Light and Transient Causes–A Corner of the Next Big Thing

I’m delighted that Peg Alford Pursell ( invitedme to talk about what I’m working on. She is the tireless founder and curator of Why There are Words, named Best of the Bay in 2012.  In an age where bookstore readings are on the decline, Why There are Words (held in a Sausalito art gallery) recaptures a time when bookstore readings were lively, warm, and packed with people. She’s also a fine writer (you can read some of her stories online) and is working on a prodigious novel, callled Blow the House Down.  

Talking about “the next big thing” is challenging for some writers, and I’m certainly one of them. I prefer to work in silence. Like the most fragile seeds of plants, my stories grow in the dark. (Yuvi Zalkow has made me nail this a little bit in his recent interview in The Rumpus (  Still, I find it challenging to talk about the unspeakable, and so I’m going to talk about my next novel–as much as the characters will let me.   Here goes:

What is your working title of your book (or story)?  

The working title is Light and Transient Causes. I may not use it for the book, but it’s clinging to me and says something to me right now. (I heard it on the fourth of July in a small town, where someone was reading The Declaration of Independence and it leapt out as ironic, hopeful–about causes so light the sun shone through them.)   However, other titles also are auditioning.


Where did the idea come from for the book?

It’s very hard for me to know where my ideas come from.  I seem to be hanging out at the pneumatic tube of the imagination when no one else is and I get an assignment.  Usually it’s in the form of a passage, a phrase, or a title. .  (The key passage I wrote from Heidegger’s Glasses took me sixteen years to understand.  And I understood it when the title Heidegger’s Glasses came to me. ) I can’t say much now, except that I like to put my characters in unfamiliar locations–places you know about and have seen but can’t identify.  I also like to put my characters against a backdrop of political unrest so they are dealing with a common cause, as well as interpersonal struggles.  Last, I would say that I’m fascinated by the issue of identity.  What is it?  What makes one sure of who one is?
What genre does your book fall under?
It’s literary fiction and I’m going to borrow Karen E. Bender’s explanation (she’s going to blog next week). “Literary fiction is fiction that I hope illuminates a reader’s own unique, perhaps unthinkable,
thoughts.  I’d also add that I’m interested in fiction that broadens a reader’s sense of other lives–how they are and aren’t like our own.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
,I would choose Sarah Polley (after seeing her in The Secret Life of Words I know she can act!)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Javier Bardem. I would look for any one of a number of actors in
Spanish speaking countries and would want some of the movie to be in subtitles.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
I can’t speak for the book at this stage!
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I’m represented by the Diana Finch Agency
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 
A year with breaks to do book tours for my short story collection, Enchantment. .
What other books would you compare this  story to your genre?
That’s not a question the book can answer yet.  My last novel was compared the The White Hotel but that never occurred to me.
Who or what inspired you to write this book? ?
As I said, I don’t know what inspires me. I give a great deal of credit to the mysterious wisdom of the imagination–and also to everything that’s ever happened in my life, ranging from hearing radiators rattle on cold New York mornings to having a child.  When I get an idea–through a title, an image, or  a passage–I don’t try to understand it. Eventually, I can tell if it’s growing in the silence and the dark
That is—I begin to hear things, or read things, or see things, and start to think “That can go in the book,” even thought I haven’t decided to write a book. And at some point I have a lot of material  in fragments and I want to put them together to see how they fit and what other pieces are needed.When I feel driven about completing that puzzle, I know I’m writing a book.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
 Often what readers notice and like is startling and original , as though they’re writting the story in their own imaginations. So it sort of feels like hubris to talk in advance about what a reader will like. It’s more exciting to let the reader make the discoveries.
Coming up next Tuesday, February:  Three wonderful writers talking about a work in progress, Edie Meidav, Anne-E Wood, and Karen Bender.  They will ALL publish on this site.
Karen E. Bender will talk about her novel, A Town of Empty Rooms, out January 15th with Counterpoint Press.  lt got rave reviews from The Boston Globe, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, among others.
Edie Meidave has written a number of highly-regarded books, including Crawl Space, The Far Field of Ceylon, and Lola, California, which is coming out this summer with Picador. Edie will blog about her next work.
Anne-E Wood, a sparkling story writer from Brooklyn, who’s  written Two If By Sea and  publishes in Agni, Tin House, The Chicago Quarterly–among many others.  Anne-E will talk about her.upcoming novel.
Please visit us again!.


5 thoughts on “Light and Transient Causes–A Corner of the Next Big Thing

  1. Bill Z Walton

    A fascinating discussion is worth comment. I believe that you should publish more on this topic, it may not be a taboo subject but usually folks don’t talk about such topics. To the next! All the best!!|

  2. EmelyDFrye

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