More from novelist Zachary Lazar
Published: January 30, 2009
|Sarah Anne Johnson, a contributing editor at The Writer, interviewed novelist Zachary Lazar for the March 2009 issue, focusing largely on his novel Sway. The article was headlined: "Swaying through the '60s with the Rolling Stones - Zachary Lazar vividly weaves three stories into one while imagining his way into the minds of famous figures." Following are some additional comments from Lazar.|
Many writers say their interest in writing began with a voracious interest in reading as a child. How did you know you wanted to write?
I dabbled with all kinds of writing from about age 12. My first prolonged artistic focus was rock music: I wrote and recorded songs, but at some point in high school I lost interest, and at the same time I was becoming more and more immersed in literature. I was a voracious reader and wanted eventually to write a book of my own, but it wasn't until my early 20s that I had enough dedication to actually finish anything, which at that point was short stories.
What is your process like for getting the first draft down?
I like to inch along, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. I like to feel reasonably satisfied with what I have so far before going on to the next part.
What is your revision process like?
I'm revising all the time. I revise page by page as I'm moving forward, then when I finish a section of the book, I go back over the whole thing. The first kind of revision is to help the sentences improve; the second kind is to help the overall shape of the story, to help it flow.
What other challenges did you face in writing Sway?
Time, money, rejection. Those are the big three for most writers. It is discouraging to tell strangers that you're writing a novel when there is no indication that the novel will ever see the light of day. But discouragement is also something you can overcome. Time and money are more intractable problems, unfortunately.
I was so excited by the book I read it in two sittings, and raved about it to a friend, "It's the most brilliant thing I've ever read," and so on. She found the writing compelling, but the darkness of the narrative relentless and hard to bear. What kinds of reader feedback have you been getting?
Well, first of all, thank you for reacting that way—that is the kind of response you dream of but never expect to actually get. I think you have just described the two most common responses: people who are attracted and people who are repelled. Fortunately, I think the camp who liked it is larger than the camp who didn't, or maybe they're just more willing to share their opinion with me. It's easy for me to forget that all writing elicits a multitude of different responses. One response was, "I read your book." Period. Which I took to mean, "Your book is deranged and sick," but I could be wrong.
What would you say to new writers working on their first stories or novel?
The most helpful thing for me was learning to write for at least two hours every day. When you're working a full-time job, when you have a family, this can be very difficult, but the alternative is to feel bad about not doing it. I don't think inspiration has anything to do with finishing a story or a novel. You can't count on it. Most people I know rely on the slow-grind method, which is not glamorous but becomes a mostly painless habit.
--Posted Jan. 30, 2009