I took a little extra time before starting the first discussion because some people said they weren’t finished yet. Well, I’m itching to start so lets dig in!
Let me just say that Tom Rachman himself is an amazing guy! I contacted him to ask him some questions on his book and not only did he respond really fast, he answered them all! FACT: I was super impressed and wish him the best of luck on all his future ventures…here’s what he said.
(AmandaRenee):What inspired you to make each chapter only a glimpse into each character’s lives?
(Tom Rachman):As a reader, I adore both novels and short stories. As a writer, I wanted to see if it was possible to combine both forms in one book. The setting of a workplace was ideal for this sort of challenge, in that I had all those bubbling tensions and personalities in one place, so I could tell many tales but tie them together with a single thread.
(AR):Do you have a favorite character in “The Imperfectionists”?
(T):I’m like a parent: I can’t pick one favorite! The process of writing these characters — spending hundreds of hours trying to get into their minds and their pasts and their hopes — gives you great sympathy for each. In certain cases, they are people who, in real life, I might struggle to like. But on the page, I feel such fondness for them. That, for me, is one of the wonders of fiction: it stirs the empathy that, in daily life, is sometimes hard to access.
(AR):I died laughing at the end of poor Abbey’s chapter. Not only was I not expecting that, but I was also amazed at how well a man knew about how embarrassing it would be to be caught in “a funeral bra and blue granny panties.” You also did a wonderful job describing when she was trying to freshen up in the plane’s bathroom, women totally think that way. So I have to ask, did you come up with that all on your own or did you consult the help of a woman?
(T):I came up with that on my own. Not sure how or why, but those scenes just popped into my mind. I suppose I’ve always paid attention to women — my mother and my two sisters, as well as those women who are my dear friends, and those women with whom I’ve had relationships. So much is made of the differences between men and women, and these obviously do exist. But there are differences among all people, and that makes us fascinating not inscrutable. Other people are what I’m most interested in — if I wrote just about myself, I’d go mad! I already know me far too well.
(AR):I enjoyed reading about your experience in writing your first book on Amazon.com. What really grabbed my attention is when you talked about how “characters strolled through my mind, sat themselves down, folded their arms before me, declaring, “So, do you have a story for me?” I wondered, is that how you usually start writing? Do you come up with the characters and their personalities before weaving them into a story line?
(T):It varies. Sometimes the character springs to life first; sometimes a story grabs me. But what I’ve found is that each side of this equation — character on one side and plot on the other — is animated by the other. What I mean is that a character without a gripping story is usually limp, and a story without a gripping character is usually soulless. You build a bit of one, and the other quivers with life. That’s the trick for me! Tons of work, but thrilling if it comes off.
Thanks so much for picking my book — I hope you and your club find it a stimulating read!
Alright! What did you guys think? Anyone have any favorite characters?