Thursday, July 14, 2011

John Dalton

From a Q & A with John Dalton about his new novel, The Inverted Forest:

Q. Your first novel, Heaven Lake, was set in Taiwan and featured a disgraced missionary who journeys to the desert province of Xinjiang, China. The new novel, The Inverted Forest, is set in a Missouri summer camp—a camp where the staff of new counselors must care for 104 developmentally disabled adults from the state hospital. That seems like quite a change. Is it?

A. Not as large a change as you might think. My primary interest in novel writing still comes down to vivid and original characters matched to an engaging plot. At least that’s what I strive for everyday at my writing desk. It’s also what brings me the most satisfaction as a reader. And the preoccupations of both novels are probably similar—how to manage being alone in the world, what does true moral courage look like, how to deal with the thorny problem of desire.

Q. The characters in The Inverted Forest felt well-honed and authentic. Were some of them easier to create than others?

A. There are three main point-of-view characters: seventy-eight-year-old Schuller Kindermann, founder and director of Kindermann Forest Summer camp; Harriet Foster, camp nurse and single mother and the only African American employee at camp, and counselor Wyatt Huddy. They were all tricky to write in their own particular way. Odd as it may seem, Harriet Foster is probably the character I have most in common with. She’s well-intentioned but unsure, qualities that define me, especially as a young man. Schuller Kindermann was the most fun and in some ways the easiest to write. He’s such a prissy, judgmental, foolish man—a real case of...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue