Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An Interview with Anna Jarzab, Part 2

Here's part two of my interview with Anna Jarzab, author of the recently released All Unquiet Things.

Was is harder to write the flashbacks, knowing that you had to make Carly seem alive and also to show why the narrators felt the way they did about her, or was it harder to write the parts in the present, knowing that you had to keep the mystery non-obvious and such?

Writing the flashbacks was actually a very easy, organic process for me (although calculating the exact chronology was harder; there was an emotional timeline to the story that didn't always quite match up to, you know, real human time, but we've fixed that!), since the story from the very beginning, back in version 1, was full of flashbacks. The problem with Carly is that you have to make people care about her, but she can veer into unlikeable territory. Some of the things she does are really bad, but the story wouldn't exist without them, yet a reader might find it hard to get invested in her, and if they don't care about her they might not care about who killed her, making the book kind of a wash. So the trick was to perfectly calibrate the flashbacks to create sympathy for Carly. That was difficult, but I hope I succeeded. Also, making sure Carly wasn't an unrelatable cipher was important to me, which is also hard if you want to maintain a certain mysterious quality about a person.

To the second part, keeping the mystery non-obvious was very hard. I had to know prior to starting the story who the killer was going to be--I never would've been able to write this book without that knowledge, I'm just too persnickity. But when you as an author know something, you have absolutely no idea whether or not it's obvious to the casual reader who has no prior knowledge of the story. I had to depend on outside readers for that, and even if most people say they had no idea (which is the general sentiment so far), an astute reader, especially one like me who is always second-guessing the author and trying to figure it out (although I'm often wrong because I am not an astute reader, but I always try), will probably get there before the characters do.

Just because I thought Neily sounded like a boy even though he didn't talk about a bunch of stereotypical boy things, I must ask: did you find it hard to write from a male POV? Or was is not that different? Because I know that if I try to write from a boy's POV it does not work. At all.

I never thought much about writing from a male perspective with Neily--I was just writing Neily, and I tried to stay as true to his character as possible. I think that's what saved me--if I'd actually thought, "Okay, try to write like a guy," I would've totally failed. It's too much pressure and you run the risk of overthinking it. I knew I was on the right track when a guy in one of my graduate creative writing classes said, "The male voice is totally believable," so I just kept doing what I was doing.

How do you manage to find time to write, do your job in marketing, promote your own book, read, hang out with people and sleep? Do you sleep? Are you superwoman?

I do sleep, although not enough and not very well! The time thing is becoming more and more difficult, but I'm stubbornly resistant to giving up anything that's important to me and am determined to make it work. Ask me again in six months, though, haha.

Cross-posted at: The Frenetic Reader on 15 January 2010.


RKCharron said...

Hi :)
Thank you for the interview (part the second) with Anna Jarzab & thank you to Anna for sharing here. It was interesting to learn more about the author behind the well-lauded ALL UNQUIET THINGS.
All the best,

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