Saturday, May 7, 2011

Scott Sparling

From a Q & A with Scott Sparling about his new novel, Wire to Wire:

You’ve been working on Wire to Wire for about two decades. Do you remember where it started? And how has it evolved over the years?

I’ve written about trains – freights – as long as I’ve been writing fiction. The first finished draft was 700 pages of train stuff without much plot. I was following the advice of my first teacher, Jack Cady, who told me to take a couple reams of paper and fill them up, ruin them. Make mistakes – because if you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t taking risks, and no one will want to read what you write.

Also, in the earliest drafts, nothing was in chronological order. I thought it would be cool if the novel worked the way real memory worked. You don’t have to remember what happened when you were 20 before you can remember what happened the following year. We all have random access memory. So the narrative was like that too. I thought the reader would enjoy putting everything back in order and making sense of things. In fact it drove readers crazy, or drove them away. No one understood what the hell was happening. So every draft got more chronological.

About halfway through the process, I realized it needed a stronger storyline, a real plot. But I had no idea how plot worked, or how to incorporate one. Those rewrites were hard. It was like trying to put plumbing and wiring into a house you’ve already built, when you have no plumbing or wiring skills. It took forever.

Eventually, the train scenes became secondary to other things, like Slater’s attempt at connection, and the power of sex and money.

I’ve seen pictures of you from the '70s—longhaired, draped in denim, and riding freight cars. How much of the novel is autobiographical?

I...[read on]
Visit Scott Sparling's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue