Okay this is slightly late, sorry. On Wednesday, following my Tuesday night Lecture, I met with a groupd of frighteningly well-motivated students who had all read The Preservationist, so I fastened my seat belt, drank a tankard of coffee and proceeded to answer a bunch of questions I had never thought much about. It was, all kidding aside, really nice to spend three hours with people who cared so much about something I had written, even if much of the time, their thinking about it had about as much in common with mine as, say, a student of advanced biochemistry.
So one of the first questioners pointed out that all the women characters in the book had absent mothers. (Memo to self: Duh...) She asked what I was trying to say with that, or soemthing to thate effect. So after I franticalkly scrolled through the women characters, searching for a mom figure and finding none, I mumbled something about, you know, not wanting to spend all that much time focusing on the family histories of each of the eight main characters in the book... um... how's that? People nodded as if I had said something of substance, but let's face it, these were grad students and I don't think anyone was fooled.
Then another woman asked which character (if any) I had as an"advocate" for the reader, you know, which one was the sort of reliable one for the reader to use as a kind of touchstone. This was a new idea to me, so I said, "Um, none of them, I mean, I think they're all important, they all have their own, like, story to tell." She looked profoundly unconvinced but maybe that was just me feeling paranoid. I found out later that this whole "advocate for the reader" idea is one that some other teacher talks about, and I think it's kind of bogus but what do I know. There's a tendency in workshops to say "Whose story is this, anyway?" as if there can only be one center to any given story, which I think is pretty much wrong, and which my first two books (and maybe Monster) demonstrate as being pretty much wrong.
Then some people said some nice things and this one woman said she liked the consistentcy if characterization in the book, which was nice to hear because I had to work pretty hard for that, and this other guy sort of but not really but sort of so I'll take it compared the book to As I Lay Dying, which is a compliment I'll accept any day of the week (even if it wasn't actually directly offered as such).
There was a lot of other stuff too but you get the idea. Someone asked me a question and I don't much remember what it was but when I answered she said she didn't believe me, which was pretty funny. But I had told the truth, so, what can I say. It was something to do with the function of the characters in the story and did I plan for them to represent different aspects of relationships to religion or something like this. I forget exactly. So anyway, the answer was, no. I don't plan that kind of stuff, I'm too busy trying to keep the characters straight in my head and make sure the story's moving along nicely and I'm not using the word "plenipotenitary" too many times on one page or whatever. She was thinking in terms of thematic stuff and I was stressing that my primary concern was with storytelling. She looked faintly amused and then she didn't believe me and we all had a good chuckle.
Then we all went home. It was great! Thanks to everybody in the class for reading the book. I appreciate your interest.