Ivan Doig Part II

For Part I – see post below

How has your approach to your material/process changed over the years and novels?
The wordmaking process really hasn’t changed much over the years and the soon-to-be fourteen books. I still rely on file cards that preserve turns of phrase, dossier details of my characters, and touches for imagined scenes, as well as a pocket notebook to always, always get down an idea or good phrase as soon as I think of it—memory and good intentions are not our friends in that instance, folks—but of course the computer has come into it. For me it’s still a mixed blessing—an aid in revising, you bet, but also a soul-draining screen to stare at and that invention of the devil, the mouse, to torment my hand and wrist, unlike the honest both-handed ten-fingered workmanship of the typewriter, which I still do use for much of my rough drafting.
What do you feel most impacted your writing process or career?
The acceptance of This House of Sky, way back in 1978, and its subsequent success–reviews that were a writer’s dream, acclaim which carried it into the finals for the National Book Award where it lost by a single vote–set me up to write the books after that. If there’s any one lesson in Sky’s record, maybe it’s to be found in the diary I kept during the writing of it, where I set down that I was determined to make the language dance, to try to make each sentence of the book have “a trap of poetry” within it. I estimate that I rewrote the opening page, starting with its much-cited first sentences –“Soon before daybreak on my sixth birthday, my mother’s breathing wheezed more raggedly than ever, then quieted. And then stopped.”–some seventy-five times to get it right.
What are you working on now?
I’m at the fortunate point of having a next book and then the next next one I’m working on.
First, published this fall, will be The Bartender’s Tale, the novel about a father and son left on their own in a shifting world–a tale in itself as old as kinship, but ever new in the way “the bachelor saloonkeeper with a streak of frost in his black pompadour and the inquisitive 12-year-old boy who had been an accident between the sheets” go about life in a small western town in 1960.
Meanwhile, I’m writing a sequel to the well-received Work Song–more Morrie! More Butte! Yes. Morris Morgan, the “Walking encyclopedia” from the one-room school in The Whistling Season and the subsequent Butte novel now returns–arm in arm with his bride, Grace–at the start of the Twenties to open another front in the perpetual war against the oligopolistic Anaconda Copper Mining Company, also known as “the snakes.” This one will likely reach print late next year or early ’14, the writer says with crossed fingers.
Final Words of wisdom
Keep a journal or diary to strengthen the habit of writing regularly. And write in it on bad days as well as good ones; the words don’t know the difference.

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

This Post Has One Comment

Comments are closed.