Adam O’Fallon Price is the author of two novels: The Grand Tour (Doubleday, 2016) and most recently The Hotel Neversink (Tin House, 2019). We recently discussed the joys and difficulties of writing a poly-vocal story, which takes place in a New England resort. The Neversink resort is at once a character, an atmosphere, and a stage that allows for a host of characters to change, stifle, murder, love, and defeat one another.
Randal O’Wain: One of my favorite aspects of The Hotel Neversink is the little moments of reflection that each character presents throughout the book. As when Jeanie thinks, “My father was not an easy man. But why should people be easy? It is a cherished lie of the modern world, of America, that everything should be good and easy, as though comfort were a moral condition.” To maintain this level of interiority without sounding overtly authorial, one, I assume, must know the characters very well. Talk to me about the process of inhabiting so many different perspectives, thoughts, and feelings. How did you go about writing and structuring this novel?
Adam O’Fallon Price: The novel began as the story about one of the main characters, Len, when he’s trying to keep the hotel open in the mid-eighties and dealing with the Polish Policeman’s League, who was running amok. This story came from a man I met when we lived in upstate New York, the husband of my wife’s boss, who had grown up in Brooklyn in the forties, and gone to Catskills resorts for thirty plus years. He’d seen the rise, heyday, and demise of the whole institution, and was a wealth of these incredible stories. So after I wrote that one, and maybe a couple of others, it became clear that the hotel itself was a mainspring that could power so many different stories and voices. And in a weird way, I think occupying this space suggested different characters and different character perspectives. The hotel as seen by a young girl would be radically different from the hotel as seen by the hotel detective. I think always having the hotel there as a shared, immutable feature of life, gave me something solid and objective against which I could imagine all these different subjective experiences. I think the hotel gave me a way in to character perspectives that I would not have otherwise had, or had as easily.