1. Could you tell me what The Stranger in the Woods is about?
It's the true story of Christopher Knight, who is one of the most unusual people you will ever encounter -- he lived completely alone, in the woods of central Maine, sleeping in a small camp tent, for 27 years. He never had one conversation, never spent any money, never drove in a car. He never saw the internet. And he never even lit a fire! How did he survive? Why did he leave the world? What did he learn? The book tries to address all these questions, while also examining what types of people have sought solitude throughout history, and why it may be essential for one's health to spend some time alone.
2. What is your purpose in writing The Stranger in the Woods?
I'm always interesting in learning about people who have lived a radically different life than the rest of us. This is just such an intriguing story to me -- there's a survival tale, a true-crime tale, a mystery, a legend. There's the reactions of people in central Maine. And there's the intelligent and fascinating insights of Chris Knight himself.
3. What challenges did you face while writing The Stranger in the Woods?
The subject of my book, not surprisingly, was a man of few words who was very reluctant to share his story. He was a difficult interview subject, to say the least. I learned a lot of patience while working with Chris Knight -- but still, not enough patience to satisfy him!
4. How would you compare your experience writing True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa from The Stranger in the Woods?
Except for the fact that both "True Story" and "The Stranger in the Woods" are both non-fiction accounts of men named Chris, the two books are completely different.
Chris Longo, the murderer who is featured in "True Story," is extremely outgoing, and, in the end, was clearly a dangerous, psychopathic man.
Chris Knight, the hermit from "The Stranger in the Woods," is probably the most introverted person you will ever read about, and, in the end, was seen to be an entirely gentle man.
I found both stories riveting, but the writing process -- or at least the feeling while writing -- was entirely different. Chris Longo frightened me, to my core, and I felt as if I were writing something of a cautionary tale. Chris Knight was far more inspirational to me, and I felt at times as if I were writing almost a guidebook for how to live in peace and simplicity.
5. How has writing and knowing about Christopher Knight affect your life in general?
Spending time with Chris Knight has given me a much different perspective on the passage of time. So many of us seem to be in a constant mad rush for most of the day. Knight passed time like a tree. He showed me that the best thing you can do sometimes is nothing. Just sit there. Center yourself. Allow five minutes to pass without looking at your phone. You don't have to do any sort of formal meditation. Just do nothing. You will likely be amazed at how healthy, how calming this feels. I wish the whole world could just take a five minute "time out" each day -- I feel as if all the crazy arguing that goes on would be greatly diminished if we all did this simple thing. If we all just did nothing for a few moments.
6. If (or when) the book become a movie, who would you like to adapt your book into a screenplay and who would you like to direct the movie adaptation?
I don't have specific names in mind, I'm just hoping that if the book becomes a movie, the director and screenwriter both feel extremely creatively inspired to bring this mind-boggling story to life.
7. What would you want your reader to take away from reading The Stranger in the Woods?
That maybe doing nothing is, at times, one of the most powerful things you can do. "Beware the barrenness of a busy life," said Socrates. I believe he was correct.
8. What does Christopher Knight think about the book? Has he read it yet?
I sent Chris Knight the book as soon as it was finished, but I have not heard back from him. I have written the book with openness and honesty and obsession and care, and I hope — I believe — that Knight will respect my dedication and genuinely accept my efforts as reasonable and fair.
9. What is your writing habit? Do you write in the daytime or night?
I have three young children so my house is often quite hectic. I prefer the quiet of the night to work and when I'm on a creative roll, I often drink loads of coffee and stay up until dawn.
10. On True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa film adaptation, could you express your experience seeing it?
The book "True Story" was so personal to me, and so disturbing, that watching the film adaptation was quite an emotional knot. I think the actors (James Franco and Jonah Hill) did outstanding jobs, as did the director (Rupert Goold), but it was wrenching and uncomfortable to watch.
11. What book are you currently reading?
"Killers of the Flower Moon" by David Grann. He's an amazing journalist and writer.
12. What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
I'm seeking my next book idea! If anyone has an idea for me, please contact me through my website:www.michaelfinkel.com/ . Thanks!
13. Have you ever considered writing fiction? If so, in what genre?
I love reading fiction and I've published (long, long ago) a few fiction short stories, and perhaps one day I'll take a stab at a novel -- I don't know what genre -- but I really feel that I've reached a nice place, writing-wise, with my non-fiction work, so I will stick to that for now.
14. Last question, who (dead or alive) would you like to sit down and chat with in order to write a book?
For all of my career, I have avoided interviewing "famous" people, or movie stars, or presidents -- I really prefer meeting extraordinary people who are not widely known. There are all sorts of completely unknown Einstein-level geniuses out there, many of whom have extremely unorthodox ideas about how to live, about society and science and art and life. Those are the people I want to sit down with.
Thank you for the excellent questions.
Likewise thank you for giving your time to answer them. For anyone out there reading this I hope you add The Stranger in the Woods in your reading list. Also check out his first book True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa. I hope each and everyone of you have a great day and thanks once again for coming by to read my latest post. Take care and stay amazing.