Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bret Anthony Johnston

Bret Anthony Johnston's new novel is Remember Me Like This.

From his Q & A with Susan Cheever for The Daily Beast:

Susan Cheever: Your book has the delicate and precise mechanics of a Swiss watch. Every scene fits together like a jigsaw puzzle piece by the end of the book, when the reader finally knows everything. The flow of information is perfectly calibrated. How did you do that? Did you write outlines use index cards keep it all in your head?

Bret Anthony Johnston: I wrote the first draft of the novel without rereading a word of it until I reached the end, then I went back and cut and cut and cut. The second draft was half as long as the first, but I still feel as though I needed those hundreds of pages of shoddy writing to find the book that would eventually be published and reward the reader’s attention. The imagination is necessarily irresponsible, and I’ve never had an interest in trying to corral it. Anytime the characters went in a direction I didn’t expect, I felt shot through with adrenaline. The book ends far differently than I thought it would, and that surprise seems worth every narrative dead end that I encountered and had to revise along the way.

So I never outlined in the early drafts, but once I had a sense of what the novel’s ideal arc would be, I erected a huge bulletin board in my office and tracked what the readers and individual characters knew at a given time. Each character had his or her own color of ink, so I could assess the novel holistically, judging where I needed more of, say, the mother character because there wasn’t enough of her color in the third section of the book. So, yes, when I’m generating material, when I’m writing those initial drafts, I want my imagination to be messy and irresponsible, but...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue