So recently my first book came out and now I’m being forced to think about what it is I’ve done, or at least what I’ve tried to do, with the book. I’ve tried to be as honest as possible. At the moment I’m having trouble trying to boil down what I think about fiction so it comes across as a nice anecdote, while at the same time trying to expand on this point I have where I think voice in fiction is important, but also don’t think that it’s enough. I’ve always considered everything I’ve ever done to be wildly non experimental but it also must get on people’s nerves when they want you to talk about craft and all you offer them is a shrug.
At the moment I’m saying you need two things; voice and something at stake. When I was younger I used to focus on voice more, and expect that this would be enough to sustain everything. People would just keep reading along with me while I told them semi-entertaining lines. Voice is difficult, don’t get me wrong, and usually it takes years and years of work for a person’s voice to fully develop/emerge, but I’ve come to the thinking that tension is important too. At the moment I just say this and kind of gesture towards the air in front of me. I’m trying to improve. Each interview I’ve done so far seems like I’m trying to present a special kind of awkwardness.
Currently I’m teaching a couple of fiction classes at the University of Queensland. We’d set an Anne Beattie story called Snow, from her book Where You’ll Find Me, as part of the extended readings for the first week of classes, which I hadn’t thought much about when setting it for the class, other than I’d liked it, it was quite short, and it had a strong sense of place, but dang it’s good on a re-read. A lot of the students hadn’t read it, so I’d read it out aloud to them, awkwardly holding my laptop while standing because I hadn’t thought ahead to print it out.
The first line: I remember the cold night you brought in a pile of logs and a chipmunk jumped off as you lowered your arms.
If anything can be taken from it, it’s this: One night, giving me a lesson in story telling, you said, “Any life will seem dramatic if you omit mention of most of it.”