I return State Representative Mike Schlossberg’s favor and interview him about politics, writing, and House of Cards. Lehigh County, PA, is very lucky to have him represent them! And pick up his YA novel, Redemption, a book about depression, anxiety, and saving the world.
LS: “Novelist” and “state representative” aren’t two careers whose paths often intersect. Tell me what it’s like to juggle these two professions.
MS: It involves heavy doses of caffeine. I haven’t slept since the mid to late 90s.
Actually, in a weird sense, it’s easier than you’d think, and that’s because both jobs are unified under a similar theme: Making a positive difference. Everyone has different issues that they work on, but for me, it’s mental health. I’ve typically addressed my legislative actions towards decreasing stigma and suicide – mental health is one of the issues I am most passionate about. Redemption is a book that’s meant to entertain but also inspire and give hope, so it sort of flows easily from my overall passion.
LS: What is a message you’ve tried to impart in your novel, Redemption, that dovetails with your platform as a state rep?
MS: That anyone can do anything if they seek treatment and try to address their challenges. That anyone can be a hero. That we all struggle, but we can all survive and thrive – even those of us who have suffered the most.
LS: As a political insider, tell us: How realistic is House of Cards? And which character do you most identify with?
MS: Ha! Avoid the Metro.
Nahh. My level is state government, so I don’t think it’s quite as brutal or Machiavellian. I still have a life, party politics aren’t quite as ugly, and I do not live in constant fear of getting murdered by Kevin Spacey. But, there are aspects of it – the scheming, the lying, the double-crossing – that hit too close to home. There were also aspects to the political portions of House of Cards that were straight-up silly. It stretched reality too much to be believed.
LS: What is the hardest challenge you faced in bringing your novel to publication?
MS: Probably marketing. Writing is, in a sense, the easiest part, but I don’t think most people realize that the only way you can tell your story is if you can get it in front of other people! I think Redemption is good. To my pleasant surprise, the reviews have been really good, and it’s sales are actually doing okay! That being said, if I don’t market the thing, every ounce of work I did on it means nothing. I didn’t write for myself – I wrote for other people – so I’ve got to hustle to get it in front of others.
LS: When you’re at a party, do you like to socialize, or do you prefer to hide in the laundry room and pet the dog?
MS: I know no one will believe this because I’m a politician. But the dog. Hands down. Every time. Give me a puppy and a good video game (currently playing Two Points Hospital) and I’m set.
LS: What does literary success look like to you?
MS: Inspiration. Redemption inspires people to be happier and lead a better life. Again, that’s the nice overlap between my two jobs: I’m here to help.