at all it probably comes from my musical aptitude. I think I’ve learned to write with a beat. I notice that I always rock back and forth when I write, and if I stop rocking back and forth it’s usually because I’ve hit a clunk: My sentence structure isn’t working. There’s also the whole idea of returning to themes, choruses and verses in your construction, knowing where the root of your paragraph is, and then you go off on a riff, but in the end you need to find a way back to your original thought. And that’s very similar in starting on a root note of a chord, but by the time you get back home you know you have to resolve.
ABR:You have had phenomenal success as a writer, beginning, really, with Morrie. How has success changed you?
MA:I think I was fortunate that it didn’t happen too early in my life; I’m not sure I would have appreciated it in the same way. When I started out as a musician, I had no aspirations of massive success. I didn’t want to be a rock-and-roll star. I wanted to be a producer. My whole thing was that I wanted to be behind the scenes. If I could have gotten a job just making records in a studio, you never would have heard of me again. You also don’t go into journalism to be rich and famous. My first journalism job I worked six months for free. [Eventually I went to Columbia] and I remember there were people working for the New York Times, and earning $11,000 a year and I thought. “Oh my God! Eleven thousand! I could never get a job like that!” So for many years even when I finally did OK as a sports writer and got a job in Detroit, it wasn’t mega time. When Tuesdays with Morrie happened, I was already 37 and it was a total accident. I didn’t plan to write that book and the only reason I did it was to pay Morrie’s medical expenses, because he told me he didn’t have insurance. And it wasn’t wasted on me that one of the first things I’d ever done even close to selflessly – to pay someone’s medical expenses – became the most successful thing I ever did. And I have never forgotten that lesson. I don’t think it would take an analyst very long to figure me out: I’m always writing a little bit of Tuesdays with Morrie in everything I do.
Read the full interview here.