Lars Boye Jerlach
Your book “The Somnambulists Dreams” was very original. One of the things that I enjoyed about it, besides the story itself, was that it was not like other books I have read. It was refreshing to read a book so unique. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Although the concept was somewhat nebulous at first, I had a fairly good idea about the general structure of the novel, and I knew that the core of the narrative would be about how the solitary mind of a lighthouse keeper with a fixed routine of watch-taking and daily living slowly descent into madness.
I also wanted to create a series of adjacent stories that conceptually weren’t bound by time, history or place to the main narrative, and I decided to write them so that they can be read as stand alone segments, but at the same time interconnect and merge with each other to create a more holistic narrative. That is the main reason I introduced the dream sequence letters, thereby allowing the freedom necessary for the main character to spontaneously wander, but still stay within the actual structure of the lighthouse.
I am particularly interested in the intersection between literary genres, and the fact that The Somnambulist’s Dreams falls into a rather sparsely populated niche between existentialism, gothic and metaphysical, is most likely the reason you say that it was like nothing else you have read.
How long did it take you to write “The Somnambulists Dreams”?
It took me approximately nine months to write the book. I primarily work on my computer, but I’m unfortunately not particularly fast at typing, so it takes me quite a considerable amount of time to get the words down.
Also, I have a tendency to go back and forth and edit the manuscript as I work, which in itself adds a lot of additional time.
Dreams play a big part of your book. Are you a vivid dreamer? i.e. do you remember your dreams?
No, I can’t say that my dreams are especially vivid. They’re generally a lot more fragmented and most certainly never to the level of clarity as those of the protagonist in the novel. However, when I write, I believe there’s a certain creative freedom in dreams that gives me a greater chance to explore the more inaccessible and visionary areas of the human condition.
The cover of your book is beautiful. How did the design of the cover come about?
I am really glad you asked that question. I believe a lot of contemporary books, both in the areas of fiction and nonfiction, suffer from under-designed, uninspiring and sometimes incredibly obscure covers, that often tell you very little about the narrative.
It was essential to me that the cover of The Somnambulist’s Dreams immediately proffered the reader a sense of the story, almost like a visual prologue, so I approached one of my good friends, Kyle Fletcher who’s a freelance designer in Chicago, and asked him if a cover design was something he would be interested in. Fortunately he agreed to work on this project and after he read the first draft of the manuscript, we talked at length about possible designs. Besides his own input, I explained to him the importance of the colours of the ravens, the name and condition of the main character and we quickly settled on the white raven for the front and the black raven for the back as the primary motifs for the design.
He then created, what I believe is a truly compelling and meaningful cover that perfectly illustrates the essence of the book. Also, his beautiful and simple addition of the lighthouse on the spine subtly hints
at the location where the story takes place.
Do you have plans to write another book? If so, are you currently writing a new book?
That’s an interesting and somewhat curious question. I know a lot of people think that writing a novel is an accomplishment in itself and that many writers stop writing after their first successful output. However, I believe that most creative souls whether they’re musicians, visual artists or writers have an urge to produce and to keep producing. Most people that I’ve come across in the creative field are always thinking about, if not already working on, their next project. There are always more stories to tell, more lyrics to write and more paintings to paint. My mind is like that of a hungry rat restlessly prowling an infinite maze, so to answer your question: Yes I am currently writing on my second novel. It is similar in oeuvre to The Somnambulist’s Dreams and stylistically it entails many of the same characteristics. I am using a more or less comparable structure and although the story is different, it will hopefully evoke a variety of indeterminate questions that the reader will then ponder the answers to.
Who are your influences as a writer?
I am of course inspired by a variety of writers both in terms of genre, style, language and narrative and although I have a great affinity for a lot of contemporary writers, it should not come as a big surprise that my work is mostly inspired by writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Italo Calvino, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, Stefan Zweig, Flannery O’Connor, Philip K. Dick, Haruki Murakami and my compatriot Willy Sorensen. Although they come from very different literary places, there is no question that they have all in one way or another affected the way I think about writing in terms of language, style, structure, storyline, etc. My literary landscape is also heavily influenced by movies and I’m a great admirer of Kurosawa, Luis Bunuel, Tarkovsky, Fellini, Ridley Scott, Lars Von Trier, the Coen brothers and many many others. I also listen to a variety of classical composers when I write, and I believe that some of the repetitions and variations on already established themes is something that, perhaps subliminally, plays a part in the way I approach writing.
What is your favorite book?
Unless you have only ever read one book in your life, that’s an impossible question to answer. It’s a bit like asking a parent which one of their children is their favorite and although I readily admit it’s a bit of an evasion, I honestly don’t think I can answer a question like that without feeling that I’m betraying at least a handful of other great literary works.
But if you pressed me for an answer and I couldn’t select from the above mentioned authors, I would say it’s probably Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, but if you asked me again tomorrow I might say The Stranger by Albert Camus or Lempriere’s Dictionary by Lawrence Norfolk.
Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?
Although I sometimes find it difficult to follow, I suppose I do have a moderately established writing routine. I usually get up quite early in the morning, and after having made sure that the kids are ready for school, I walk the dog and make coffee before I sit down by my desk. Then I normally spend twenty minutes or so reading through the last couple of sections in the manuscript to mentally get myself located in the narrative and think about the next couple of sequences before I start writing.
I see that you are an artist and Professor of Art. Was becoming an Author a natural progression or did you always want to be an Author?
I have always been interested in language as a medium and I have made quite a few art pieces that utilize language as a visual component. However, being a visual artist probably had less of an influence in the progression from artist to author. I was drawn to literature from an early age and in my mid teens I began experimenting with writing, mainly producing a slew of rather trite short stories and novellas that fortunately were never read by anyone else, so becoming an author was quite a natural progression in the end.
When you began writing this book, did you know how it was going to end? For instance, I have read that some authors like to begin a story and see where the writing process takes them. Other
authors know how their book is going to end and need to figure out how to get to that point. What is your approach to telling your/your character’s story?
From the very beginning I had an overarching concept for The Somnambulist’s Dream. I knew where I wanted the story to begin, where it was located, who the protagonist should be and where I imagined the story would end.
However, as I began writing I did allow for the natural fluidity of the writing process to guide me. Although I thought I had a fairly clear idea of the style and structure of the novel, there were certainly some unexpected surprises that arose when I started writing and I definitely had to allow for a bit of flexibility in the narrative to appropriately accommodate the development. Some of the dream sequences changed atmospherically as I was writing them and I certainly introduced elements to the narrative that I hadn’t expected to introduce.
Have you always been intrigued by lighthouses or did you become interested in them after moving to Maine?
I have always been fascinated by the physical structure and tangible function of lighthouses, but perhaps even more so by the austere solitary lives of the people who occupy them. I imagined that the burden of being alone and knowing that it might weeks or even months before a lighthouse keeper sees another person can play some alarming tricks with your mind, and it was this notion that first compelled me to write the story about Enoch Soule.
You have traveled all over the world. What has been your favorite place to visit?
There are so many other countries and cities throughout the world that holds a certain allure, but although I left Denmark more than a quarter century ago and now reside on the East Coast of the US, Copenhagen will always have a unique, irreplaceable and treasured place in my heart.