The reading will take place at New Jersey Repertory Company
Long Branch, NJ 07740
Click here for directions
There is a suggested donation of $10. All tickets will be available at the door on the evening of the readings. No advanced ticket sales.
1. Not only do you write fiction, but you are also a playwright, a poet and a screenwriter. Is your creative process the same for all of them? If not, how does it differ?
The story, novel, poem, the play for stage or radio (having written only once for the screen and that, a thirty-minute drama, I’d be presumptuous to speak of my screenwriting) – all begin with an image or a scene. It will trouble me (“haunt” if you like, to acknowledge the uncanny nature of the creative process, at least as it afflicts me) – insisting, night and day, on its priority. If the image or scene is at all remarkable, if it has a richness that can produce, with patience and effort, a yield sufficiently ample to compensate for the intellectual, spiritual, and physical resources spent to get at it – if I sense in this phantom sketch of an idea a result that will make me happy for having taxed myself – I’ll turn it over in my mind until the first sentence of the story, novel, poem, or play presents itself. Nearly always, this is the way for me: that the piece, whatever it is, begins, at last, with a sentence, a peremptory sentence that rarely will change or be discarded as the writing proceeds. During this exhausting (compulsions are always so) and marvelous time, the image and the images it engenders become like flypaper – pulling words, sentences, entire paragraphs, characters, places, and ideas out of the air, as if they were pests demanding notice. In this way, the text increases, grows, puts on flesh and – it is to be hoped – lives.
I don’t really know why I’ll choose to write in one form or another. It has nothing to do with the character of the image or idea. (I speak as if they were the same thing and, to my mind, they are – inextricably.) I suppose I have my seasons, when writing in this form or that feels right to me.
2. Your new novel THE BOY IN HIS WINTER is based on the characters of Huck Finn and Jim. What is about these two that intrigued you to write their stories through three vital and transformative centuries of American history?
My wife and I now live in retirement, near Raritan Bay, where my daughter works to improve water quality and increase species richness. In October, 2012, we were in the teeth of Hurricane Sandy; and as I lay in bed during the nine-day power outage, I thought once more of Huck and Jim and what I might make of them – this time, in a novel. Sandy inevitably brought to mind Katrina, and in a flash of inspiration (striking me while in the supine position favored by my muse), I saw Twain’s two Mississippi River travelers blown by hurricane from the timelessness of American literary history into historical time, below New Orleans. My mind spun the idea for a month or so, until the first lines of the novel were given to me (to speak oracularly).
As the novel evolved, Jim would become separated from Huck by a lynch mob in 1960, upriver from New Orleans. Huck, however, would nearly reach the end of his river journey to the Gulf of Mexico and reenter time at the same age that he was when starting out from Hannibal, Missouri, in 1835: thirteen. Huck’s biological clock having been restarted by Hurricane Katrina on August 23, 2005, he could live through much of the twenty-first century, as well as the nineteenth and twentieth. Setting to work on the novel, I had no idea that its narrator, Huck Finn, would bear witness to nearly three centuries of transformative American history. Not until I’d finished writing Huck and Jim’s river journey – Part One of The Boy in His Winter – did I realize that I had created a “time machine” with which I could look backwards and forward on the American experience.
3. Your work has been translated into Dutch, German, Spanish, Turkish, Greek, Polish, and Japanese. Do you find that the translations stay true to your original work? Is there something that shifts in the writing during translation?
To learn more about Norman, visit our website
You can also find additional information on our website about the Literary Artist Fellowship program.