Jennifer Haupt: I love how you wove in the themes of recovery in your novel. How did you go about your research?Visit Dan Barden's website.
Dan Barden: I am an alcoholic who doesn’t drink. I’m an alcoholic in recovery. I hate the way that sounds, but there’s no better way to describe it. I drank way too much and now I don’t drink anymore. One day at a time, I don’t drink or take drugs, either. There’s a piece of that experience in all the characters in this book. Beyond that, I have always loved alcoholics and addicts—recovering and otherwise. They’re my people. And they’re really the best people—except when they’re not. I was born to love them, and I doubt that will ever change.
JH: Where did you start this novel with a character, a scene, a plot line? And how much did the plot change over the course of completing the story?
DB: I had this experience of losing a close friend to a heroin overdose, and I realized one morning—while reading the New York Times—that my relationship to his death was a lot like a crime novel. In the months after his death, I became obsessed with finding out what had happened. Who was he with? Where did he get the drugs? What exactly had happened in that week before he died? I wanted to know because I was angry. I wanted to blame someone. What I realized that morning reading the paper was that I had imagined myself as some kind of hard-boiled detective. I was going to figure it out and kick some ass. Which is ridiculous, if you know me. What I realized that morning is that I could create a character, a guy nothing like me except for his grief over his friend, who could stir up some trouble. So, yes, the whole thing started with this character, who was a projection of what I might do if I were a different person.
The essential plot never really changed. Randy was always a well-meaning bull in a china shop. Over the years of hard work, though...[read on]
See Dan Barden's six notable stories of addiction.