Goddard MFAW alum Greg Comer’s Master’s Thesis Winner Take None as been published! The Writer caught up with Greg after he got done with the chores, in this case, feeding horses.
TW: What was the impetus for this book?
Serial failure. I could never figure out how to end a short story, or sustain a novel. I needed mentorship and a community of writers. I found them at Goddard, and set out to write a publishable novel within the two-year MFA timeline. Thanks to the incredible mentorship of Ryan Boudinot, Aimee Liu and countless others, I almost got there. (It took a year to find a publisher, and another year to finish the process).
I began with a long-abandoned, fairly execrable short story, which was probably a mistake. The story takes place in Montana in 1879, which makes it a Western, which angels hate and agents spurn. Barking Rain Press took a chance on it. Sales have not been good. I have learned from this; my current project is a post-Apocalypse love story, sort of.
TW: How did you find the characters?
They showed up in no particular order, usually for no apparent reason. Each demanded fair (preferential) treatment, and pushed the story in unforeseen directions. For example, Carmichael, a cast-eyed, ne’er-do-well, Ben Jonson-spouting thespian appeared uninvited on the porch of the Glory Hole Saloon. I don’t recall ever feeling the need for such a character, but in retrospect we could not have buried the town dog without him.
TW: What did you do when the going got rough?
Aimee, Ryan and half the student body counseled me in loving terms to stop whining, dammit. Well. I wrote every day, daydreamt while awake, and annotated novels in my sleep; typed out pages of DeLillo, Hazzard or Saunders, just to get the rhythm of excellent writing flowing through my fingers; I read poetry, committed how-to books to memory; spoke with my characters and myself; printed all 42 chapters and laid them out on the floor, desperately seeking order, coherence, meaning.
None of this helped, of course. Despair can be alleviated only by dogs, chocolate —and kind words from Victoria Nelson. They carried me through the dark hours.