My process is dull. It’s as plodding and pedantic as Abraham’s film, painted one frame at a time. I’m a tortoise, waking each day to plod out my page or two. I try never to miss a morning, when I’m working on a novel. There are no other rules, no word counts or pencil sharpenings or candlelit pentagrams on the floor. Growing up with my father’s art-making in the house, the creative act was demystified, usefully. As a result, I see writing as an inevitable and ordinary way to spend one’s hours.
You’re gregarious with other writers. Does anyone read your early drafts?
The opposite: I’m gregarious with writers and never with manuscripts. I’m a very private writer, actually. I don’t like to emerge from my room with anything short of a polished book. To create the illusion of seamless perfection, so I alone know the flawed and homely process along the way. I try never to show my editor, the generous and hugely patient Bill Thomas, chapters or halves. Instead I do my best to deliver a completed book, a tour de fait accompli.
You work on a computer. Do early drafts get printed out and archived?
No, I never print anything out, only endlessly manipulate the words on the screen, carving fiction in ether. I enjoy keeping the book amorphous and fluid until the last possible moment. There’s no paper trail, I destroy the traces of revision by overwriting the same disk every day when I back up my work. In that sense, it occurs to me now, I’m more like the painter I trained to be—my early sketching is buried beneath the finished layer of oil and varnish.