Before turning to narrative nonfiction with The White Cascade and City of Scoundrels, Gary Krist wrote three novels--Bad Chemistry, Chaos Theory, and Extravagance--and two short-story collections--The Garden State and Bone by Bone.
Krist's new book is Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans. From his Q & A at Wonders and Marvels:
Wonders and Marvels: You began your career writing novels and short stories. What inspired you to start writing about history in the form of narrative nonfiction?Learn more about the book and author at Gary Krist's website.
Gary Krist: Until I hit forty, I read–and wrote–mostly fiction. But at a certain point, I found I wanted to know more about how the world actually came to be, so I started reading history. And that interest soon bled over into my writing life. I began writing a historical novel, Extravagance, which took place partly in late-17th century London. I made several trips to the UK and discovered that I just loved the whole research process. So, after Extravagance, I decided to take the full leap to narrative history, and that’s where I’ve been for my last three books. I do think that I’ll write another novel at some point, but right now I feel I’ve found my true calling.
W&M: As an accomplished writer of fiction, how do you incorporate the art of storytelling when writing history?
Gary Krist: I want my readers to experience history with great immediacy, so I try to alternate background analysis with a series of unfolding foreground episodes that readers can really see and feel, as they would the episodes of a novel. But since I try to hold myself to strict standards of scholarship, I don’t have the freedom to invent dialogue or do extensive imaginary scene-setting. I’ve got to find all of that detail in the historical record. So I’m always on the lookout for...[read on]
The Page 69 Test: The White Cascade.
Writers Read: Gary Krist (May 2012).
The Page 99 Test: City of Scoundrels.
The Page 99 Test: Empire of Sin.