Welcome to TRB Lounge!
Today, we are featuring Daniel Hagedorn, author of The Lodestar, for our Author Interview feature.
About The Author
Daniel Hagedorn lives in Seattle, Washington, where he was born and raised, with his wife and elderly dog. An alum of Pacific Lutheran University with a couple of humanities degrees, he now splits his time between writing and helping various businesses and entities do what they do. He has written a number of novels, poems, and countless other musings. The Lodestar is his first published novel.
CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:
Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.
I work in finance. That might surprise some people as if they are incompatible forms that couldn’t co-exist. To me though, words and numbers have more affinity than it seems. Patterns. I see patterns in numbers just as I do in words. When I am not writing, I am often looking at spreadsheets. I started college as a math major. I finished as an English & Philosophy Major with an emphasis in creative writing and a minor in classics. But I still love numbers. Numbers and words are my life.
Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?
The Lodestar can be looked at as an examination of the modern world, not just in terms of this futuristic place, but where we live now, of wanting to escape out of the curated world, whether it be social media or your custom news feed, into something of your own making. Where I live in Seattle, they knock down an old house and put in its place this box that looks exactly like a thousand other boxes in the city as if there is some master design guiding everything towards homogeneity. It’s not just a book about what is real, what is reality, but also being a human, being creative and interesting and unique, about finding a place in the world, an identity amidst the flood of images that dominate our existence.
What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?
If there is a message in The Lodestar, it would be how we are complicit in handing over our lives to technology because we think it is making our lives better somehow when it may not be. It is not that technology is good or bad, per se, but how we use it or let it use us. I fear the transition to this visual society, where it no longer matters the power of our imagination because we’ve let the world be imagined for us. Why are books better than movies? Well, because in a book I can imagine the world the author has created, wherein a movie, it’s told for me. I almost always feel like I can imagine something more, something better than what’s being presented to me. And the world of video games is another interesting phenomena, this whole interactive experience that rewires our brains. How will this all change us? How will it make the move towards virtual worlds more seamless?
Who is your favourite character in this book and why?
The main character in The Lodestar is David, but my favorite character is in fact Marta. She’s mysterious. She knew before David that she didn’t want to be part of the network world. David is under this illusion that he created this so-called out that dispelled him from the network. He’ll learn later, not in this book, how that’s not true. And Marta is the key. He couldn’t have made it very far without Marta. And of course, David loves Marta, and love is the mystery of all mysteries, something not even the network could understand, so it did away with the concept.
What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?
The Lodestar has been in my mind for about a decade and a half. I never thought I could do justice to the idea, so I resisted the notion to write. Sometimes things are more powerful in the mind, that to commit to paper, to lose that illusion of what it could be, was something I couldn’t give up. A few things, though, struck me. For one, the idea that machines did not become more like humans, but humans became more like machines. Instead of being unique, it seemed to me there was a sameness in things, in people, in the particular look of what makes someone attractive. I was reading a lot of dystopian fiction at the time too. It just seemed more efficient for some grand network controlling everyone as opposed to feeling down and taking a pill. As humans, we do not always know what we want or need, but a network, a system that was unbiased and really knew us, it would know. Of course, I am being sarcastic to a degree. There is a bias in everything.
How long did it take you to write this particular book?
I spent about a year writing The Lodestar. Even then, when I had finished what I thought was my final draft, I wasn’t sure. I let it sit for about 6 months before I went back to the book, this time, with the help of an editor. During that cooling off period, I was still constantly thinking about the book and where it was going because I didn’t like the initial ending, although I thought the book itself was better than it was. In my head, I had created something amazing. However, when I went back and did the proper edit with an editor, that was an eye-opening experience, how incomplete sections were. In the end, The Lodestar took two years, but I am pretty sure I’ll think about the characters and the story for the rest of my life.
What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?
I have long felt that writing was a kind of breathing, and as long as I breathe, I hope. Whether or not I am successful as a writer does not matter that much. It’s just something I do, something I’ve always done. Obviously, I would love to make a living as a writer. In my mind, I am more successful than I am. That’s always been the thing. I would love to walk around, think about stuff, write, cut vegetables up at dinner time while listening to music and just allow myself to create. I kind of do that anyway, pretending so to speak, so I suppose it would be pretty cool if it was less dream than reality and I had more time to actually write.
Are you working on any other stories presently?
I am always working on something. Just as I might be reading a couple of different books at once, I am writing several different things too. In a normal day, I might compose a poem, write a song or add some part to another novel, one not connected to The Lodestar trilogy. I have written a bunch of novels, close to a dozen probably, some in better states of completion than others.
Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?
