Sandra Ruttan interviewed Thomas Kaufman about his new novel, Drink the Tea. Part of their dialogue:
Your debut novel, Drink the Tea, has a lot of layers to it. For you, what came first? Plot or character?View the trailer for Drink the Tea, and learn more about the book and author at Thomas Kaufman's website and blog.
It starts with character. In the case of Drink the Tea, at first it was one of the antagonists that most interested me. Then Gidney’s character began to come through. I don’t use an outline, so understanding the characters is crucial. I find that writing successive drafts is like developing a print in a darkroom. You’re under a red light, looking a blank sheet of paper, there’s nothing there, then gradually an image comes to the foreground. Writing about Gidney and company was very much like that.
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Without losing the plot, you manage to throw in some background on the problems with youth homes and even touch a little on the various types of behavior intervention plans used to deal with kids with behavior problems. Did you intend to make a commentary on the issues with youth homes and facilities, and the various philosophies that are tested out on young people? Where does your interest in the topic stem from?
Story comes first. I don’t editorialize. My background in documentary film keeps me from doing that. I present the details of Gidney’s childhood. The readers can draw their own conclusions. Having said that, I think people reading Drink the Tea may come to believe that the system in place is not doing nearly enough to provide protection to the children who most need it.
I grew interested in this subject from a good friend in the film business. She grew up without a father, and when her mother had a nervous breakdown and had to be hospitalized, there was no place for my friend to go but one of these kiddie jails I write about in Drink the Tea. She got tossed in with some hard-core delinquents, drug addicts, and mentally ill children. Her stories were terrifying, but...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: Drink the Tea.