Today’s author interview is with author, Brad Windhauser. His new novel, THE INTERSECTION, tells the story of a white driver who hits an African-American bicyclist. The accident inflames tensions in a gentrifying South Philadelphia neighborhood.
First, some background on Brad:
Originally from Southern California, I live in Philadelphia. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte, an MA in English from Rutgers (Camden) and am Associate Professor of writing at Temple University. My short stories and work have appeared in The Baltimore Review, Santa Fe Writer’s Project Journal, Ray’s Road Review, Northern Liberties Review, and Philadelphia Review of Books and Jonathan. This is my second novel.
SARETT: THE INTERSECTION adresses thorny issues about race relations in Philadelphia. What drew you to this material-- and was there anything in your personal history that led you to it?
WINDHAUSER: For starters, I live in this neighborhood (Graduate Hospital). I bought when the area was “up-and-coming,” or, in other words, gentrifying. I noticed how welcoming some people were while others were not thrilled by my presence. While driving one day, I almost hit a bicyclist. I wondered: given the tension in this neighborhood, what would happen if a white driver hit a black bicyclist?
SARETT: Novelist Jonathan Franzen (confession: haven't read him) said that fiction is a messy business -- and that it's dangerous for a writer to be too perfectionist. I'm wondering how you respond.
WINDHAUSER: I’m assuming it has to do with being satisfied with the characters and plot. In that sense, yes, you’ll likely never find them to be perfect. I don’t think he would mean perfect in the sense that they’re perfect people--would anyone read such a book? Rather, perfect in the sense that there is always tweaking--you believe you get a section or character right in a scene and then, when you re-read it, you make subtle changes. Thought of in this way, the book will never be perfect. At some point, you have to let it go.
SARETT: When you’re developing material, which comes first -- story or character?
WINDHAUSER: For this novel, the accident and the fallout (the story) came first. I then interrogated the situation--who would be involved? Who would benefit? Who would suffer? In other instances, I began with an image of a character with a particular personality and wondered what would he or she care about? The story grew out of that.
SARETT: Did you have any literary muses that influenced the way you approached this novel?
WINDHAUSER: I’m a HUGE Hemingway fan, although I don’t know that this book demonstrates that affinity. When I figured out the type of story this would be--alternating points of view, multiple story lines--I investigated books that did this well. Banks’ Trailer Park and The Sweet Hereafter as well as Strouts’ Olive Kitteridge served as models.
SARETT: I know you teach. Are there any writing rules that you secretly enjoy breaking?
WINDHAUSER: Tons, but every choice I make it is done consciously, when the story calls for it. When it comes to grammar, I love a good run-on sentence.
SARETT: I’m always seeking new (or forgotten) writers. Any writers in particular that you’d like recommend to our blog readers?
WINDHAUSER: I’ve been reading story collections. April Ford’s The Poor Children is excellent (especially “A Marmalade Cat for Jenny”). Susan Muaddi Darraj’s A Curious Land: Stories from Home, and Tara Laskowski’s Bystanders
SARETT: What’s up next for you? Any projects in the works?
WINDHAUSER: At the moment, I’m enjoying the build-up to the book’s launch. I do have a first draft of my next book, set in a San Diego Restaurant in the late 90’s. I’ll dust that off once I can devote appropriate attention to it.
You can follow Brad on:
Facebook: Brad Windhauser
www.BradWindhauser.comBuy THE INTERSECTION here