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Included on this page: Biography, The Exchange: John Wray March 13, 2009 from The New Yorker online’s Book Bench, About the Author including Links to Videos of Readings of Lowboy, Interview from Bookbrowse, Interview from The Gothamist, Symptoms of Paranoid Schizophrenia from Mayo Clic Web site.
John Wray, whose mother is Austrian and whose father is Californian, was born in Washington, D.C., where his parents, both scientists, were employed by the National Institute of Health. He grew up in Buffalo, New York, and in Friesach, a small town in the southern Austrian province of Carinthia. When he was a boy, his mother began reading Penguin Classics at a rate of exactly one per week, as a way to improve her English: one of his fondest memories of childhood is of having the entirety of The Pickwick Papers read to him at far too young an age, and understanding next to nothing, but loving the sound and mood of it regardless.
In the hope of following his parents into science, Wray majored in biology at Oberlin College, intending to become an ornithologist; in the end, he had to content himself with becoming a birdwatcher. After graduating from college, he worked in Petersburg, Alaska, as a cab driver; in Austin, Texas, as a groundskeeper; and in Manhattan, as tutor in German and Spanish. He dropped out of graduate school twice: first from New York University’s M.F.A. program in poetry, where he won an Academy of American Poets Prize, and then, a few years later, from Columbia’s fiction program. In between, he played guitar, bass, and drums, respectively, in the bands Marmalade, The King of France, and The Naysayer. In 2002, he spent a year in South America, climbing the Andean peaks Cerro Cuerno, Aconcagua, Antisana, El Altar, and Chimborazo, for a book on mountaineering that never got written.
Wray’s first novel, The Right Hand of Sleep, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and won a Whiting Award in Fiction. For his second novel, Canaan’s Tongue, he traveled down the Mississippi from Memphis to New Orleans on a raft made out of Home Depot surplus, giving readings in towns along the way. This past year, Granta magazine selected him as one of the best American novelists under the age of thirty-five. For the last seven years, Wray has lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, across the street from the Prospect Park Bandshell. He has no intention of moving.
The Book Bench Loose leafs from the New Yorker Books Department.
The Exchange: John Wray March 13, 2009
Last night, I caught the L train with the writer John Wray and some forty other people. We listened as Wray read an excerpt from his new novel, “Lowboy,” through a bullhorn. At Bedford, we disembarked, and headed to Spike’s for free beer and music.
Earlier this week, Wray took some time to answer some questions.
How have you been promoting “Lowboy”?
Book promotion—particularly literary-book promotion—is especially moribund right now, partly due to declining sales and partly due to the prevailing conservative, defeatist attitude toward courting the interest of all but the narrowest wedge of society. This has always been a problem, of course, but it’s grown more acute with the economic downturn. This time out, we decided—the F.S.G. publicity department, my friends, and I—to take ourselves and the process a little less seriously, and see whether we could have any fun. It’s worked quite well so far.
What inspired your book video?
For a while, it looked unlikely that I’d be able to give a reading on the subway, for legal reasons, and a friend of mine and I hit on the idea of making a subway-reading video in which I would barely appear, if at all—a video in which actual M.T.A. riders would be the stars. I was amazed by how readily most people agreed to be filmed. My friend had a camera, and knew (more or less) how to use it, so we spent a day shooting the video. Another friend edited it on his computer in a couple of hours. It didn’t cost a cent, aside from the cheeseburgers I had to buy at regular intervals to keep morale up.
And the underground reading?
Novels are meant to be read alone, preferably in bed, ideally after a delicious dinner. Most readings are so unexciting that it feels like a chore to attend them, even if you’re a rabid fan of the writer. I think people have the right to expect a certain amount of entertainment in return for their time and attention. Yesterday’s reading on the L train struck me as a bit of a lark, appropriate to “Lowboy’s” subject matter, and it was absolutely free, at least to anyone with a MetroCard.
What are your writing habits?
I write five hundred words a day, five days out of the week, except when I’m doing silly things like book publicity. That can take one hour or ten, depending on the day.
