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56server readers are SMART PROGRESSIVE INVOLVED INFLUENTIAL GOOD LOOKING \($\(9 are Nserver oavertisersr Get noticed by Texas Observer folks all over the state and nation. Let them know about your bookstore, service, restaurant, non-profit organization, event, political candidate, shoe store, coffee house, boutique, salon, yoga studio, law practice, etc. ADVERTISE IN THE OBSERVER! REASONABLE RATES GREAT EXPOSURE Call 512-477-0746 and ask for Julia Austin or e-mail [email protected] ke g , 06 server reaers r Consider advertising your business or non-profit in the Observer. GOOD FOR YOU GOOD FOR THE OBSERVER Harrigan, continued from page 25 details of being weightless 40 miles above the Earth. TO: At one point Lucy gets a cell-phone call from her husband. He’s on the space shuttle while she’s at a McDonald’s on Earth with her son. Their circumstances provide a provocative contrast. SH: The first time I noticed the McDonald’s on NASA Road One near the Johnson Space Center, with this big fiberglass astronaut holding an order of fries in his outstretched hand, that made me think, “I just have to write about this place and about the people who live here.” Real life is potentially as dramatic as space flight. Stories in which people behave as they do in real life, that is to say, somewhat unpredictably, are exciting to me. TO: At the heart of the bookand this is not giving anything away reallyis a disaster in space. Yet even that has emotional consequences for Lucy and, ultimately, for the reader. SH: Yes, well, something exciting needed to happen or else the book would be boring. So I began to wonder what would be the deepest jeopardy that I could put Lucy into. I began to think what it would be like to be a mother and to know that your child needs you desperately and not be able to reach them; you’re not even on the same planet. To be able to look down and see the Earth revolving below youto see the country where they, are the state, the cityand not be able to reach your children. To me, that was most haunting image in the book. TO: The original cover of the book featured Lucy looking out the shuttle at a house floating untethered in space. Did you start with that image in mind? SH: It’s hard to say whether what you put into a book is deliberate or happenstance. At some point things become deliberate just by virtue of being there … of having written them. It’s not fair to say that I sat down with the entire architecture of the book in mind. Fiction is a process of discovery for me. I’m very, very, very concerned about story and plot, which in the last few decades have become dirty words among literary types. It’s the necessary foundation of the novel, or at least the novels that I like to read. But I’ve learned you just can’t sit down and think of a plot. You have to get to know characters by writing scenes and plot in which they are slowly revealed. TO: A bit like life itself? SH: Yes, and once you see what those characters do in real life, you see where that book might be headed. I don’t write wasted scenes. I don’t do these things that you’re supposed to do, like writing character studies or blitzing thorough without paying attention to the niceties of the prose. I’m a first-draft writer, meaning it comes out clean. TO: How much do you get done a day? SH: It depends. At the very beginning of the book I’m writing, I might get a paragraph on a good day, but by the end, when I know the characters, I might get 22 or 23 pages a day. You build up so much momentum when you know the story and characters that you’re surfing. TO: Another of the characters, Louis, is a priest who is losing his faith in God. Much of this book is about loss, but there is also this interesting question about life’s mission. SH: Some reviews have said this is a book about responsibility. To some extent that is true. It’s been a big issue in my life. I think I’ve been pretty responsible, but it has been a concern of mine that I behave in ways that I find acceptable. I was never interested in the James Dean model of how to live your life. The romantic outlaw concept always felt a little bland to me. There are all sorts of ways that one can fall off the track. But this is a book about people who want to stay on the track, yet don’t want to deny themselves the richness of ambition and personal fulfillment. Edward Nawotka covers the South for Publishers Weekly and is a syndicated book critic. He recently moved to Houston, after living in Austin for several years. JUNE 16, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29