"I'm a character guy." 3Qs for thrillmaster Nate Kenyon

As promised yesterday, a quick conversation with Nate Kenyon, author of Sparrow Rock.

Thanks for joining us, Nate. In the Sparrow Rock prologue (read it here) you begin to set up the complex relationships that evolve over the course of an intense story. This may be a chicken-or-egg-first question, but what steers the story in Sparrow Rock, the plot or the characters?
Great question. I'm a character guy, because I think that for a book to work readers must identify with and come to know the people in it. You can have the best, most intense and action-packed plot in the world, but it's nothing more than eye candy unless a reader lives and breathes with the characters and experiences something of what they're feeling. At the risk of being morbid, it's like the difference between driving past a car accident and being IN one.

The narrator of Sparrow Rock, Pete Taylor, is a really unusual guy, and writing in the first person allowed me to do some pretty neat things with this story that I might otherwise be unable to do. Seeing things through his eyes lends an intensity and immediacy to the narrative that really works for the story. That said, as I was writing Sparrow Rock the story just took over and carried me along with it in a way that's never happened before. It seemed to gather its own momentum and I just wrote it down.

If your readers are interested in more about how Sparrow Rock evolved, here's a neat little feature I did for the Dorchester Publishing website.

You take your readers on a long, dark journey in Sparrow Rock, playing on some universally deep fears. (Please, baby Jesus, don't let me think of zombie rats when I go to bed tonight...) What was that journey like for you as a writer? Were you exploring any of your own dark fears?
Oh yeah. I don't think it's possible to write a novel without exploring your own emotions. There's plenty of me in this one--from the fear of rats and insects to the fear of being trapped somewhere, of being alone or abandoned, the fear of pulling away the masks people wear to find out what's underneath. Sparrow Rock is about the end of the world, about meaning in a meaningless existence, about losing your family and trying to cope with your own deep, emotional trauma. Pete is a very complex guy for a lot of reasons, and he has quite a history. I don't have that same history, but I share some of his fears.

Honey Child, I hate to bring it up, but PW (who kissed your novel, The Reach, with a starred review) smacked this novel with one of those reviews writers dread. As a seasoned pro, I know you can take it, but a lot of aspiring and emerging writers are probably wondering how an author shakes that off. What was your reaction to that review and does it have any effect on your experience with this book?
Another good question. I have to admit I was shocked by that one, because I very firmly believed that this was--and is--my best novel, for many reasons. Advance readers have been raving about it. Hell, my editor at Leisure called it a "modern horror classic" when he finished it, and the publisher for the limited edition hardcover thought it was one of the best books he'd read all year. But as a writer you have to realize that reading is a uniquely personal experience, and regardless of whether a reviewer is supposed to be impartial, he or she can be affected by mood or by personal preference just like any of us. These are freelance reviewers that come from all over and have different tastes. The Reach straddled the techno-thriller line, while Sparrow Rock is a bit darker, more horrific. It's possible the reviewer was turned off by that.

Who knows for sure? The important thing is to see this as a product that someone is reviewing, and not as a personal attack. Some people don't like things that others love. It happens. I'm mostly concerned about getting this book into as many readers' hands as possible, because I know it'll stand on its own, and people will make their own decisions on what they think of it.

Visit Nate Kenyon's website for more about Sparrow Rock.


Great interview. And Nate, you won the cover lottery with that one.

Can't wait to read this book!
Mylène said…
Thanks, Joni and Nate. And Nate is dead right about reviewers and their moods: my second novel was published on September 12, 2001, and though it received universal praise there was one reviewer--for the New York Post--who went ballistic because the book was "not what New Yorkers want to hear right now." I had no idea 9/11 was coming when I set the story in NYC. Reading is, indeed, deeply personal.
Joni Rodgers said…
Yes, I love the art on that limited hardcover. The paperback cover (on yesterday's post) is very cool, too.

Mylene, that was a monumentally lousy break. I worked with a client who's two book releases coincided with the OJ verdict and the Challenger explosion. I'm worried that her upcoming release might be a reenactment of Sparrow Rock.
I just ordered Sparrow Rock! Couldn't wait another minute.

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