Please welcome Eric Lundgren to The Qwillery as part of the 2013 Debut Author Challenge
Interviews. The Facades
was published on September 12, 2013.
The FacadesThe Facades
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Eric: Hey, it’s great to be here. Thanks for inviting me.
TQ: When and why did you start writing?
Eric: I think it was about age seven or eight. One of my first works was a piece of Indiana Jones fan fiction. My mom read to us a lot but I was not a huge solitary reader as a kid. Mostly I was into sports. My dramatic ideal was one of those NFL films reenactments with Steve Sabol narrating the action. Slow-motion, dramatic voice over. Tight-pantsed men in moments of consequence.
TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Eric: I still write first drafts in longhand in spiral notebooks sometimes, which probably qualifies as a quirk by now. I’ve always liked the process of typing something I’ve written out, so that the typing process also becomes the first stage of revision.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Eric: A pantser, I think! Maybe because this was my first novel, I really had to feel my way around the form and write a lot of stuff that did not make it into the final product. It took me a long time to see what the shape was and what belonged in there, because it’s not a conventionally plotted novel, exactly. It got to the point where I had this mass of material and I was basically doing surgery in a dark room, excising and shifting stuff around until it felt right.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Eric: There’s a quote from Thomas Mann that I really like: “The writer is one for whom writing is difficult.” The whole process is hard for me, although I love to work on the small problems, like particular sentences or descriptions, and am easily terrified by the big-picture things. When writing, I spend a lot of time trying to ignore or block out the global, so I can focus on the local. Like a person with bad eyes trying to do a crossword while walking down a busy street, or something.
TQ: Describe The Facades in 140 characters or less.
Eric: After his opera singer wife disappears, a man searches for her through a crumbling Midwestern city that becomes a treacherous emotional landscape.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Facades?
Eric: Boredom with the kind of fiction I’d been writing previously. I wanted to do something less realistic, more fantastic and whimsical, a book that would be fun to write and would exploit the potential of the fictional form. Living in St. Louis was a big inspiration, as was a lot of stuff I was reading at the time, like Calvino’s Invisible Cities.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Facades?
Eric: Probably not enough. I read biographies of the philosopher Wittgenstein and the architect Victor Gruen, who was the real-life model for my character Bernhard (whose buildings include an avant-garde assisted living home and a labyrinthine mall). I did a little bit of research on opera but mostly relied on what I knew; I wasn’t too concerned with making the opera stuff super-realistic (that would be odd, wouldn’t it?)
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Eric: I had the most fun writing the character Vollstrom, who is a resident of that assisted-living home. His voice came to me right away and it was great fun to write a character so over-the-top. The most challenging character to write was Molly, my protagonist’s missing wife. It’s always tough to write an offstage character who has to be portrayed through her absences.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Facades?
Eric: There’s a scene in which Norberg, the protagonist, attends a parent-teacher conference night at his son’s high school that goes strangely awry. One of my favorite scenes, and I was pleased to know that my dad, who taught high-school German and Spanish for 40 years, also thought it was among the best.
TQ: What's next?
Eric: Right now I’m just eager to get back into the trenches of writing. That place where you’re just completely engrossed by the project and breathing the air of an imagined environment.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Eric: It was my pleasure.
Overlook, September 12, 2013
Hardcover and eBook, 272 pages
Along the streets of the once-great Midwestern city of Trude, the ornate old buildings lie in ruin. Shrouded in disappointment and nostalgia, Trude has become a place to "lose yourself," as one tourist brochure puts it: a treacherous maze of convoluted shopping malls, barricaded libraries, and elitist assisted-living homes.About Eric
One night at Trude's opera house, the theater's most celebrated mezzo-soprano vanishes during rehearsal. When police come up empty-handed, the star's husband, a disconsolate legal clerk named Sven Norberg, must take up the quest on his own. But to discover the secret of his wife's disappearance, Norberg must descend into Trude's underworld and confront the menacing and bizarre citizens of his hometown: rebellious librarians, shifty music critics, a cop called the Oracle, and the minister of an apocalyptic church who has recruited Norberg's teenage son. Faced with the loss of everything he loves, Norberg follows his investigation to the heart of the city and through the buildings of a possibly insane modernist architect called Bernhard, whose elaborate vision will offer him an astonishing revelation.
Written with boundless intelligence and razor-sharp wit, The Facades is a comic and existential mystery that unfolds at the urgent pace of a thriller.
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Eric Lundgren was born in Cleveland and grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he turned to reading as a survival method in the winters. He studied at Lewis & Clark College and received his MFA from the Writing Program at Washington University, where he was awarded a third-year fellowship. His writing has appeared in Tin House, Quarterly West, The Quarterly Conversation, and The Millions. The Facades
is his first novel. He works at a 100-year-old public library in St. Louis, where he lives with his wife Eleanor and their two cats.Website