Did you really write the entire novel on the subway?
I wrote the bulk of the first draft on the subway, yes. By the time I began revising I was pretty sick of riding the trains, and my back hurt, so I stopped.
And what was the total number of hours you spent writing on the train?
That’s a good question. I can say it was probably five days a week for six months, maybe. There was time in there when I wasn’t in New York City and I wasn’t working on the book. It took about a year for a solid first draft. The subway’s really not that bad—it’s a good place to get work done, as long as something isn’t happening in the train car and you have a halfway decent playlist.
What was on your playlist?
I can’t write to music that has vocals, and sometimes, if the beat is too insistent and irregular I can’t write to that, either. I listen to a lot of classical music, like J. S. Bach. I listen to a decent amount of jazz, particularly jazz of the early sixties, from Charlie Parker to Eric Dolphy. Then there’s the more contemporary stuff. I found some good indie rock bands to listen to, like Animal Collective. I liked writing to Tortoise and The Boredoms. They have a record called “VisionCreation Newsun.” It’s all one song with drums, flangy guitars, and chanting; it makes you feel like you’re onto something.
Was there a particular train that you liked to ride more than others?
I rode the A train the most, and the F train, because it’s the train that goes by my house. I was intentionally picking the A because it’s one of the longest lines: it goes all the way from Queens through Brookyln, all the way through Manhattan and up. It takes you through so many neighborhoods, and when it goes out to the Rockaways, it is really quite pretty. At one point, you’re actually on a track that’s crossing open water. If the weather is nice, it’s incredible. You get out there in the middle of the day, you go to the beach and walk around a little bit, and then get back on the train. That’s sort of your lunch break. It takes two and a half hours to ride that entire line.
Did anyone ever ask you what you were doing?
I don’t think anyone ever did. People didn’t know I was on the train for that long. I mean, think about it: you get on the train and there’s a dude there typing on his laptop. You just think he’s coming from grad school and he’s going home. There was nothing about what I was doing that was attention-getting.
Did you emerge from this experience with a new philosophy on New York’s subway system?
I used to think it was a necessary evil of living in the city. It still is that, of course; it can be incredibly annoying to ride the subway. But in spite of the fact that most riders of the subway use a coping mechanism—they put on this poker face and avoid eye contact with everyone around them—I do feel that there is no getting around the bottleneck of the M.T.A. When I compare that experience to the way in which people in the suburbs can go weeks in a time not seeing anyone different from themselves, it can help demystify people of other ethnicities, classes, and religions. Cheesy as that sounds, I think it does contribute to a demystification. Not that it brings everyone together in a spirit of global brotherhood, though.
Did you write “Lowboy” with the intent of having more commercial success?
I intended to write a book to which people my age would respond. My first two books were well received, but it started to bug me that the average age of my readership was essentially older. I felt I got pigeon-holed—in spite of the good reviews, for which I was very grateful—as a historical novelist. My first two books are very different from each other, but the thing they have in common is that they’re not set in a contemporary period. I don’t know how that came about: I wrote two books, neither of which is contemporary. That’s just the way it worked out. I never thought that I was setting a precedent for the rest of my life.
From the very beginning I knew that this book was written more for my generation. The last thing I wanted to write, however, was a book that spoke to any particular concerns; it’s not that type of book at all. It’s not “On the Road” or “Less than Zero.” I was hoping to reach a younger audience—people who were around my age—in their twenties and thirties. I don’t really see this book as particularly commercial. I did try to make it suspenseful.
If my first two novels hadn’t been so high-brow, then perhaps this book wouldn’t be received as an accessible read. But these things are hard to gauge as a writer. You think you’re dong something very straightforward, and you’ll read the customer review on Amazon, and it says, “This book isn’t for everybody. It’s depressing and hard to read.”
