Can one’s imagination run too wild?
Fiction writer John McManus talks about channeling the dark – anxiety, emotion, even wildly horrible possible futures – into his stories. He shares the evolution of the novel he is currently working on, Magnetic South, in which “fake” reporting about the colloquially-known “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda leads to a big boost in a con artist’s career, and then a subsequent unraveling.
“This is a novel that grew out of the failed draft of an old novel I wrote in 2008…It lay around on my computer and when I went back I realized I…strongly disliked…most of what I saw and the only part I liked at all was a bit of exposition about a trip my protagonist had taken to Kampala.”
His decade-long process, with breaks for writing new work and also for travel to Uganda, Namibia and Botswana and work with refugees in South Africa, has led to a fundamental revision of that story.
John gives us an inside look at some of his residency workshops and discusses the epistolary form of the semester’s work: “I can take days or even a week to think about my response, and then I can respond in writing. I became a writer because I express myself better in writing than in person. Certainly better than when I am in front of a room full of people who expect me to deliver ‘wisdom’. So I have always felt like I am the best possible teacher when I am here at Goddard.”
What darkness do you write to bring light to?
John’s recommended reading: Brawler by Lauren Groff. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/13/brawler
Music credits: “Cicle Gerano” by Blue Dot Sessions, Album: Cicle Kadde; “Cicle Veroni” by Blue Dot Sessions, Album: Cicle Kadde; “Come As You Are” by Blue Dot Sessions, Album: Cauldron; “Taoudella” by Blue Dot Sessions, Album: Azalai.
Read more from John, as well as the other faculty, alumni and students from the Goddard MFA in Creative Writing community, at the blog The Writer in the World.