Sometimes the line between memoir and novel is thinner than others.
Keith Gessen came on the show this week to discuss his latest novel, A Terrible Country. Drawing on his own experience caring for his grandmother in Russia after graduating from college, Keith originally set out to write a much bigger book than the one he ended up with. He had fantasies of covering aspects of Russian culture in between the narrative sections, and coming up with – essentially – the Russian equivalent of A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth.
He won a fellowship to work out of the New York Public Library and had access to every book in the system and wrote with this vision of a large book in mind for the year he was in residence there.
And then he sat down and read the result and was horrified to find that it bored him. In our conversation, we discuss how he pared it down into the final manuscript and the things that scared him along the way to a final novel. Keith is very open about his experience in a way that will make everyone listening remember that, even though you write a novel by yourself, you aren't alone in how scary it can feel to do it. This will be a great comfort if you feel any doubt about reaching the end. Let Keith be the voice from the light at the end of the tunnel.