Part One is here.
MP. As the author of Fascination, is there something about the story that you particularly like? Is there a part of the story, or an element of it, that you think you got particularly right?
KB. It’s not always easy to be super-objective about your own work, but in this book I like the overall tone most of all. I set out to write something in the mode of, say, Tom Robbins (without trying to imitate him, of course), but I wasn’t sure I could carry it all the way through a 300-page book. I hope readers think I succeeded!
I think the main thing I got right was telling a sprawling, convoluted, funny story that also gives the reader some interesting things to think about by the end. Ultimately, as the characters come to understand, the journey to heaven is heaven.
MP. It’s interesting that you describe Fascination as a “sprawling, convoluted, funny story that also gives the reader some interesting things to think about by the end.” I want to use that comment to finally get into what I thought about the story.
When I think about what to write about Fascination, I struggle with how to describe it and why I think it was so good. What I come up with is that it is an engaging story. And that’s how I have felt about most of your previously published novels. It’s engaging and entertaining. And the other thing is that Fascination is actually a pretty simple story. I hope you don’t find that offensive, but it’s one of the things that attracts me to your writing.
There are times when I read something that just strikes me at my core. Stories that speak so incredibly to where I’m at with the issues in my life. Everything Matters by Ron Currie and The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein are two examples of this. There is this quality to both of those stories that made me want to wallow in them and left me in tears by the end. And then there are the stories that are just a joy to read. They are the stories that I think of as “race to the end” stories. And Fascination, as well as Town Father and Occasional Soulmates fit that description. There is something in these stories you write that just catches the reader’s imagination and, for me at least, makes me want to soar with the words and the tale that follows and get to the end and see how it all comes out.
Sally Pavlou and Clive Bridle and, yes, even Sally’s not so dead husband and his baby mama are characters that are, on one level somewhat odd and not really relatable to me, but on another level, they are. They are just people, human beings like the rest of us, on this journey called life. And each of them was on a different journey, but each of their journeys was related nonetheless to the other. You drew me into these characters and their journey with lighthearted fun, without going into too much unnecessary depth with each stage of their journey (which would have been yawn-inducing for me at some point).
In some respects, Fascination is a story that a reader who is looking for light entertainment could enjoy at the same time a reader who is looking for something deeper also could enjoy.
I don’t really have a specific question here, other than to ask whether any of that has any meaning to you?!
KB. I’m glad you put Fascination in the category of a “race to the end” story. Thanks. I was trying to pace this book in a way that would make readers wonder what the heck could possibly happen next, and even though there’s kind of an inevitability about the plot, I wanted enough surprises along the way to interest all kinds of readers. And it’s not offensive to call it a “simple story” — not at all. I like to think of most of my books as “deceptively simple,” so that they can be read in a more casual way or with an eye toward themes that aren’t necessarily megaphoned through the books.
In Fascination, buried in a fun tale of “self-realization and vengeance,” are themes about the pursuit of happiness, personal identity, religion, social groups, self-delusion, and family, but readers are free to nod at them as they go through the book or to think about them in detail — and relate to them in their own lives. It’s always, at least casually, a fun road story.
As a writer, do you find that you gravitate to characters who have some kind of relation to your own life and issues? In some ways, writing fiction can become a way of working through things and trying different strategies to see how they might turn out.
MP. When I first started writing, I began with situations or characters that I could put myself into. I thought that would make the writing easier to accomplish since I had no idea if I would be able to write a story. Once I established I could do that, I wanted to see if I could write characters who weren’t me and the stories that are as far removed from me as possible are the stories I am most proud of .
It’s interesting that you refer to fiction as being “a way of working through things.” One of the struggles I have had over the last couple of years is that every new idea I have had for a story has quickly become about the same theme. About characters who yearn for the thing that is missing from their lives. And that is really about solving my own personal issues and I’m done writing that story. So I haven’t written much in the last couple of years. I have some WIPs that are about other themes, but they’re a struggle too, unfortunately.
One final comment before we take a break… You say there is an inevitability to the plot. I can’t disagree with that, but one of the story’s strong points is that there is always a surprise around the next corner. Sally obtaining her vengeance may have been inevitable, but the manner and style with which she did it was a complete surprise.
Next up: More on Fascination, journeys, and guerrilla publishing. And if you haven’t already, here where you buy it.