The First Novel: David Gordon and “The Serialist”

In our third interview of our ongoing series, we catch up with 2011 Cabell First Novelist winner, David Gordon, and ask a few questions about his first novel, The Serialist.  We also learn a bit more about his upcoming second novel, Mystery Girl, which will be released in July 2013 (Thomas & Mercer).  Receiving critical acclaim across the board, including a starred review from Booklist, The Serialist tells the story of Harry Bloch, a freelance writer whose life takes a sudden horrific turn after he agrees to write the memoir of death-row inmate, Darian Clay (aka The Photo Killer).

Interview was conducted by former MFA fiction student, Tom Batten, during Tom De Haven’s First Novelist Seminar, Fall 2011.  Additional questions about Mystery Girl were recently asked via email by First Novelist coordinators.

How long did it take you to write the novel? How many drafts did you go through?

The whole process took about two years including revisions with my editor. I don’t know how many drafts really. A lot. I want to say maybe seven or eight before I sold it and then several more after. Ten? Also I tend to pull out individual parts and re-do them very intensively, like say taking the carburetor out of a car and rebuilding it then putting it back, driving around the block, taking out the radiator, etc. So yes, a lot of revising. (more…)

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The First Novel: Jean Thompson and “The Woman Driver”

We are happy to share with you our second interview in our new series, featuring Jean Thompson, author of The Woman Driver.  Her latest novel, The Year We Left Home (Simon and Schuster, 2011) is being called “unforgettable,” “masterful,” and “nothing short of brilliant,” and was recently praised in the New York Times Book Review‘s Great Pulitzer Do-Over column.  Thompson is the critically acclaimed author of the short story collections Do Not Deny MeThrow Like a Girl, and Who Do You Love (a National Book Award finalist), as well as two recent novels, City Boy and Wide Blue Yonder.

Interview was conducted by MA English student at VCU, Jim Crawford, during Tom De Haven’s First Novelist Seminar, Fall 2011. (more…)

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The First Novel: Donna Tartt and “The Secret History”

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Cabell First Novelist Award last year, professor and author Tom De Haven held a weekly seminar in which graduate students read and discussed the debut novels of various popular authors. The goal of the course was to explore and examine the unique creative process of each novelist, and also to compare the different themes, styles, and writing techniques in their first novels.  Many of the students contacted these authors by email or phone with questions, and received insightful and inspiring responses.

With the launch of our new blog, what better time than now to share these exciting interviews?  We are proud to present you with the first of our new and ongoing series, an exclusive interview with Donna Tartt, bestselling author of The Secret History.

Your first novel, The Secret History, has reached its twentieth anniversary this year.  How do you see and remember your first novel today?

I was studying classical civilization and philosophy at the time I was writing The Secret History, and hence was really wrapped up in the background material before I wrote a word of the novel.   I began writing it when I was nineteen—the first scene I wrote, actually, was the characters in the car coming home on the way from Bunny’s murder (which, in the book as it is now, is about halfway through.) (more…)

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