I am not sure what genre The Lodestar is. Sci fi, I guess. There’s a lot of philosophy mixed in too. Maybe it could be considered speculative fiction, but some of my other stuff seems more speculative, though in a different way. In my mind, I always have this idea of the so-called great American novel. I know that is an overused term, but it has meaning to me. In my twenties, that was a driving force. Now, I am not sure.
When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you to follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?
I’ve long thought of myself as a writer. In some ways, it is necessary to exist under that illusion, that I am writer because that allows me to write. If I didn’t think of myself as a writer, then it might not matter what I do, what I write. But by thinking of myself as a writer I have a sense of purpose, that I am capturing something essential. I’ve used that breathing metaphor. Writing is a kind of music too, that I hear. It’s in my mind. I am the kind of person that has an active imagination. In my early twenties, I worked in a bookstore. I loved being around books. I wrote a lot of stuff back then but felt undermined by my lack of success. That was hard. A writer friend of mine at the time told me it was all about perseverance, that as long as you kept writing, you would be successful. At some point, I kind of changed the equation and thought about success not in the publishing sense, but in terms of creating a body of work representative of the way I think and feel about the world. And when I write, that’s the song I am trying to replicate.
What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?
I prefer to write in the morning. I wake up early. Sometimes I think I write in my sleep because I wake up with solutions to things in my writing. Coffee and a walk help drive my thoughts, get them flowing. I don’t always have the time or opportunity in the morning, but I try to make time during the day to write something, anything. Sometimes, I can’t write what I want to write, but I can always make my daily emails more interesting or even a report I am preparing a better read. The fact is, we are always writing, even if it might something mundane. I’ll use any opportunity I can to try to be creative.
How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?
When I was young, I wrote everything out with a blue pen in a small notebook. The second draft would be transferring the notebook to computer. I actually wrote a lot of The Lodestar out by hand as I was in the backseat of a car along the coast of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia because I didn’t bring my laptop along for the trip. Today, while I prefer my laptop, I accumulate scraps of paper, pages in notebooks, little tidbits here and there, depending when an idea comes to me. I love and hate it, when I am walking by the Canal, and something so good comes to me that I have to stop and write it down. Once I start writing something down on a walk, I’ve broken the cycle, so that whole walk will keep getting interrupted.
What are your 5 favourite books?
Top 5 books. That’s a tough one. I go through phases and so I probably will discount some of my early favorites. I’ll always have Great Gatsby on my list. I love the opening and the close. Probably A Moveable Feast because I love the idea of being an ex-pat in Paris, hanging out in cafés, bars, surrounded by artists. Kerouac was a big inspiration on me, the feeling in his writing and though I was struck by a number of his works, I’ll probably go with The Subterraneans because of one line in that book that seemed so profound to me, about a light always on that one day won’t be on. Brave New World and We. Philip K Dick is one of my favorite authors, so I have to pick something by him. Ubik. I am not going to go with one of his more well-known pieces. And lastly, Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion. I love the voice in that piece, though I am not as fond as some of her other work. I read a lot of foreign authors. I particularly like Murakami and Roberto Bolano. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of Patrick Modiano too.
How do you deal with Writer’s Block?
I don’t want to say I don’t get writer’s block. Maybe that would curse me. I tend to not have much trouble writing, though. It’s just what I do, akin to breathing. I can sit down at any time and write something, a few lines, just something. I don’t worry whether it’s good or bad. I just write. I’ve always thought, write a page or so a day, then after six months you practically have a novel. And I have kind of done that my whole writing life, three decades so to speak. And that has been amazing. Because I don’t remember half of the stuff I have written.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If you want to be a writer, then write. There’s no special advice other than that. Read and write. I am constantly reading, and not just fiction, but philosophy, poetry, economics, science, whatever. I keep a notebook where I accumulate ideas, where I write little imaginary scenes based on some interesting thing I might have read. There’s no special club. If you want to be a writer, then you must write. You mustn’t get swayed by the daunting task it really is.
Thank you, Daniel, for your frank and insightful answers!
About The Book
How do humans survive after a massive pandemic that has devastated the population? Rather than living amid continued chaos and panic, the surviving population enjoys a thriving life thanks to the assistance of the network, a vast system that connects everything and everyone. The network protects from the virus while allowing everyone to lead their best life. Every dream and desire can easily be attained.
14 years into this networked world, David, one of the creators, wakes up to find that he is no longer connected. Is he the only one? And why, for what purpose? David feels almost like waking from a dream only to discover a technologically advanced world, full of beautiful and spectacular things, but all may not be what it seems. What is the difference between a dream and reality? What is the nature of experience?
Follow David as he wanders through a vast maze, uncovering layer upon layer in his search for truth. Recalling his former life, he must choose between what he feels, his natural compulsion to question everything, and what is good for humanity. The Lodestar takes you on a deep look into philosophical questions surrounding technology and its role in humanity.
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