Bob Shacochis

I’m asked all the time, “Doesn’t it feel great to finish the novel?” And the answer to that is, “No.” It’s sort of a loss to stop a 10-year project, which is an imaginary project in the sense that it’s a work of my imagination. The people who I’ve lived with for 10 years in my imagination are now sort of defunct. To lose them is rather a mournful process – it’s not a relief.

The biggest challenge in the research process is to let go, to stop, to say enough, and then to reduce all of that beloved labor down to a few succinct paragraphs that shape the background to your narrative. I love research – that’s all the fun, especially in the field. To write, however, is to suffer, and my pieces usually come in thousands of words over the assigned length. That’s a serious flaw in my writing process – shaping and disciplining the footlockers of material one has so happily gathered.

The illusion of control has to be there, but mostly I’m following characters and the consequences of their own decisions, because a lot of the time they made decisions about what to do or how to behave that I had no idea were coming down the pike. As I would sit and try to inhabit a character, they themselves in my imagination would have quite a bit of free will.

For any artistic person who creates imaginary people, the art is like inhabiting the life and mind of a seven-year-old child with imaginary friends and imaginary events and imaginary grace and imaginary tragedy. Within that alternate universe, the characters do have quite a bit of free will. I know it’s happening in my mind and my mind alone, but they seem to have their own ability to shape their destinies. So I’m not shooting for anything. If the characters are vulnerable it’s simply because they’re very human.