Please welcome Adrianne Harun to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge
Interviews. A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain
is published today by Penguin. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Adrianne a Happy Publication Day!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery.
Adrianne: Thank you so much for the invitation, Sally.
TQ: When and why did you start writing?
Adrianne: I honestly don’t remember beginning to write. I joke a little about this, but it’s true that I only remember wanting to write better. But you don’t really write, do you, until you fully commit to the task, and I didn’t do that until I was a young adult with children and a couple of jobs and truly no time at all. This is going to sound hugely dramatic, but I remember feeling a constant ache about not writing, a real physical pain, and a steady tumult of stories and characters invaded my thoughts constantly. I daydreamed like a madwoman and scribbled notes that later mystified me. At night sometimes I’d have ten dreams in a row, all lucid and insistent.
Looking back, it’s hard to fathom how I had the nerve to apply to an MFA program with so many responsibilities and really no money and not a lot of work to show, but I did and it was the making of my writing life. I committed. The dreams slowed, but the stories continued to arrive, and thankfully, some of the time I’m ready for them.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Adrianne: Both, absolutely. When I’m writing stories, I can follow my intuition and suss out the storyline from the surprises that arrive on the page, a surreal and dedicated process. I would have gone mad trying to do that in a longer work, but that’s how I began the novel, following a voice. I had to pull back, though, again and again, to see where the story was going, where it was meant to go, and how the two were jiving, so I learned to draw a dozen types of diagrams that make sense only to me. I also fell in love with the idea of mapping a story, a life, and delving into other words with that thin scrap in hand.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Where do you write?
Adrianne: In conversation, I tend to talk too much, meandering down side roads. (Okay, I babble.) I do the same thing when I write, so it takes me a while to be a better listener, to work through all the images I see and the possible conversation and emotional fallout to get to what a story might be about and then, most importantly, to listen for the true voice of the story.
I have a space off our living room, kind of an office/book cave with bookshelves on all sides, a desk built between them under a window. My view is of a stand of very tall cedar trees growing far too close to the house. I write at the desk or sprawled on the floor among pillows and stacks of books or on the rug in the living room, leaning against my poor cat-demolished couch. Lucky, eh?
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Adrianne: How much time do you have? As a young reader, I was deeply affected by the Brothers Grimm and by Shirley Jackson (especially We Have Always Lived in the Castle) and by a handful of gothic romances, beginning with a book that I read far too young, Anya Seton’s Dragonwyck, which was so startling to me that I remember hiding it as if it were contraband, and blushing each time I took it out of the library. Jane Eyre seemed so sedate afterwards, but that’s another story that hit me hard – that raging creature in the attic -- and each time I read it, I discover something else. Joyce Carol Oates’ story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” never fails to terrify me, so of course I have read it many times. Rachel Ingalls’ stories – ah, what a jolt it was to meet them! The tales of Italo Calvino showed me that magic may exists in many forms and that history can be retold via fairy tales. I also wish I could claim the Irish master William Trevor, and the Canadian genius Alice Munro as literary godparents – I’ve learned so much from reading their work – but that might make them cringe.
I have far too many favorite authors to list, but while writing this novel, two continually came to mind. I really like Hilary Mantel’s work – not talking about the historical novels like Wolf Hall (although they are terrific) – but the darker, weirder, funnier stuff like Fludd and Beyond Black (two books that also feature devils). The Australian writer Murray Bail wrote a little novel I adore called Eucalyptus, filled with odd, perfect little tales. (I so wish I’d wrote it!)
TQ: Describe A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain in 140 characters or less.
Adrianne: In a lonely Canadian town, two strangers twist the hearts of five good friends, inspiring deadly trouble. The only defense: fairy tales and physics assignments.
TQ: Tell us something about A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain that is not in the book description.
Adrianne: It’s a love story in many ways. The deep affection between the characters sustains them and if anything can, that may ultimately save any of them from real, no-turning-back engagement with evil. I also think the book is kind of funny in places, but that may be my own admittedly skewed sense of humor.
TQ: What inspired you to write A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain? Why did you choose to write a novel that "weaves together folklore, mythology, and elements of magical realism"?
