Interview with Lukas Klessig
Author of Words With My Father: A Bipolar Journey Through Turbulent Times
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Quick description of the book for a new reader - what should they expect?
- WWMF contains an intriguing telling of dealing with a bipolar life and the history, danger, dichotomy, failures and victories that accompany that life. In addition, it contains a "beyond the grave" dialogue between a deceased father and alive son which illuminates, enhances and complicates that bipolar story and transports its relevance into our current world and lived experience.
Also, it's a DAMN GOOD STORY with elements of mystery, drama, horror, humour, philosophy, history and adventure that complement and clarify instead of clash or confound.
What was your inspiration for this book?
- My father passed away before he could finish it. I felt obligated to complete the story.
Which authors do you admire? How have they influenced your writing style?
- I enjoy quintessential American writers like Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, John Steinbeck for their ability to transform words into sensory experiences. Unfortunately, working on this project has consumed all of my reading bandwidth for the past 7 years so I really need to explore what more current writers have created!
Can you tell us a little about the locations in your book?
- Much of the book's events take place in Wisconsin with notable excursions and stops in St. Louis, Nashville, the "Deep South" and Washington, DC.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
- In order for me to finish this book with a flow and interconnectedness that satisfied expectations, I had to really focus (bordering on obsession) for weeks at a time. For the three months working on the final draft, little else besides rewriting and rereading occupied my time...I didn't read or watch or listen to anything else. Those extended periods of minimal distractions are difficult to procure in our world, but might prove essential for people/writers/thinkers examining complex ideas.
Could you talk a little about your writing process?
- A set writing routine never really emerged for me, beyond making myself take breaks for physical exercise, movement and outdoor time to refresh during the thousands of hours fussing over picking the best words instead of just accepting the merely adequate. Many times, the "breaks" didn't mean interrupting the process - many of the best ideas and revisions happened during 5-10 mile walks which became even longer if I found a good writing groove. Sitting still at a desk definitely didn't optimize the sentences like walking or pacing and losing track of time.
Which character has had the greatest impact on readers?
- Without question: my father, Lowell Klessig.
If the book were to be adapted for TV or film, who would you see in the lead role? Who did you have in your mind’s eye ?
- Ha! Daydreaming!
Theo James, Tom Holland, the next reincarnation of Mr. Clooney.
How have readers responded ?
- It's early days, but so far, the response has seemed very favorable. The most frequent comment we've heard is that the story requires careful reading and reflection to truly appreciate, but readers express that such depth really engaged and nurtured their intellects and emotions.
Where next? What are you working on now?
- Certainly, enough material exists for starting another project. However, all our efforts currently focus on spreading the story and message of WWMF.
THE DRAMATIC STORY OF A PIONEERING MAN, HIS MERCURIAL MIND AND A SOCIETY IN LIMBO.
Lowell Klessig’s posthumously-released story, infused with reflections by his son Lukas, provides an intimate window into one man’s life in flux with bipolar disorder. As the author narrates a postwar upbringing and describes the manic-depressive travails of developing his identity, he offers us a view into the turmoil of the times – and of his mind.
Through mania- and danger-filled months fighting for Civil Rights, protesting the Vietnam War and furthering the Conservation Movement, we see the purpose that sustained him. Through darkened panes, we witness the isolation and malaise of depressive winters that nearly took his life. This masterful chronicle allows us to peer into a restless and kinetic existence in one moment and a chasm of fatigue and hopelessness on the next page.
It’s a bipolar journey that you won’t ever forget.