Friday, January 16, 2009

A Follow-Up Question for Michael Downing

A new question from the Seattle Gay & Lesbian Book Club for our author Michael Downing, about his novel Breakfast with Scot. Nick & Co. wanted to know if Scot -- the little boy inherited by the central characters Ed and Sam -- was based "on a real boy." Herewith, Mr. Downing's response:

Michael Downing: As a preamble to my response, I should say that I don't subscribe to the mystical school of writing. I'm never attended by a muse. I'm so conventional that I don't think I really understand what is real about magical realism.That said, I have to say Scot invented himself. It's true. I didn't intend to write a book about a boy. I had latched on to Ed and Sam and the intention to write a comic novel about nosey neighbors--something I know something about, as I have long been one of them.It's gets more complicated. I had actually signed a contract to write Shoes Outside the Door--a narrative history of the San Francisco Zen Center, the first Buddhist monastery outside of Asia in the history of the world. After several months of research and interviews, I realized it was going to be a much bigger project than I'd understood--not least of all because I understood that I didn't understand the first thing about the 5,000-year history of Buddhism, never mind trying to get a handle on the slip-knot of zen.I got depressed and wanted to cheer myself up, and that's when I decided to stop and write a comic novel. The only thing wrong with the many first drafts I ditched was that they weren't funny. Then Scot turned up. He entered my imagination fully formed. He was wearing some really bad red corduroy slacks and dragging a boa. I had no idea who he was or what he wanted with me, but he'd just stand there is his slouchy, hands-on-the-hips way and stare, occasionally widening his eyes to convey his astonishment at my failure to introduce myself and get him a cold beverage.Maybe he was an amalgamation of boys whose flamboyant bravery I'd admired. Maybe I hauled him out of my fear that he was the boy people saw hiding inside of me. Whoever he was, he made it clear he wouldn't go away, no matter how often I raised my eyebrows or sighed audibly to let him know I was too busy to entertain visitors.

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