Halvor Aakhus was born and raised in southern Indiana, on the Ohio River. There, he practiced the piano until 1999, when he went to the Jacobs School to study composition but soon abandoned music for various kitchen jobs and graveyard shifts at gas stations.
The first decade of the new millennium is a blur. Despite himself, Aakhus earned a B.A. in Mathematics (2006) and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Florida (2011). Aakhus’ debut novel Book of Knut: A Novel by Knut Knudson has been turned into a math textbook. It contains musical scores and oil paintings, as well as homework problems. (Forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press, October 2012.)
Aakhus currently lives in Pennsylvania, where he teaches at the University of Pittsburgh.
What projects are you currently working on?
Book #1 is coming out this October from Jaded Ibis Press. It’s a novel called Book of Knut: A Novel by Knut Knudson (by Halvor Aakhus). Here’s the premise: A mathematician finds a novel (Book) written by her dead lover (Knut Knudson) and subsequently transforms it into an annotated mathematical textbook, complete with homework problems. Aside from oil paintings, musical scores, mathematical graphs, etc., it’s got 216 footnotes.
Anyway, Book #2 is the sequel. Also a novel, but more of a painting. It’s called Knut in Hell: An Oil Painting by Knut Knudson (by Halvor Aakhus): As a proactive guide to self-punishment, it adopts the structure of Dante’s Inferno.
If all goes well, Book #3 will be a string quartet. Or an opera. Possibly a requiem. Perhaps all three?
When and why did you begin writing?
I learned to read, and thus I wrote.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
To consider yourself a writer is a lot of pressure. Knut prefers to be unaware of self. Blind is his point of view.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Got a degree in math and chemistry. What else was I supposed to do?
Who or what has influenced your writing?
Practicing piano for the first two decades of my life certainly played a role. I also spent several years copying math textbooks into notebooks. But shit like flipping burgers, tending bar, and sleeping behind a Dumpster probably made the biggest impact. And then there’s love and death.
How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
From a very early age, as the son of two artistic academics, Knut vowed to never become a writer, nor a painter. And certainly not a teacher. (Knut failed there, utterly, on all counts.)
Do you have a specific writing style?
Only when I revise.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Given genre, I am most comfortable subverting its conventions. This is the game of art I’ve learned to play. Follow the rules enough to make sense, but break them enough to keep shit interesting. Genre is the box: my job is to show my audience the box, and help them step outside it.
Is there a message in your work that you want readers to grasp?
No. I prefer books that raise questions, not answer them.
What book are you reading now?
Just finished Padgett Powell’s You & I. As dialogue, it raises the stakes of his “monologic” Interrogative Mood. You know, like fucking Plato. Just as Plato adopts elderly Socrates as his grand inquisitor, Powell champions a pair of horny old men to achieve the same effect.
What is the most misunderstood aspect of your work?
Probably the math.