So perhaps relative to my first two books, this book may be a little bit easier to come to terms with; it may be a quicker read. Then again, I had a meeting with a Hollywood agent about film rights for “Lowboy,” and he was like, “You could maybe sell this book to an independent filmmaker, but this book is a little bleak, even for independent studios.” So we’ll see. (Posted by Thessaly La Force in the Exchange)
About the Author Including Links to Videos of Readings From Lowboy
About the Author
John Wray was born in Washington D.C in 1971 to an American father and Austrian mother. His first novel, The Right Hand of Sleep won him a Whiting Writer’s Award at age 30, an honor bestowed upon such notables as David Foster Wallace and William Vollmann. His second novel, Canaan’s Tongue, earned him a position on the list of Granta’s best novelists under 35. In addition to his writing, John Wray was also the front man of Marmalade, a Brooklyn-based pop band that released an album, Beautiful Soup, in 2003. Wray wrote most of the first draft of Lowboy while riding back and forth on various NYC subway trains – about five days a week for six months, in his estimation.
A Precarious Publicist
The talented John Wray has proven that his creativity is not limited to the printed word. In lieu of a traditional bookstore reading, Wray boarded the Brooklyn-bound L-train with a megaphone and video camera in tow, and proceeded to read segments of Lowboy aloud to a mix of fans and casual passengers. The “guests” got off at Bedford Avenue, and headed en masse to a bar for beer and music. He also filmed a video of subway passengers reading aloud from the book.
After the publication of Canaan’s Tongue in 2005, Wray embarked on a 600-mile raft tour on the Mississippi River. It started with a $5,200 check from Knopf, and four stops and two weeks later, the homemade barge, consisting of Home Depot lumber, barrels from New Jersey, and a 15-horsepower outboard, made port in New Orleans. The crew consisted of two friends, a photographer, and, of course, the trailblazer himself. One, a merchant marine and open water veteran known for his usual outings as a yacht captain for the well-to-do, was the skipper. Another was an antique book dealer from Brooklyn and personal friend of the author. The third crewmember was a New York Times photographer that provided some interesting photographs of the expedition. Though the publicity stunt seemed to garner very little remuneration, it nonetheless was an original attempt at shattering an area of publishing that has become rather lackluster.
Regardless of the turnout at a local bookstore along the Mississippi or winning over a crowd of indifferent passengers, John Wray’s promotional ventures have breathed new life into the stodgy business of book sales, and I, for one, was quite taken by his attempts and intend to purchase his first two books not only because of his bravado but because his writing is just that good.
Bookbrowse Interview with John Wray about Lowboy
How does this differ from your earlier work?
Although they differ from each other tremendously, my first two novels could both be categorized as historical, if one felt like applying labels: this time, I wanted to write as contemporary a story as possible, and to tell it as simply as possible. A few years ago, I came across an article in an Australian newspaper, about a manhunt for an escaped prisoner whose antipsychotic medication was wearing off by the hour, and I felt drawn to the subject matter immediately. The material then determined the style and tone—as straightforward and crystalline as possible—the way strong material tends to do.
Why the change?
I’ve always admired film directors, like Stanley Kubrick or Billy Wilder, who could go from directing a thriller to a period piece to a romantic comedy without missing a step. Also, I’ve resisted drawing too directly from my surroundings and personal history in the past, and I wanted to investigate that resistance, to challenge it a little. So I put much more of myself, and of my family and certain childhood memories, into the book. The result makes me somewhat uncomfortable now, but it undoubtedly helped the novel.
You actually wrote this book on the subway. Why? What was that experience like?
My reasons for writing on the subway were simultaneously practical and romantic: I liked the idea of being in constant motion as I worked, and also, of course, of spending as much time as possible in the environment and under the conditions I was writing about. But at the same time, I needed a place to work that was cut off from temptations like the internet and the presence of my girlfriend, who works at home. Also, it only cost four dollars a day—two if I never left the subway!
It turned out to be harder than I’d thought to concentrate on the trains, and for the first few weeks I was also hampered by my self-consciousness, which almost approached stage fright on certain days. But there are scenes in Lowboy that would never have been written if I hadn’t found myself in certain MTA stations, and many of those are my favorites in the novel. Rockefeller Center, for some reason, was especially fertile ground, and so was the out-of-service old City Hall station on the 6 line, which I snuck into on several occasions.
