Thursday, July 10, 2014

Josh Weil

Josh Weil's new novel is The Great Glass Sea.

From his Powell's Q & A with Jill Owens:

Jill Owens: In your first book, The New Valley, you write very movingly about rural Virginia; it plays a huge part in those novellas. Place is also a huge part of [The Great Glass Sea], but it's a radically different setting. What made you want to write about somewhere so different? How do you think about place in your fiction?

Josh Weil: Those are two really important and big questions. First of all, I didn't necessarily choose to write about it. It really was something that had been in me for a long time, ever since I spent time in Russia and the Soviet Union when I was young, and then Russian club and my Russian language classes all throughout high school took over my life in a big way. So it was a place that was very present in my mind ever since I was a kid. Because of that, I always knew I'd write about the region at some point.

When I started writing, I thought it would be a short story. I wrote the opening paragraph pretty much as it is in the book now. When I started to get into the scene, I realized it was going to be something longer and put it away. But it clung to me.

It was through the landscape in my mind that the story really gripped me, more than any real understanding of the Russian landscape.It was through the landscape in my mind that the story really gripped me, more than any real understanding of the Russian landscape. In a way, it was very different from Virginia in that I didn't know the landscape as well but the place was my way in. And so a lot of it was imagining that setting. Then, of course, you start to do research. I went back to Russia to try to get some of those physical details that might have eluded me otherwise. It starts to become alive.

The idea of place and the importance of place has always been so, so vital in making the world feel real. At the same time, it's also how I often wind my way into a story. In some ways, it's a crutch for me. It's something I have to watch myself for. My writer friends who have been reading my work for 10 or 15 years always say, "I know Josh is struggling with this scene because he's writing about the clouds again." It's just a way that I can grab something that feels solid, that allows me to pull myself into the moment if I'm struggling. I go through and have to pare a lot of that out, but because of that, place is a grounding element for me.

Jill: How did you end up spending time in Russia as a child?

Weil: I was...[read on]
Visit Josh Weil's website.

Writers Read: Josh Weil.

The Page 69 Test: The Great Glass Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue