Nathan: What was the hardest part about writing the book? What was the hardest part of the book to write?
Jeremy: Mm. Believing in it. I struggled a lot with that. Kind of an ongoing fight with myself throughout the process. Believing that I could accomplish it, that I could render the story. That I had the technical ability, but moreso this idea of "talent". Part of the work of writing a book, at least for me, was very indirect. Seeking out sources of inspiration and support; like, I wouldn't just watch any movie, or read just any book. The things I took in were tailored, curated kind of, I mean I was conscious about seeking out material that would help me, in this very specific process I was engaged with. I remember reading Crime and Punishment, which is like, a universally recognized "great book", a work of art. And there was this point, some passage, where I was reading and I realized that the passage was just a bridge, to get from one important part of the story to the next. And I realized that it was imperfect, and I could picture Dostoevsky writing it, just essentially nailing some boards together, to cross over some impediment. That was a real light-bulb moment for me, about how worrying about whether you're talented or not is not the right question, that it's just a matter of doing the work, of the grind of it. Sitting down and staring at the page for an hour and nothing comes out.
And then believing that it was worthwhile. Writing a book is a fairly egotistical enterprise, in general. It's saying, essentially, "Hey, listen to me, spend a bunch of time being quiet, and just listening to what I have to say." So on top of that, here I am also writing a book about my own life, saying: listen to me talk about my own life. Solipsism. That was a big struggle for me, the question of whether I was just writing a book because I was really self-absorbed, or because I'd been a living component of what had just happened to be a great story. Whether I was employing my gifts, or just squandering them. And the way that I solved that was by writing myself--not the historical version of myself, but me as an author--into the narrative. Making that struggle a part of the story. Which is a fairly universal thing that most people go through, I suppose, the struggle to believe that your voice is valid, is important.
The hardest part of the book to write? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is the reveal of Isobel's backstory. Partly because that happens in one of the "journal" sections, where the protagonist is reading from that journal he finds. Those sections are actually taken from an earlier, abortive attempt to write this book, that I undertook several years ago, and as such they were difficult to edit. Because it's such a different writing style, but also a very specific voice, and so I had to edit it--to make the writing better, to integrate it into the book--but without losing that particular voice, and that was a difficult technical problem. But also that part was hard to write because it's such a concentrated node of darkness. Emotionally exhausting, to be in there working, to be inside that space for an extended time period. But the hardest part overall, in terms of sheer expenditure of energy, was the construction of Part IV, the last part. Because it's the part where there's no more contact with "reality", where the story finally drops, fully, the constraint of those physical laws. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it took a lot of work to give myself that freedom. To get to the point where I felt like I'd exhausted all other possible avenues, and determined this was in fact where the story needed to go. The key was a reconstruction of the central image, something that came to me, and I sat with for awhile before pulling the trigger on it. In the earlier drafts he enters a kind of dark castle sort of thing, but now it's just a black box. Just an enormous black cube of stone. Which is a pretty clear symbol, I think; and for me it was like, all right, no more rules, anything can happen in here now.