The Autobiography of a Life I Never Lived


Writing fiction is a form of wish fulfillment. Writing is such an immersive process that one of the byproducts is that the writer is immersed in the world he or she creates. I don’t believe there’s any way to write fiction honestly unless you are capable of and willing to transport yourself into the story to the point where the world and the characters are real to you for the time that you are writing. (I know some writers who say that the experience extends further for them. I fear for these writers.) Therefore, to some degree, writing a novel is about making a world exist that you wish existed.

I didn’t immediately realize I was doing this with my novel Flash and Dazzle. I had the idea that I wanted to write about male friendship, and I came up with two central characters whose situation would allow me to ruminate on this in a dramatic way. It wasn’t until I was well underway that I realized that the world inhabited by Rich Flaster and Eric Dazman was an alternate history of sorts. It was in some ways the world I might have inhabited with my high school and college best friend if things had not ended so unceremoniously one late spring night. Certainly I’d imagined us actively participating in each other’s careers, living in great apartments right near each other in Manhattan, and exploring every corner of the city. That never came to pass in real life, but I could make it happen in the world I lived in while writing Flash and Dazzle.

The circumstances, of course, are completely different from what they would have been in reality. I never aspired to a career in advertising, my best friend was decidedly not an artist, and neither of us were the life-of-the-party types that Rich and Eric are. People often ask me if my novels are autobiographical (every writer gets this – even writers who write about the Middle Ages), and I always say that the relationships and circumstances are not but the emotions in many ways are. Maybe a more honest answer, though, would be, “This novel is the autobiography of a life I never lived but could have.”

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