Titles are important; I have them before I have books that belong to them. I have last chapters in my mind before I see first chapters, too. I usually begin with endings, with a sense of aftermath, of dust settling, of epilogue. I love plot, and how can you plot a novel if you don’t know the ending first? How do you know how to introduce a character if you don’t know how he ends up? You might say I back into a novel. All the important discoveries—at the end of a book—those are the things I have to know before I know where to begin. I knew that Garp’s mother would be killed by a stupid man who blindly hates women; I knew Garp would be killed by a stupid woman who blindly hates men. I didn’t even know which of them would be killed first; I had to wait to see which of them was the main character. At first I thought Jenny was the main character; but she was too much of a saint for a main character—in the way that Wilbur Larch is too much of a saint to be the main character of The Cider House Rules. Garp and Homer Wells are flawed; by comparison to Jenny and Dr. Larch, they’re weak. They’re main characters. Actors know how they end up—I mean how theircharacters end up— before they speak the opening lines. Shouldn’t writers know at least as much about their characters as actors know? I think so. But I’m a dinosaur.
Every week Ben Towle draws a portrait of someone of ranging level of fame. Last week I suggested he draw either Peter Gabriel or John Irving. After a few Gabriel attempts, he found he had more success with the Irving piece. Here was the original he worked from.
And below is one part of the final sketch.
My thanks to Towle for taking my suggestion. And I was enthused to find out from a Tweet tonighthe will likely tackle the Peter Gabriel piece again sometime down the road.
No, I did not decide to make this John Irving day at the blog. But I do love what technology offers me about my favorite novelist. John Irving video at my fingertips.
From the writer’s website, he shares some of his thoughts on the new book. Here’s a snippet:
“I always begin with a last sentence; then I work my way backwards, through the plot, to where the story should begin. The last sentence I began with this time is as follows: He felt that the great adventure of his life was just beginning as his father must have felt, in the throes and dire circumstances of his last night in Twisted River. And theres the title, waiting for you at the end of the story Last Night in Twisted River.”
And for an even more enjoyment, here’s a clip of Irving discussing the book and his work in general, I’m particularly struck when he says “Don’t take the people you love for granted.” :
I felt giddy just typing the headline. I enjoy The Bonnie Hunt Show. In some ways, it’s a throwback to the era of the 1970s Mike Douglas show–but with a twist. Hunt, a former oncology nurse, frequently campaigns for her cancer charity (as is her right–and for which I admire her). So it did not surprise me that she got novelist John Irving to discuss his battle with prostate cancer (he was on the show last week), as shown in this clip.
Irving is my favorite living novelist, and I am glad he is still living. Oh, and if you didn’t know, his new novel, Last Night in Twisted River, was released late last month. I cannot wait to read it.
Anytime my old friend and Atlanta-based critic Curt Holman suggests an interview topic, I’m no fool, I listen. So when Holman recommended I interview Phillip DePoy regarding his new novel, The King James Conspiracy, I did not hesitate to contact DePoy for an email interview.
Here’s the basic premise of the new novel:
“The turning of the wheel by the tilling of the wheat.
With these cryptic words, a conspiracy is set in motion. It threatens a new translation of the Bible ordered by King James I. The year is 1605. In Cambridge England one of the translators is savagely murdered. Deacon Marbury, charged with protecting the group, seeks outside help to find the murderer. But the people who offer to help are not who they claim to be and the man they send to Marbury–Brother Timon–has a secret past and blood on his hands. He is the agent of certain forces that hope to halt the translation itself. The killer continues his gruesome work; the body count rises. Brother Timon is torn between conflicting loyalties. He believes that an even greater crisis looms; ancient and alarming secrets are revealed. These secrets date to the earliest days of Christianity and threaten the most basic of its beliefs.”
Here’s just a snippet of DePoy’s biography: “Phillip DePoy is the EDGAR award winning playwright of EASY (New York’s vote for best mystery play in the country). He is also the author of 10 novels, 2 published plays, and 37 theatre pieces that have seen production throughout the United States. His play LAMB ON FIRE was produced in New York. His Dell mystery novels, featuring Atlanta character Flap Tucker, have been called the best regional detective fiction on the market today. … The author is currently director of theatre for Clayton State University. His play TURNED FUNNY recently received 3 SUZI awards (Atlanta’s Tony Awards). His newly commissioned CHRISTMAS AT SWEET APPLE sold out in 2007 at THEATRE IN THE SQUARE and was remounted for Christmas 2008.” There’s a great deal more to his bio, but you can follow the link, as his entire website is entertaining in and of itself. Of particular interest with the new novel, the site offers folks a chance to read an excerpt. Nothing better than free words, I tell ya. My thanks to DePoy for a really enjoyable and funny interview.