Lowboy is a paranoid schizophrenic. How does one write about mental illness in novel? How do you get it right?
Attempting to inhabit the consciousness of a schizophrenic was without a doubt the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried in fiction. I was helped, to some degree, by the fact that I’ve always been interested in mental illness, and by the fact that I’ve come into close contact, in my life, both with schizophrenia and manic depressive disorder; but writing from the point of view of a sufferer—and, above all, writing in a way that neither reduced the condition to a set of clinical symptoms, nor amplified it into the kind of caricatures of insanity that are so rampant in our culture—was a hugely daunting balancing act. What saved me, I think, was my decision to treat Will as a boy struggling with a set of conditions, one of which happened to be schizophrenia, rather than as a schizophrenic first and foremost. That tends to be how schizophrenics view themselves.
You touch on a number of themes—global warming, the perils of schizophrenia, a culture of violence—in Lowboy. What brought you to them?
One of the great privileges of being a writer—and, specifically, of being a novelist—is the opportunity to target one’s most acute anxieties in one’s work, and to tease a portion of them out into the open, if not exorcise them completely. My last novel, Canaan’s Tongue, was a deliberate attempt to channel my dismay and disgust at the Bush administration in some useful direction, and, to my great surprise, it actually helped me to cope. Will Heller’s anxieties and visions in Lowboy are very much my own (albeit—I hope—in heightened, intensified form), and I’m banking on the trick to work a second time. So far, so good.
Interview from The Gothamist
John Wray is the author of the novels The Right Hand of Sleep (2001) and Canaan’s Tongue (2005). He wrote much of his new novel Lowboy, published in March, inside the New York City subway system, where a lot of it is set. Lowboy is a story told in twin tracks: the sixteen-year-old schizophrenic Will Heller is off his meds and believes the world is about to end and that he can prevent it by having sex with a girl. While this is happening, Heller’s mother tries to find him with help from a cryptogram-loving missing persons detective.
Wray, 37, has even held some readings of Lowboy in subway cars. Tomorrow night he will read alongside Wells Tower and Arthur Phillips as part of the Happy Ending Reading Series; Vampire Weekend will also perform. That event is sold out, but Wray will also be reading with Charles Bock Friday at Word book shop in Greenpoint, and later will take part in the Bryant Park Summer Series “New Voices in American Fiction” on July 29. We spoke with Wray at his Brooklyn studio about Lowboy, hairless cats, and the very strange place that is New York.
Lowboy is your third novel, and the first book you’ve written set in contemporary times, and also the first set in New York. How did you decide to start writing this particular book? Part of what appealed to me about the project was that it was such a straightforward premise. There’s nothing convoluted about the plot or the events. They could be described in a sentence. Or two.
What would those sentences be? One sentence for each narrative thread: 1) Schizophrenic teen runaway travels around New York City on the subway system looking for someone to sleep with in order to save the world, and 2) Mother of schizophrenic teen runaway and African American missing person specialist try to find him before he does something nasty [laughs].
And your last two novels— Canaan’s Tongue, my last novel, would take like 40 sentences to describe. And I guess that appeals to some people. I’d only written 2 books before this and the elite group of people who actually read my second novel [laughs] were probably surprised by Lowboy.
Why’s that? When it became clear to me I might finish my first novel I was already thinking that I wanted my second one to be as different as possible from my first. Then I wanted my third to be as different as possible from my second. Mainly because— not because of ambition— I just didn’t like the idea of always writing the same novel. There are authors I love who always write the same novel, like Ernest Hemingway or Cormac McCarthy. I mean they might not feel that way, Hemingway might have been like, what are you talking about? But from an aesthetic point of view, he was writing the same book over and over. It would drive me insane. It would be like an obsessive person at an asylum darning the same sock.
