Saturday, October 24, 2020

Christopher Cosmos

Christopher Cosmos was raised in the Midwest and attended the University of Michigan as the recipient of a Chick Evans Scholarship. In addition to being an author, he is also a screenwriter and has had his work featured in the annual Black List of best Hollywood screenplays of the year. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Cosmos's s debut novel is Once We Were Here.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I love titles, and think that they are and can be extremely important, and I think of titles as the first opportunity to introduce readers to what they're about to dive into. I also think that the best titles add something imperative to the story. An example I often think about is the movie You Can Count On Me. In the movie, Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo play siblings, and towards the end, in a very emotional scene, he asks her something along the lines of, "Do you remember when we were kids, do you remember what we used to say to each other?" And she responds, through her tears, "Of course I do!" They don't have to say it to each other again, because that's not how people talk, but we already know what it is that they used to say to each other, because it's the title.

The title of Once We Were Here is similarly relevant and important to the story and the novel, though I don't want to say too much about it as the moment it becomes fully clear is towards the end, and I don't want to spoil or give anything away!

What's in a name?

I again don't want to say too much about this, because in addition to being a generation-spanning love story, there's also a certain element of mystery and family mystery in Once We Were Here, and the names of the characters play a very important role in that. So without getting into too much detail, I'll just say that I think names are extremely important, and the names in Once We Were Here were all very carefully chosen for specific reasons that I think readers will very much enjoy and appreciate.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

I first heard the stories that ended up becoming Once We Were Here at the Greek Orthodox church that I went to growing up. I always knew since I first heard those stories, when I was very young, that I wanted to turn them into something to celebrate and remember those that were a part of the vitally important events in Greece during WWII, including members of my own family, and so my teenage self wouldn't be surprised at all that this is my debut novel.

If I could tell my teenage self one thing in return, though, it would be this: here we are. There will be hurdles at every step - hurdles that have to be overcome, as there always are in anything worthwhile that we do - but the walls will all be climbed, because the stories that we've been given are the stories that we're meant to tell. And so here we are.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I love both beginnings and endings, for different reasons, and they're often the first things that I think of when I think of a story. There's a writer named Robert Towne who said something along the lines of, "A great story is really only four or five moments between two people; the rest exists to give those moments their resonance." I always think about those four or five moments in my own stories, and know that the beginning and ending have to be included amongst them for a story to resonate and last.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Music. Movies and television. Sports. The world around me. I've always tried to be a keen observer of the world, and as such, writing for me can often be a pursuit to try to help better understand and make sense of it. I write about history a lot, like I've done in Once We Were Here, as I've always thought history is such a great way to learn about the present and who we are by studying the past and who we've been.
Visit Christopher Cosmos's website.

The Page 69 Test: Once We Were Here.

--Marshal Zeringue