I am super happy to host Dan Today here now. . .
It was terrifically generous of one of my favorite fiction writers, the inimitable Robin Black, to tag me for one of these Next Big Thing self-interviews—what a great chance to take a step back from a work-in-progress and have a look.
What is the working title of your book? For a long time it was “Poxl” but right now it’s “Acknowledgement.” And tomorrow, who knows– “Pocknowledgement”? For now: “Acknowledgement.”
Where did the idea come from for the book? Almost a decade ago I spent a summer traversing Europe to see the relatives I still have left there– in Hungary, in Austria, in the French Alps. In London I spent a week with my grandmother’s first cousin, who escaped Czechoslovakia before the war and trained for the Royal Air Force before injury forced him out of duty. I thought, well, that seems like the seed of a good novel.
What genre does your book fall under? Fiction. Or if there’s such a thing, “Literary Fiction.” Or maybe non-nonfiction? For a little while I thought maybe historical fiction, because there’s history in the book, and also fiction. But then there’s also a plot-line that takes place in the 1980s, and I don’t know if that’s history yet. So I’ll stick with fiction.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? The book’s two main characters/narrators are young Ashkenazi Jews, so… Jesse Eisenberg? Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Is Adam Sandler still young?
What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book? Just before the outbreak of WWII, a Jewish teenager named Poxl Weisberg is forced to leave his home north of Prague, and he ends up in London by way of Rotterdam, where he flies bombers over Germany for the RAF, killing tens of thousands of Germans– and then spends the rest of the war trying to find a woman he’s fallen in love with in Holland.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Six years or so.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I like to read Nabokov, and Philip Roth, and Kafka and Harold Brodkey. But I don’t know if any of their influence would be apparent.
Who or what inspired you to write this book? The same grandmother’s-cousin who I noted above, who I visited in London those years ago– and I suppose by extension my grandmother and grandfather, whose lives I find myself continually coming back to when I write.
What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest? We learn about Poxl’s story through his distant cousin, Elijah, a Bostonian whom Poxl has taken an interest in late in his life, after he’s published a memoir of his time as a bomber in the RAF. The later pages of the novel take up some bigger questions about how we receive stories like Poxl’s decades later.
When and how will it be published? Oh, first up it needs to be finished. Fingers crossed that happens one day. One day soon, even.