You’ve said in interviews that you admire filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick and Billy Wilder for their ability to switch styles from project to project. Is there an analog in terms of literature of an author who does that? That’s such an interesting question. I could have mentioned so many other directors, Howard Hawks, or Mike Nichols, or Alfonso Cuarón. There are so many of them. There’s a tradition in film, and there’s this thing that’s kind of a curse on fiction in the 20th century, I don’t know who it was in what writer’s workshop who first thought of this “finding your voice” notion. I think it’s destructive. I mean I think it’s fine for certain writers who are finding a voice they’re interested in— but they’re choosing a voice, a particular role to inhabit. People with the archetypal voice: Gertrude Stein or James Ellroy or Raymond Chandler. I mean you hear it and you immediately know it’s them, it’s consistent from book to book. They chose that voice. Kids in creative writing programs are told that there’s a single, genuine voice inside them, only one, and that they have to find it. And I think you can really give a kid a complex with that. The truth is you are starting out your career and you have this whole spectrum. You can choose what you want and it’ll be your book no matter what. And you can do that again with your next book or you can do something totally fucking different if you want.
I’d think that a lot of people might want that, to know what to expect from a book before they’ve read it. Yeah. I think absolutely people want that. I once interviewed Haruki Murakami, which ended up being a great interview, one of the best things I’ve been involved in. It was a long Paris Review interview, which meant we could spend a long time talking. I’m a huge fan, and the interview process revealed a lot about what goes on behind the screen, and demystified it. One of the interesting things Haruki said was that while he had been interviewing John Irving, of all people— it’s like this endless chain of writers interviewing writers— Irving said to Haruki that when you have your readers you want to hook them on your writing. You want to hook your readers on it like a drug. And you want to get them hooked on that particular feeling like you’re writing it for them and you want to come back for every one of your books, like a fix. And if anyone was interested in taking on the whole Irving oeuvre, they’d probably see that.
The Irving Fix. Exactly. I think there’s a certain understanding of supply and demand that pertains to the microcosm of the literary world. With movies, traditionally, a lot of people going to the movies don’t know who the director is, which is probably freeing. Authors are innately identified with their books.
Even writers who are able to change their M.O. every once in a while. Of course there are writers like that, who’ll change, like Graham Greene, Charles Dickens. Phillip Roth, in his late books. There have got to be some better examples.
What’s the strangest place in New York? Whoa man, I could name my 30 strangest places; I’ve lived in this town too long. I love Doyers Street in Chinatown, which used to be called Murder Alley. Barber poles all along it. No place feels more artificial, more like a movie set. Breezy Point in the Rockaways is really strange. The Rockaways are home to Jacob Riis Park. Not a lot of people go there. It’s amazing. There’s a battery there from World War II that had these enormous canons that covered the entrance to New York Harbor, and there are all these weird bunkers and subterranean areas. There’s a wooden deck on top of the battery with beautiful views of the city. And there’s this little town at the very end called Breezy Point, an idyllic little town, very sort of lower middle class, and you go there but people are not friendly. It’s this weird place, almost like an Alfred Hitchcock village. Close to the city, but also completely cut off. The whole town is a co-op.
There’s a private community west of Coney Island, too, called Sea Gate. In Breezy Point you get this sense that outsiders are not encouraged. It feels weird to go. And like, it’s not even in New York. Another weird place is the Brooklyn Anchorage, inside the Brooklyn Bridge. They opened it up for parties—I once saw Sonic Youth play there, that’s a strange place. There’s also, oh god, North Brother Island is one of the strangest places. One of my best friends and I, Matt Dojny, who has just finished a novel I think is going to be a big deal soon, we did a thing for A Public Space. It’s an Impossible Sightseeing guide to New York, and it features North Brother Island. We thought it would be fun to do this tour of places you can’t actually go to.
