Matt Bell’s new, debut novel is In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods.
From his Q & A with Andrew Ervin on the Tin House blog:
Andrew Ervin: What impresses me the most about In the House is the immersive experience you’ve created. The first-person voice carries a mythic or timeless quality, and it’s sustained beautifully for hundreds of pages. Tell me how you found that and how you pulled it off so well.Visit Matt Bell's website.
Matt Bell: There’s a glib answer possible here, where I just say, “Slowly,” and then leave it at that—but of course I’ll go on. I suppose it really did take a long time to flesh it all out, but I had a kind of sketch of the voice early on—I can’t usually get very far into a story without having the story’s way of speaking at least partially in hand. Before I was finished, a lot of other influences had been mixed in: there’s a little bit of King James Version, some Greek myth, a little bit of Old Norwegian, a smattering of unusual words lifted from nineteenth-century dictionaries, some Cormac McCarthy and Brian Evenson and Hiromi Itō and Christine Schutt, all these writers who work so well at the sentence level, who write so wonderfully about the body. I’m sure there are plenty of other influences on the voice, ways of speaking I’d never be able to untangle from the novel’s, some of them there for the beginning, some folded in later.
One thing that I’m sure helped me: I was constantly reading aloud from the book, from the first day of drafting to the last day of revision, years later. I’ve read the book out loud cover to cover multiple times, at the end of every major draft, and there was never a day when I worked on the book in silence.
I think that there was also some want on my part to prove wrong a truism I’d heard too often in grad school and in other places: When I was in school, it seemed to be a given that an intense focus on language and acoustics couldn’t be carried over an entire novel, that this kind of voice was the province of the story, the poem, that it was too difficult for the writer, too exhausting for the reader. From the first time I heard someone say that, I...[read on]
In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods is "a wild and powerful fable that on its surface is about a couple trying to begin a family in an odd, desolate setting," says Amy Brill. "The writing is so spare and magnificent and the events therein so profoundly strange that reading it is just exhilarating."