Durchholz pens poetic, dark love story in 'Heartless'

Nashville author Eric Durchholz—also known by his pen name “Jaya Mangelou” – has written a novel that leaves much room for interpretation, depending on the sexuality of the reader. Read on to discover where Durchholz has drawn his inspiration and where he plans to take his readers. Save room for dessert, as the sweet surprise comes at the end of the interview.

O&AN: I looked over the manuscript and I’m just floored by the different stylistic techniques you use. There’s almost a playwright’s style, a glossary, pictures, varied typography and bizarre fonts. Tell me a little about that.

Eric: Well, the main character is a depressed, drug-addicted, psychotic kind of person, and the book was designed to give insight into the way he sees his life. He can’t focus on one thing. He’s kind of torn-up throughout the entire book, and he’s suffering from a broken heart, drug-addiction and all these things. So I thought that kind of writing style gave it a concrete, poetic nature as to what’s going on in his life.

I think the style will make it difficult for some people to read, but for those who appreciate the originality and creativity, I think it’s mind-blowing; so different. Have you heard reviews about your style yet?

There’s only one other book that even attempted something like this: House of Leaves. Early on when I read that book, I was like ‘Okay, you can tell a story differently. It doesn’t have to be from point A to point B.’ And I’ve watched people read my book, and I’ll make sure they know how to read it, and know what to do, and how to navigate through it. I’ve seen people skip parts, then go back and re-read them, and realize ‘Oh, I shouldn’t have skipped that part.’ Everybody’s experience with it is kind of different, and I think that’s kind of cool.

Is the storyline consistent, or are there little vignettes?

It is a consistent storyline. The main character got his heart broken, and he loses his job, his apartment, everything really, and he kills himself. Then rather than dying, his soul is transported and delivered to a different God, who gives him the chance to have his life back with everything fixed—money, wealth, fame—as long as he makes three people fall in love with him, then breaks their hearts.

That’s the gist of the novel. So when he comes back, he’s not depressed anymore, he has money, all of his problems are fixed. But his life is still kind of miserable. (Sad laughter.)

How long had you been thinking about writing this book? In your book acknowledgements you said it was on different pieces of paper, on different people’s computers, and kind of everywhere. How long did you envision this book being, and what were your thoughts when you wanted to start it?

Well, it was August of last year, and I was lying in bed, and the story came to me, and I wrote probably 4,000 words that night. And then for the next week, I probably got to about 20,000 words. Then I kind of put it away for a little while, then would write a little more, write a little more, but this past summer I was hospitalized for depression, and it was a really bad episode. My life kind of fell apart. So when I got out of the hospital, I knew I had to finish it, so I finished it in probably three weeks.

What comes next for you?

One thing I wanted to touch on is, for gay readers, the main character is a straight guy, and he has to break what he thinks are the hearts of three women. But the first heart he has to break is a gay guy's. And that’s kind of a twist in the book.

A lot of people are shocked when that happens. Especially some of my straight friends, who thought they were gonna read a book about a dude breaking a bunch of chicks hearts, and then it turns out ‘oh gosh!’ I think that particularly for gay readers, that’s a cool twist, and it creates a lot of drama, because he wants this gay guy to fall in love with him, but he really doesn’t want this gay guy to fall in love with him. So, it’s kind of a cool thing. So if you’re a straight person, it’s a horror story, but if you’re a gay guy, it’s a love story. (Laughter.)

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