An Interview with Eliot Treichel, author of A Series of Small Maneuvers
– So I’ve read A Series of Small Maneuvers. I guess I should ask you about it, but I’d rather have you give me a reason for why I read your other novels?
A Series of Small Maneuvers is my first novel. My first book was a collection of short stories called Close Is Fine. Those stories are all set in rural Northern Wisconsin, which is where I grew up, and the book received the Wisconsin Library Association Literary Award. Some have labeled the stories as Midwestern Gothic. They’re mostly about broken men who are trying to find redemption in one way or another. The men often fail, but they keep trying.
– You certainly don’t want your readers to be comfortable! What is going to make this novel different from all the others I have read in YA? River rats sound promising 😉
This is a novel about rivers, grief, and family. Part of what might separate it for other YA novels is the whitewater canoeing and kayaking aspects—the “river rats,” as you mentioned. But, more than that, what early readers have told me is that they find Emma a compelling and authentic character, and that they appreciate how the adults in the book are written as three-dimensional, real people. And while I didn’t first set out to write a book about grief, that’s what came out. This is not a romance-driven YA book, but instead an open and honest look at loss, and it offers no easy resolutions. It doesn’t talk down to teens.
– I both love and hate novels that don’t leave a discrete ending for the reader. Have you ever felt the need to write sequels for specific novels?
I might write about Emma again, because I think she has more to say to the world, but I don’t know if it will be as a sequel to this book.
– There’s always another novel in the pipeline to write… Tell me about it! Does it have even a working title?
Right now, I’m working on another YA novel as well as some short stories. The novel doesn’t have a title yet, and it’s all still very nebulous. I recently told someone that it was going to be a YA stoner rom-com that will make you laugh so hard you cry and cry so hard you laugh. We’ll see. The book you think you are going to write and the book you actually end up writing are usually very different.
– Some advice other writers have given is that your first novel is best sitting in a drawer for a while, because then you feel stronger about chopping up ‘your baby’. Do you still have a copy of your first novel? Whether this was published or unpublished, I need to know!
All writing should sit in a drawer for as long as possible. I’ll just say that I wrote the first draft of the first story in Close is Fine fifteen years before it was published in the book. I doubt I still have that draft anywhere. A Series of Small Maneuvers took about four years, with lots of drawer time in between each draft.
– Once you have the idea for a story, how do you write it? Do you have any specific routines or rituals you go through?
I tend to write from beginning to end, a draft at a time. In general, I find revision much more enjoyable than first drafts. If I’m stuck, I will sometimes just write a scene that I find compelling in some way and then worry about whether it fits later. As far as rituals and routines go, unless it’s late at night, there’s usually a cup of coffee nearby.
– Do you have a dedicated writing space? Do you have colourful post-it notes on the walls? How does it meet your writing needs?
I have an office at home. Currently, there are three poster-sized Post-its on the wall with notes and ideas and a character list from the novel I’m working on. Other times, I’ll write at the kitchen table, or on the couch, or outside. I think it’s good to mix it up. Mostly what I need from a writing space is utter quiet. Right now, my neighbors on one side of my house are in a death metal band, so sometimes finding that quiet can be hard.
– How do you know when a novel or short story is finished? How do you know to step away and let the story speak for itself?
It’s mostly intuition. You go through each draft and interrogate each line. When there’s nothing left to interrogate, you’re probably done.
– Do you have a preference for ebook or paperback format? This is for both your own reading and your novels.
I like paper books. I don’t even own any kind of e-reader. But to each their own. I’m happy to share my work in either format.
– Social media is becoming a big thing. How does managing media outlets come into marketing your brand and your books?
Right now, my social media presence is limited to Twitter (@eliottreichel). I also have my website: www.eliottreichel.com. I don’t foresee that changing much. I purposefully left Facebook more than a year ago. I reject the premise that an author has to have a big social media presence to be successful. And I reject the premise that you have to have a social media presence or you’ll be missing out from something. Life is way more interesting offline, whatever your brand.
– Finally, it looks like you are just getting into answering interview questions. Although I might not have the space here to ask you a lot more questions, is there something you wish I had asked? Or conversely, something you wish I hadn’t asked?
I’ll just use this space to say thank you for your interest in my book, and for giving me the opportunity to share some of my thoughts about writing. I hope your readers will enjoy the book, too. One cool question would’ve been, “Do you want a free plane ticket to Australia?” I definitely would’ve answered, “Yes!”