This month’s interview features Alex Austin, author of Nakamura Reality.
Why do you write?
Once, someone said I had writing talent and I’m still trying to prove it. On another level, real life always falls short. Our dreams dissipate like morning mist. That perfect comeback comes minutes too late. The girl gets on the train and vanishes forever. Writing fiction allows me to restructure my experience, reinvent the world if need be. The trick is to pull it off.
F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story.” Have you found this to be true with your characters?
I agree with Fitzgerald. Every shameful moment sticks with me, and it’s easy to retrieve the negative power of each moment. Many of my characters have a shameful moment that they’re fighting back from. They want to act in a way that will make that moment disappear. Of course it never will, but it provides them with the energy and motivation to go on.
What do you feel are your strengths as a writer?
I think I’m pretty good with dialogue. I’ve written several plays that have been produced, and I learned a lot in that process. Nothing reveals the weakness of a line of dialogue more than to hear it read aloud by an actor. I’m also an inveterate listener to other people’s conversations in cafes, etc. A lot of the talk is bland, but once in a while, I’ll hear something that I wouldn’t be able to make up in a million years. Even if I don’t immediately write it down, it will stick with me. I’ll use it later. I also think I’m a decent descriptive writer.
How much of your story exists in your imagination when you sit down to begin a new novel?
Maybe ten to twenty percent. But what I had in mind originally may significantly change as the story progresses. I rewrite endlessly.
Your novel, Nakamura Reality, is coming out in February 2016. Can you share a bit of the plot and theme?
The story begins when Hugh Mcpherson momentarily leaves his sons on an isolated California beach. When he returns, the eleven-year-old twins have vanished. Apparently swept out to sea. Devastated by the loss Hugh and his Japanese wife, Setsuko, divorce. Setsuko returns to Japan to live with her father, Kazuki Ono, an author of mind-bending novels.
After grieving for ten years (shame!), Hugh swims out to sea to drown himself. As he sinks, his sons appear to him, holding the last letter that he had sent to their mother, begging her forgiveness.
Hugh swims back to shore, and the incident awakens memories that throw doubt on the accepted version of his sons’ deaths. Provoked by his memories and passages found in Kazuki’s books, Hugh begins a quixotic journey across the California landscape, encountering numerous characters of ill will and cross-purpose, but who lead him toward a film-industry firm called Nakamura Reality, the creators of a labyrinth that has enclosed Hugh for ten years and challenges him to find his way out … and perhaps back to his sons.
I don’t trust themes, but let’s call this one rebirth.
Which do you find more challenging, beginnings or endings?
Usually I find the beginning if not effortless at least unresistant; the ending is usually endlessly evasive, and never quite satisfactory. However, in my current novel-in-progress the beginning is killing me. I can’t get the tone right; I can’t divorce my main character from his stereotype. But, by God, I will.
Where to find Alex: