Michael Sussman: I’m a clinical psychologist, currently focused on writing. The first two books I published
were written for psychotherapists. Once I became a father, I enjoyed reading picture
books to my son. I decided to try my hand at writing one, and my debut picture book—
Otto Grows Down—was published by Sterling with illustrations by Scott Magoon. As my
son grew older, I started writing for an older audience, and the result is Crashing Eden, a
YA fantasy/paranormal novel.
MS: The novel centers around the myths of the Golden Age and the Fall of Man, which are
found in one form or another in nearly every human culture. The Golden Age myth,
represented by the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament, suggests that in ancient times
people existed in a state of grace, living in blissful harmony with nature and feeling at
one with the universe.
According to the myths, this state of perfection ended abruptly, due to some act of
transgression or disobedience. With this fall from grace, humanity was expelled from
Paradise and forced to deal with disease, misfortune, and hardship. Human nature
gradually degenerated, and the world itself became corrupted.
In Crashing Eden I imagine what might happen if we were somehow able to recapture
the state of mind experienced by people before the Fall. What if we built a device that
altered our brains in such a way that we felt like we were back in the Garden of Eden?
This led to speculating about how the God of the Old Testament might react to
trespassers in his Garden. That’s where the story becomes controversial.
BW: Were there any particular parts that you had a hard time writing, or a moment in the
book where you wanted to change something but knew it had to happen for the good of
MS: I found writing from the perspective of a 17 year-old to be challenging. It meant
revisiting my own adolescence, which was no picnic, believe me!
And, yes, there is a scene in the nov el where Joss, the protagonist, does something that is
truly disturbing. At first I was shocked and rejected the idea. But eventually I realized
that this action was in keeping with Joss’s character and helped create a dramatic scene.
BW: What are some of your current favorite apocalyptic themed books?
MS: My favorite is Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. This story, of a man and his son struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, is a masterpiece. McCarthy’s writing
is breathtakingly beautiful, and the love and sacrifice that the father demonstrates toward
his son is inspiring.
BW: What genres would you place Crashing Eden under, especially for readers just
MS: It isn’t easy to categorize. I generally call it YA urban fantasy, with paranormal elements.
But it could also be called magical realism, speculative fiction, or visionary fiction. And
although I wrote the novel for a young adult audience, it turns out that not-so-young
adults are equally enthusiastic about the book!
BW: When you’re in a writing jam, is there a particular author you look to for inspiration?
One that makes you ask, “What would ‘insert author’s name here’ do?”
MS: No, I pretty much struggle to find my own way, although on an unconscious level
I’m sure I draw on a lifetime of reading experience. Some of the authors I admire the
most include Dostoyevsky, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf, J.D. Salinger,
Steinbeck, Nabokov, Vonnegut, Updike, Ann Patchett, Tom Robbins, Robert Parker, and
BW: Go wild! Let us know something funny about you, share something that’s on your
mind, or anything else that’s important about your books.
MS: I find it fascinating that when we make up a story, we often unconsciously reveal deep
aspects of ourselves. As E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web, put it: “Writing is the
mask and the unveiling.”
My picture book, Otto Grows Down, is about a boy who becomes trapped in backwards
time when he makes a birthday wish that his baby sister was never born. While I was
writing the story, it didn’t occur to me that I was both Otto and his sister, Anna. As Otto, I was working through my own anger and jealousy toward my younger brother. And as
Anna, I was reliving being the target of my older brother’s envy and rage.
That’s why I think it’s important while working on a first draft to just let your writing
flow, unimpeded by conscious judgment or analysis. You’ll write a deeper, more genuine
story if you allow your unconscious mind to lead the way.
BW: Thanks for stopping by for an interview! It was a pleasure to have you.
Crashing Eden by Michael Sussman
For one boy and his friends, the path to Paradise comes at a cost—one they may not be prepared to pay.
When a biking accident leaves 17-year-old Joss Kazdan with the ability to hear things others can't, reality as he knows it begins to unravel.
A world of legends exists beyond the ordinary life he's always known, and he is transported to the same Paradise he's studying in World Mythology. But the strange gets even stranger when his new friends build a device that delivers people through the gates of the Garden of Eden.
Now Samael, the Creator God, is furious. As Samael rains down his apocalyptic devastation on the ecstasy-seeking teens, Joss and his companions must find a way to appease Samael—or the world will be destroyed forever.