Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Q&A with Glenn R. Miller




Glenn R. Miller is the author of the new novel Doorman Wanted. He has worked as a television producer and a creative director, and he lives in Minneapolis.


Q: What inspired you to write Doorman Wanted, and how did you create your character Henry?


A: This idea came to me in a flash. Early one morning I was strolling New York's Upper East Side. I came upon two doormen from neighboring buildings who were standing on the stoop idly chatting and laughing.


As I passed them, I thought, “Those two guys must have wonderful stories to share with one another.” As I continued my walk, I mused over what those stories might be. What kinds of secrets about their residents must doormen be able to share and entertain each other with?


And then I thought, wait, what secrets might a doorman have that would be surprising to the residents within the building?


Fortunately, we live in a time, for the most part, in which personal lifestyles and life choices need not be kept a secret. But there is one aspect of our lives that we still tend to guard closely: our individual wealth.


And so I thought, what if the doorman was richer than anyone within his building? In fact, what if he were so wealthy that he actually owned the building?


This concept appealed to me greatly. So I developed a set of circumstances which would put my young protagonist, Henry Franken, in that situation.


Q: What do you think the novel says about wealth?


A: Although Doorman Wanted deals directly with wealth and inheritance, I position it more as a novel about perceptions and misperceptions.


We human beings all too quickly categorize people – consciously or subconsciously – by how we perceive their societal standing or their net worth. That is to say, we often overlook the individual and are guided by the category in which we place them.


We often bestow too much credit – intelligence, accomplishment, wit, charm –  to the attractive, well-dressed individual while withholding those same qualities from someone who might be momentarily down on their luck.


(Arguably, the crudest character in the book is the successful gallery owner, Mr. Stewart, while the most human – the most humane – is the unhoused Mr. Terry.)


Entire branches of scientific study have been dedicated to these evolutionary quick categorizations, our “blink” moments. I wanted to explore this characteristic, and how often we are wrong, in a humorous way within my book.

Q: Did you know how the story would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: The importance of outlining was drilled into my 6th-grade head by dear Miss O’Brien. To this day, I create an outline before even considering writing a grocery list. So, yes, I knew exactly where this story would be going before I began constructing the individual chapters.


Having said that, however, there was a major change that I made in the reveal that the penthouse owner, Henry Franken, and the doorman, Franklin Hanratty, were one in the same person.


I was trying valiantly to keep that a secret from the reader until about 50 pages in – I wanted a big ta-da moment before closing the curtain on Act 1.


But in workshopping at Minneapolis’s Loft Literary Center my opening chapters, I realized some readers caught the deception immediately while others missed it altogether. Despite their enjoyment of the writing, both groups were frustrated by not fully understanding the doorman’s observations or situations.


One fellow writing student provided me with a spectacular a-ha moment. She told me to trust my readers, let them in on the secret immediately, and let the readers relish the misunderstandings of the residents in the building, L’Hermitage.


I thought, you’re absolutely right.! I went home that night and banged out the opening chapter – the prologue – in about 45 minutes. Something I had been wrestling with for months was, for me, solved.


Q: The writer Lorna Landvik said of the book, “Set in a Manhattan luxury condominium and its environs, Doorman Wanted is written with flair and elegance and has a cast of believable characters whose actions surprise, infuriate and ultimately, inspire us.” What do you think of that description?


A: I love this description and am so thankful to the wonderfully talented writer Lorna Landvik for it.


I wanted to create a universe of well-rounded, dimensional characters, each with their own story arc and development over the course of the novel.


Of course, my main developmental focus was on my protagonist, Henry Franken, and his personal journey, but I wanted to make sure many others grew or developed throughout.


My favorite secondary character is the genteel and urbane Mr. Harrison who, unwittingly, serves as one of Henry’s mentors. But he is also a character I employ as a means of exploration around the sub-themes of art – in his case, as one of the creators of art.


The discussions of art in the book are, in a way, intended to reflect my primary theme of perception and misperception. So often, we judge art based upon what the critics say –we may be totally perplexed by a piece of art, but if the critics like it, so do we.


Conversely, if a piece of art is popular among “the masses,” can it truly be good? I poke at this mentality throughout.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I have nearly completed the first draft of my second novel, Rough Cuts (working title). Broadly, it is a look at censorship; more narrowly, it is looking at state censorship of films during the silent film era.


In alternating chapters, a young minister who is appointed to the Film Censorship Board for the state of Ohio is pitted against an older, retiring Hollywood film director. It is based on true events of American censorship laws. Last summer, I traveled to Marietta, Ohio, for research in the censorship files.


Whereas Doorman Wanted employs a gentle humor, Rough Cuts employs a more acerbic tone.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’d be remiss if I did not mention, the film rights are still available for Doorman Wanted. :)


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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