What made you want to write this book?
It’s a true story.
Where do you get your storylines from?
The trick is what to include and what to leave out. Despite a mostly chronological organization, details and incidents that comprise Smuggler tend to have deep emotional resonances. The yellow light in Atlanta USP, for instance, reminds me of standing in line at the Dairy Queen with my father when I was five or six, juxtaposing guilt and innocence. Walking a maze of Paris streets resembles the logical progression of an argument. Description, then, is objective correlative more often than temporal map.
It was only very late in the drafting process that I decided I even needed to formally describe MCC Chicago: equilateral triangle, two tiers, etc. My working method in Smuggler was to bring out those details as the became relevant—coldness of linoleum, hanging about on the rail, late afternoon light falling through a narrow window—rather than building scenes, characters, themes, brick by brick. My instinct has always been to try to leap to the heart of incident.
Nor do I attempt to get everything in all at once. In returning to characters and scenes one is able to draw in more details, to build by accretion, which is naturalistic, actually. You don’t tend to take in everything at once. Character is revealed by degrees. So, too, do themes emerge this way. Significance isn’t always planned. It happens. That’s largely the work of the unconscious, which knows what it’s doing. As much as one goes about carefully plotting, the unconscious its doing its own work of foreshadowing. One only has to honor the suspicion that something meaningful is happening.
At the same time, one has to maintain a sense of forward movement. Some of Smuggler is episodic and jumps from scene to scene. I allowed myself to write like that because I was eager to tell stories. Only afterwards did I work on novelistic transitions. Maybe have a conversation with my girlfriend or go out to dinner before running off on a new smuggling trip.
In all I’d say that a certain speed informs the book. As well as a desire for breadth of experience. Conversations carry over from one place to another. But, again, apart from intentional world building, the story builds to its own inevitable conclusions. Actions have consequences. Causes yield results.