Novels: Goldenland Past Dark
- two ghostwritten YA novels
> What is Goldenland
Past Dark about?
Goldenland Past Dark tells
the story of a hunchbacked clown, Webern Bell, who survives
unpleasant experiences by translating them into circus performances
that come to him in dreams. When murder, heartbreak, and betrayal
throw his life entirely off the rails, though, he loses his already
frail grip on reality and falls into the vortex of his imagination.
Other characters include a delusional ringmaster, a haughty Lizard
Girl, an imaginary friend with a mind of his own, and a kindly,
> What drew you to writing about a
Circuses are like misfit
families, made up of people united by their difference from the norm
– not necessarily their similarity or compatibility with each
other. I was interested in the variety of characters a circus would
allow me to use, and the colorful conflicts and personality clashes
that would result. Also, as a writer in a culture that’s usually
focused on celebrities and new media more than books, I wanted to
explore an art form that was going out of fashion, as the circus was
in the 1960’s, when my book is set.
> Were the various
talents of the characters in your book drawn from real circus acts or
did you create some of them yourself?
It was really a combination.
As part of my “research,” I attended a bunch of live circus,
clown, and carnival shows: Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey,
Cirque de Soleil, the New York Goofs, the Coney Island Sideshow, and
most notably, Circus Contraption (an extraordinary vaudeville team
from Seattle). I also watched many classic films, including Children
of Paradise, Tod Browning’s Freaks, The Greatest Show
on Earth, and Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus, to get a
sense of historical perspective. These all seeped into my imagination
in various ways and informed the performances I describe in my book.
ghostwritten two YA novels. How did that process differ from being
published under your own name?
Ghostwriting taught me a lot
about how to create a page-turning structure, and how to write
quickly, even when I didn’t feel inspired or excited about it. But
it’s not something I’d want to do again, unless the money was
amazing. Writing is inherently an act of communication, and there’s
something straining and false-feeling about speaking for that many
pages in a voice that’s not your own.
> What made you
want to be a writer?
I’m an only child, and,
like many writers, grew up feeling lonely, awkward, and weird.
Reading gave me a way of feeling connected not only with fictitious
characters, but also with the authors who created them. My hope is
that someday my books will reach readers the same way.
you could, would you change places with any of your characters?
Probably not – a lot of
terrible things happen to them! But I do greatly admire the way that
clowns, stage magicians, and other performers can create their art on
the spot, in front of a live audience. I wish I could do that.
What’s the best/worst thing about writing?
It’s ironic that I became a
writer partly because of loneliness, because it’s one of the
loneliest activities a person can undertake. So that’s the
downside. The upside, though, is that it’s one of the few modes of
creative expression where it’s possible to do practically anything
you want. Unlike filmmaking or theater, you don’t have to consider
the cost and logistics of special effects, costumes, or sets when you
come up with fantastical imagery to use in your work. If you can find
the words to describe it, then it’s there. To me, that’s
> What is something you didn’t know about the
publishing industry before you had your first book published?
Fortunately or unfortunately,
I had a lot of experience working in publishing prior to the
publication of my first book, even successfully selling a nonfiction
title by a client during a stint as an associate agent at a literary
firm. So there weren’t a lot of surprises in the process for me…
although I did learn that it feels very different when it’s
your own work at stake!
> Do you have any advice for
Don’t get too attached to
your first draft of a novel – keep yourself open to reimagining
even the major things, like structure and characterization.
Any tips against writers block?
If you’re struggling to
muster the enthusiasm and energy required to get through a scene or
expository passage, take a second to pull back and consider what
purpose you want the section to serve in the work. Why does it
Too often, I think writers (myself included) get it in their heads
that certain events or ideas have to be included in the book when
they’re actually just an unnecessary slog – for writer and reader
both. Jonathan Lethem has a great quote about how to avoid this
conundrum: "I learned to write fiction the way I learned to read
fiction - by skipping
the parts that