Interview with Dr. Meander Swotty, Author of Lower Education | NewInBooks
What’s the story behind the story? What inspired you to write Lower Education: A Tale of Passion, Perseverance, and Missing Meatloaf?
I suppose writing Lower Education was kind of like therapy. You see, I used to be young and happy and idealistic. I wanted to change the world “one child at a time!” Then I went into academia. Years of pointless meetings and endless parades of unmotivated students have beaten me into the shell of the man I now am.
Also, I wanted to shine a light on how absurd and silly academia is. We take everything so seriously and debate every piece of minutia. Unfortunately, we tend to forget about the students and why we went into education in the first place. Above all, I wanted to write a book to make readers laugh. Hopefully, I’ve succeeded.
If you had to pick theme songs for the main characters of Lower Education: A Tale of Passion, Perseverance, and Missing Meatloaf, what would they be?
Oh! Definitely, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive! It perfectly sums up what my protagonist goes through.
What’s your favorite genre to read? Is it the same as your favorite genre to write?
I love to read everything — epic fantasies, biographies, tons of self-help books. Whatever people recommend, I tend to read! As far as my favorite genre to write, I believe genre is secondary to the story. I like writing about things that mean something to me, such as going through a middle-life crisis or how people with disabilities are treated in schools. I then choose the genre that fits what I want to say.
What books are on your TBR pile right now?
I received a bunch of great books for Christmas. I want to learn more about photography, so my wonderful wife got me a couple of books on composition and editing photos on the computer. My sons got me books on the Beatles and Norwegian history. I also have a stack of self-help books, such as The Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Then there’s the growing pile of books on autism and intellectual disabilities that I need to read for work. (I’m a special education teacher.)
What scene in your book was your favorite to write?
Boy, what a good question! Since most of Lower Education is based upon my career as a professor, there are a bunch of scenes that really make me smile. For example, I used to have an administrative assistant who was a stripper. She used to come to work wearing the most inappropriate outfits imaginable! Also, if any of us got a new chair for our office, faculty from other departments would steal it. I actually had to chain my chair to my desk so I’d have something to sit on.
Then there was my female colleague who used to use the men’s room because she didn’t want to walk to the women’s room on the other side of the building. She would come in and chat with me while I peed. Talk about awkward! I suppose my favorite scene in the book is when Dr. Rob Chudinski (my young protagonist) finds his inbox full of hundreds of e-mails. A faculty member in the Psychology Department had his lunch stolen from the communal refrigerator and mistakenly sent a bitchy e-mail to the entire university. The chaos that followed nearly closed the school!
Do you have any quirky writing habits? (lucky mugs, cats on laps, etc.)
You know, I’m so glad you asked this! I thought I was the only writer with crazy habits! First of all, I can’t just turn on my computer and begin writing. I have to turn it on, pull up the word document of my latest project, and then I have to mess around on the internet for twenty minutes. I have no idea why, but I simply can’t sit down and start writing. It’s almost as if the page needs to marinate before it’s ready. I also have to have green tea in a specific mug sitting to my left and soft music playing in the background. If the mug is in the dishwasher, very little gets done until it’s clean.
Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?
I do have a motto! It’s from the Jimmy Stewart movie, Harvey. “In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.” I have it written on an index card taped to my office wall. I read it every time a student comes in to complain about their grades.
If you could choose one thing for readers to remember after reading your book, what would it be?
My book is about a young academic who is very passionate about helping people with disabilities. But he cannot do what he needs to do because he gets caught up in a personality conflict with his department chair. The ordeal keeps escalating and escalating until my protagonist finally realizes that sometimes it’s best to focus on what’s important and give people what they want.
I suppose that’s what I want readers to remember after reading my book. Constantly butting heads and fighting over stupid things is usually counter-productive. Sometimes you have to change your strategy to succeed.
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