91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Stateside Podcast: Fishing the skies with writer Steve Amick

You Shall See the Beautiful Things by Steve Amick
Acre Books
Acre Books
You Shall See the Beautiful Things by Steve Amick

Steve Amick’s new novel, You Shall See the Beautiful Things, is a tale fit for a dreamy summer night. The book waltzes through fantasy and history, focused on three Dutchmen in very different stages in life and yet each very much adrift.

The novel is a retelling of a 19th century children’s bedtime story called “Wynken, Bliken, and Nod” by poet and writer Eugene Field. In the early 2000's, Amick decided he wanted to create a place where these characters existed in a realistic world. He began researching 19th century Dutch fishing techniques and practices to make the imaginary world come to life.

Set in 1889, the book highlights the difficulties that the fishermen faced in their daily lives, from mental health struggles to sleeping disorders.

"Ned, maybe more than the others is the most connected to the sleep issues...he has somnambulism, which is how is met his wife. He has narcolepsy...and he's old for his for that time. He's 48 or 49. And that was the average life expectancy there at that time," he said.

In the early 2000's Amick lost the first 40 to 70 pages of the original manuscript that he had been working on when his computer crashed. The document was unrecoverable. So, he decided to start working on the novel again in 2017 in the middle of a power outage.

"I couldn't do anything on the computer,” Amick said. And I was looking around and I thought, 'Well, I have these first two and a half page notes. I don't have any of the story. Maybe I could work on this.' And, with candles and yellow pads, just filled yellow pads as long as the power was out. And then when the storm came back, I just retreated to the bathtub with candles and finished the thing."

Because the experience writing his new book was so different than usual he just let the process take its course.

“I don't know if this is a novel. It's what I'm calling a nocturne,” Amick said. “ You know, it's a musical term. It's an ode to the night and to sleep and all my messed up feelings about that. I'm very much a night owl and have sleep issues, but really made it focus on feelings about the night. And it became more experiential, I think.”

Who knows how the story might have developed if Amick never lost the original manuscript. But he does wonder if it would have been a completely different book.

“I wonder about that, what that would have been like if I hadn't lost it, if I was in control of it more back then, and trying to make it sort of follow the ways that I normally would build a novel,” Amick said.” I don't know because it's lost, but I know I felt it in the dark when the power went out. ‘This is just whatever it is.’”

Stay Connected
Mercedes Mejia is a producer and director of <i>Stateside</i>.
Lauren Nyong joined the Stateside team as an intern in May 2023 and is a Junior studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at Calvin University.