" I became obsessed. I wanted to be the best. I wanted more than anything…”
Your protagonist states this quote with such conscious certainty. It speaks from the heart of all scientists, artists, authors. YOU?
I suppose when I was younger I had aspirations of being the best. Winning a Pulitzer. The Nobel. Oftentimes daydreaming about what it would be like to be a famous author. But now, not so much. I’m happy with being able to carve out an hour a day to write, another hour to read. I try to write the best book or story that I can, obviously, and I hope others enjoy my work as well, but I don’t think I obsess, especially to the point Coulter did in An Elegant Theory. He was driven mad by his obsession, causing him mental health issues and for him to act out violently. I don’t think obsession constitutes a conducive environment for production, whatever the field. Persistence is good, but so is balance.
What gave you the idea for this novel?
I’ve always had a fascination with physics, especially quantum mechanics and string theory, and I wanted to explore these themes in my work. Most of all, I wanted to embed them into the novel’s structure, hence the multiple points of view and non-linear narrative arc. The double slit light experiment and complementary pairs really create the structure for An Elegant Theory, and that’s the genesis. I wrote little vignettes, just short scenes that at the time were disparate, with no thought really to plot. It took several years for it to take shape in fact, to know exactly what story was being told.
There is always a little bit of truth in all fiction. Where are you in this story?
When I first started writing this book in 2011, my wife was pregnant with our first child. I suppose the moments that are most true for me would be the worry and angst of being a new parent. There is excitement, and love, but there’s also fear. Fear that I wouldn’t be a good father. Fear that something bad may happen to my child. Fear that she would be unhappy. Fear that something may be wrong. Even now I still struggle with doubt and fear, but I think that just comes with being a parent. But there’s also an immense amount of joy and pride. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but being a father is the greatest thing to happen to me, too.
Where are you hoping this work will take you?
Oh, I don’t know. I just hope people read it and like it. And I hope it affords me an audience that will allow me to continue to publish.
Next book? What and when?
My next book is a short story collection called Five Hundred Poor. It will be released June 1st, 2018, by Central Avenue Publishing, and it has 10 stories in it, 8 of which have been previously published in places like Rathalla Review, MAKE Literary Magazine, Storyscape Literary Journal, and Cowboy Jamboree. The title comes from Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, and it explores themes of poverty, economic inequality, colonialism, envy, and disillusionment. I’m also working on a new novel called Into Captivity They Will Go about a kid whose mother convinces him he is the second coming of Christ. I think I might be wrapping that one up soon, but you never know sometimes how these things will go.
Want to share your writing process.
I don’t know if I have much of a process. If I do, it includes copious amounts of coffee. It’s just not something I really think about. I sit down at the computer, and I start to write. Most of the time, it’s crap, and I have to revise and revise and revise until I have something that I’m not too embarrassed to send out into the world. Probably the most important part is reading. I try to read everything I can. Novels, short stories, poems, articles, essays, and on and on and on. To be a writer, I strongly believe you have to be a good reader, and not just for entertainment value. Every piece I read, I try to deconstruct it as best I can to figure out exactly what makes that piece work, or if it doesn’t, why. I think that has much more bearing on my writing process than the physical act of hitting the keys on the keyboard.
What element of craft is your weakest?
At times, I’ve gotten trapped in longwinded expository passages. For instance, I’ve had criticisms on An Elegant Theory for the lengthy passages explaining the scientific theories, stalling plot and character development for a dry, textbook-like feel. It’s something I work very hard at, and luckily, I have an excellent editor in Michelle Halket who helped me pare down a lot of that to what I hope was just enough to make the book make sense, but not enough to where people got bored with it.
Which is your strongest?
I’ve been told I write dialogue well, but I don’t know. A lot of times I think it is dependent on the story. I was proudest of the structure in An Elegant Theory, but I’m not sure if many people would agree that it was the strongest part of it. In other stories, for instance “Life Expectancy” in my upcoming collection, I think the imagery and sense of place really stands out as the best element of craft. So, I think it is an ever-evolving thing for me. I get better as I write and read more, and with some works a certain element of craft will really stand out as strong, and in others it will be something completely different. That’s one of the great joys of writing, I think, surprising yourself.
“The fundamental nature of reality is so much stranger than we ever thought it would be.”
Quantum Physics is an undertone in this book throughout—along with Quantum Consciousness.
Is it a major subject of interest for you?
Will it play a major theme in other works?
I’ve always been fascinated with physics. I’ve read Brian Greene, Michio Kaku, Stephen Hawking, and Richard Feynman. Also, iTunesU is a wonderful resource, offering free lectures on various topics such as electromagnetism or heterophenomenology, and I think certain concepts will probably come up again in different pieces, whether that be short fiction or a new novel, but I don’t think it will again play such a central role in the story. I want to move on to new themes and concepts and research other subjects, so you might see a metaphor or something come up, but nothing that really drives the narrative.