Every character in this tightly knit debut novel has a choice to make in how to handle the aftermath of the tragedy. What each one does affects the rest, bringing home the truth that ‘you’re not alone, even when you are.’
I did an interview with the super-nice Jaime Boler at Bookmagnet.
Bookmagnet: Your writing has been compared to that of Stewart O’Nan and Richard Russo. How do such comparisons make you feel?
Dennis: Honored, since I’m a big fan of both, and somewhat confused, as I don’t entirely see myself that way. I don’t mean that negatively or positively. I just don’t know who I’d compare myself to because I don’t really think that way. Take a parenting analogy: I try to raise a happy, well-adjusted son, but wouldn’t it be strange to compare my parenting style to that of more famous parents? “Mahoney’s fatherly lectures are reminiscent of Theodore Roosevelt Sr.’s inspirational words to young Teddy…”
Prior to walking in the door, my heart was like a crazed sparrow flying around my stomach, but I calmed myself down with deep breathing. This actually worked for a change.
I sat and watched the news show unfold, and then they sat me in a chair during a commercial break and wheeled the big cameras over. I deep-breathed again. I was stone-cold comfortable for the first minute of the interview, and then I caught a glimpse of myself on the monitor and forgot to breathe altogether. But I managed to make it through and flubbed only a single word, pronouncing “guilt” as “gult”. All told, I think it went pretty well.
A local reporter thought I contradicted myself on the subject of inspiration.
“Where did you get the idea of the neighborhood fire?” he asked, referring to FELLOW MORTALS’ central crisis.
“It just popped into my head one morning at the drugstore,” I said, “along with the general structure of the whole novel.”
Ten minutes earlier, I’d said that fiction writing—for me, at least—is a craft like any other, requiring discipline and practical skills. Writers are more like carpenters, with specialized tools and patient labor, and less like dreamy lovers frolicking with Pan in the moonlight.
“So which is it?” he asked. “The muse or the toolbox?”
There are so many lousy ways to answer that very good question…