It’s a rare memoir that can tell a story that seems brand new, but Nina Here Nor There does it. This one-of-a-kind narrator undertakes a quest that is unmistakably timely. But in its yearning for awareness and connection, this book feels timeless.
I remember being in the same position as Ruby, when I no longer believed in God as I was raised to believe. But I still am a believer – it’s a personality trait, to be someone who can believe. But then what do you believe in?
I am always interested in characters who are in these kinds of transitional moments in their lives, when it’s not clear where they’re going to end up. It’s interesting territory for fiction.
But revision is a creative act, not merely an analytical imposition of rules of style on a more creative first draft. That’s a myth – that the first draft is more creative and everything after that is ruining creativity.
Knowing that we’d meet Ruby at the point where she stopped believing, I knew I was also going to have to deal with what you do with your capacity for belief if you don’t have an object for your belief.
Even Jack Kerouac, who famously said, “First thought, best thought,” benefited from editing. His earliest works are the most edited, and they’re the best of his writing.
Living in the world of the workshop, which I do as a teacher, you have to be articulate about craft. And that often involves imposing analysis on work that’s in a pretty raw state.
It’s about transitioning from adolescence, when you live together with parents and see each other every day, to the era when you don’t live together and start to grow apart and have to figure out how you’re going to have an adult relationship.
Not a lot of contemporary fiction is written about brothers and sisters. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey was an inspiration for me. In Franny and Zooey, the sister gets in trouble and the brother comes to help her out. But I wanted to make sure that in my novel the sister had more to do than lie around on a sofa muttering, which is what Franny does for two-thirds of Salinger’s novel.
The biggest problem in the fictional treatment of sex is that it’s not treated as part of the story but as a pause from the story. The best sex scenes in fiction are the ones that advance the story.
The key is to remember a sex scene is a scene of dramatic action and psychological development. You need to pay attention to emotion and to a character’s self-awareness or lack of self-awareness.
I have even taught classes on writing about sex, and I’ve looked closely at different writers’ sex scenes. On the level of craft I’ve given it a lot of thought. The pitfalls are simple: It can sound clinical or medical, which isn’t right, or pornographic, because the characters disappear.
I believe in art, and more fundamentally the freedom to express one’s self creatively. People don’t know yet what they’ll ultimately believe in or how they’ll organize their lives. They’re kind of in limbo.
A knowledge of craft is not the enemy of creativity. You sit down to write and realize, today’s going to be a really unconscious day and I’m going to let it all out. Or, today’s going to be analytical. And some days all mixed up.