So Patrick deWitt read last night at Skylight Books and he was delicious. He read from his new novel The Sisters Brothers. I always love when the author finishes reading a certain passage and there is an audible pause in the room, the crowd silently willing him to go on, go on. deWitt did that perfectly, stopping just at the point that will (and seemingly did) drive readers to buy the book and read on, read on.
The Q&A, as I've said a dozen times before, can be wonderful or awkward or riddled with ridiculous questions. Last night, the universe served up a proper Q&A and deWitt seems to be a very passionate reader and writer who is quite un-apologetically honest about his "lineage" as a writer.
When asked about is his process and his formal training, deWitt said he ultimately had no formal training. He didn't even finish high school. For ten years, he wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. And submitted and submitted and submitted. And got rejected and rejected and rejected. When asked how he kept the faith, how he managed to continue writing though he wasn't getting published, he noted that more than anything, he believed it was because he was never told no. There was no writing program guru to tell him he was an awful writer. He had to figure that out on his own and wholeheartedly admitted to be being quite an awful writer in those first years.
deWitt even mused about what might have happened had he enrolled in a writer's program. Given the stuff he was writing at the time, he wondered aloud if he might have become discouraged in some way and in hindsight is quite thankful he didn't know writer's programs existed then, though he admitted he spent many possibly wasted years writing horribly.
When asked how much research he did for his historical novel The Sisters Brothers, he said not very much at all with a wry smile. He noted that what makes him crazy about many historical novels is that you can see all the writer's research lumped in and it often doesn't serve the story. (Could. Not. Agree. More.) He didn't want to do that, so he didn't overly research anything. On the few occasions he did attempt to do serious research on a certain aspect of the time in which he set his novel, he found he was so quickly bored, it didn't make sense to continue. He enjoys writing so much that as soon as something is boring, he questions it intensely. (A. Men.)
And, ahem, how freaking amazing is that book cover? Serious props to Dan Stiles for the kick-ass cover stylings.
He said many other excellent things and, all told, made it a lovely reading. His novel has moved to the top of my TBR pile. He's reading again tonight at Stories at 8pm and you should really go out and see him. And buy his book. And ask smart questions please. And then we can talk about it later.