And the closed-off part of the City Hall station is in there, too, which is a place that also figures into Lowboy. Did you actually go to North Brother Island? We did. Ornithologists go there. They’re very strict about it but we finagled passage on a canoe. It’s so bizarre, the abandoned hospital and the sinister history. I think there was an Indian settlement there at some point, and then the quarantine, Typhoid Mary. You could write a whole novel on Typhoid Mary. The fact that the hospital was converted into a detox center for kids with problems, I mean, there’s such misery there, and there were so many accusations of abuse. You always feel creeped out exploring abandoned buildings but in a place like that, where you know that nasty shit went down, it’s particularly creepy. You feel very justified feeling creeped out.
Tell me about a New Yorker you admire. P.T. Barnum.
How come? He was a genius, in his way. He managed to build up a fortune from nothing, and he made his fortune by simultaneously managing to cynically cater to the lowest common denominator of the public and somehow, maybe even in spite of himself, vastly enrich the culture’s notions of what entertainment could be. I mean, he’s the first person that comes to mind. Anyone who’s partially responsible for the notion of freak shows already gets some points in my book.
Favorite subway line? The A, the one goes out to the Far Rockaway. It goes almost over the water, I always liked that bit. Like a cross-country train.
Hey, so at one point in your novel, Will and Emily are on the run and Will tries to buy for cupcakes for Emily somewhere close to the Christopher Street subway station. Is that Magnolia Bakery making a guest appearance on page 130 of your novel? [laughs] Well, it’s an affectionate, fictional dig at Magnolia, in the same way that the Bella Vista facility is and is not Bellvue Hospital. I definitely meant for people to think of Magnolia and maybe have a bit of a chuckle because I do think they’re a bit overrated and they’ve annoyed me at times.
Do you like cupcakes? I love cupcakes, yes. I personally do enjoy Magnolia, but like Emily in the book I don’t think they’re worth waiting in line for.
Do you consider your writing to be dark? It depends on the book. The book I’m writing now is going to be pretty goofy, which is scary to me. So I think of it in dark terms, because I’m not sure I’ll succeed. It’s a multi-generational family saga but playful, sort of meta-fictional, darkly comic treatment of this family of semi-crackpot physicists. It’s loosely based on my own family—not in the physics sense—where there are plenty of crackpots. An eccentric family, but in the unified sense of this family. But I suppose that it would be a fair appraisal of my three books so far, dark. I think one of the few accurate common features is that none of them sidestep unpleasantness.
And right now you’re doing a Twitter experiment. Are you writing a sort of cell phone/Twitter novel? I’d like for it to be a cell phone novel but I don’t know if anyone is actually getting it on their cell phones and there’s no way of knowing that. As much as I love the idea of a bunch of school girls downloading my novel, that doesn’t seem to be the dynamic that’s in place with Twitter in this country, unfortunately. I think maybe “novel” isn’t the right way to think about it when you’re writing it or when you’re reading it. The way that Twitter is set up, there are many obstacles to writing a novel as an ongoing narrative.
What are they? First of all it’s a pain in the ass to go back and look at your previous tweets. Secondly, they’re shown in reverse order. So I try to think of it more as a fictional newspaper column, where each tweet is a sort of a mini self-contained jelly bean that should be fairly fun to consume on its own. In my Twitter novel there’s this loosely defined character called Citizen, and I try to say his name in every tweet. I think each could be read on its own and each could be as fun to read as another. It’s like doing stretching exercises, and it doesn’t permit you to fall back on your stylistic tricks. It’s also a way of feeling less anachronistic, which is why a lot of fiction writers are into Twitter. It’s not too much of a stretch, but they’re not engaging in some weird nostalgic practice, which is silly because there’s no real difference, in my mind, between a chunk of text on a screen or in your leather bound journal. Doesn’t really matter.
Do you have a dog? No. I mean, I like dogs. Why do you ask?
I don’t know. I thought it would make a good question. [laughs] I like dogs and cats. I’m more of a cat person. I grew up with cats and I love their pride, you might call it their arrogance. I like that they don’t need you. I do like dogs, unfortunately I have so many friends with pet allergies.
You could get a hairless cat. I’ve thought about it. A friend of mine had a hairless cat named Macaroni. It was cool. I mean, freaky, but kind of cool.
Under what circumstances would you leave New York? I’ve spent a lot of time outside of New York—I moved here in 1994. I could easily stay here until I die and be content. Sometimes I feel like there’s a bit too much keeping up with the Joneses with creative people here. There’s a competitiveness that’s healthy and another that’s unhealthy. This past winter my girlfriend and I spent a few weeks in Key West, and I’m not a Florida person, but I couldn’t believe how I was so extremely relaxed there. As cliche as it sounds, it just felt so good to be there. And Key West, it’s so effortless to live there if you some source of money—I think finding a job there might be tough. We had a couple of bikes and it was like, even the pedaling was effortless! It made me think that if I were to have children, I might leave so they could grow up deprived of New York so when they moved to New York they could really appreciate it. I’m still dazzled by the freakishness, the glamour, the bizarreness of New York, only because I grew up upstate.
What the most significant unsolved New York mystery? Is there really an underground river under New York? What’s the sense of these underground rivers? Is it just water being forced through soil or are there actual caverns and creeks? Why did the Second Avenue Subway line take so long to start being built?
I thought I saw something once in National Geographic once about that river. There are ships underneath Wall Street. I’d also love to know why the Dutch sold New York City, why they gave it up. That was fucking stupid. And the Dutch? They’re a savvy nation of traders and merchants. The Spanish had to be driven out, they knew the value of what they were giving up. But the Dutch?
I heard you wrote your first novel in a tent you pitched in a DUMBO basement. That’s true.
And you had no electricity? I had electricity but no heat. I had a portable radiator, this electric coil thing. In the winter I had two of those heaters by my desk but it wasn’t enough to heat the space. It got pretty fucking cold there.
Do you write on a laptop? I wrote my first two books on a typewriter and then entered them into a laptop for revisions. One time a water pipe burst at my old place and soaked 60 pages of typed paper. Luckily typewriter ink doesn’t smear away but all my handwritten notes were unreadable. I had clipped them up like laundry, each individual page, to dry it out.
All that effort and time with your margin notes—was somehow not being able to read them ultimately helpful? I think the slowness of the typewriter, that process, entering each word into the laptop when you’re making your first revision, you can’t just skip over a word you know. Sometimes I think that maybe that led to a more thorough first revision, but I’m not even sure that’s true because I did the same thing with my second book and still made a bajillion revisions.
Did you come up with a character first, Lowboy, or the plot? Basically, this friend of mine told me about a news article she’d seen. I think in Austria, this middle-aged man’s medication was wearing off and there was a manhunt for him. I thought that’s a great premise for a thriller, and I think he was on the public transportation there. It just came to me in this package, like a little pellet. Later I decided to make the character younger, a teenager. And the sexual obsession he has came after that, I have no idea where that came from. Maybe it was in an effort to be less grim. I definitely don’t intend it to be a book read with undue seriousness, it’s a book about serious problems, but there are jokes in there.
So you don’t write explicitly about things that happen in your life, but sometimes personal details emerge and surprise you? I don’t try to avoid touching on my actual life experiences but I don’t seek it out when I’m writing. Usually when experiences from my own life crop up it comes about more or less unconsciously. Something pops up, and you don’t even recognize it yourself but someone who knows you well sees it clearly.
Has it happened that someone close to you is convinced you’re writing about them when you aren’t? Members of my family are always recognizing themselves in stuff I write, sometimes with justification sometimes not. But they’re always pleased. Even though there aren’t a lot of characters you might want to be based on.
From: Highlight the Writer’s Boldness by DannyGroner from The Huffington Post
Posted March 19, 2009
If I asked you to list the qualities any book writer would need to complete a book, you might include n that list superb writing ability, excellent research skills, and an ear for a good story. You might also include less professional, and more personal, qualities like patience or intensity. What I discovered this week is that that list must also feature boldness on it.
I went to hear writer John Wray read from his latest novel, Lowboy. The story centers on a schizophrenic protagonist and his excursions both inside the New York City subway lines and inside his mind.
Wray, a non-schizo, said that he did a tremendous amount of research while producing the book. He spoke to therapists throughout the process, making sure that his story was plausible and his characters’ thoughts and decisions fact-based. He also read up on the condition in order to prepare himself for his main character and to gain empathy for him from the start. What Wray acknowledged was the most difficult part, though, was having the confidence and willingness to embark on the writing project once he’d gathered together his research.
If authors only wrote about themselves and what they knew, we’d be flooded with bookshelves full of memoir and autobiography (though, to some, it might feel like we are). For writers like Wray, novels open up possibility through imagination and creativity. Yet, with that, comes a level of responsibility to stay true to the reality that the writer has assigned to his or her characters. For Wray, this was a central part of the process; he says it took him some time before he felt fully comfortable with his main character and convinced that he had gotten the voice and accordant emotions down pat……………..
Signs and symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia may include:
- Auditory hallucinations, such as hearing voices
- Delusions, such as believing a co-worker wants to poison you
- Verbal confrontations
- Patronizing manner
- Suicidal thoughts and behavior
With paranoid schizophrenia, you’re less likely to be affected by mood problems or problems with thinking, concentration and attention. Instead, you’re most affected by what are known as positive symptoms.
Positive symptoms are symptoms that indicate the presence of unusual thoughts and perceptions that often involve a loss of contact with reality. Delusions and hallucinations are considered positive symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.
- Delusions. In paranoid schizophrenia, delusions are often focused on the perception that you’re being singled out for harm. Your brain misinterprets experiences and you hold on to these false beliefs despite evidence to the contrary. For instance, you may believe that the government is monitoring every move you make or that a co-worker is poisoning your lunch. You may also have delusions of grandeur — the belief that you can fly, that you’re famous or that you have a relationship with a famous person, for example. Delusions can result in aggression or violence if you believe you must act in self-defense against those who want to harm you.
- Auditory hallucinations. An auditory hallucination is the perception of sound — usually voices — that no one else hears. The sounds may be a single voice or many voices. These voices may talk either to you or to each other. The voices are usually unpleasant. They may give a running critique of what you’re thinking or doing, or they may harass you about real or imagined faults. Voices may also command you to do things that can be harmful to yourself or to others. When you have paranoid schizophrenia, these voices seem real. You may talk to or shout at the voices.
When to see a doctor
If you have any symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, seek medical help as soon as possible. Paranoid schizophrenia doesn’t get better on its own and may worsen without treatment. However, if you’re like most people with paranoid schizophrenia, you may not recognize that you need help or that you even have symptoms, especially because your delusions or hallucinations are very real to you. Family and friends, or people at work or school, may be the ones who initially suggest you seek help.
Getting treatment from a mental health provider with experience in schizophrenia can help you learn ways to manage your symptoms so that you have the best chance to continue on with a productive and happy life. If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, try to work up the courage to confide in someone, whether it’s a friend or loved one, a health care professional, a faith leader or someone else you trust. They can help you take the first steps to successful treatment.
Helping someone who may have paranoid schizophrenia
If you have a loved one you think may have symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, have an open and honest discussion about your concerns. You may not be able to force someone to seek professional help, but you can offer encouragement and support and help your loved one find a qualified doctor or mental health provider. If your loved one poses a danger to himself or herself or to someone else, you may need to call the police or other emergency responders for help. In some cases, emergency hospitalization may be needed. Laws on involuntary commitment for mental health treatment vary by state.
Suicidal thoughts and behavior are common when you have paranoid schizophrenia. If you’re considering suicide right now and have the means available, talk to someone now. The best choice is to call 911 or your local emergency services number. If you simply don’t want to do that, for whatever reason, you have other choices for reaching out to someone:
- Contact a family member or friend
- Contact a doctor, mental health provider or other health care professional
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community
- Go to your local hospital emergency room
- Call a crisis center or hot line