Thursday, November 14, 2013

INTERVIEW: For the Preservationist Justin Kramon (GREAT NaNoWriMo Advice!)

1) What/who was your main inspiration for The Preservationist?

I spent a year reading a lot of thrillers, suspense fiction, mysteries, crime novels -- all kinds of books that focused on or orbited around violence.  I think it probably concerned my wife a lot.She must have wondered if I was planning something strange. Then when she found out I was planning a novel, it probably worried her even more.

A few of the books I loved included: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, The Collector by John Fowles, Felicia's Journey by William Trevor, In the Forest by Edna O'Brien, Misery by Stephen King. In general, I liked the thrillers that examined characters, relationships, and psychology, instead of spending a huge amount of time on solving a crime or creating a very elaborate plot. I also loved when thrillers got inside the heads of several different characters, including the criminals, and didn't try to tell you who was the "good guy" or the "bad guy." To me, one of the gifts of fiction is that it allows you to sympathize with people you normally wouldn't get within a mile of in everyday life.

2) What kind of research was done before you started writing the book?

I can't say I did a huge amount of formal research. Like I mentioned, I read a lot of books about crime and violence, but a lot of that was fiction. I sometimes do research to figure out how stuff works in a very factual sense (such as how a large trash dump operates, or the effects that certain medications might have), but truthfully I'm not a very factually-oriented person. I get confused between billions and trillions. When someone in a car slows down and lowers the window to ask me directions, I run. For me, the big work of a novel is to make that imaginative leap into someone else's head, so instead of researching, I usually spend a lot of time writing about the characters outside of the story.

I keep notebooks where I just write about the different people, things about their pasts, stuff they have in their rooms, ideas or thoughts they might have about the world. Then when I'm writing the actual plot, the book only touches lightly on the details I have in the notebooks, but they're always there, if I ever have a question about what happened to a character or what that person thinks about a certain issue or whatever. It's a very strange way to be spending your time, writing obsessively about and imagining these people who don't exist, following them into odd little situations you make up yourself.

3) Your main character in your other book, Finny, is female as well. What are the challenges of writing from a female perspective?

Well, I would say the challenges feel similar to the challenges of writing about any character. I feel like it's mostly about locking into the way someone else sees the world, that person's patterns and obsessions and sense of humor and emotional swings. I try to approach female characters the way I would any character, as unique personalities, as surprising and odd and mysterious, the way all people are. When writing a female character, I never want to feel as if I'm writing "for women." Just as when I'm writing a cafeteria worker character, I don't feel as if I'm representing cafeteria workers.  But there can be something a little helpful about writing characters who are a bit different than me.

If I wrote about characters who were too close to me, I'd have a hard time knowing what was important to say. I'd tell you about my headache and what I had for lunch and my favorite Saturday Night Live skit.  When you have a character who's a little different from you, there's a way in which you can think about what's common between you and that person. And that shared space seems to be a little more universal, a little closer to where compelling fiction lives.

4) I got some SERIOUS chills while reading The Preservationist, were there any aspects of the book you found more difficult to write than others?

A big challenge for me was writing this kind of plot. My first novel, Finny, was a love story and coming-of-age tale with a lot of humor in it. So writing a psychological thriller was totally new to me. I wanted to learn a lot about the suspense genre and pacing, how to build the tension in this kind of novel, when to reveal certain things, how to keep readers turning the pages.

There were a few creepy scenes in this book I didn't love writing, but they came later on and I just felt they were necessary to make the story work and to give a full portrayal of the characters. I won't say what they are for fear of spoiling any surprises for your readers. I really appreciate that so many of my readers from the first novel have been willing to try a different kind of book from me, and enjoying it. It's a real gift for me as a writer that I've been able to expand the terrain I'm covering in my novels, to learn from different types of stories and broaden my craft.

5) What is up next for you? I am impatiently awaiting the arrival of your next book! =)

Thank you so much for that. I really appreciate it.  I hope we'll get to chat again for the next one.  It's a suspense novel, but very different from The Preservationist. I can't say much more, since it's too early in the process to commit to anything.  I hope the new book is something my readers will enjoy a lot.  Thanks for taking the time interview me.  It means a lot to me, and I'm really pleased and humbled that you enjoyed the book.


An extra special thanks to the author for taking the time to participate in this interview, and providing some amazing insight. Click the links below to find out more about Justin, and to read my review! 

Justin's Website | Facebook | Goodreads

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