Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Adam Braver

Adam Braver is the author of the novel November 22, 1963, new from Tin House Books.

From a Q & A with Braver at the publisher's website:

What prompts you to begin a work of fiction-- an image, a character, a line of dialogue? What prompted November 22, 1963?

Actually it can be all of the above. A story can start from some characteristic trait, an odd sentence I’ve heard somebody mutter, or sometimes the incongruence of a setting and a character. I am drawn to inherent ironies—not for comic or cynical purposes—but rather in ways that show the complexities and beauties of the world around me. The idea of black and white, good and bad, doesn’t interest me at all. As with most fiction writers, I like to come to the area in the middle, where, for example, good people find themselves faced with bad ideas or intentions—those conflicts reveal a greater meaning than just right and justice.

One thing I try to stay away from is a preconceived notion of what the work is about before I start writing. I haven’t had much success with that. It either becomes too didactic, or most commonly, I run out of steam very quickly. Instead, it really is a matter of finding that voice—whether it is through the character, a line of dialogue, etc. The rest usually—hopefully—will start to take shape through the unconscious, and then eventually seed itself into the conscious process.

November 22, 1963 took on a life of its own. As a fiction writer, I’m most interested in the quiet moments, what is going on off-stage, the private moments in the wings. With that in mind, I was tempted by wondering what Jackie Kennedy’s plane ride from Dallas must have felt like for her—not only dealing with the violence she’d just witnessed, but instinctively knowing that her perception of self must have been altered in a matter of moments. We always understand the assassination in terms of what it meant to the country and its sense of identity, but I really wondered about it at the most personal level (which perhaps in fact was a mirror for the country). In short, the book started off with a single story.

From there, I decided to keep going, thinking about others who had this connection to that day in Dallas, and how their perceptions of self also would have been altered in those few moments. About halfway through it occurred to me I wasn’t writing a book about the personal side of the tragedy (what brought me there in the first place), but rather a book about mythology, myth making, and memory. That discovery or recognition really gave me a much sharper focus.
Read the complete Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue