I keep thinking of What’s Left as “my latest novel” or “my newest,” even though other works are appearing after its publication.
I don’t mean to be creating confusion, but here’s my take.
One way or another, my earlier novels addressed the hippie era, which I still believe remains misunderstood and misrepresented. It’s too important for that. And, yes, it’s still hard to define.
What’s Left started out to put those stories in a broader perspective but, revision by revision, the book moved in a much different direction. Quite simply, Cassia and her generation took over.
It became the most difficult writing project I’ve ever undertaken and forced me to completely rethink my approach to fiction. Remember, my career was in “just the facts, ma’am,” journalism topped by Beat-era literature.
Unlike the earlier works, in drafting this one, I had a structural model I wanted to pursue – one that remained intact.
What I hadn’t anticipated was how much the focus would shift.
Many of my favorite parts were created in the final revisions, especially as other members of her generation became fully fleshed out characters, as did the Goth side of her mourning through her adolescent years.
That also meant ripping out a lot of other material, which either became background for my own understanding or was vastly condensed by the final version. The Red Barn’s been quoting heavily from those discards, just to add to your own understanding of the project’s scope.
Unanticipated? The paranormal fourteenth chapter is one of my favorites, even though I’d never done a ghost story before. By they way, they wrote it, not me. I simply recorded the dialogue.