What is a favorite story you would recommend to everyone?
“Honey Pie” by Haruki Murakami. Oh, it just crushed me.
I think this is the best possible experience a person can have with fiction – to be crushed by it. Or maybe “tenderized” is a better word for this.
What is the most challenging part of writing a book?
I like this quote by E.L. Doctorow: “Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re writing is not writing. Writing is writing.” To sort of echo this idea, for me the most challenging part of writing is just doing it. Writing is incredibly frustrating a lot of the time, so making the daily choice to do it instead of doing anything else is the great and ongoing challenge.
One specific challenge that I faced with this book was how to use coincidence to bring characters together without it being too distracting or implausible. Around the time this had me stopped-up, I was reading something unrelated and encountered the “Birthday Paradox” – which states that in a room of only 23 people, there is a 50% likelihood that two of those people will share the same birthday. In a room of 70 people, that likelihood is over 99.9%. Isn’t that incredible? I know nothing of math, so had to stare at the explanation for this statistic for a while to understand (vaguely) that it’s true, and why it’s true. And although it didn’t relate directly to my work, this line of thought about probability and the “overlap” of people helped me push through my misgivings about writing coincidence.
What is the easiest part of writing a book?
Cutting! When the editors at Counterpoint read my manuscript, they suggested that I basically chop the book in half in terms of length. The idea of this pained me at first, but once I re-imagined the book with only the chapters they thought were essential, I came to a much deeper understanding of it. Cutting is exhilarating and almost always the right choice in my experience, whether it’s an adverb or an entire subplot.
Have you always been a writer?
I wrote a lot when I was very young, then not at all for many years, and I started up again in my mid/late twenties. So no, I wouldn’t say I have always been a writer, but I have always had an unnatural (or so it would seem) curiosity about other people’s lives, and I think the two go hand in hand.
What is Another Place You’ve Never Been about?
Kelly Winton, the brilliant artist who designed the cover of the book, provided me with a great answer to this hard question: it’s about a little girl who desperately wants someone to take her fishing.
It’s about the woman she becomes, and the resilience of love; how much it can endure.
Any words about the excerpt?
I don’t think much context is necessary except to know that Tracy has arrived at this place because she was driving in heavy snow, her truck slid into a ditch, and she is seeking help at the nearest home. As far as Tracy and Charlie are aware, this is the first they have ever encountered one another, however the reader knows by this point that their lives are deeply intertwined.
Returning to the first question, it occurs to me that I can only recommend Murakami to people of a certain age. A favorite story that I would actually recommend to everyone, including my six-year-old nephew, is “A Swim” from Frog & Toad Are Friends, by Arnold Lobel. The ending is just magnificent.
Thank you so much, TNB, for reading and sharing.
REBECCA KAUFFMAN is originally from rural northeastern Ohio. She eventually moved to New York City, where she received her MFA in Creative Writing. In the years since, she has worked primarily in restaurants and intermittently as a teacher. She currently lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.