Adrianne: The impetus for the novel came out of a sense of outrage and helplessness. I’d been following the Highway of Tears murders in British Columbia and wanted to write something about it. Evil is preposterously difficult to fathom, particularly in human form. Why? How? You can’t answer those questions on a single, logical level and feel satisfied. And, really, I’m not a big believer in consensual reality. For me, every story has many realities and all are a kind of truth. I didn’t intentionally set out to include the tales that leap into the devil’s realm. They arrived and claimed space and made a lot of sense to me. My hope is that they act as a kind of shadow narrative to the larger story, illuminating it in ways a purely real one could not.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain?
Adrianne: I don’t know if this counts as research or a dark rabbit hole, but I read a great deal about serial killers. I also began a physics course online – one like Leo’s – but like Leo, I didn’t get very far. He is far smarter than I am, and at least he understands the fundamentals of physics.
My husband is Canadian, originally from British Columbia, and we also spent time driving and driving and driving along Highway 16 and meandering in other ways through the landscape.
TQ: Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite good guy, bad guy or ethically ambiguous character?
Adrianne: The devil in all his and her forms very quickly became the easiest character to write. I think that’s because he has no stops, so there’s no need to censor or interpret his stories or pretend he only exists in one narrow reality. Leo held the voice of the novel -- Ich bin Leo -- and I really just went to meet him every day, so he too was pretty easy. My favorite good guy…sheesh, I love them all…but the favorite is probably Tessa, that tough, sweet girl. Leo loves her, too, and Marcus becomes enraptured. Maybe that’s why Marcus, weak, damaged soul that he is, is my favorite bad guy. Ethically ambiguous? Aren’t they all?
TQ: Give us one of your favorite lines from A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain.
Adrianne: Not one of the most eloquent lines in the novel, but…
“You get a good eye shooting rats.”
TQ: What's next?
Adrianne: I’ve finished a new collection of stories that includes a few ghost stories, and I’m deep into a novel about a young woman who explores abandoned places and becomes ensnared in the story of two soldiers from the Great War.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Adrianne: Thank you. What a pleasure.
Adrianne HarunA Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain
Penguin, February 25, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 272 pages
The seductive and chilling debut novel from the critically acclaimed author of The King of Limbo
In isolated British Columbia, girls, mostly native, are vanishing from the sides of a notorious highway. Leo Kreutzer and his four friends are barely touched by these disappearances—until a series of mysterious and troublesome outsiders come to town. Then it seems as if the devil himself has appeared among them.
In this intoxicatingly lush debut novel, Adrianne Harun weaves together folklore, mythology, and elements of magical realism to create a compelling and unsettling portrait of life in a dead-end town. A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain is atmospheric and evocative of place and a group of people, much in the way that Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones conjures the South, or Charles Bock’s Beautiful Children provides a glimpse of the Las Vegas underworld: kids left to fend for themselves in a broken world—rendered with grit and poetry in equal measure.
Adrianne Harun's short fiction, essays, and book reviews have been published in numerous magazines and journals, including Story
, the Chicago Tribune
(as a Nelson Algren winner), Narrative Magazine
, Ontario Review
, The Sun
, Willow Springs
, and Colorado Review
. Her first short story collection, The King of Limbo (Houghton Mifflin) was a Sewanee Writing Series selection and a Washington State Book Award finalist. Stories from an upcoming collection have been noted as "Distinguished Stories" in both Best American Mystery Stories
(2003) and Best American Short Stories
(2009). Her work has also been included in several anthologies. Most recently, "The Darger Episodes," inspired by the work of outsider artist Henry Darger, appeared in Looking Together: Northwest Writers on Art
, published by the University of Washington Press in conjunction with the Frye Art Museum. Her new novel, A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain
, will be published on February 25, 2014.
A longtime resident of Port Townsend, Washington, where she and her husband, Alistair Scovil, run a garage called Motorsport, Adrianne has worked as an editor for over twenty years, with projects ranging from literary fiction to computer language textbooks and topics in alternative medicine. Adrianne is also a member of the core faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshops, an MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University, as well as a faculty member at the Sewanee School of Letters at the University of the South.Website