Category Archives: Somerville News Writers Festival

PSS Interviews Novelist Rick Moody

Rick Moody, successful novelist and chronicler of the American zeitgeist (“Garden State”, “The Ice Storm” and “Purple America”) took a few moments to speak with us. Rick is one of the featured notables at the Somerville News Writers Festival, Saturday, November 14th. Keep an eye out for his latest novel, a comedic work titled, “The Four Fingers of Death.”

PSS: Tell us a little something of your writing discipline…how do you approach starting a new book?

RM: It sort of approaches me, really. I am somewhat undisciplined. An idea kind of seizes me, usually without much preparation, and then I go into this long period of turning it over in my mind, sometimes for months. Thinking, rethinking. When I finally have time to address it, it has often been marinating for a long time. Six months, maybe, sometimes a year.

PSS: How much of the nascent book is already plotted out in your mind? How much do you rely on your ‘muse’ for guidance or inspiration as the story progresses?

RM: I never plot, at all. I let the story go where it wants to go. And then I assess l the damage during the editing phase.

PSS: I spent 12 years writing my novel, but there were many periods where I took a break—sometimes for months—other periods where I felt compelled to sit at the computer whenever I could get home. How long does it usually take you to complete a novel, or something like your memoir “The Black Veil”? And what is the writing experience like? Does it flow smoothly or are there starts and stops?

RM: Always starts and stops, always periods of despair and demoralization. But some periods of enjoyment and satisfaction too. They have each gone their own way, so there’s no set length of time for composition. THE ICE STORM took 14 months. The new one, the just finished one, took four years.

PSS: I noticed in “The Diviners” that you begin the book with a prologue, titled “Opening Credits and Theme Music”, that runs 12 pages and is essentially a travelogue following the sun as it rushes to rise around the globe. First, do you think it was risky, in the sense of holding onto your readers’ interest, to delay telling your story? Or was the literary or storytelling reward worth taking the risk?

RM: Boy, have I done things more risky than that! People are free to read something else if they find that bit too demanding. They’re probably not going to like the rest if they don’t like the prologue, so it’s a truth-in-advertising approach.

PSS: I must tell you I am in awe of your ability to construct sentences and imbue them with such emotion and cultural richness. Have you always had such facility with words? When did you first realize you had a calling as a writer? How did you learn?

RM: Thanks! I don’t know that I have such facility, but it’s nice of you to say so. And I never really thought of myself as a writer, but just as someone who read a lot and was passionate about books. The writing came out of my love of reading. And the craft of it came not only from the books I’ve read, but from the many, many great teachers I have had.

PSS: Which of your works is your favorite and why?

RM: They all disappoint me. But I have a tendency to like the most recent one, so I like this one I just finished pretty well. It’s a comedy called THE FOUR FINGERS OF DEATH.